Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Backwards Mystery Plotting for Amateurs


I'm not calling names, here.



I'm not saying you're an amateur, but hey... if the shoe fits, don't just wear it. Grab that leather loafer, pull on your Sherlock Holmes' hat and lets get down to it, because I used to be flamboozled by the very thought of plotting a mystery.

How do you come up with a culprit? How do you set up a crime? (Really, I had six kids, I should be totally golden at setting up crimes, right????) How do you plant clues, red herrings, shuffle things around and have any of it make sense?

In this case, this ONE case of writing (because I am a linear writer/storyteller, meaning I begin at the beginning and go through to the end...) I don't begin at the beginning. I begin at the end. With the perpetrator, the culprit, the crime.... And then I spin my way backwards by figuring out who might have an interest in the outcome.

Who might dislike another person?

Who's short on money? People in tight circumstances become prime suspects because they are in need. A reader will see that "need" and realize that person has a great reason to be a suspect... even if they're not the culprit.

Who's got a grudge to bear against another? Who has a history they don't want revealed? Who's uncle/aunt/cousin has dirty laundry?

Probably all of them. And that's what's different about a mystery/thriller/suspense story.

As an investigation deepens, more is revealed. Hidden pasts take on onerous overtures... because can a zebra change its stripes?

Not as a rule, so a bad youth leads to an evil adulthood...

But not always, and there's a red herring for you... because people do change, they get redeemed, they strike out on new paths and that makes them less a suspect and more a person to respect.

So here's the skinny:

1. Begin with the crime. Who did it? Why? (Money, Sex, Power are the three big players)

2. Who is hurt by the crime?

3. Who in town/city/neighborhood would want to hurt that person?

4. Add an odd character or two to the playlist

5. Animals work well in cozy or humorous mysteries. Not necessarily so much in thrillers. (The poor rabbit in "Fatal Attraction" is a prime and horrible example!!!!)

6. Setting varies from cozy mystery (small towns like my Martha's Vineyard mystery series with Guideposts) to straight mystery (Agatha Christie's books, pure classics) to amateur sleuth mysteries (Nancy Drew style) and on...

But the main trick in plotting these is to start at the end and work your way back mentally... at least that works for me. 

In a straight story, I'm absolutely linear. I don't quilt a story together and build in patches. Lots of folks do that successfully! 

But not me, and if you've tried and failed (like crashed and burned, utterly) then it might not be YOU failing... it could be the strategy you're employing.

Shake it up a little! Pretend it's a Christmas tree, a stately blue spruce or a scrawny white pine and then begin at the peak, the summit.... with the crime...

Then work your way down to the ever-growing branches, building several as you go.

If this is a romance, then you need to thread the romance into the story as well, and that's not always easy. Clever writing and quick timing/pacing come to mind there.

But if there's no romance, or just hinted romance, then you've got room to play. And who doesn't want room to play???

My second mystery "Swept Away" releases soon. I had so much fun returning to Martha's Vineyard and all the great characters we've got there... and seeing what my friend Priscilla is up to!

Here's the blurb on this delightful book 9 of the Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard: 


The arrival of a Hollywood film crew revives memories of three dramatic events in Martha’s Vineyard’s history: a little girl’s unsolved disappearance, a daring heist, and a major hurricane. When Priscilla learns that all three events occurred over the course of the same weekend, she is convinced that they were connected. But how? With her daughter, Rachel, visiting, Priscilla dives into the mystery, but she isn’t alone. The son of the detective who oversaw the case of the missing girl tells Priscilla he is seeking answers to put his ailing father’s mind to rest. But is his story true, or is he just interested in recovering the missing money from the heist? 

As Priscilla pieces together the clues, a smaller—but no less vexing—mystery hits closer to home. When her newly painted lemon-yellow door ruffles feathers in her neighborhood, someone begins leaving ugly scratches in the paint. Who is behind this disturbing vandalism—and can Priscilla catch the culprit to put a stop to it?



Our deep freeze has broken here in Western New York and I suspect there will be snowmen showing up soon, now that the snow is growing "heavier"... you can't build a snowman with dry, super-cold snow! While we're making snowmen up here, tell me what it is about mysteries that attracts you... The fun of figuring out the clues before the end of the book? Or the engaging characters? And do you like murder mysteries or prefer your cozies without a body necessarily attached?

Leave a comment and I'll tuck your name into a drawing for my absolutely beautiful soon-to-be-released Love Inspired "Her Secret Daughter"... a poignant story of sacrificial love and God's perfect timing... which sometimes doesn't seem all that perfect, does it? 





Multi-published and bestselling inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne has over 40 published novels and novellas and she's living her dream of touching hearts... and souls...  from a VERY COLD AND SNOWY farm in Western New York! Thanks for visiting with her here in Seekerville... and you can friend her on facebook, follow her on Twitter and her editors really, really love it when you follow or like her on Amazon and Bookbub! And she loves  making editors happy! 


134 comments:

  1. Something is mighty mystersterious here...I'm the first to post? Wow!

    Hi Ruthy! I loved this post. I love a great mystery that keeps me turning the page to find out what will happen next. I love to be challenged and a good mystery will do just that for me. I also like discovering the red herrings. Such fun and enjoyment of reading.

