Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Writing the Cozy Mystery (Magical Mystery Tour Part 2!)

Ruthy here, happily welcoming the mega talented, award-winning suspense and mystery writer Nancy Mehl! Nancy is doing Part 2 of our ongoing "How to be a Mystery Writer" Magical Mystery Tour series... and her advice is well-taken! Nancy, I've got coffee and cranberry muffins in honor of our Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard series that we're working on together... And Nancy will come by to answer any questions you might have about penning that first whodunnit! 
                                                                   
Ask almost any reader to explain what defines a mystery novel and most will respond with definite characteristics they feel should be present in this popular genre. However, ask the same reader to explain the elements of a “cozy” mystery and you may see a look of confusion creep across their face. So just what makes a mystery “cozy?”


The most fundamental elements in cozy mystery are fairly easy to define. First of all, there will be a basically bloodless crime that may happen “offstage.” In other words, by the time our amateur detective arrives on the scene, the dirty deed has already been done. Now, our sleuth, who is usually female, must solve the mystery because of circumstances she cannot avoid. In other words, the crime involves her directly in some way. This is true with any mystery, but in a cozy, many times the reasons behind her involvement are much more personal. Other signs that you’ve cracked open a cozy involve a small, confined setting; the lack of profanity and sexual content; a protagonist with an interesting hobby or job; and memorable, quirky characters. Also, many cozies are drawn with a touch of humor. Some go further, actually adding some giggles to the usual nasty business of murder and mayhem. Now let’s look a little more closely at each of these elements.

This is NOT a shameless Ruthy plug.... but this is the first book of the series Nancy and I are part of! There are 24 books scheduled, and we'll each write 3 of them. And we're having so much fun in our fictional Martha's Vineyard world!

One very important trait of a cozy mystery revolves around “location, location, location!” Cozies take place in confined settings, thereby drawing upon a small cast of characters and suspects. In other words, the killer can’t be someone passing though town who simply decides to “off” a few of the town’s gentle citizens!  The “investigation” needs to involve only the characters presented within this setting. You can use a small town (like Tisbuy, Massachusetts, in the Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard), a ship, even an old hotel or isolated castle. This restricted location keeps the mystery contained – and the world out. Since cozies are not police procedurals, many times the setting will actually cut down on official involvement. For example – a woman goes to visit an old friend who has turned an old Victorian-styled church into a bed and breakfast. Someone staying at the inn is murdered while a storm rages outside. The bridge to town is washed out, leaving our protagonist, the surrounding characters, and the murderer caught like rats in a trap. Of course, since our characters can’t get out, the police can’t get in. Now the fun begins! One caveat: if you draw law enforcement into your story, you need to be as accurate as you can. Again, police in rural towns may not be as “by the book” as say, detectives in New York City, but don’t fudge the details past the limits of believability. For my “Ivy Towers Series,” I consulted an actual deputy sheriff who worked in rural areas of Kansas. This helped me to “keep it real” for my readers.

Addressing the overwhelming glut of mysteries on the market with language and sexual scenes that would have caused my grandmother to “swoon,” brings a mixed bag of opinions from mystery authors and readers alike. However, I believe cozies should be “gentle” mysteries. In keeping with this idea, no “harsh” profanity or lurid “boudoir” passages should be present. Usually, cozy mysteries are selected by readers who specifically want to avoid graphic words and images. Of course, in an inspirational cozy, this point is non-negotiable. No profanity allowed at all! In fact, various inspirational publishers have different standards. One publisher bans the use of “Holy cow!” while another has no problem with it. In my book, “There Goes Santa Claus,” upon finding a dead Santa Claus that has fallen off his roof, Amos Tucker greets the sight with “J-Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, Ivy. I think we just killed Santa Claus!” Many of today’s contemporary mystery novels might have offered language a little more colorful!

Now, on to s-e-x. Cozies should contain little or no sexual content. In inspirational cozy, there can be romance, but sex only occurs between married couples – and it definitely happens offstage! Remember the old black and white movies where the couple kissed, the camera swung away from them, and in the night sky behind them fireworks exploded? You got the idea without the embarrassing details!


