Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What Makes a Cozy Mystery?

I like mysteries. I like to read mysteries. In fact, I give mysteries credit for starting me down the writing road since I picked up pen to write my own mystery at age ten after reading some Hardy Boy mystery books. So, it’s a little surprising that I published twenty-eight books before any of those books were labeled mysteries.

 But I did keep my love of mysteries. The truth is, I often sneaked a mystery thread into my stories through the years. I even included a suspicious death and a murder in my recent Shaker book, The Innocent. It’s good to make readers wonder a bit. But I had never written a full-fledged, murder-in-the-title, and mystery-on-the-cover book until Murder at the Courthouse, my first Hidden Springs mystery published last year. Now Murder Comes by Mail follows it up with more murder and mayhem in my little town of Hidden Springs.

Murder in the title is a sure indication the book is a mystery. Then readers can spot another clue on the cover to let them know what kind of mystery. Those lovely cats. The same as other fiction books, mysteries come in different flavors. You have police procedurals, detective stories, and suspense filled dramas, but when you see a cat or dog on the cover you can be pretty sure you are looking at a cozy mystery.

What makes a cozy mystery? Cozies are usually gentle mysteries. Oh, people die and not from natural causes, but the violent deaths rarely take place on stage. Bodies are discovered. Clues are uncovered. Murderers caught. Usually the amateur sleuth main character is an intuitive, intelligent woman who just happens to stumble across those dead bodies. Consider Murder, She Wrote. Think of how many murder victims just happened to show up in Jessica Fletcher’s little town. 

So we come to another thing that makes a cozy a cozy. Nearly all cozy mysteries are set in small towns, the more picturesque the better. The main character nearly always has some sort of business. A book store, a tea shop or perhaps an antique store or a knitting and yarn shop. The main character may have some sort of relationship with someone in the law enforcement business that enables her to get inside information regarding the crime. And don’t forget those cats and dogs. Those furry friends can play major roles in the story.  

The victims in cozy mysteries rarely get much sympathy since they are often unlikeable characters nobody is going to miss and to whom the reader has not formed any emotional attachment. Readers of cozy mysteries want an easy, entertaining read and not something that will make them sad or nervous about being alone on a dark and stormy night. They read to relax and have fun trying to come up with the whodunit answer before the amateur sleuth unmasks the perpetrator at the end of the story. 

At the same time, they can be disappointed if they figure out the answers too easily or too soon. Whether they guess the bad guy or not, they expect the clues to be there to point to the killer. They want to be able to look back and say, “Yes, I should have seen that.” Of course, the author throws in a few red herrings to try to lead the reader astray while the amateur sleuth character manages to sort through and figure out the real clues.

Cozy mysteries are often series books with the same main characters. Think of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. She introduced Kinsey Millhone to readers in A is for Alibi and now is near the end of the alphabet with a new book titled X. Grafton’s mysteries are detective fiction and not cozies, but you can find plenty of cozy series too. Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who… series are definitely cozies with that cat in the midst of every mystery. Most mystery series have continuing characters but can also be read as stand-alone books. 

With all that said, I confess I must not have read the rules before I began writing my own cozy mysteries because my books break many of the rules I’ve just noted. I do have the cats. That may have been my saving grace. But my main character is a man, and if that isn’t bad enough, he’s a policeman. Admittedly, he’s a deputy sheriff in a small town that while not particularly picturesque, does have that friendly everybody knows everybody feel. Throw in some quirky, hometown characters readers can picture walking down Main Street and at least the setting works for a cozy mystery. My victims aren’t all unsympathetic characters either, but they are characters the reader doesn’t really know well. My main characters do run into danger and sometimes end up in dramatic will-there-be-a-way-out-of-this situations.    
Recently I sent out a newsletter with a giveaway contest, and for fun, I asked readers if they thought they would like to live in a small town like Hidden Springs. Far and away, the majority loved the idea of living in a small town. Many did either live in that similar small town now or had grown up in one. But one reader was right on the money when she sent this comment. “As far as living in the fictional town of Hidden Springs, well to be honest, the crime rate is sky high in comparison to the population. So, I don’t think I’d feel safe living there.” 

That’s another thing about the cute little towns where cozy mystery series are set. They have an amazingly high crime rate, but since it’s all in fun and only fictional people are victims of the crimes, cozy mystery lovers are okay with this. They are also happy the stories have no profanity or explicit sex (especially true with the inspirational cozy mysteries). Often there is no mention of romance at all, but I do have a thread of romance running through my Hidden Springs mysteries.  

So if you stroll down Main Street and stop in at the Grill for a cup of coffee and hear that somebody just met an untimely end, then you could be in Hidden Springs or some other small town cozy story. You might as well settle down to stay a while, pet the cat or dog, and try to figure out who did the dastardly deed.

How important is setting in a story? Have you ever decided to read or write a story solely because of the setting? Do you think setting sometimes dictates what sort of characters can come to life in a story?    

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, the 2015 Selah Book of Year winner. She’s also known for her Shaker novels and Heart of Hollyhill books. Now, as A.H. Gabhart, she is writing the Hidden Springs Mysteries set in a small town much like the Kentucky town where she grew up. Ann and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and still enjoy country life on a farm near that small town. To find out more about Ann’s books or to follow her blog, visit www.annhgabhart.com. You can also join the conversation on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/anngabhart. 

Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane doesn't particularly enjoy being touted as the hero of Hidden Springs after pulling a suicidal man back from the edge of the Eagle River bridge in front of dozens of witnesses--a few of whom caught the breathtaking moments with their cameras. But the media hype doesn't last long as a new story pushes its way into the public consciousness of Hidden Springs' concerned citizens. 

Photos of a dead girl arrive in the mail, and Michael becomes convinced she was murdered by the man he saved. With a killer one step ahead, things in Hidden Springs begin to unravel. Now Michael must protect the people he loves--because the killer could be targeting one of them next.

Ann is generously offering a copy of Murder Comes by Mail to one commenter. Leave a comment to get your name in the cat dish. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


  1. Welcome back, Ann! I find it interesting how you are differentiating your books. A.H. Gabhart for your cozy mystery books, still connects you to Ann Gabhart, but definitely tells us this is a different reader expectation.