    Okay, today is the day. I leave for the hospital in a about an hour and a half...surgery scheduled for 9am EST. I would love any and all prayers offered. Thank you so much.

    May you all be blessed today!

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. I'm praying right now, Cindy!! Please check in when you can!

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    2. Cindy W., hope you heal fast.
      KB

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    3. Praying for your surgery and healing, Cindy!

      Janet

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  2. Praying you through your surgery, sweet Cindy!!! And yes, you're the FIRST POSTER!!!! WHAT????? :)

    Praying God's love over you and the surgical team. Let us know how things go when you can, okay????

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  3. Thank you Ruthy! I will definitely let you know. I have an awesome doctor so I'm sure he'll do a great job and how could he not, with God directing everything that occurs in the OR?

    I appreciate you and all your prayers.

    Cindy W.

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    1. Prayers for a speedy recovery. I imagine by now you
      re already out of surgery.

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    2. Thank you all for your prayers. The doctor was happy. I had a hard time waking up as the anesthesiologist spoke to me & then he turned me over to a male nurse anethesist to administer the drug. I told him to keep me light, but he reminded me of a buck-a-roo show-off and so I was forced awake by the post-op nurses so they could send me home. I was so happy to be home & in our own bed. I slept a long time then. Woke up this morning with just a little pain but the shoulder bloc hasn't warn totally off yet.

      Sorry for any typos as I am typing with only one hand.

      Blrssings,
      Cindy W.

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    3. Cindy, this is such a good report!!! Glad you're home and praying for complete success, my friend!

      Would you like coffee, tea or hot chocolate, darling? Let us wait on you today!!!

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    4. Hi Ruthy! Oh I must have coffee in the morning, Earl Grey tea in the afternoon and hot chocolate for the evening. Thank you so much!

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  4. I'm so glad mysteries are gaining publishers in Christian Fiction! Finally. They are challenger so much fun to write! Thanks Ruth!

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  5. Good morning Ruthy! I enjoyed A Light in the Darkness and look forward to reading swept away.

    I like cozies because it's fun to figure out the clues and solve the crime with the heroine. I even like to figure out which house a couple will buy on House Hunters. Maybe that's why I grew up reading Nancy Drew books.

    Thanks for sharing. This is going in my keeper file right after your post last June.

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    1. Jackie the big surprise to me was how much easier it was to plot these if I go backwards... from the answer to devising the question.

      Is that bizarre????

      I didn't know how much I'd love cozies until I wrote one!

      OH MY STARS!!!

      They are so much fun!

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    2. Jackie, I do the same with the HGTV shows! LOL

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  6. Great post, Ruthy! Mystery/suspense is my favorite genre. I love the chilling suspense with it's twists and turns that keep me turning the pages.

    I brought English Breakfast Tea and scones to share!

    Stay warm!

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    1. I wrote one serial killer chiller... I couldn't sleep, Caryl.

      Man that's tough to get out of my head!!!!!

      But the cozies are so fun!!!!

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    2. Caryl, English Breakfast is my favorite.

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  7. Ruthy, love this post! I always loved watching Perry Mason. Trying to figure out who did it before the end of the show. Love anything mystery, suspense, cozy. What fun!

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    1. Sally, I recently watched some Perry Mason episodes with my dad. He loves the oldies, and they are solid stories.

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    2. My mom and dad love the oldies as well.

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    3. My mom loved Perry Mason reruns when I was a girl... so that's an indication of how old they are, right? But yes, the solid story is where it's at!

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  8. Good morning, Ruthy! I brought some delightful tea for those of us who don't drink coffee, along with some super snappy gingersnaps. Yum.

    I have never contemplated writing a mystery, but you have definitely laid out the process in a manner my blond brain can understand. Because, like you, I'm also a linear writer, though I might have just a smidge of puzzler in me. Only a smidge, though.

    It's been a long time since I've read a mystery, but you just might have piqued my interest. I think a trip the Martha's Vineyard sounds kind of nice. Thanks, Ruthy.

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    1. Mindy, I used to tease The Connealy about her mysteries because I was 100% sure that I would never write one... until one day when Susan Downs and I talked... and I was hooked because I could see how much fun it would be to hang out in Martha's Vineyard and meet the unique citizens there! And so much history... I love history and its effect on what we see/do/have now. Well, except the bad parts of history, I'd have been marching and waving protests for parts of that because it was wretched, but the good parts...

      SIGH....

      Do I get to say that? For real?

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    2. Mindy, gingersnaps, yum. Something we don't see enough of. In New England we often eat them with a piece of sharp cheddar.
      KB

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    3. Ruthy, the wretched parts of history are hard to handle but it's important we don't forget, lest we repeat them.

      Janet

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    4. KB, my grandmother always wanted a piece of cheese with her dessert, especially pie. Some people think pie and Ice cream, she was pie and cheese. I never quite got that.