A current trend in cozies gives our amateur detective an interesting hobby or job that adds an element of interest. Of course, this isn’t always true. Although Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was an interesting character, her creativity expressed itself most clearly in her mental acumen. However, today’s heroines can be hairdressers, interior designers, own antique stores, be cooks, quilters or may be characterized by some other specific professional or personal involvement. And “county coroner” doesn’t work here. It’s difficult to make that funny. In my “Curl Up and Dye” mystery series, my protagonist, Hilde Higgins, is a hairdresser – for funeral homes. That’s about as dark as you can get. One side note: I came up with this idea because I was joking with my agent one day about all the “hooks” being used by mystery authors. We agreed that the hairdressing sleuth had been done. My mention of someone who worked in a funeral home brought the revelation of another author who was already writing a similar series. As a joke, I mentioned a hairdresser who works for funeral homes. The concept got burned into my imagination and the “Curl Up and Dye” mysteries were born.


Another “cozy” element involves likeable, “quirky” characters drawn with humor, who appear to have something “mysterious” in their backgrounds. These characters can all be possible suspects. Be careful though, not to paint a picture of someone who seems completely innocent and then surprise your reader at the last minute by making him the murderer. Mystery fans, including cozy mystery fans, ask you to play fair. Hints must be dropped and clues must be scattered! And whatever you do, pick up all your clues by the end of your story and explain. Mystery buffs don’t like to be left hanging. Never forget a cozy mystery is still a mystery and as an author, you must play by the rules.

In conclusion, cozy mysteries are stories presented as gentle gifts to be unwrapped while the reader snuggles under their favorite quilt and sips hot tea or cappuccino. Inspirational cozies should not only warm the heart but should also touch the spirit.  They will never shock the reader or cause them to upend their cappuccino. (A little laughter might cause a small spill – but in a cozy, this reaction is perfectly acceptable!)

And today we've got a wonderful book to give away... so leave a comment when you grab a cuppa and we'll throw your name into the Sherlock Holmes hat! 


Nancy Mehl – Short Bio
Nancy Mehl is a best-selling, award winning author who lives in Missouri, with her husband, Norman, and her Puggle, Watson. She’s authored almost thirty books and is currently writing a new series for Bethany House Publishing based on the U.S. Marshals. The first book, FATAL FROST, in her Defenders of Justice Series, released on November 1st, 2016. The second book, DARK DECEPTION, hit store shelves in June of 2017. Book three, BLIND BETRAYAL, will be released in the spring of 2018. She is also working on a new cozy mystery series for Guideposts, The Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”

Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She is part of The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.

Nancy's newest suspense novel:



126 comments :

  1. I've only read a smattering of cozy mysteries, but do enjoy them for their clever quirkiness. :-) And who can resist all the punny titles?? The one series I did read some books in a while back took place in tea shops...Death by Darjeeling, Shades of Earl Grey, Sweet Tea Revenge...you get the idea. Also the other two elements I like about them, is they can feature pets and have colorful cartoonish-like covers.

    I guess I'd say, what's not to like about cozies?? ;-)

    Toss my name in the pot for a copy of Nancy's newest suspense, Dark Deception! I have Fatal Frost and really want to add this to my collection, thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love writing cozies, Trixi. I have to admit that writing suspense and cozies at the same time leaves me feeling a little confused...but that's okay. Thanks for the comment - and thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
    2. Nancy I'm laughing at your comment! I can see where it would cause quite a quandary writing both at the same time :-)

      As long as you don't mix up the elements to your stories....but maybe even that would be fun...lol!

      Delete
  2. Trixi, I love the quirkiness, too! It's so much fun and we can have a little "outside the box" fun with the concepts, the dialogue and the people. And I love the tearoom series titles! Yes, the puns are endearing!

    Throwing your name into the Sherlock Holmes hat, my dear!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Ruth, I couldn't come up with the name of the hat to save my neck last night when I wrote my comment, lol!

      Yes, cozies are a great go-to when I want something light to read in the suspense/mystery genre. Or just something outside my normal reading material. It's always fun to mix it up as bit! :-)

      Delete
  3. Hi Nancy and Ruthy,
    What a great post. I've read so many of Nancy's books, and of course I've read most of Ruthy's. You both write amazing stories.
    Thanks for sharing today about cozy mysteries! And I'd love to be added to the drawing. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jackie, isn't she fabulous? And thank you for your kind words, tossing your name into the Sherlock cap and it's fun to do a little delving into this mysterious side of story telling!

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Jackie. It's so great to be paired with Ruth today. She's an amazing person and a wonderful writer!

      Delete
  4. Good morning Nancy!

    I remember a couple of cozy mysteries I read years ago. In between chapters, the author would put in a recipe that was used during the story. Yep, that's why now I had potatoes to my chicken and dumplings. (Lots of potatoes and dumplings can sure stretch a meal for a large family.) LOL.