    Also very happy to see cozy mysteries cycling back into popularity.

    Thirdly, love the covers. They scream small town!

  2. Hi Ann, I happened to be your winner for "Murder by Mail" over on the Suspense Sisters blog just recently! I think I made mention in my comment about living in a small town and love the small town feel; it's hard to walk into the local grocery store and not meet at least one person I know...lol! But that's one thing I love about it! :-)

    My husband loves reading "The Cat Who" cozy series and Sneaky Pie (the cat) stole his heart I think :-) Whenever he reads one, he laughs out loud at something that cat did and shares it with me so I can laugh too!

    As far as book setting, it really doesn't matter much to me. I just love a good quality, well-written book. I think sometimes the setting can dictate what sort of people you will meet in the book. Small town characters aren't necessarily the same kind you will find in big cities, or country folk certainly aren't going to be like city slickers! Foreign settings will have different culture then in America and vise versa. I'd say to writers to stay true to what sorts of people you will find in each setting. For example, I'm reading a book now where the heroine is from a very wealthy family and she is is in a marriage of convenience to her hero husband, who didn't come from a privileged family. She can't function without a housekeeper, cook or ladies maid since she didn't grow up without them. Her husband doesn't understand this. They live in a lighthouse helping his older parents and she has no idea what to do without all the conveniences in a big town. So you can tell the author differentiates between the two lifestyles very well (I really hope that all made sense, lol).

    I've not read too many cozy mysteries, a few general market ones I have found in my local library. I think the one series I did read & enjoy was set in a tea shop in a small town :-) One title I remember "Death by Darjeeling"..haha! I do so love the quirky titles of cozies!
    Obviously don't enter my name in the giveaway since I have this coming to my mailbox soon....not the death part though (Murder Comes by Mail) :-)

  3. Ann, I love mysteries. i think they're called cozy mysteries because where but in the pages of one of these novels can murder feel safe? As a reader you know you're safe and your heroine is as well. I also love the titles of cozy mysteries! All in all they are just fun.

    Like Tina, I'm thrilled to see these books increasing in popularity. I have book one of your series and would live to win book two.

    Oh, and to answer your question, I did recently write a suspense novel based on the setting. It wouldn't have been the same book in a different setting.

  4. As a reader I do enjoy cozy mysteries.

  5. I do love a good mystery and cozies are great!

    I currently live in a rather small town but in the past I have always lived in a large town. To be honest, I miss the large towns. I miss the shopping and dining and just about everything else. As far as the small town I live in, the local Farmer's Market on Saturdays every spring summer and into fall is pretty nice. It is always held around our courthouse. The sad thing about small towns, is there isn't really much to do around here.

    i would love to win a copy of your book. Thank you for the chance.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  6. I don't think I've read a true "cozy mystery" yet. Do you think the "cozy mystery" is now a subgenre/differentiated now because the mystery/suspense genre is ... more diverse? E.g. some authors have more violent or graphic plots or they're more CSI-styled or involved?

    Would Nancy Drew be considered a cozy mystery series today? I grew up reading those (and the Hardy Boys and Boxcar Children). =)

  7. Hi Ann,

    I enjoy cozy mysteries. I grew up reading Nancy Drew, and I also read my brother's Hardy Boys books. It sounds like you've got a great series going.

    I live in a small town. I enjoy knowing my neighbors and the friendships I have here. Thanks for sharing today!

  8. Welcome, Ann! Working for the police department, I see and hear enough violence, so I'm all for a gentler mystery.
    Every story I've ever written was because of my love for a particular area. The setting always sparks my stories.
    Thanks for visiting Seekerville!

  9. Hi, Tina. Thanks so much for inviting me over to Seekerville. Love it here among you seekers and aren't we all seekers? I even titled one of my Shaker books, The Seeker, and my characters were definitely seekers.

    I like the cover art on cozy mysteries too. Somehow the covers just promise a good story in that relaxing small town place. I really liked the cat on the mailbox on the cover of Murder Comes by Mail. Grimalkin has the most beautiful blue eyes. Not sure I mentioned that in the story, but I should have.

    I too am glad to see cozies and other mysteries finding new fans among those who enjoy inspirational novels.

    It was my publisher's idea to tweak my name to let readers know that the Hidden Springs novels were a little different from my usual release. It took me a while to like the initials. I wanted initials that sounded better together like J.T. or E.J. of J.H. My dad often used his initials J.H., so maybe that's why I think they sound easier together. But I'm getting used to AH now, and it's sort of fun to use a different name for the mysteries. Mysterious even. Okay, now I'm reaching. Or is that seeking? :)

  10. I'm so, so happy to see cozies again in the CBA! I'm really looking forward to reading this one. Cozies are a nice bridge between the CBA and ABA markets, as well.
    Congratulations Ann!

  11. Hi, Trixi. Hope you get your book today. I put it in the mail Saturday. Fun that your husband is the one liking those Sneaky Pie mysteries and sharing them with you. Cozies are generally aimed at the female readers. Hope you'll like my cozy that does break a lot of the cozy rules. So don't judge them all my Murder Comes by Mail. Oh and be careful opening that mail! LOL.

    I like the quirky titles on cozies too. I think that makes them fun. I admire those who have a talent for titling things and I think sportswriters might be the best at newspaper titles that catch the eye.

    Book settings do make a difference in characters and plot. I'm always impressed by how writers can take a long famous story and rewrite it set in a different time period or place.

  12. ANN!!! Sooooooo good to see you, my friend!! And how fun that you've stepped into yet another genre!! First your Shaker books, then WWII, and now cozies!! Diversity sure keeps you hopping, I bet!

    And like Tina, I like how you've differentiated your cozies with your initials instead of your full name. To me, that's SO much better than a pen name. In fact, I've been toying with the idea of a writing a sweet secular book, and if I do, that's exactly how I will present my name -- J.A. Lessman rather than Julie Lessman for my inspies.

    I am not particularly a mystery or suspense gal in my reading, although I have enjoyed Debby Giusti's, Irene Hannon's, and Lynnette Eason's books. And I really like to include my own shocking twist in my books, but I don't really see that as a mystery.