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  9. Good morning, Ruthy. I enjoyed this post and I am loving the Martha's Vineyard series. I look forward to reading your next book in the series. I have always loved mysteries. When I was young and rode my bike to the library a couple times a week, I always checked out mysteries. I like trying to figure them out. I have always thought it would be hard to write, though. Please put me in the drawing for "Her Secret Daughter."

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    1. Sandy, me too! I loved mysteries then, then HORMONES got in the way and I started reading romance... now I love both!

      I'm having so much fun writing both, Sandy... that it doesn't even feel like work. It's just plain fun!!!

      Wait... I'm supposed to say it's work, aren't I????

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  10. Happy Winter to you, Ruthy! This pantster writer cannot even imagine constructing a mystery and beginning at the end, but you make it sound so do-able. I might just try it. I really like cozy mysteries, but there's nothing better than a sweet romance. You well satisfy my cravings in both genres. Love your books and you!

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    1. CINDY!!!!! See, I begin at the beginning... but I play it backwards from the end in my head! So I start in the normal place but I don't have to waffle about what's going to happen because I've seen it backwards.

      I am not explaining this well.

      Chocolate.

      Chocolate fixes everything!!!

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  11. Ruthy, I love your new cover! So fun to have the next book coming!

    Thanks for sharing how your plot a mystery. I've never tried one, and just don't even know if I could think that way. But it's fun to know you go at it backwards! That makes perfect sense to me. I bet it can even bring some surprises for you while you're writing--which I imagine can be fun!

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    1. Missy, I didn't think I could do it, either... and you know I was 100% sure of it... until Susan Downs reminded me that I'd done a continuity for LI and I had so much fun doing that... and the continuities have a mystery thread. There you go, instant mystery!!!!

      So then I got to play with Priscilla and the gals in the Vineyard and I'm in love!!!!

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  12. Good morning! I boight more coffee and chocolates. It's Ruthy speaking, so chocolate is a must!

    Ruthy, love this. I almost felt like I can start plotting a mystery. Only bit holding me back? Not a writer here, but one can dream. Lol.

    And you're covers are ALWAYS gorgeous!

    Have a good and blessed day, everyone!

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    1. Annie, thank you for the chocolate!!!!

      Hahahahahahaha on the non-writer angle. That is a stumbling block!

      Didn't they do a great cover? The yellow door is a CLUE... to something.

      I am having way too much fun with all of this!!! And the yellow door isn't just any old yellow. It's "Luscious Lemon Yellow" on a historic building, so that's even better, right??? But boy did that color set tongues on the Vineyard wagging! :)

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  13. Ruth, thanks so much for this! I've been struggling to write a mystery for I'm not even sure how long, and I founder. Gonna try this!

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    1. Anna, I know it sounds funny to some but it kind of made it all so easy for me to see then... because I had a target. I knew who did it, and what actually happened, so then I had to build a fun story to wind around the villages and get there. And I'm so thrilled with how folks have responded to these stories... I don't think I was expecting so much feedback and excitement!!!

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  14. Good morning, Ruthy! You make writing a mystery look like fun, and if not easy, at least no harder than any other writing. You make me want to write one! Got some goals to reach first, like Getting Published, and then I think I'll give it a shot.
    Less than two weeks into the New Year and my writing schedule is already shot due to a trifecta of events: frozen pipes, a broken snow blower and a defunct washing machine, plus, up until today, bitter cold and snow. In other words, January in New England, which is apparently on a par with Upstate. But things are beginning to look up. We bought a washer, only the guys from Lowe's hooked it up wrong. The small engine people took the snow blower this morning, so that's in the works. This afternoon I have to go to Lowe's and dicker with them about the washing machine; buy an oven, which also quit; and visit the Laundromat. But...I've been this route before, and I can line-edit on some hard copy while the clothes cook at the Laundromat. All is Not Yet Lost. Only misplaced. The fire to write still burns in me, it's just Everything Else. But one, these are first-world problems and two, the Lord is working them out one by one.
    Ruthy, thank you for the step-by-step. I think I WILL try this, once I finish some of my other projects.
    I read a lot of cozies, both Christian and secular. Usually, in a secular cozy, there's not a lot of extraneous graphic sex or language. The writers tend to focus more on the plot, characters and the mystery itself.
    Cozies are great and I have always loved the ones with food. I started out with Diane Mott Davidson's "Goldy Bear" series, and I also enjoyed the late Virginia Rich's "Mrs. Potter" series. I like the cozies with the amateur detectives because they usually have a hobby or profession attached, cooking, gardening, whatever, and I learn a little something about that as I go along. Cozies, however, require a real WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIE as to how an amateur detective KEEPS stumbling over bodies in the same small town. But I learned long ago to wrap my head around that and keep going. Jessica Fletcher, anybody? and HOW BIG was Cabot's Cove? I also like police procedurals, as long as they're not too graphic.
    My favorite cozy series of all time, between covers and on the small screen, is Ellis Peters' "Brother Cadfael" series, a medieval priest and herbalist who solved crimes and was beautifully portrayed by Derek Jacobi. My second-favorite crime-solving priest is Father Brown on PBS.
    Where was I? Oh, yes, love the cozies.
    Going out to shovel, back in a bit.
    Winter in New England. Hmmph. Why can't we just take it by injection? Or general anaesthesia?
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Kathy, your comment and 3 others were in the Spam folder! We'd noticed that happening before Christmas, that spam was catching a few now and then. I'd forgotten to check it, so I'm glad you mentioned it!!!!