    Please toss my name in the Sherlock's hat for the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Connie, I add potatoes now, too, because it was in a book!!! Not the same book, but isn't that funny???? Tossing the name in and I love the idea of the recipes tossed in between chapters!

      Delete
    2. The first cozy mystery series I ever wrote was titled "The Ivy Towers Mysteries." In the series, I introduced a hamburger recipe. Do you know that I still have readers telling me they make those burgers? That's so much fun! Those books have been out of print, but they're coming back. They'll be released as ebooks within the next couple of months. I'm excited about it!

      Delete
    3. That is hilarious! I think adding recipes are a great idea. It made the story stick w/me!

      Delete
  5. Good morning, Nancy, and welcome to Seekerville! I've always enjoyed a good "cozy!"

    What are the challenges you find now that "techy" stuff is so available? That's something I kept bumping up against when a number of years ago I was attempting to write a mystery. Everyone seems to have a SmartPhone these days where they can stay in contact with others, call for help, do a "search" on a suspicious character, or be located by "pings."

    While a storm and loss of cell service might work for a few books, what other creative ways have you found to isolate your characters?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glynna, in the Martha's Vineyard series, a lot of the crimes are cold cases or historical.... tied to contemporary. So we have the poetic license to go back in time a bit. That gives us more leeway.... but isn't it amazing what a broken camera.... a flawed security system... A "Ring" doorbell that doesn't show the right area.... there are lots of ways around this stuff especially depending on setting. I think that opens up the wealth of old-world possibilities.

      Delete
    2. You've hit the nail on the head, Glynna. Those cell phones have changed everything. To get my characters out of reach, I have to send them somewhere where cell service is at least spotty - or stick them in a storm so service can go out. Being able to call for help whenever it's needed doesn't help to build suspense! LOL! I know authors who actually had to go back and rewrite books they wanted to republish because of the "cell phone" dilemma. It's crazy. Sigh.

      Delete
    3. TV shows today must have that same problem. It seems like they do a lot with somebody forgetting a phone or not finding service. Also often the bad guy hears the phone and confiscates or destroys it.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for visiting Seekerville today, Nancy. I love a good cozy mystery. For whatever reason, I prefer to read them during the cold winter months. Is that strange? I admire those who are clever enough to write mysteries...not sure I could.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the word COZY, Jill! It makes us think of slippers and hot cider and flickering flames... I want to do a storm set mystery, maybe for my third one with this series.... So much can go wrong in a Nor'easter!!!!

      Delete
    2. No, it's not the least bit strange. I'm with Ruth. They're cozy...and so is winter. Which is my favorite time of year, btw. I'm not a summer person. Sweat and bugs...bug me. Give me a nice snowfall, a cup of coffee or tea, a good book and a comfortable throw. I'm happy. :)

      Delete
  7. WOW, Nancy, never have I had cozies so thoroughly and delightfully explained -- THANK YOU!! I was definitely one of those who was ignorant to what they truly were, so this post helps A LOT!!

    You said, "basically bloodless crime that may happen “offstage.” I am not a blood-and-guts gal AT ALL, so this appeals to me greatly even though I am not typically a mystery or suspense reader.

    I wonder -- does Hallmark mystery channel buy stories like yours and Ruthy's to incorporate in their existing mystery series such as Aurora Teagarden, do you know?

    Thanks for your excellent blog today and thanks to Ruthy for hosting you!

    Hugs,
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if they would, but wouldn't it be nice to hear from Hallmark, Ruthy? LOL! I write mystery and suspense, but even in my suspense novels, I don't do blood, guts and gore. Think Agatha Christie. Solving the crime was the important thing to her. Not glorifying the crime. My readers don't like that, and I don't either. Mystery and suspense is the battle between good and evil. Good must win. But to do that, we don't need to focus on the evil. We focus on the good!

      Delete
  8. I love cozy mysteries! And I have oodles of respect for the writers who can sprinkle those clues and wrap them all up by the end. I am NOT gifted in that area - although it would be fun to try, I suppose.
    I need to be sure to subscribe for the Guidepost series. I'm looking forward to reading those.
    As always, I'd love to have my name tossed into the ol' Deerstalker...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. p.s.
      This post is a wonderful list of what a cozy is. Thanks!!!!!!!

      Delete
    2. I wrote one cozy mystery series and I agree, Deb, about the author sprinkling in clues. It was HARD. I probably needed an editor more on that little, lighthearted series, than anything else I've ever written.
      Very complex. Very hard to hide the bad guy. Red herrings, tying up loose ends.