    You asked: Have you ever decided to read or write a story solely because of the setting?

    As a matter of fact, I have a Western trilogy coming next year that began solely because of setting. Ruth Logan Herne was talking about her new Waterbrook Western contemporary one day, and something she said triggered a memory of Bonanza for me, one of my favorite shows as a kid. That's all it took, and suddenly I had a McClintock meets Bonanza historical Western pop into my head set in Virginia City, Nevada during the time of the Comstock Lode and transcontinental railroad. I never would have believed that a setting could motivate me like that.

    You also asked: Do you think setting sometimes dictates what sort of characters can come to life in a story?

    Oh, absolutely! My Boston series was set in the Southie neighborhood, which at the time was the heart of Irish America, so that lent a lot of large-family warmth to my stories, in my opinion. And my contemporary Isle of Hope is set in Isle of Hope, GA, a sleepy lowland coastal community that helped shape my families and my plot. Then it goes without saying that Virginia City in 1865-85 can't help but dictate the sort of characters I will create.

    Fun post, Ann, and your cozies sound fun too!


  13. I love cozy mysteries and I wish I had the plotting capabilities to write one. Alas, I better stick with romance where the HEA is always the ending. Thanks for a great post Ann

  14. Terri - good to know that other writers sometimes base a story on place. A suspense novel does need atmosphere. I haven't done that often, but my settings do dictate much about my story. I guess since I'm a small town girl, that's why I write small town stories. Not sure about the readers feeling safe in my new Hidden Springs mystery, but then I did warn you that I broke many of the cozy mystery rules. I do have a cozy title though. Murder in the title and cat on the mailbox.

    Mary - fun to hear from you. Glad you enjoy cozies and hope you'll like visiting Hidden Springs.

    Cindy - I really enjoy mysteries too and somehow cozies jut seem fun because of the setting. I've never lived in a big town, so my small town is fine for me. And we don't live a long drive from a bigger town with the shopping and multiple restaurants. Actually our little town has grown a lot and has many restaurants now. When I was a kid, we had the Grill. Imagine that. Just like Hidden Springs. :)

    Artist Librarian - Not sure you could call my book, Murder Comes by Mail a true cozy. As I indicated in my post, I broke many of the cozy rules. I think cozies have been around for years and are simply on the rise in popularity right now. Perhaps that's because so many of us have pets we treat like family these days. Maybe that makes us ready to have pets be characters in our novels. I personally wouldn't call Nancy Drew cozies. I'd classify them detective novels, but I'm not expert on genres. Others might disagree. I ready more Hardy Boys than Nancy Drew when I was a kid. But I don't remember if Nancy or the Hardy Boys had a faithful sidekick pet. I can see Nancy Drew having a cat, but don't know if she did or not.

  15. Welcome, ANN! Your books sound delightful! I'm definitely going to check out the cozies--and share with my Mom! :)

  16. Hi, Jackie. Glad you enjoy cozies and hope you'll like mine when you get a chance to read it. So many of us did grow up reading those Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew books. Fun stories. Most of the people who responded to my small town question recently in my newsletter where like you and loved small town life for the very reason you say. That they ran into people they knew when they went out into town. It's good to have community wherever we live.

    Hello, Jill. I can understand why you might like a gentler read after seeing too much real life crime and violence in your job. Not sure Murder Comes by Mail is actually that gentler read, since I did sneak some suspense into the mystery, but hope cozy lovers will forgive me for that. Interesting that you always write your stories because of love of place and that the setting sparks your story idea. Place is important in my stories too but since small towns are so much my own background, I might just say I'm writing what I know.

  17. Debra, like you, I'm glad to see mysteries showing up in CBA. Of course, really glad my own mysteries are showing up there. :) I do think you're right about not much difference between CBA cozy mysteries and general market stories. There is a faith thread in my books, but it's more an underlying Christian lifestyle. My other inspirational stories have a more evident faith theme throughout. I like writing the faith journeys of my characters and so the mystery stories were a bit of a departure in that regard. The mystery was the main thread. Hope when you read my new book, you'll enjoy all the threads I've woven together to make the story.

    Hi, Cindy. Just because it's a cozy doesn't mean you can't have a HEA ending. But you are right in that cozies aren't romances. I have a romance thread in my stories, but some cozies do not. But I do like those happy endings.

  18. Okay and I won't lie. The Craftsman bungalow on the cover drew me in as much as the cat did. I ready to run away from home and find one of those houses. I love them.

    I always want the romance thread. So thanks for including that.

  19. How many books are tentatively scheduled for this series? Are you doing both types of books at the same time?

  20. Hey, Julie. Always fun to come over here and visit with you and the others in Seekerville. You are right about me giving my publishers headaches not wanting to settle into one "brand." I guess at my age it's okay to be independent. I can always retire.

    I'm sure your many readers will be happy to read anything you write, whether you have Julie or J.A. on the cover. But you see J.A. just sounds easier than A.H. When I was a kid and first started writing, I had a pen name because I thought Ann was the dullest name in the world. Angie. I never shared that with anyone. It was secret! I didn't know then that being too secret probably meant that nobody would find your books.

    And so you're going to ride out into Bonanza land. What fun! Western novels are popular. I have a fourteen year old granddaughter who actually started reading Zane Gray. She loves westerns. She also watches those old Bonanza reruns. I tell her that the one sure thing about those shows is that if you fell in love with Little Joe you'd probably die before the show ended. LOL. I'm sure your westerns will be fun and you'll like the romance flower without killing off the girl.

  21. Tina, interesting that you mention the house. I wasn't all that happy with it since it isn't like my characters' houses in the story. I even sent a picture of my character, Aunt Lindy's house. They nicely informed me they didn't mean for it to be Aunt Lindy's house, just a house representative of Hidden Springs. Ohh. And it is that. Sometimes authors get in the way of great covers. Glad I didn't get in the way of this one because I really like it. I still have to say that my favorite cover ever for one of my books is the cover of Angel Sister. If they had been able to lift my little Lorena out of that story and let her model for herself, she wouldn't have looked any more perfect than the model they chose. And then they caught the just exactly right look on her face as she looked up at Kate who she considers her Angel Sister. Oops, I think I got a little off topic there. But I do think covers are very important as the first thing that draws a reader's eyes.