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  15. Please enter me in drawing, enjoy your books.
    Trying to get back into a reviewing rhythm with the New Schedule, good luck with that.
    KB

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  16. I brought some fresh coffee and some of Priscilla Grant's cranberry orange muffins... and yes, the recipe is in BOOK ONE!!!! A Light in the Darkness.... :) We must eat while we solve crime. Right?

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  17. Cranberry-orange, English Breakfast and gingersnaps. You guys are killing me. Good thing I didn't make a "weight loss" resolution.

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    1. Hey, Kaybee!!! I was doing farm stuff today so I had to duck away from life in Seekerville!!!!!

      CRANBERRY ORANGE MUFFINS.... I love them!!!!

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  18. I love mysteries, and especially cozy mysteries!

    But a pet peeve of mine is a poorly written one, which is why I hesitate at trying to write one. I think I'll try my hand at it eventually, so I'm filing away these tips!

    Thanks, Ruthy! And pass one of those muffins!

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    1. Jan, I know what you mean. That was why I shied away, too... until Susan made that point and it was like LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!!! Here's a muffin, darling!!!!

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  19. Ruthy said: I don't begin at the beginning. I begin at the end.

    Aha!!! Ruthy has come over to the dark side! Bwahahaha!!!!

    Over the course of many years of writing, blogging, brainstorming, I've chatted with Ruthy, the Seekers, Seeker Villagers and other writing friends, and sometimes we'd get all twisted up because one person wrote linear and couldn't wrap their heads around the occasional need for non-linear plotting.

    Mysteries, suspense, and crazy villians are excellent reasons when someone needs to plot from the end.

    Ruthy, do you remember (just smile and nod) the time I threw out this JUMBLE of threads and ideas and character this and thats and whys and whats and you were like ... this is way too much STUFF and my head is spinning ... kind of response. Your response was something like ... "Just write the book, darlin', and see where the journey takes ya." :)

    Well, I can write linear with the romance side...don't get me wrong... romance has it's own set of challenges, but getting from Point A to Point B is a different kettle of fish than resolving a mystery/suspense thread.

    But it's the mystery/suspense that I need to figure out the ending to get to the ending. Okay, that's kinda sorta backwards, but it is what it is.

    Or... as the case may be... what it isn't, until it is.

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    1. Okay, kidding, I do remember that well! I couldn't keep track of the 74 things you listed and in my head there's a path from A to B and it has pitfalls!!! Like death... or poverty... or deceit.... but I don't really see all that ahead of time in a book. But Pam, you're right, when I looked at the mystery backwards, I could see it!!!!

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  20. This is SO interesting, Ruthy.

    Love discovering how your mind works. BWAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Seriously, very interesting and will be under advisement when I embark on another May book.

    Thank you for sharing.

    SO glad you're ok with all that weather. Been quite chilly here also. Have a reprieve for a few days,then hitting again this weekend. Brrrr!

    Schnauzers at the ready for bagging out in front of the fire. (Me too!)

    Warm hugs from TN

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    1. Hi KC!
      So glad the pooches are keeping warm. :-)

      So when you write your doggy mysteries, do you know the end before you start writing? Or do you wait and discover it along with your reader?

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    2. We're getting MAJOR SNOW this weekend. That means a soup pot, fresh bread and lots of writing!!!!

      I will hunker down but right now the Saturday prediction is over a foot and possibly two feet of snow coming off of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie... OH MY STARS!!!!

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    3. You know, KC, your stories (like James Howe's Bunnicula series) are so delightfully fun and engaging... what a market niche that is, and it taps into that mystery trend! I love them!!!

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  21. You guys have been hammered with snow and cold, Ruthy! I'm glad the cold is gone for now, and I'm sure all your kiddos will enjoy playing and making snowmen.

    I so enjoyed this post. The thought of writing a mystery has always seemed daunting, but I can see how plotting from the end backward can be extremely helpful. :)

    We've been in the 50's and yesterday even in the 60's here in Colorado. Call me crazy, but I want some snow. ;)

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    1. Hi Jeanne!

      We were in the 50's this morning in the Black Hills, but a storm is moving in this afternoon. We're expecting a low of 2° overnight, and a couple inches of snow. Maybe it will work its way toward you!

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    2. Jeanne, you're sending me a day of warm weather tomorrow!!! Before THE BIG SNOW!!!!! And I remember getting a few light bulb moments over the years on Seekerville, and this was one of them, to turn the story inside out and see the ending first...

      Knowing the ending and the culprit and the reasons made it so much easier!!!

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  22. Thanks for a great post. I do love mystery and suspense, so it’s neat to see how they’re created.

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    1. Hi, MH! Do you have a name we can use, sweet thing? Or do you like MH the very, very best??? :)

      Thank you for those nice words... they are appreciated!