      Tricky!

      Delete
  9. Nancy Mehl! One of my FAVORITE mystery writers! Thanks for having her in Seekerville, Ruthy. Nancy, I can't imagine where you come up with all your ideas. Incidentally, that would be my biggest roadblock should I ever attempt the cozy mystery. And I like how you usually get an animal or two in there. What was the book that had cats named the same as Kim Sawyer's? How fun is that. I know you moved a state over, but I still think of you as a Kansas author (which I am very partial to since I am (hoping to be) one of them). Thanks for sharing with us today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Cindy! You're talking about my Finding Sanctuary series. Yes, I'd fallen in love with Kim's cats and decided to incorporate them into the series. That was really fun. You can certainly think of me as a Kansas author. I lived there most of my life, and I still love it. Thanks for stopping by. And I hope your writing goes well!

      Delete
  10. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and watching Murder, She Wrote and Ellery Queen. I don't read a lot of mysteries, but cozies are my favorite when I do. I'd love a chance to read Nancy's new one, so throw my name in too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read every Nancy Drew book ever written when I was young. And the Hardy Boys. I know that's where my love for mystery began. And Murder, She Wrote? Watching Jessica made me want to be like her. But without the high body count. LOL!

      Delete
    2. I hear you on the anti-body count, LOL! And I loved Columbo... and Castle....

      Delete
    3. I love the TV show Ellery Queen. I have the one season they made on DVD. I also liked MacMillan and Wife when it was MacMillan and Wife and not just MacMillan.

      Delete
  11. Nancy, these are good points. I would love to do a mystery series some day. It's one of my favorite genres. I do tend to gravitate toward cozy or inspirational because they're more fun, even the darker ones. I'll read a mainstream mystery if they're not R-rated or too violent. There are some out there. I like Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt books and Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs stories. If it's a series, I like to see the main character(s) be well-developed and evolve throughout the series. I also liked Diane Mott Davidson's caterer mysteries. And the gold standard for me is Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries.
    The big issue for me with a confined setting such as a small town is, HOW MANY MURDERS can logically occur in one small town? That's where I suspend disbelief.
    Please enter me in the drawing.
    Kathy Bailey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh, I love Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt books too!

      Delete
    2. You're mentioning writers I really like. I think you'd like Dark Deception. It's a bit darker without going "over to the dark side" too much. LOL! I agree about the small town. This problem was pointed out during Murder, She Wrote. I mean, how many towns people could die and the town still have a population? LOL! That's why they had to move Jessica out of town and get her an apartment in New York City. :)

      Delete
  12. Thanks Ruthy and Nancy. I became a cozy mystery fan sever years ago after a library payron asked for a list of our cozy mysteries. My director and I both had that no idea so we Googled and then we ordered. Please continue to share about the new Guideposts series and I wish both of you continued success. And yes, I would like my name thrown into Sherlock's hat.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoy cozy mysteries, Connie. Dark Deception isn't a cozy. It's suspense. But our new Guidepost series is definitely cozy. Guideposts is great at cozies and they have a lot of good selections!

      Delete
  13. Thank you Nancy and Ruthy! I'm enjoying learning more about cozy mysteries.

    Please enter me in the Sherlock Holmes hat :)

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. God bless you too, Phyllis. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  14. Welcome back, Nancy! Great tips about cozy mysteries--thanks for all the info! I especially like the point about confined settings and keeping the "real" police out of it. You see that so often on the PBS Masterpiece Mysteries. And the interesting hobbies or jobs, too, such as the Garage Sale Mysteries on Hallmark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Glad to be back! You're right. It's easy to spot cozies once you understand them. I need to check out the Garage Sale Mysteries. Hadn't heard about them.

      Delete
  15. Hi Nancy, Thank you for joining us today in Seekerville. How fun to learn about mystery writing. I don't read mysteries so its always interesting to learn about another genre. Thank you again and have a fun day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Trying new genres can be fun. It's something I'd like to do, but I get so busy writing, I don't get a chance to read as much as I'd like.

      Delete
  16. This looks like a great book. Love hearing about new books!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Nancy. I am especially loving the Defenders of Justice series with the whole new level of suspense! I haven't read any of the cozy mysteries yet, but would definitely love to read them too. I very much appreciate the focus on God & faith included in books.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nancy, welcome to SEEKERVILLE! *Waves* at you and Ruthy AND gang!

    Thank you so much for this informative post. I've never tried to write a mystery, but I certainly enjoy them. Before (or maybe during) Nancy Drew there was Trixie Belden and I adored her.)