    At this point there are three Hidden Springs mysteries. Murder at the Courthouse came out last October. Murder Comes by Mail is the new release right now, and then, Murder is No Accident will be out in the spring of 2017. I just saw the cover for it and I think it will be another one that readers will like.

  22. I know some readers get really annoyed if a cover doesn't exactly match a book, but I like what I call composite covers that simply make me smile.

    Yours does this and more!!

  23. Ann, welcome back!! I was so glad to see you were going to be here today. What a great post! I've wondered in the past what makes a mystery a cozy mystery. And you just showed me I had guessed correctly. :) My sister is a huge reader of mysteries. It's all she reads. So I'll make certain she's already read yours!

    This quote was so cute! “As far as living in the fictional town of Hidden Springs, well to be honest, the crime rate is sky high in comparison to the population. So, I don’t think I’d feel safe living there.” I love that!! LOL

  24. HELLO ANN! Mysteries are my favorite! Interesting/exotic settings make the story enjoyable. Thank you for this interesting post.

    Please put my name in the cat dish for a copy of Murder Comes by Mail.

  25. Good morning, Ann!

    I love cozy mysteries. The setting is everything to me in a cozy. There's a historical medieval COZY series called "The Face Down" series by Kathy Lynn Emerson that I love, love, love. I'm also a fan of foody cozies. I've even contemplated writing own cozy series and have a few books loosely plotted out.

    So, I cheated over the weekend and peeked at your "Murder By Mail". I was totally riveted and bought the book immediately, so no need to enter me in the contest.

    Thank you for sharing with us this morning. I'm looking forward to finishing your book when it comes in the mail. Hopefully there won't be a murder attached to it.

  26. HA HA!!! I love that you did that Renee!

    I actually love foodie cozies as well.

    This may be a neon sign post for you, Renee.

  27. Fun post, Ann! I haven't read that many cozy mystery novels, but I was a huge fan of Murder, She Wrote, and I've always enjoyed the Miss Marple mysteries on PBS. Some of these stories do make the cops look like bumbling idiots, though, when a sweet little old lady solves the crime while they're chasing down all the wrong leads.

  28. I wasn't a big fan (maybe still not) of cozy mysteries because I love the suspense type. I think the first one I read was MURDER IN THE COURTHOUSE and I loved it!
    Of course, I love all your novels. Please put my name in the cat dish!

  29. Hi Ann! The blurb for Murder Comes by Mail has me anxious to read the book. And both covers are wonderful -- love the cats :-)

    For me, setting is as important as the characters because one shapes the other.

    Best wishes with the Hidden Springs mysteries!

    Nancy C

  30. Fun post, Ann. I have always enjoyed cozy mysteries and I would love to win yours. Please enter me in the drawing.

    I am drawn to a setting in a book if it is a place I know or similar to a place I know or can relate to.

  31. Good Morning Ann! It's so good to see one of my favorite people here in Seekerville :)

    I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan. Her Miss Marple books are the forerunner of today's cozies, aren't they? But I've been disappointed over the last few years as cozies seemed to be on a downturn.

    I am so glad they're making a comeback!

    I'll definitely be reading your series. Keep them coming!

    Now to your question -

    Yes, setting makes a huge impact on my characters. When I was researching "Hannah's Choice," I stumbled on a painting that Jacob Eichholtz did of the Conestoga River valley in 1833. The mood of that painting set the tone for Hannah's character. I tried to capture her gentle, peaceful personality along with the desire to stay near that beautiful river forever. Without that painting to inspire me, I'm not sure Hannah would have become the woman she was. :)

    The same type of thing happened with Mattie's Pledge (coming in September). This time it is mountains and long vistas that gave me Mattie's character.

    Just one of the many reasons I love to write!

  32. Good morning Ann. Greetings from smalltown Nebraska :) I am excited to read Murder Comes by Mail. It's staring me in the face as we speak and I can't wait to dive into it. I admit, I wasn't sure I fully understood cozy mysteries so this post was fabulous in clearing up the fog in my brain.

  33. Glynna, I hope if you share my cozy mysteries with your mom she will enjoy the stories. I like sharing books with people in my family and I like it when we read the same books and can have our own mini book club discussions.

    Hi, Caryl. Not sure I can claim exotic for my Hidden Springs setting, but small town settings can be fun. And I like exotic and interesting settings too. I enjoy reading a story where I might learn about a new place. Then I write a book set in a place just like my little hometown. :)

  34. I heard that every newcomer to the town in Murder She Wrote was either a murderer or was going to be murdered. :)

  35. Gee, it's getting harder and hard to prove I'm not a robot! Guess that's because I'm making so many return comments, but I'm enjoying talking to all of you. Hope I don't start sounding like a robot!!

    Missy, it's always fun to visit all of you here at Seekerville. You all make the site so fun for everyone who stops in for a visit. Hope if your sister gives my Hidden Springs stories a try, that she'll enjoy visiting my little town in spite of the murder and mayhem that goes on there. Or being a mystery lover, she'll like the visit because of that! And my reader's quote about the crime rate being way to high for safety in Hidden Springs was right on the mark. Made me laugh when I read it.

    Tina, covers that make us have a good feeling about the book even before we pick it up and read the back cover copy are the best kind of covers. Titles can do that too. Entice in a reader.

  36. I saw someone reading an Agatha Christie novel the other day and realized it's been FOREVER since I read one.
    I'd like to wade into all those books again.
    I think I'd appreciate them more now.

  37. Ann I really admire a mystery writer.

    I wrote three cozy mysteries years ago and ... unlike suspense which is in every book I write ... mysteries are different. I think they're the hardest books to write.

    All the suspects. The red herrings. The threads that need to be explained.

    It was HARD WORK and a good editor helped me keep it all together....barely.