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  23. I love cozy mysteries because I like to think of myself as a professional armchair sleuth. And I don't know which I like more -- guessing the whodunnit or being stumped. I get a thrill either way. And I absolutely ADORE cozies with humour. And animals. Cantankerous cat, wily goat, thoughtful bunny -- I'm happy with any kind of animal antics. :-)

    Ruthy -- I have a question about this series. Is it only available through the publisher's site? I can't find any of the books on Amazon or Christianbooks.

    Oh -- and don't enter me in the draw because I have your book in my order from Harlequin -- should be delivered today. Woot! So excited -- lots of good books out this month..er next month really but since I order from Harlequin I get them a month earlier. Yay.

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    1. Kav, Ruthy might have more particulars, but the book is only available through the Guideposts site as far as I know. I get each new book delivered to me every month. You should also be able to get individual books as well, such as if you only wanted to read Ruthy's books but didn't want the whole series. I assume it doesn't make any difference that you live in Canada, other than maybe the cost. Hope this helps!

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    2. Thanks for the info Sandy. I was wondering why I never saw the books anywhere. I'll look into it.

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    3. SANDY!!! You are exactly right!!!! Guideposts only sells through their site and mail order (Sandy is getting hers mail order, and they ship the new book out each month so each author gets 8 months to write the next story) So you won't find them on Amazon but you can find them here:

      Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard Click Here!!! PLEASE!!!!

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  24. Great post, Ruthie!
    Amazing to see you stepping into another genre! Congratulations!

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    1. Eva Maria, hello!!! I'm having so much fun with these, it's quite silly to have this much fun and call it work... But a lot of that is that Susan Downs and Guideposts put together a killer idea... and folks are loving it... so that credit goes to them. I just get to be one of 8 cogs in the wheel, but it sure is a fun wheel!!!

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  25. Ruthy, I love that you're open to different challenges. For sure writing mysteries would be a challenge for me. But I love the cozies. The fun small town characters. Swept Away sounds amazing!

    Janet

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    1. Janet, you and I are just alike that way. The funny, quirky small town characters, the rich folks, the poor folks, the in-betweens... and the old people, the youngsters, the stuffy historic people!!!!

      It's a hoot, Janet!

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    2. Ruthy, Even if we think diversity is more prevalent in big cities, the fun of small towns is the diversity.

      Janet

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    3. Janet, you are so stinkin' smart!!!! In my third mystery, the puzzle revolves around the large and faith-filled Portuguese community on Martha's Vineyard. Men came to New England from Portugal (then from Brazil) to work the whaling then fishing industry and when Portugal began CHARGING the whalers to give the men a job, like $300/person... the men began sneaking aboard the ships.

      Can you imagine a country demanding payment for their young men? This was in the mid-later 1800's and I was so surprised and enlightened to read it! That became the basis for the first Catholic churches and parishes on Martha's Vineyard, a spillover from New Bedford.

      History fascinates me.

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  26. Ruthy, these tips are going in my files even though I can't imagine ever trying to write a mystery of any kind. I like some mysteries and have read a few cozies. I've tried to like them...but they're just not my cup of tea. Maybe yours will be the one to win me over! Hope everyone is staying warm. The wind is blowing 35-40 mph here as it blow a cold front into West Texas.We were in the 70's yesterday and supposed to be in the 70s today...and in the 40s tomorrow. Craziness!

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    1. Pat, you know, it's a funny business, isn't it? Some things appeal to us, some don't... and then we pick up one particular thing and fall in love all over again! I felt that way with my first Jan Karon book "A Light in Mitford"... my first Karen White book "Falling Home"... maybe we never know where that next "OH MY GOSH!!!" moment/book will be????

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  27. Ruthy, first of all...so glad the big freeze is lifting a bit. Your post is great! The Nancy Drew books were my first mysteries, then the series with Goldie the Colorado caterer. I like suspense...not too graphic....and even wrote a cozy mystery short story. But it is hard to keep all those details straight! I’d like to try a suspense/mystery again, so your plan will help. Thank you!

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    1. Sherida, I can totally see you doing this. And you've got some great and very unique real estate in your part of the country... what a fun twist that could be!!!!

      You are welcome, my friend! :)

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  28. Ruthy, it feels like summer in GA! Yesterday I sat in the sun--outside--and wrote for 1 1/2 hours! Until clouds rolled in and the cold air starting blowing. Perhaps I should add that I was positioned in a very protected area that always feels a bit warmer than the rest of the world. :)

    Great post. Mysteries are always fun. I enjoyed the "A is for Alibi" series. Sue Grafton was a pro. I read through F or G and then turned to suspense, which remains my favorite genre.

    The ending is so important in a mystery...in a suspense as well. Eager to read your next Guidepost release. The blurb caught my interest, for sure!

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    1. Debby, I think I need some of that sun and warmer weather piped into VA! Are you working on another book?

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    2. Sue Grafton... oh, there's a pro, for certain. And the alphabet stops at "Y".... one of the more poignant phrases I've read of late, at her passing...

      We're getting close to 50 today, a true January thaw. Then we're getting hit big time this weekend, if the forecasts are correct.... Hello snow!!!

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  29. Hey, Ruthie, I'm so looking forward to your second mystery! Loved the first one!

