Ritter Ames — USA TODAY Bestselling Mystery Author of the Bodies of Art Mysteries series and the Organized Mysteries series

Posts Tagged ‘Organized for Homicide

Organized for Homicide doesn’t go on sale for 99¢ very often, but that’s what’s happening now. But if you want a bargain, please grab a copy soon because it’s only on sale through the weekend. Here’s the link to all the buy links — Click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring has officially hit the calendar, and that means we’re all ready to dig out from more than just snow under the windows.

While some people like to take their Spring Cleaning & Organizing in one big bite, I prefer little nibbles myself, so I don’t get off-track on all of the other to-do lists I have every day. If’ you’re like me, I offer my room-by-room spring cleaning and organizing ideas–but best of all, I don’t bring in anything new and costly to do the job. Look around the house and find amazing ways to re-purpose items for organization by thinking outside of the box.

I’m starting today with the Living Room with a Baker’s Dozen of tips, and I will be moving through other rooms in the house throughout the next week or so. So come back in the days ahead, and leave any springtime ideas you already use, or new ones you might think of from reading my tips 🙂

LIVING ROOM/FAMILY ROOM/GREAT ROOM — The place of community living

Yes, the whole family uses the living room or great room, and this room always holds way more than it should. Once spring temps arrive it’s time to put away all those comfy sofa blankets and afghans we’ve used all winter. Maybe you have a closet, or use the huge Ziploc bags like me to stow them under beds. They can also be packed away in large trash bags, with the extra air all mushed out and the openings taped up to be stacked neatly somewhere. More things to do as spring arrives–

1. Wipe off the fan blades of the ceiling fan, and reverse the rotation if you had them set for winter to push down the heat that gathered near the ceiling. We live in a summer hot zone, so we want the cool breeze the fans create, but prefer the warmer air stay up at the ceiling where the spiders can enjoy it. (No, I’m not a fan of spiders, either)

2. Keep a small waste basket right by the front door (or whichever door you use the most) to throw away junk mail and unnecessary flyers before they migrate into the living room.

3. Pull out all the furniture to find the favorite pet toy, missing library book, or lost DVD. Also check between the sofa cushions for errant action figures and the wandering universal remote. A basket that stays on a table or bookshelf is great to hold items like this. Another basket or box in a corner of the room can hold all the pet toys and small children’s toys like extra Legos. For the remotes, my favorite organizing tip for those is to stick one side of a Velcro piece to the remote, and the corresponding side to the item the remote controls. Then, the remote easily stays stuck to its video or audio device until you pull to remove it again.

4. Until the world goes truly wireless, all those tangled cables behind entertainment centers are here to stay. You can buy a cable caddy that sticks onto the entertainment stand or table top, but if you don’t want to go to that expense, you can cover an empty paper towel roll with wallpaper or contact paper that coordinates with your room, and run all the cables through the tube (or two) to keep things looking a bit nicer and better organized.

5. A bin or basket on the coffee table can hold small items, cards, game pieces, pens, or anything that might get lost or broken if just left on the surface. Keep a box of coasters handy in the room to help make using them regularly a bit easier, too.

6. Keep flat surfaces clutter free. We humans tend to toss all papers in the “kitchen or family area,” and often find them missing when we really need them. Designate a small table or desk for the area as the place for mail and any important papers that need to be signed and returned. A two drawer lateral file cabinet will work well for this, too, if you have a place in the room to store it. In our house, I have two upholstered cubes in the family room that can be used for extra seating, or if you lift the lid and turn it over, it becomes a handle occasional table to set a cup of tea and a book. But best of all, the lower inside is one big storage area. I use one cube near my favorite comfy chair to hold all the yarn for my current knitting project, and with the top on the cube everything stays neat and safe from the cat. The other cube I put near hubby’s reading chair, and that’s the one that holds mail as it comes in, and files we need for any kind of current household project. He also keeps magazines and catalogs filed there when he’s on the hunt for something new and wants to check out all of his options before purchase.