  38. Hi, Renee. I think you must be the kind of reader I love. Thank you so much for jumping right in and reading the excerpt from my book and then wanting to read the "rest of the story." I haven't heard of the medieval cozy series you mention, but "The Face Down" is a great name for a mystery series. Some murders are going to happen whether it's on stage or off. And you reminded me of something I failed to note in my post. Food can be a major part of a cozy. Sometimes recipes might even show up in the book. I put a recipe for a book in my afterword in one of my Rosey Corner books. I had mentioned a brown sugar pie in every story so in Love Comes Home, my editor wanted me to share the recipe. It's sort of an old-fashioned pie but yummy.

  39. Has anyone read The Cat Who books?
    I've read a zillion of them. I loved those books.

    Sue Grafton isn't really cozy. Mysteries but pretty serious.

    I dropped out of that series on T. That was, if I'm remembering the right book, about elder abuse and it was right at a time when my mom had gone through some real health struggles and it just bothered me.

    I couldn't find anything entertaining about elder abuse.

    I should go back and pick up the series again.

    It sort of feels though that Grafton has had Z written in her mind for years and is just spinning her wheels with filler books until she can write it.

  40. I LOVE COZY MYSTERIES!!! How did you know, Ann? I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew. I've read every one of The Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun; M.C. Beaton's cozies with Agatha Raison...love the English countryside setting...and even her like her Hamish MacBeth series; but my favorite is Diane Mott Davidson with Goldy the caterer and the hunky detective she finally marries. I don't know what's up with Diane though. She hasn't released a new book in awhile. I know I should love Agatha Christie, but I could never get into her books.

    And yes, setting can affect my decision about whether to read an author I'm not familiar with, but I usually give everyone at least one chance to wow me. Setting shapes these characters, and they often shape the setting. High crime rates. LOL

    I'd love to read Murder Comes by Mail. Please throw my name in the cat dish for a copy. :)

  41. HI, Myra. I couldn't make cops look like bumbling idiots in my story since my main character is a deputy sheriff. :) But you are right about some of the other cozy stories. The police miss all the relevant clues while the amateur sleuths recognize them all. LOL

    Marianne, so sweet of you to give my Murder at the Courthouse a try when you aren't a cozy fan. I really appreciate all my readers like you who have chased around with me through different types of books. I put a dedication in one of my books thanking readers for going with me to Hollyhill and then Rosey Corner and making plenty of stops in my Harmony Hill Shaker village and even once heading to 1855 Louisville for a story. Now I have a new place, Hidden Springs, where mysteries happen. And if you like suspense, you might find a little of it in Murder Comes by Mail. I warned all of you in my post that I did break some of the cozy rules!

    Ola, it's always good of you to read my guest posts. Good luck in the drawing.

  42. Chill N, I'm glad you liked the cats and thought the blurbs made the story sound interesting and like one you'd want to read. You are so right about the setting shaping characters. Part of the conflict of a story can come from characters in places that make them feel challenged in some way.

    Hi, Sandy. I like settings I can relate to as well, but I think a good writer can somehow paint a setting that we, as readers, can step into and believe is real. Just think how the Harry Potter books got so many people ready to go to Hogwarts. I think I've got that name right. I only read one of the Harry Potter books, but my grandkids and sons loved them. So glad you enjoy cozies and hope you will enjoy my story when you get a chance to read it.

    Sharee, sending greetings back to small town, Nebraska from small town, Kentucky. Glad my post helped you know what publishers mean when they label a book a cozy.

  43. Hi, Jan. Fun to see your comment here. So kind of you to make me one of your favorite people. That's sort of like getting a cyber hug. :)

    Your books are excellent examples of how setting can play such a big part in stories and in the decisions your characters make. Some of the reviews of my Rosey Corner books mention my Kentucky setting as almost another character. I liked that I was able to make my little Kentucky community that real.

    You're absolutely right that Miss Marple stories were cozies. Perhaps the stories that established the cozy rules.

    Blessings on your new story. Great title. Mattie's Pledge.

  44. Mary, not everybody who comes into Hidden Springs is murdered or a murderer. So guess my stories are a little different from Murder, She Wrote. LOL. But in a mystery, you have to have a few victims and bad guys.

    I think I just stumbled through writing my mysteries without a great deal of plotting. I tend to focus a lot of characters in my stories and in Hidden Springs, the characters were just embroiled in mystery. But I agree that mystery writing is hard work. Actually, I think every book I write has some hard stretches when I struggle to find the right words and happenings.

    I haven't read an Agatha Christie's story in forever. My daughter gave me one for Christmas that is in my TBR pile. I did indicate in my post that Sue Grafton's books weren't considered cozies, but detective fiction. I've read a few of the alphabet here and there, but not for a while. So I can't comment on her later books. The Cat who are definitely cozies. It's fun to try to figure out mysteries wherever they fall in the mystery genre.

    And you're right, suspense is a good ingredient in any story. A lot of suspense in Murder Comes by Mail. So much, in fact, that I worried cozy readers might be upset with the story. So far, most of the reviews have been positive. I never expect all positive reviews. Readers like all different kinds of stories. That's why we have so many genres. Of course, I'd prefer everyone like my stories. Maybe one of these days, I'll write that story. :)

  45. Hi, Barbara. Hope you'll like my Hidden Springs setting when you give my story that chance to WOW you. :) Some of the books you mention sound fun. I'll have to check them out. The English countryside setting has to make for a good story. You wonder about the stories about Goldy and the caterer she marries and why you haven't seen new stories lately. Do you think letting the romance finally change to marriage kills the chance for new stories? Seems like it happens that way often in t.v. series.

    But the crime rate per population has been very high the last couple of years in Hidden Springs. I just saw on the internet that my little Kentucky town was picked as the 8th happiest town in KY. And one of the reasons was the low chance of being in a violent crime. Hmm, I did use my little town's Main Street as inspiration for the setting of Hidden Springs. But I have to admit that I'm really glad nobody has ever found a body on the courthouse steps. At least I don't think so. :)

  46. I really enjoy Ann's books and this looks like a great cozy series!

    wfnren at aol dot com

  47. So interesting all the cues that make a cozy what it is. Very similar to the dinner theaters put on by high school and college drama classes as fund raisers. I always enjoyed going to those at our local college. A good meal and a fun "who done it" at the same time. :)

  48. I am in love with those covers! Developing mysteries is an art unto itself.

    I don't have the gene.