    Your helpful questions above are timely for me because I'm brainstorming my new mystery story and I DON'T HAVE THE KILLER! I do have the crime and the crime scene and I know the protagonist views the crime, but the killer's face is blank. :) The questions around who has an interest in the outcome seem like they might be a good start.

    For this story, I had to set my story in a place I've never been, Bangor, Maine, and since the only thing I know about Bangor is it's the home of author Stephen King, I had to start there. And I have a working title: The Crone Who Loved Stephen King.

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    1. Oh my stars, I can totally see how much fun this is!!! We need a killer.... Well, that one's easy. Sex. Lust. Power. Money. Greed. Politics. Embezzlement. Blackmail. Coercion. Oh my stars, there are so many good reasons to pretend to kill someone!!!! :)

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  30. I can't read the scary thrillers. I can't get those images out of my head. I made it through Connealy's "Ten Plagues", but only because I kept telling myself, "It's not real. Mary wrote it. She made it all up. It's fake." So well-written, but scared me to death!

    I love the quaint & cozy mysteries. I enjoy when I have it all figured out & love it even more when the ending surprises me!

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    1. Beth, me either. I can't erase or unsee the visuals so that's not my strong point at the moment!!! But the quaint stories, the cozies... OH MYLANTA!!! So much fun!!!

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  31. Hi Ruthy, I love mysteries. Reading them, not writing them. But if I ever take it into my head to try, I know I'd need the solution to the mystery for starters. I'm also a linear writer, and I appreciate the six tips you've given above. Perfect advice. Secret Daughter sounds like a beautiful story.

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    1. Linda, I think you'll love "Her Secret Daughter". It's such a beautiful story of regrets and mistakes and wrong turns... and how sometimes all those wrong turns bring us full circle.

      I'm so glad you stopped by today! Tucking your name into the drawing!!!

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  32. I am near the End of Her Secret Daughter and love, love it. I am headed to Guideposts to see about getting your mystery book (s)...which sound so fantastic!
    Stay warm in your brrr cold weather!

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    1. Jackie, thank you so much!!! I'm so glad you love it... I do, too and Melissa Endlich, my editor, said I made her cry (again!!!) and that she just loved how the story unwound... That made me so happy! I love making editors happy. :)

      Staying warm this week, the temps moderated, but BIG SNOW COMING this weekend, so pots of food and warm socks are on the docket!!!!

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  33. Blogger was misbehaving this morning. It kept eating my comments.
    Thanks for sharing these terrific tips, Ruthy. I've never attempted to write a mystery mainly because I don't feel like I'm clever enough. After reading this post...I might have to give it a try.

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  34. Ruthy, I'm not sure how one would classify the mystery stories I've enjoyed. A couple of my favorites are the Miss Marple ones by Agatha Christie and Miss Silver by Patricia Wentworth. Would they be considered 'cozy'? Your first book in the Guidepost mystery series is on it's way and, as I have loved every other book I've read that you wrote, I'm sure to love this one too!

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    1. Judy, I agree. I love Miss Marple and Miss Silver. There aer kind of shades of coziness, IMO. I think some of the earlier Sue Grafton stories were that way...not quite tea and cats and dogs, but not thrillers. I think she kept it a little lighter with her humor and characters. I am an "emerging" mystery writer and I don't want to write dark. I enjoyed the movie "Arsenic and Old Lace" - but it wasn't quite cozy, was it?

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    2. Judy, hello!!! I'm so glad you came over here!!! HAPPY DANCING!!!!!!

      Miss Marple would be considered a cozy for sure! :) I loved those Agatha Christie novels. I've never read Patricia Wentworth... maybe someone else will jump in?

      A cozy doesn't have a lot of gore or grim circumstances, but they can have murder... or crime... and people double-crossing other people.

      Judy, I can't wait to hear what you think about A Light in the Darkness... It's doing well on Goodreads but the real test is in the happy e-mails and messages I've received... people are so very nice!

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  35. My favorite kinds of mysteries are the twisty turvy, Arthur Connan Doyle or Agatha Christie type ones. But when I read longer mysteries, I tend to prefer them grittier, creepier, with higher stakes, and an actual ticking time bomb or two.

    Please enter my name in the drawing for your book!

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    1. I love Sherlock Holmes... the books and the movies. I love Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as John Watson... oh mylanta, they crack me up!

      I love a strong suspense, too, Nicki. Not horror... I can't do that. But if you keep me on the edge of my seat to see the ending, I'm yours forever!!!!

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  36. Ruthy, Hi! I love cozies. I fell in love with cozies when I read Trixie Belden, and I've read so many since then. Some of my favorite cozy authors include Carolyn Hart and Anne George. I was very fortunate to go to one of Carolyn Hart's signings a long time ago, and she talked about her writing process.

    I can't wait to read yours. Thanks for all the great tips and plotting questions about how to start a cozy mystery.

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    1. I forgot Carolyn Hart!!!! I loved her stuff! Tanya, it's always so much fun when you come by... and you're welcome for the tips, et al... honestly, I thought I was such a sluggard because I couldn't wrap my head around all the threads... but when I flipped it around, I could see it! Isn't the writer's head a weird thing????