7. In the same vein, a lot of small photo frames tend to clutter a family room and makes the space sometimes go from “wonderful” to a little too much “wow” when there are more than a room can comfortably hold. Take back your table tops and walls by reducing the number of framed photos you display every day. You don’t have to take them all down, just think about displaying in a new way–like photo albums and collage frames, or digital photo frames that store hundreds of digital photos and rotate them constantly. For storing in photo boxes, organize by date or occasion and keep in a central location.

8. For “good work” pages that come home with your children and end up tossed someplace in the living room, assign a drawer just to save those items. Drawer space in the living room often works well. When the drawer starts getting full you can have a family night to decide which pages need to be saved and archived in a notebook or child’s memory box.

9. One of the saving graces in my household has always been Post-It Notes and Post-It Removable hooks. Both items can go on the wall anywhere you need to leave a list or note, or hang a small item, and are equally easy to remove when you need the wall space back in pristine condition.

10. I remember when I thought toys were going to take over every extra bit of floor space. Designate one less-used corner of a family as the toy area and transform into a mini kid zone. Yes, kids can play in their rooms, but they want to spend time with the family too. With a movable chalk board, a small bookcase and a kids’ table, toy clutter tends to stay contained and in its place. If you need a little more toy storage look at rolling bin options or cover storage boxes with pretty paper. In our house, this area morphed into our family game area as everyone got older, with an adult game table replacing the mini kids version.

11. Space behind the soft is great for storing extra blankets and pillows. We stick an extra flashlight there, too, so everyone knows where they can grab some emergency light in case of spring storms. If you use a sofa table behind yours, see if you can find an attractive box or trunk to store on the floor between the table legs for an added storage option.

12. Our family is moving away from DVDs and videos and streaming more entertainment. But if you have movies and shows you prefer to keep on hand, take a half-hour or so to sort through your collection. Make two piles: one for keeping, and another for either donating or selling online. At first we didn’t think we wanted to give any up either, but as we sorted through them each year, more and more were placed in the re-purpose/recycle pile, as new options for watching our favorites became available online.

13. Collectibles can take over a room and not only commandeer space, but create more dusting work as well. Large collections are revealed best when a smaller number of  pieces are displayed at one time. Use smaller groupings, or shadow boxes, and rotate the items to keep the look fresh. Think about doing what museums do, and how exciting it is for people to come next time and see new things, even in a permanent display. Put half of a collection in a sturdy box in a closet, and keep the other half out for viewing. Then rotate different favorite items throughout the year.

Finally, one last story. This isn’t really a tip, but it might give you some ideas on saving memories. When we built our house, my daughter was only five at the time, and while we were clearing up some of the building-mess in another room, she used her sidewalk chalk to draw a gorgeous scene on the yet un-carpeted cement floor of the family room. When we saw what she was doing the drawing was more than halfway complete, and neither my husband nor I wanted to stop her and erase the drawing. So hubby found some sealer to put over the drawing, and to this day it sits under the pad and carpet in that room. It’s just a kind of secret family thing we all know is there, and we all smile telling the story each time the carpeting is replaced 🙂

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]

Fiction writers may be great at creating characters and brainstorming plots, but sometimes real facts get in the way, and that’s when we turn to outside sources. For example, I’m playing around with a darker than usual suspense story right now that is only alive and thriving because I was able to interview an iron worker about his job. You see, I would never be able to walk confidently across the beams that make up the skeleton of a high rise building. Lucky for me, however, I found someone who not only could, but was willing to tell me about it so I could add color and authenticity to my story and main character. My source was male, and my fictional protagonist is female, and when I told him this he gave a great gaffawing laugh and said, “Let me know when the book is published. I can’t wait to show my kids.” He has five children, and I forget how many grandkids. I can’t wait to hear their reaction either.

For my already published works, I’ve picked friends’ brains for efficient ideas that work in their homes, listened when they told me ideas I did naturally were some of the best they’d ever heard, and even bought a professional organizer coffee so she’d tell me some of her stories about closet makeovers. I haven’t used the latter in any of my Organized Mysteries yet, but I’m sure to a few books down the line. I even got the help of an eye doctor to fine tune one of my plot points for Kate McKenzie in Organized for Murder.