    My father and oldest sister lived for mysteries. Stacks upon stacks of them.

    That particular thing skipped me, but God gave me a romance-loving gene, so I kind of sliiiiide along with that.

    Ann, how fun, though! I do like changing up genres, so I branched into historicals and I love writing them.... but I love my contemps, too!

    It's just plain fun to let the brain wander a little.

  49. I'm laughing at the thought of these crime-riddled small towns.

    I'd move, too, LOL!

    But that's the fun of fiction!

    We don't have to worry about the decrease in property values because 7 people have lost their lives!!!! :)

  50. I know, seriously. The mayor would be not be re-elected with that crime rate during his term. On the other hand. The sheriff would be for solving all those murders.

  51. This sounds like my kind of cozy!! I'd love the chance to win a copy!

  52. Hi Ann!
    I like mysteries in general, as well as suspense, as well as detective type book (think Anne Perry) - so I'm thinking your books would be a nice shuffled deck of all three types. I enjoy cozies, but I'm not a stickler for all the "rules", so there's another notch on the good read side of the ledger for me. I've enjoyed the Drew Farthering mysteries by Juliana Deering. I'm not really a cat person, so I've never picked up The Cat Who series. Of course, any author hanging around Seekerville is one I want to read because I've yet to encounter a new book/author introduced here that WASN'T an awesome read. Please throw my name into the cat dish for an opportunity to win your book. I love the blurb and cover.

    As for settings... I love it when the author creates a memorable setting. They can make or break the story for sure.

    Thanks for sharing with Seekerville. I loved how you explained everything and even the fact that you didn't exactly follow all the rules.

  53. Hi Ann this sounds just wonderful I am one cozz mystery of yours behind but if it is anything like your other books they are outstanding. love the settings that you chose and would love to win a copy i have been all over entering. Wish you nothing but success with the mysteries that you write you have the gift.

  54. Welcome to Seekerville, Kathy and PtClayton.

    Your names are in the cat dish along with DebH!!!

    Oh, that pesky cat keeps playing with the folded pieces of paper, LOL.

  55. Keep that cat out of the cat dish, Tina. But better a cat than a dog, I suppose. You know how dogs are about eating homework.

  56. Wendy, I do so appreciate you reading my books and so glad you think Murder Comes by Mail looks like a good cozy.

    Hi, Pam. I hadn't thought about the dinner theaters, but you are so right. The mysteries usually highlighted at places like that could definitely be considered cozies. We have a restaurants in a nearby city that does those mystery theater dinners. I've wanted to go but they always pick a night I can't. Maybe the next one. I know it would be fun.

    Kathy, good to hear that Murder Comes by Mail sounds like your kind of cozy. Hope you will enjoy visiting Hidden Springs when you get a chance.

    Deb, I'm like you. I like those mysteries in general. I like Anne Perry's books and I enjoyed Dick Francis's racing stories and Tony Hillerman's out west in Indian territory police detective mysteries. But cozies are fun too. Glad you are open-minded about the cozy rules and hope you'll give my stories a try. Seekerville is a fun place to visit and meet new reading and writing friends.

  57. ANN, welcome back to Seekerville! Thanks for this informative post on what makes a mystery cozy. Your cozies sound great and look wonderful with those terrific covers.

    I loved Murder, She Wrote. The underlying humor and camaraderie appeals to me. I can't remember if Jessica had a cat or dog. Does anyone know?

    One of the reasons I write historical romances for Love Inspired is our readers want small towns settings. Small towns bring an expectation of quirky characters, especially the town busybodies who know everyone else's business or want to. :-)


  58. Hi, Ruth. I think the covers are fun on my Hidden Springs mysteries too. I guess it's a good thing we don't all want to write the same kind of stories. I can't even write the same kind of stories myself with all the different genres I've written. It can be a major shift to go from contemporary to historical, according to your era. So, obviously you do some switching around too.

    Best be careful in those small towns.

    Tina, the sheriff might be glad to solve the mysteries, but the citizens might rather he prevented them. :)

  59. Peggy, thanks so much for hopping over her to Seekerville to see my post. Maybe this will be your lucky time. I do appreciate you reading my books and I'm so glad you like my small town settings.

  60. Hi, Janet. So glad to be back at Seekerville. I have to confess I didn't always watch Murder She Wrote so have no idea if a dog or cat made appearances in those shows. My husband is usually the program chooser since I generally would rather read than watch t.v. anyway, and Murder She Wrote wasn't his type of show. But I'm guessing somebody else in Seekerville or visiting Seekerville knows about Jessica's pets or lack of pets.

    I like writing about small towns and I definitely had one of those town busybodies in the first Hidden Springs mystery, Murder at the Courthouse. Miss Willadean is the one who discovers the body on the courthouse steps in the opening scene.

  61. Ann, your post is the best explanation I've ever read about what makes a cozy mystery. You've included all the "rules" for the genre and made it sound so delightfully simple!

    I write romantic suspense. Folks often ask the difference between suspense, mystery, thrillers. Then they want a breakdown of the mystery genres. In some there can be a fine line...but, as you mentioned, there's no mistaking that hometown feel and cat on the cover with the sleuth happening, often accidentally, onto the crime scene of the cozy. You've nailed it perfectly.

    Loved that you said the cozy mystery reader doesn't want to be frightened. Although she does want to solve the crime. I hadn't thought of that, but you're so right!

    Congrats on your success, Ann, in all genres!

  62. ANN.....I'm coming back to comment and let you know that I did indeed receive my copy of "Murder Comes by Mail" today! That cover just blows me away, I mean I've seen pictures of it...but the real thing far exceeds photos...WOW! I could stare at it all day long and never want to crack it open...haha! Thanks for the bookmarks too, I collect those and love to have one matching whatever book I happen to be reading. And your postcard really put all the special goodies you included over the top, you are so sweet to include a personalized note. :-) About that reading vacation, what does your schedule look like...haha!!