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  37. Ruthy, you are truly a Jacqueline of All Trades, LOL! I don't think there's a genre you can't tackle!

    Though I don't think I'd consider trying a mystery, all the points you've mentioned are things to consider when writing a romance. In the book I'm currently working on, I have a vandalism situation the hero must solve. All the "suspects" are red herrings, but it's not the main element of the story.

    I love how you've skinny-ed up all the talking points! You've given me new thoughts to think through :)

    As always, I love how your brain works :)

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    1. Audra, that's so true... so much of this applies to multiple genres... and I guess in a way we do the same thing in a romance. We know the ending.... Happy Ever After...

      So in a way we work our way back to a beginning that will lead to that HEA.

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  38. Hi guys,
    Do you have a length limit on responses in the new retooled Seekerville? Reason is, I posted a longer comment earlier and it's not in here. Happened one other time since you retooled. Just wondering, if there's something I should be doing I'll do it. Or not do, and I won't do it.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Kathy, no, not at all. We kept everything the same. But we had problems on those busy days with comments being swept into a moderation folder.... I have noticed that blogger is CRAZY SLOW yesterday and today for me, and that it's not loading right. But all other sites are working fine and fast so maybe Blogger's got a bit of indigestion????

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  39. Or maybe my computer ate it.
    KB

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    1. Kaybee, I had an similar issue a couple of weeks ago. After I clicked publish, the post just hung there and didn't publish. I think I got some sort of error message telling me to use the browser "Chrome". I have the browser Safari installed on my Mac, and it's way beyond my skillset to install a new browser or to have two browsers, so I did nothing and didn't post for a while. Then one day I just had to try again, and it worked.

      So I'm of the persuasion that maybe your computer ate it, and maybe if it's no longer hungry, it will let your next post go through. :)

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    2. Dana, I'm a chrome user. I keep Chrome, Explorer (that I don't use unless it's absolutely necessary) and Firefox loaded because if one goes down I want to be able to access things quickly... even though the "look" is different.

      We noticed the glitch late fall, pre-Christmas, and I'm not sure if Google/Blogger is doing something regionally behind the scenes (updates will cause trouble sometimes but we never know when they're doing them...) But mostly blogger is pretty good and it's free... oh my gosh, we love "FREE!!!" :) Although if Google takes over the world... No. Let's not go there!!!! ;)

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  40. I've had a migraine all day as our weather's changing with a HUGE polar vortex coming straight at us, so I'm late to the party, but I do love mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and everything about all of them. I read every Agatha Christie in the library in high school and have a small collection of first edition Mary Stewart's like "Touch Not the Cat" and "My Brother Michael". And my favourite has to be Daphne du Maurier. I do love your advice to begin at the end, Ruth, because you're absolutely right - and as I was a police officer back in the day (before DNA and when finger prints were still lifted off dusting powder and steaming glue) I like my crime scenes with forensics and don't mind some blood and descriptions. I would love to be in the draw please!

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    1. I loved My Brother Michael... and Madame, Will You Talk? And Rebecca.... oh be still my heart....

      You are in the drawing, former police officer!!! You know, I don't mind the blood and forensics, either... it's graphic violence that gets to me, so murder mysteries don't bother me as long as the focus is on the solving... not the brutality of a crime.

      Yes. I'm a wuss!!!

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  41. Perfect timing, how did you know? I'm starting a new genre, a mystery series with an amateur sleuth. Thanks for the super helpful post.
    Hugs, L.A. Sartor

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    1. Leslie!!! Congratulations on that, I'm having so much fun writing these books... it shouldn't be legal to have this much fun from work!!!!

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  42. I love reading mysteries, but I don't know if I could ever write one. I never try to figure out whodunnit in mysteries, because I love being surprised! :)

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    1. Oh, that's funny.... now I'm laughing. I have to try. I love to get it before the end, but if I get it too early then I blame the author.

      I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON!!!!

      Erica, of course you could! You deal with Connealy all the time, darling. It rubs off on us! (LAUGHING!!!!)

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  43. Hello Ruthy.

    I love mysteries, but I guess I've read Mary Higgins Clark more than any of them.
    The Lotter Winner w/the older lady who cleaned houses and had a plumber for a husband that won the lottery was my favorite. The heroine was so down to earth and likable.

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    1. I cannot remember my Mary Higgins Clark stories, I think because I was too busy rocking babies during her strong times... and I should go grab them and read.

      If only there were more hours in the day, Connie!!!!!

      I love down-to-earth heroines... but for mysteries I also love kind of ditzy ones, too, that grow into themselves...

      Not mystery, but movie... Reds... then Reds 2 ... Mary Louise Parker went from a scared rabbit to a crazed crime-solving woman in those movies and that cracked me up because you'd have never expected it but the comedy in the movies kind of demanded it.

      My husband loves those movies!

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  44. I have to admit that I've started stories with one villain and ended with another. I'm not certain if I need to focus more. Usually, I always think if a character in my book wants to commit murder, then I'll let them do it if they can give me a reason.

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    1. Hmmm...well you've verschimmeled me. I'm not sure if I spelled that right... but it's German, so we won't fret about it...