But I don’t just focus on main characters. I’ve interviewed interior designers so I could get Valerie’s character correct, even though she’s a secondary character, and–I suppose–a main adversary to Kate and Meg. Since Valerie is a catalyst, I know it’s just as important to keep her and her actions completely real as it is for me to do the same for Kate and Meg. For the latest, Organized for Homicide, I interviewed a longtime interior designer who had segued into house staging after a friend of a friend of a friend connected us. She was halfway across the country from where my office sits, but the telephone is a wonderful thing, and we had a marvelous visit. I fired off my questions what a stager does and why, and she sent her answers a couple of weeks later, and gave me permission to use her exact words in my book. She even told me how she would stage the Collier’s kitchen when I described the room, which is where so much of the action takes place. I thought her generosity of information was very brave, since when I spoke to her my first book wasn’t even out yet, so she had no idea if my cozy mystery would be a good one or not. I’m sure that’s likely why she preferred I didn’t acknowledge her contribution in the book, for as she said, “My corporate clients aren’t so likely to want my name to appear in genre fiction. Please take no offense; it’s simply a business judgement call on my part.” And I didn’t take offense. Why should I when she’d been so generous with the information I really needed?

For my other series, The Bodies of Art Mysteries, I’ve gone back over the art history notes I took in college, and spoken to curators and docents at my two local fine art museums. You can get a ton of information from docents–trust me on this. Docents truly are a museum’s best cheerleaders. I’ve also visited the National Galleries in Washington DC (yes, we have two), the Canadian National Gallery in Vancouver, and the National Gallery in London. Believe me when I say the old chestnut “you’ve seen one museum, you’ve seen ’em all” is the farthest thing from a true statement. Every museum is different–and that goes for more than just those labeled a ‘National Gallery’. And after I get back home and need a refresher on a museum, I need only locate one of the many YouTube videos that other tourists have shot with their cameras and phones, then posted later for the public to see. You’d be surprised at how good some of these videos really are.

The Art Mysteries series gives me ideas on where I want to travel next, and helps me fall into our destinations that much quicker. A few years ago we went to London, and I not only used sights I’d gained from the trip in Counterfeit Conspiracies, and the upcoming Marked Masters, but I’ve been able to relive many of the high points of  the trip by posting on this blog. In previous posts I’ve talked about the Tower of London, Harrods, the Baker Street Underground station, and even one wild trip my husband and I experienced on a double decker bus one crazy afternoon.

So while it would be nice to just sit at my desk and type away all day on my keyboard, coming up with absolutely perfect stories all the time, it doesn’t always happen. Lucky for me, however, there’s always some wonderful expert out there who is happy to give a lowly author a heads up on facts we all truly need to make a story work.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]I have two books coming out soon. The first, Organized for Homicideis another featuring organizational expert Kate McKenzie as chief sleuth and bottle organizer. To coincide with this September 8th release, my publisher has discounted book#1 in the series, Organized for Murder, to 99 cents for a short time in all ebook formats. And the rest of this week I’ll be posting excerpts of the new book, Organized for Homicideso everyone can get a sampling of that story as well.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]In my Organized Mysteries series, Kate and her sidekick, Meg Berman, find that starting a small business sometimes leads to having to do more than your mission statement implies. Sometimes it means figuring out whodunit when someone involved in their business contract gets killed, and law enforcement focuses on the wrong person as the murder suspect. In the first book, Kate is in the hot seat herself, so she is absolutely sure the state police are pursuing the wrong person.

If you already own the first book, thank you, and please come back by in the next few days to read excerpts from the new release. But if you don’t have a copy of Organized for Murder, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to pick up a copy while it’s on sale. I just love a bargain, don’t you? You can click here for the Amazon link to get a Kindle copy or check my Where to Buy My Books page to purchase Organized for Murder in any of the other ebook formats, and where you can also find links to pre-order copies of  Organized for Homicide. All the buy links will be there once it’s available at all booksellers next weekend. I can’t wait to share the excerpts with you this week! Hope to see a lot of you return soon.

One of my favorite things about this series is that I get to share terrific organizing tips I’ve figured out on my own or learned from others. Do you have any favorite things you do every day to keep life organized and running a little smoother? Feel free to tell us in the comments 🙂

 


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