    I didn't realize you also wrote historicals, the other bookmark you sent me was for "Words Spoken True". That is also my top favorite genre (suspense vies for position), I'll definitely be adding that to my want-to-read pile as well. One of these days, that pile will fall down!

    Anyway, I wanted to come back and thank you for the book, bookmarks & sweet postcard you sent.
    All the best, Trixi

  63. Thanks for this awesome post, Ann! I'm currently writing my own cozy mystery, and while I may be breaking a few of your rules, I've got most of them, including the dog! The hard part is working in the clues so no one guesses the murderer!

    I enjoy reading cozies a lot, and I look forward to reading yours!

  64. Do you suppose cozies always have to have a murder? Can they be a dastardly crime?

  65. Looks like you timed writing a cozy perfectly, Stephanie!!

  66. I am a mystery lover! And another of those who grew up reading Nancy Drew.

    I have a series of mysteries written, but they're not cozies. They're more like the Grafton series in that they're serious who-dun-its. But they're set in a small town and feature an amateur female sleuth. Rather than owning a small business, she's a high school science (with a forensics class) teacher, with a husband and two young sons to keep her on her toes.

    I've been wrestling with the name thing. Rather than the initials, I had been thinking of inserting my maiden name, making me Helen Brown Gray. But most people I've talked to at conference seem more concerned about branding.
    I'd love to hear others' take on this.

    Thanks for sharing.

  67. Well, as I'm sure you know, Debby, thinking about writing a book of any sort is never very simple whether you know the "rules" or not. Some stories are more for escaping into than others. And I think cozies are like that and also romantic fiction. We want to slide into another world for a little while and not worry about what might be going on in our own world. It's a way to rest our worries for a while and recharge our reading batteries. I like reading suspense novels, but I do shy away from stories that are too graphic with violence. But the great thing about reading rather than watching a movie is that you can let your mind skip over things you'd rather not imagine in full living color. You might read it, but you don't have to let it bury an image in your mind. I actually stopped reading Stephen King books a long time ago because he was so good at writing his scenes that I sometimes couldn't keep from imagining them. :) Of course, with cozies and most inspirational fiction, you don't have to worry about those scenes that might be too intense and that you might prefer not read. I say that, but I do think some of my other novels have had dramatic and intense scenes. Do you think that's good or bad?

  68. Hi, Trixi. I'm glad you got your book. Thanks for letting me know. And maybe I can talk people into getting the book just to showcase that beautiful cat. So glad you liked the cover, but I do hope you'll give the story a try too. :)

    I'm all ready for that reading vacation, but it will have to wait until after my deadline in August. I may have to take a vacation from sleeping to meet that deadline on my new book.

    For anybody interested in seeing what other types of books I've written, you can check out my website. On my book link, you can find an excerpt from each of my inspirational novels. Words Spoken True is actually my most romantic inspirational story with plenty of dramatic historical events. It's a favorite of some of my readers. The interesting thing is that it also has a bit of a mystery thread with a serial killer. That actually came from some of the history I was reading of that time period in Louisville.

  69. Tina, that's a good question. I'm sure somebody could figure out a way to write a cozy with that dastardly crime, but when you think of dastardly, it might be more difficult to let that occur off scene. And would dastardly be worse than a simple murder? That sounds a little silly, but generally, as I say in the post, the victim is not someone the writer has made us like and therefore we, as readers, aren't that concerned that they play the role of victim. Not sure a mere theft would do for the crime, but what say the rest of you? Have you read a cozy with a crime other than murder and if so, what was it? Lots of cozy mysteries out there that I've yet to read.

  70. Hi, Stephanie. If you've got the dog, you're on your way. :) I'm a dog lover and so it's a little surprising to find those cats on my covers. Maybe I'll let a dog chase them off the cover someday. It is difficult giving enough clues to let readers figure out the bad guy without making it too easy. Not sure how successful I've been with that. Some reviewers have complained that they knew the killer too soon in both of my books, but others say they've been completely mystified. Sometimes, we just do the best we can.

    Helen, sounds like you've got a good idea working for you. I like the idea of the character being a science teacher. That opens up a lot of opportunities for you and many detective series do feature married main characters. There's Faye Kellerman's series about Peter Decker. And I'm sure many others. I like your name with your maiden name, but that's a choice you need to make. I know what you mean by all the conferences advising you to stick to a brand. Good advice I'm sure, but it's better coming from someone besides me. I've not done the branding thing very well. I decided some time ago that I just wanted my brand to be telling a good story. Whether I've always succeeded or not is up to my readers to decide. And if they decide I'm not writing that good story, at my age, I can always retire from writing and have lots more time for reading.

  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

  72. Ann,

    The importance of setting depends on the type of story, I think. I can't think of a book I've read just for the setting, and I can't say I've written just for the setting either, but the type of characters and story often dictate the setting.

    I haven't read many cozy mysteries, but your book sounds interesting. Please enter me for the draw. Thanks for the blog post!

  73. Hi Ann, Thank you so much for your lovely post here in Seekerville. It is always important to learn something new. I've never been much for mystery genre, but I sure do know how popular it is. Every time I am at a book sale, I ask those passing by if they like romance. About half say "No, I prefer mystery" So I always have bookmarks from friends who write mysteries to hand out to them. smile

    Thanks for joining us and have fun today.

  74. My mom loved mysteries. I'm sure she would have loved your books.

    You have some great covers.

  75. I loved Murder at the Courthouse, Ann. Can't wait to read "Mail." My mother worked in the courthouse in my home town. I felt right at home with your courthouse characters.

  76. Hi Emily Akin and welcome to Seekerville!

  77. Hi, Lara. I did write one of my young adult books back in the 1990's solely because of the setting. I wanted to write about a wilderness area on my farm, but I still had to come up with the right characters to fit into the setting. You are right that you have to make all of it fit together, characters, plot, setting. A story can sometimes be a puzzle a writer has to put together. I suppose that is especially true with a mystery. So glad you think my Hidden Springs mystery sounds interesting.

    Hi, Sandra. It's great to be back here in Seekerville. A fun place for sure. It's neat that you take your friends' bookmarks to hand out to the mystery lovers you meet. I like romance but I like it mixed with history or mystery. I tried to write a straight romance once and my agent said I failed completely. Sigh. Good that there are many different types of stories and writers and readers.