      Did it work, Walt? To switch things up? I can see where we could do that, but then I'd need to add to the front of the book, but I have to do that all the time anyway...

      Very interesting, right?

      I must mull this.

      Grab coffee.

      You've made me think.

      It's quite painful.

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  45. Hi Ruthy, I am a big fan of all kinds of mysteries. I think my favorite type is the cozy mystery. I love the fun locale. I am fine with a body as long as it isn't overly grotesque. I remember Babour had a line (I think it was Barbour) and I just devoured them. Characters in cozies are always fun.

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    1. Mary Connealy did a few mysteries for that Barbour line, back in the day. She was young then, I believe. (I can say that and NOT GET INTO TROUBLE because she's busy today. :)

      Yeah, the body isn't the problem... although this series is a "no murder" series... but still fun and full of neat stuff....

      Vice can get pretty ugly!!! :)

      But it's the thinking of human suffering that gets me. So these are perfect because we get to have fun... and find the bad guy... or woman!!!

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  46. I've always been in awe of authors who can write mysteries. I never figured I'd be able to plot one believably - everyone would be able to guess the real villain half way through

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    1. I felt exactly the same way. Until Susan Downs came along.

      WE CAN BLAME SUSAN!!!!! :)

      You ponder this, Winnie... because I could totally see you doing this. Susan's words to me were "If you can do a Love Inspired continuity, you can write a mystery... because you already did, basically."

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  47. I do enjoy a murder mystery. I love a lot of twists and turns.

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  48. Blogger isn't being nice to me lately. Yesterday, I tried to comment three different times, but when I came back later, my comments were gone. Thanks for the great tips, Ruthy! You make writing a mystery seem doable. I never felt like I was clever enough to pull it off.

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    1. Jill I released some captive comments today. Probably yours! Yes, something is going on for sure. And you're amazingly over-qualified. :)

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  49. Ruthy, I may be a day late, but your post was exactly what I needed! I've been toying with the idea of writing a cozy mystery, but I had the same questions swirling around in my head. Could I pull it off? With your help, I know I can now. Thanks for the model for me to follow!!! Have an extra cupcake today. You deserve it! :)

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    1. Oh, yeah. Humor, fun and a plan for death or crime!!!

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  50. Sounds like a great series and wonderful story. I love mysteries and have incorporated into some of my books. I am a linear writer too and love your suggestions. Blessings!

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    1. Carrie, thank you!!! I love these stories... A little mischief afoot!!! ;)

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  51. Okay, Ruthy, you almost have me convinced to write a cozy mystery!

    Almost.

    But not quite because although you make it look easy, both with your excellent teaching blog above AND your cozies, I still contend it's harder to write suspense and mysteries than straight romance because you have to pull the wool over people's eyes, which isn't easy to do, especially to seasoned mystery/suspense readers who probably have read every scenario under the sun.

    So my hat's off to you and all suspense/mystery writers because I sure wouldn't want to strain my brain that way! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  52. Another day, more fresh coffee, my friends! I've also baked a lovely batch of cinnamon streusel cakes, my husband's favorite... he loves this stuff! I've got squares of cake right here and the coffee/tea/hot chocolate service is set to go! Good morning!

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  53. So exciting, Ruthy, that you're successfully stretching your wings in the cozy mystery world! The variety of the different genres you're writing for will keep your writing fresh and vibrant.

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    1. Glynna! I am having way too much fun! And learning as I go... It's a learning curve for certain.

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  54. I love mysteries...Nancy Drew first then on to Mary Stewart as a teen. I like them pretty much any which way but light on the gore. Thank you for sharing your backwards way to plot. I'm not a writer but as a reader, it makes sense to me! Keep on writing for your readers, Ruthie. We love it.

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  55. Blogger is giving me agitation on my phone!!! Anne, you know how much we love readers here! You are the reason we have jobs, sweet thing!!! And I will with you... Light on gore, great on characters and story!!!

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  56. Loved this post, Ruthy!! (And yes, I seem to be running a day behind all week *sigh*). I was never a huge mystery fan but loved your book A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. And these tips you gave today are wonderful---another post for my Keeper File! Speaking of Ruthy books, today I pre-ordered Her Secret Daughter - - I'm thinking I'll need a special shelf just for Ruthy books before long! :)
    Hugs from Georgia (where I wish we had snow!),
    Patti Jo

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  57. hi Ruthy
    I love cozy mysteries and try to see if I can figure out the bad guy before it's revealed by the writer. I always feel smart when I'm right because it doesn't happen very often. I've always loved the mystery genre - I think it goes back to my love of reading Sherlock Holmes stories.

    Her Secret Daughter is AWESOMWE!!!!!!!!! Can't wait to get to post how much I love it on Amazon... And I need to get to Guideposts to get your mystery books but right now I'll be pre-occupied with packing, purging, and painting. New employment in Colorado starts second week of February. As you say, Oh Mylanta... we've barely begun the process. Exciting, scary times...

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  58. Thanks for a great post. If there's anything I love more than history fiction it is a good mystery/suspense novel. Thanks for sharing!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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