    I also like a touch of humor in stories because a grin and a tickle can certainly diffuse a stressful day. I wish we'd see the Hallmark channel do more series/movies with a cozy mystery bent.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. You made me think about these fabulous stories in a whole new way. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Cynthia! Cozy mysteries not only present a challenge (a mystery to solve!) but as you say, they're usually humorous. I have a reader who takes some of my cozies with her whenever she goes into the hospital. She says they help her through the ordeal. One of the most touching comments I ever got was from a cancer patient who read my cozies while she went through treatment. She said they helped her. That made me cry.

      Delete
  19. HI NANCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I didn't realize you were in the Guidepost Mystery Series with Ruthy. How fun!
    Cozy mysteries are such a great genre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, sweet lady! Yes, they're fun, aren't they? Hope we run into each other again one of these days. Love spending time with you. :)

      Delete
    2. Are you going to ACFW? Where were we that time we hung around together so much. ICRS Maybe? It was fun.

      Delete
  20. Hi Nancy:

    While I would read a new genre every few years, like SF and Western, I've read mysteries all my life. I'm also one who usually selects new authors to me based on location. Nevada Barr: national park setting, Steven Saylor: ancient Rome, Donna Leon: Venice, Margaret Coel & Tony Hillerman: indian reservations, Janet Evonavich: New Jersey (where I grew up), John D. MacDonald: Florida houseboat, M. C. Beaton: Scottish highlands, Colin Dexter, Oxford England and all the Southwest genre authors. (Note: this also applies to romances. Setting is not wallpaper!)

    I think Martha's Vineyard is a prime location that I would like to visit and spend time trying to solve a crime.

    Your post today gave a very comprehensive list of cozy mystery features. Some I had not thought of before. I would add that it helps if the title is cute. I really want to be able to tell it a book is a cozy by the title. "Of Mice and Murder" better be a cozy. Which makes me ask this: Do you consider "The Cat Who" series to be cozies? Also if a mystery is really very funny, like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, can it be a cozy even with sex and violence? Is a Cozy based on what's in the story or how the reader feels when the story is being read?

    One last question: I can think of many ways to pronounce your last name. How do you want it pronounced?

    Please enter me in the drawing. I've always enjoyed mysteries.

    Vince

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm. I would say that "The Cat Who" books would be cozies. But no, on the Stephanie Plum series. I've read some and yes, they have humor. But the sex and violence push them out of the genre. She's a very good writer, btw.

      My last name is pronounced "Mel." (Like in Mel's Diner? LOL!) It's usually pronounced "Meal." The worst pronunciation happened once at a doctor's office. Of course, the place was packed and I was at the farthest end of the waiting room. A nurse opened the side door and said, loudly, "Mrs. Mule?" Sigh. Boy, walking over to the door to meet her seemed to take forever.

      Delete
    2. Vince have you ever read the CJ Box series about Joe Pickett? A Game and Fish guy in the Bitterroot Mountains. Very cool. Joe is such a decent guy but he keeps stumbling into trouble.

      Delete
    3. Hi Mary: No but I just downloaded "Off the Grid". From what I see on Amazon, I think I'll like him. Thanks. Vince

      Delete
  21. Hi Nancy,

    I love cozy mysteries and I love your post. You are so spot on with cozies being 'PG' rated which is why I really enjoy them.

    Good luck to you and Ruthy with your Guidepost series.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Nancy, welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for all the detailed input to help us write cozy mysteries. Murder She Wrote used to be one of my favorite TV shows. The humor and small town cast of characters were like putting on comfy slippers.

    Your Curl up and Dye mysteries sound like so much fun! Congrats to you and Ruthy on the Guidepost series!

    Janet

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janet I know!!! Curl Up and Dye, that's perfect. Love it!

      Delete
    2. Loved Murder She Wrote. I can hear the theme song playing now :)

      Delete
    3. Thank you, Janet. It's fun getting to know Ruthy. Isn't she sweet?

      Delete
    4. Nancy, here in Seekerville, Ruthy is better known as a butt kicker than sweet. But only when it's deserved.

      Janet

      Delete
  23. I think every book should have at least some mystery to keep the reader invested until the end, so this is an important post even to those who don't write mysteries, cozy or otherwise.

    When I was younger I came up with a couple of titles, but it took me years to finally figure out what story should go with those titles. A mystery where the king is murdered, and a lady must figure out who did it before her father (who certainly had motive) is executed for the crime.