    Hi, Emily. Fun to see you here in Seekerville. So glad my courthouse characters seemed right with somebody who should know. Glad you enjoyed Murder at the Courthouse and hope you'll like Murder Comes by Mail. It's a bit more suspenseful.

  78. Ann, as the day winds down on the East coast, I want to thank you for being such a terrific hostess here in Seekerville. We wish you continued success with both your names. :)

  79. Ann, I absolutely love cozy mysteries. I started out reading Trixie Belden, and in ninth grade, I read Endless Night by Agatha Christie which led me to search out other Agatha books and beyond. From Koko and YumYum to Sneaky Pie Brown, from Annie Darling to the Southern Sisters, I have loved reading about small towns, both American and British, and the pets that occasionally help the sleuth.

    As far as your questions, with the first book that I read in a series, it's not as important to me, but a setting that is well written and a good backdrop can bring me back for a return visit to the locale and the characters. I've read so many Carolyn Hart books because I love Broward's Rock, a fictional island with a great mystery bookstore. Yes, I feel a setting can sometimes help the characters come to life and it can also suggest scenes for the writer. For instance, a small town setting is perfect for a festival, but an urban setting is perfect for famous landmarks or other details.

  80. Good points, Tanya. Maybe, if I write another Hidden Springs mystery, I'll have to think about that festival idea in my small town setting. Sounds as if you know your cozy mysteries. I've read a couple of Carolyn Hart's books. Met her at a book fair once a few years ago. A mystery bookstore has to be a great addition to a cozy setting. Hope when you get a chance to read Murder Comes by Mail you'll think the setting is just right for the story.

  81. It's been great fun, Tina. Thanks for letting me walk around Seekerville today.

  82. I enjoyed this so much, ANN. Like others here I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Trixie Belden, etc, and then moved on to Agatha Christi, the Cat Who books, Mary Higgins Clark, etc. I definitely prefer cozy mysteries over the more gritty police procedural - no matter the setting. Thanks for such a fun post!

  83. I'm super late stopping in today, but wanted to thank Ann for this post. I love those covers (especially the ones with the cat, LOL). ;)
    Congratulations on your success so far, and I'm sure you will have continued success in the future.

    Must wish DEBBY GIUSTI a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY today!! :)
    And for anyone who's still hanging around, I've baked a peach pound cake especially for sweet Debby. :)
    Blessings, Patti Jo

  84. Encyclopedia Brown. BE STILL MY HEART!!

  85. TINA, I loved Encyclopedia Brown! And I wanted mysteries to solve! But alas, not much happened on our quiet little street. That's probably why I started making up stories, lol.

    Happy Birthday, DEBBY! Peach pound cake sounds awesome, PATTI JO!

  86. Laura, I'm glad you liked the cozy post. Sounds as if you cut your reading teeth on mysteries. Obviously, Tina was an Encyclopedia Brown fan. Fun. My son liked those books too. Cozy are fun mysteries without, as you say, too much grit.

    Hi, Patti Jo. Well, of course you like the covers with a name like CatMom and standing there with your cat buddy in your arms. My sister is the cat lover in our family. However, I was just telling my husband a few minutes ago that we needed a mean cat to chase away some of the chipmunks invading our yard and eating my flowers! Not sure how my dog would take to that.

    And happy birthday, Debbie. The peach pound cake sounds delicious. I just heated up a cup of tea. It will go perfectly with a slick of your birthday cake.

  87. I love getting your take on cozies, Ann! That's my genre, and I'm always wondering if I'm on the right track. I don't follow all of the rules either, but there are certain aspects I know are crucial. Thanks for your excellent tips.

  88. @Ann - I agree, I always thought of Nancy Drew et al. as detective/private eye stories, but based on the cozy mystery description, I wondered ... Nancy Drew actually did have a dog, a terrier named Togo (introduced in book #14, apparently) and she was from a small-ish town outside of Chicago called River Heights. ;-)

  89. Ann said: "I didn't know then that being too secret probably meant that nobody would find your books."



  90. Ann,

    You said, "A story can sometimes be a puzzle a writer has to put together." So true!! And I'm starting to wonder if my puzzle even fits!! I know I've got a few missing pieces, but I may have a few extras to get rid of as well. :-)

  91. I love cozy mysteries. In fact, I'm reading one right now - Murder Simply Brewed and it fits almost to a tee, even with a cat! :)

  92. Good luck with your cozies, Carol. I suppose few of us follow all the rules about writing. Whatever we choose to write. The most crucial aspect is that good story one and in a mystery playing fair with the reader.

  93. I always have extras I need to get rid of, Lara. But the thing is to get the pieces down first and then worry about adding or subtracting. Good luck with your "puzzle."

  94. Thanks for letting me know about Nancy Drew's dog, Togo. Seems to be ringing a memory bell now, Artist Librarian. And now that you name the town, that sounds familiar too. It's been a long time since I read Nancy Drew, but I think it's fun that they still have new Nancy Drew books for the girls today.

    Hi, Jennifer. So fun that you like cozies. They always come up with great titles, don't they? And you gotta have that cat or dog. :)

    Julie, I started out as a very shy writer. Well, a very shy everything. Got past all that.

  95. Ann, I devoured this post because I recently read and enjoyed "Murder in the Courthouse" and also, I'm in the process of drafting my first cozy mystery. I noticed the male protagonist in "Courthouse" and thought, "Good for you!" It's fun to bend the conventions a bit. Can't wait to read "Murder Comes by Mail". Best wishes!

  96. Hi, Dana. So glad you enjoyed the post. I hope your cozy mystery is going well and that you keep enough rules and break enough rules to make it all interesting. Thank you so much for reading my first Hidden Springs mystery. You may find out I broke even more rules in the next one.

  97. I have read Ann's Shaker books and I look forward to reading her cozy mysteries. Can't go wrong one of her cozy mysteries,a cat in the lap and a cozy cup of tea!

    Deanne P.

  98. Ann, I'm so excited to learn that you're writing mysteries now. A book by you with a cat and clues to solve. I'm in!