    A fantasy cozy mystery. Now I bet that's not something you see every day.

    Your titles are so clever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One title I suggested for a book in my Curl Up and Dye series wasn't selected because the publisher didn't think readers would like it. When I got the rights back, I changed the title back to my original idea: Bumping Off Binky! LOL! Binky is a clown and on the cover is a foot wearing a big clown shoe. The clown (although all you can see is his leg) is lying on the ground. It's really cute. :)I love playing with fun titles.

      BTW - about your comment that every book should have some mystery - I agree. Although the books I'm writing with Bethany House are called "suspense," they definitely have a mystery theme. My wonderful publisher encourages me to add the mystery. So...I get to include both of my favorite genres!

      Delete
    2. I love suspense! My book is an action adventure fantasy, but it is also a mystery, as my characters try to figure out why all these things are happening to them. A mystery that spans through the first three books (with the fourth book adding a few twists to that original mystery).

      Poor, Binky...

      Delete
  24. Hello RUTHY and NANCY! I've not read many cozy mysteries. I do enjoy a good who-dun-it!

    These cranberry muffins are DELISH!

    Please toss my name in Sherlock's hat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Murder She Wrote, the TV Show, with amateur detective Jessica Fletcher, is the classic Cozy Mystery.

      Delete
    2. Hi, Caryl! Now I want a cranberry muffin. LOL!

      Delete
  25. Nancy, a great education in cozy mysteries!! I love that you said pick up the clues for the reader. I'm guessing it's super important to keep track of all your clues along the way. Note to self: take note. :) I have Dark Deception in my TBR pile and loved Fatal Frost!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Shari. And yes, it's very important. I learned this in one of the first books I ever wrote. I was editing and there was a comment about a person looking in a box at the weapon he'd used to stab someone years earlier. This would have been a particularly heinous crime since I'd said at one point that the weapon was a gun. Ouch. LOL! (I fixed it, of course.)

      Delete
  26. Thanks Nancy for this fun post and explaining cozy mysteries. I recognize them when I see them, but wasn't sure how to explain. There are so many cozies with amateur detectives who are bakers or something like that and they have food in the title. I do enjoy reading cozies.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Sandy. Thank you so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  27. Boy, they let anybody in on the comments!

    I had written a novel I was seeking to get published when I read Ron Benrey's "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Christian Fiction." Benrey and his wife co-wrote three different cozy mystery series. After reading his description of a cozy (first time I saw a definition), I asked my wife Becky to read it. Sure enough, we both agreed that I wrote a cozy without realizing what a cozy was (though my detective is a guy).

    One element that Benrey mentioned that Nancy didn't is that pets are common in cozy mysteries. (Yes, I had a character with a Keeshond, and another with a Min Pin and an Iggy (respectively, a Miniature Pinscher and an Italian Greyhound.)

    Nancy may be disappointed if I didn't add a little humor, but when I contributed to a blog for mystery/suspense fiction, a lady mentioned she had never read a cozy mystery. Her last name? Marple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By the way, I've already read Deadly Deception - great novel!

      Delete
    2. LOL! And yes, thanks for mentioning the pets, Jeff. You're exactly right.

      And yes, they let anyone in here. You're here! ;)

      Delete
  28. I'd love to be in this drawing! Definitely not a cozy, but I am in awe of suspenseful contemporaries, and I've been following Nancy around lately!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wondered who that was following me. Was starting to get a little paranoid... ;)

      Delete
  29. Hi Nancy:

    I'm a big believer in playing fair with your reader. This is especially true with mysteries. The one big complaint I've read about Agatha Christie is that she would sometimes introduce the killer for the first time during the last 10% of the book. That's really playing unfair with the reader. Of course, maybe she painted herself in a corner and didn't want to start the book all over again as Tony Hillerman did many times (being a pantser!).

    Could you come up with a list of unfair things to do in a mystery for writers doing their first mystery? It could be today or at some visit in the future.

    I can think of two rules to start it off, if you agree with them:

    1. never introduce the killer for the first time near the end of the book.
    2. never have the killer be the detective doing the investigation.

    I'm sure there are more but I can't think of them.

    Vince

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How about...the amateur detective cannot solve the crime through: a vision, a dream, God told him who did it... Anything supernatural. The CLUES are the thing!

      Another thing: No lying. You can't turn around later and have someone say they lied and not let the readers know ahead of time that the person wasn't being truthful. An out and out lie that can't be refuted isn't fair. No one can solve a crime without fair clues.

      And you can't withhold a clue until the end that would have given readers the answer. Not fair either!

      Delete
  30. Hi Nancy:
    Can you think of anyone who writes historical cozies? Learning some history, along with what everyday life was like, is a nice benefit of reading the historical mystery. Vince

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! My friend Julianna Deering. She writes wonderful historical mysteries. Check her out!

      Delete
    2. I love Julianna Deering's books! They are awesome!!

      Delete
    3. Hi Deb and Nancy:

      Is Julianna Deering like Kerry Greenwood who writes the Phryne Fisher mysteries? The artwork on their covers look much alike. Kerry is an Aussie and one of my favorite mystery writers! I just ordered "Rules for Murder" book one. Today has been a learning experience!

      Delete
  31. Hi, Nancy!
    I was wondering about exactly how you write these books! How fast can you type? Or do you use another program? I thought a 50 page paper in college would kill me. What in the world must it take to keep writing 250 page books? We love your books, and hope that in your future books you have more of your delightful recipes. From serial killers to clowns on a roof, you have written it all! I so admire your talent. So, how fast can you type? Do you strive for a word count each day as you work? Pippin and I love you and all your writing. -dodie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Dodie. Yes, I have a daily word count. When I get ready to start a book, I actually print out calendars and figure out how many words a day I need to write so I can finish and still have plenty of time to edit. I write the word totals on the calendar with weekly totals at the end of the week. This really helps me.

      I have no idea how fast I type! I haven't timed myself since high school. LOL!

      Delete
  32. Love these posts on cozy mysteries. I'm going to have to read one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reading back through the comments, this post makes me want to watch Columbo. I loved that show!

      Delete
  33. Your new book has such a beautiful (handsome?) cover! I'm a bit new to the cozy mystery genre. I have to say, I'm not completely cut up to be a murder mystery author. As a reader, I've found myself too emotionally jarred (I'm a bleedheart, for sure). In my book perhaps closest to a cozy mystery, the heroine has to discover the attempted murderer before he succeeds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dark Deception is NOT a cozy mystery. It's suspense. I'm giving away a copy because it's my newest release.

      I understand about being sensitive. That's why you'd probably enjoy cozies. Many times, the murder has already happened before the story starts. And many cozies, like the ones Guideposts publishes, don't have any murders at all! The mystery may be a theft or something else. Much safer for sensitive folks. ;)

      Delete
    2. I am currently reading Dark Deception about a serial killer, and I am telling you, do not read it on the front porch in the dark. No, don't do that. You'll be up half the night checking the locks. I am loving this series. But this book, this one is only getting read in the daylight!

      Delete
    3. LOL! Yes, not cozy. But I didn't mean to scare you! (Okay. Yes, I did.)

      Delete
  34. Welcome to Seekerville, Nancy! I enjoyed this look in to writing cozies.

    I'm amazed at the sheer volume you churn out. Every few (weeks, it seems!) you're meeting a new deadline! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't she amazing, Pammers?????

      Delete
    2. I do write a lot, Pam. One of these days, I may need to dial it back a bit. But for now, I'm having fun. :)

      Delete
  35. Thank you for such an interesting post, Nancy. I've started a cozy mystery, but at the rate I'm going it will be years before it's finished. It's about a group of women in a small town (some of them from the same church)who get together to solve a murder after the local authorities declare it a suicide. They knew the victim, and they're just not buying it. The POV thing has been a bit tricky, but I thoroughly enjoy working on it when I get a chance. Your books sound like great reads! Thanks again for sharing your ideas and info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura, what about thinning down the POV's to one... and having the other gals be secondary characters? Still a group, but easy to follow for author and reader...

      Delete
    2. Good idea, Ruthy! I'll give that a try. There's one character who tries to take over nearly every scene anyway - I might as well let her run free and see where she takes this story :-) And if that doesn't work out, I can always kill her (offstage, of course, since it's a cozy). Oh, the power. LOL.

      Delete
    3. Thanks, Laura. And good luck with your story!

      Delete
    4. Laughing, but yes! We're in the power seat!!!

      Delete
  36. Oh, my goodness Nancy, what a charming voice you have in your post. I am sure that translates into your cozies.

    Welcome to Seekerville and thank you for being guest. I am excited to pick up your books now! thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thanks so much, Nancy! What a great post! So informative and helpful. I've never written a mystery, but I've always been curious about them. You'd explained things so well, it makes me want to take a chance at writing one! What fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really are fun. Like puzzles. You put them together piece by piece, leaving clues for your readers. It's interactive if you do it right. :)

      Delete
  38. My fourteen year old daughter can't stop rereading fatal frost, and oh how she'd dance if she got a copy of dark deception! You see,Nancy, she's an aspiring writer and she loooooves suspense novels. It's always a challenge for me to find what i call "morally clean" novels like this one. Keep up the good work! By the way, she and I also dream about doing a mennonite suspence thriller someday �� florencebarkman@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so thrilled to hear about your daughter, Florence. I love it when young people read my books. I assume you know I wrote nine Mennonite suspense themed books? LOL!

      Delete
  39. Sorry I'm late to Seekerville today. Nancy, I enjoyed reading your post! Mysteries are always a fun read! Thanks for sharing so much info!

    Waving to Ruthy who has become a mystery writer. Great blog, ladies!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Debby. And yes, Ruthy is a very good mystery writer!

      Delete
    2. Laughing because I'm tiptoeing into new waters... but having fun doing it, and these women have been so much fun to work with... and the crew at Guideposts (editors and copy editors and all...) are wonderful. Gosh, they're a sweet bunch!

      Delete
  40. Nancy and Ruthy, Another wonderful posts on one of my favorite genres. Whenever I'm reading for the pure fun of it (a little ironic since cozies revolve around a murder), I usually pick up a cozy mystery. I had the privilege of meeting Carolyn Hart at a book signing a while back, and she hosted an impromptu Q & A session and she said she believed one of the biggest appeals of a cozy was seeing justice done while the reader solves a puzzle. Or as my husband says, since the murder isn't the main focus, it's a way for me to read about fascinating characters coming together to make sure justice is done. So I'm a huge mystery fan, way back to the days when I picked up my first Trixie Belden. Thanks for the post as I love thinking about some of my favorite series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Tanya. I'm so glad you mentioned Carolyn Hart. She spoke at a mystery convention I attended many years ago. She talked about mystery being "good vs evil," and it really ignited my desire to write mysteries. I never forgot her words!

      Delete
    2. I've never met Carolyn, but Tanya, I think that take on it, of seeing justice done while working together, is a bulls-eye. That's just the ticket, that's the heart, and that's the appeal, I think. And I'm sure that's why I'm enjoying writing them, because they are just so much fun to see justice done... and quirky stuff along the way!!!

      Delete
  41. Hey, Nancy, you know how much I love the Ivy Towers books, and I just wondered if you ever considered writing a prequel? I think you could do a series of them, since there are so many older and definitely quirky people in the Ivy Towers books!

    And just on a personal preference note, I wish more books, no matter if they are "cozy" or not, had things like recipes or even sewing directions in them. I once read a book, long ago, where a person decorated her entire apartment in Brooklyn with 250 yards of the same fabric that she bought in the garment district. Anyway, I'm done with my requests and comments now. :) You're a real talent, Nancy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dodie. Yes, I've thought about a prequel to Ivy Towers. In fact, I even started one with another writer, but he got interested in something else. One of these days, I may just write more in that series. It will be re-released any day now with a new publisher. I'm tickled to know it will be available again. Thanks for stopping by today.

      Delete
    2. 250 yards.... of one fabric.... I'm laughing, and I can totally see why that would stick with a reader! Dodie, I agree, personal author touches, or setting touches like recipes or Pinterest-style ideas are wonderful. They add to appeal and to the reader's personal file!

      Delete
  42. Thank you for your post about cozy mysteries. It was very informative. It is one of my favorite genres to read for the reason that it is not graphic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Cynthia. Thanks for stopping by. :)

      Delete
  43. Mysteries are my favorite. Hoping I get a chance to read this one. Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
  44. What a wonderful blog post! I have fallen head over heels for cozy mysteries! Thanks for the chance, dear ladies!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I love cozy mysteries! This is a great explanation of what makes a cozy mystery a cozy mystery. I especially like the fact that you point out that writers have to play by the rules and make sure they include clues as to who the culprit is.

    ReplyDelete
  46. It would be great to read more concerning that blog..!Thank you for posting this blog.
    gclub
    โกลเด้นสล็อต
    gclub

    ReplyDelete
  47. Oh, I am so late to this party, but I wanted to put my name in the Sherlock Hat and also to say that I just recently began to read cozy mysteries. I think the Hallmark mystery movies really peaked my interest in that genre. I love working to solve the mystery but not dealing with the gory details of the murder.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I stopped by your blog today. Good description of cozies.
    Ann

    ReplyDelete