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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Good Old Fashioned Books!

It's no secret that cozy mystery lovers love ebooks, but there is something so lovely and, well, cozy about a big shelf full of dusty old books. In my dreams, I still think maybe I'll get to live in a house with a library like The Beast's someday.

In my prepublished days, when I was scribbling in notebooks and blogging and day dreaming about being a "real writer"  I had kinda low ambitions. I didn't want to get rich, I didn't want to be famous (not that I would turn those down) I just wanted to have a shelf full of my own stories, somewhere in my house. Proof that I really could write books.
Some of these books are actually  mine!

In the movie A House in Umbria the lady who owns the house has a shelf full of the bodice rippers she has written. The characters disparaged her work, but I thought, "Awesome! Look at all she achieved!"

So, though I adore my kindle and the ease of carrying lots of books on it, buying lots of books for it, and of course, reading books on it, and though I love that the cozy ebook audience is out there, reading away, I keep making paperbacks. I never expect them to tear up the market, or hit the best seller lists, but I love them, and I want them on my own shelves.

I put off creating most of the hard copy Plain Jane titles, just because it is time consuming. But, at long last, all of the current Plain Jane Mysteries are available in paperback! And even better, they are all under ten dollars! (I had to work hard to make that happen, but I am really excited about it.)

You can nab them all at Amazon, or pop in to your local bookstore and order them.

 
 
 
Speaking of Plain Jane...I know a lot of you guys really love Isaac Daniels. Well, I do too! And I want great things for him. I also want to torture him more, in the way that we authors get to torture our favorite characters, so I gave him his own series.

The Tillgiven Romantic Mystery Series, to be exact.

Tillgiven Bible School is a (fictional) small, private Bible College in the (fictional) little farming community of Brunn Vatten, Sweden. In an effort to escape a string of bad romantic choices, Isaac finds himself teaching Bible at Tillgiven, and trying hard not to fall in love again.

Enjoy this excerpt from Hard to Find: A Tillgiven Romantic Mystery (Just 99 cents at Amazon!)
 
The first time I was dumped was the hardest, because I really wanted to marry the girl—No, I don’t care to name the one who got away. I’m totally over her.
Honest.
But whatever. She dumped me, and it really stunk.
The second time I was dumped wasn’t so bad. To be honest, it was kind of a relief. Rebound and all that. But even more, I had slowly come to realize that I hated speaking French. So the whole dream job in Montreal with the rebound French-speaking girlfriend really wasn’t working for me. I wouldn’t have minded being the dumper this time, though (who would?). But I didn’t get the away goal that time. She dumped me while I was still planning my indirect attack.
The third time I was dumped, about a month later, was eye opening.
As I watched the girl walk away from me for the last time, I realized I had some serious changes to make in my life.
The first change: get out of Dodge.
As much as I appreciated snagging a summer job on the fly teaching Bible at Little Camp on the Range in Dodge City, Kansas, I wasn’t a cowboy, and God wasn’t calling me to the ranch life. When that opportunity ended abruptly, I focused on jobs that required international travel. I didn’t want to go back home to Portland, where that girl and her new boyfriend were running around solving crimes and making hamburgers or whatever it was they did, but I also didn’t want to settle down.
You don’t get your PhD in theology at twenty-three just to sit at home and mope about some girl who cleans houses, after all.
The second change: no more getting dumped. After a while it begins to wear on a guy.
The third: quit dating my students.
I hadn’t been looking to date students, but I’m twenty-four (finished my dissertation last year). My students tend to be between nineteen and twenty-two, so basically my age. On the other hand, the other teachers, who I am allowed to fraternize with, are usually older than me, by a lot. So, can you blame me?
Getting out of Dodge wasn’t exactly all my idea. The cowgirl, who dumped me, wasn’t a student. She wasn’t a camper—that much I swear to—but the camp doesn’t have a friendly attitude about the directorial staff dating the counselors.
Good things (and catastrophes) come in threes, so I stopped my “massive life changes” list there, hit the road, and landed in Brunn Vatten, Sweden, at Tillgiven Bible School teaching the Bible, coaching soccer, and helping young Christians grow into leaders. It would have been a pretty sweet gig, even if it hadn’t included the blue skies, forested hillsides, and beautiful Swedes in every direction.
Totally owning life changes one and two.
But for the last two months, the brunette sitting in the back of class, with the shiny hair that had a way of swinging around her face when she whispered to the person sitting next to her, and who stared at me with her huge green eyes, had been making it very hard to stick with change three.
It hardly needs mentioning that this job paid well (for a nonaccredited Bible school), was as far away from Portland as I could get, offered basically unlimited European travel, and had a strict no-fraternizing-between-staff-and-students policy.
Which was why, when my office door swung open to reveal the pretty brunette, cheeks red, eyes shining with tears, full lips ever so slightly parted, and smelling like peaches (how do girls do that?) I groaned inwardly.
My office was way too small for the both of us. “What’s up, Dani?”
“I still haven’t heard from my sister.”
“Sit down.” I indicated the folding chair in the corner of the closet the school had set aside as an “office” for lecturers.
Her skirt fluttered as she took her seat, giving me a glimpse of her tan knees.
“Drew’s not back yet?”
She shook her head and sniffled into her sleeve.
“Travel weekend was technically over yesterday.”
“Exactly.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’ve called, texted, emailed. I’ve tried to call our parents. It’s like she’s just disappeared.”
I grimaced.
It was like she had just disappeared, and seeing as how the last any of us had heard of her was that she was going to hitchhike to Malmo and catch the EuroRail with the goal of seeing how far south she could get in a weekend, it was more or less terrifying.
Dr. Hoffen, the school director, had taken his family to Gothenburg to the amusement park for a long weekend while the students were gone, leaving me, technically, in charge for the next two days.
It wasn’t unheard of for students to come back from travel weekend on their own schedules instead of ours, but I was far from comfortable being the person responsible for the missing girl. “When did you last hear from her?”
Dani took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I got this text on Sunday morning.” She held out her phone so I could read the message.
“‘I found it’?” I read the message aloud. “What did she find?”
“I don’t know!” Dani narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. Her misery seemed to dissipate before me, replaced by a kind of intense interest. “It could be almost anything, couldn’t it? Drew likes this cryptic nonsense, and every message she sends me is more obtuse than the last.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Drew had struck me as trouble from day one, and if she was bent on making us work to find her, she was perfectly capable of it. “Did you go back and read the rest of her messages to see if there were any clues? Or go over previous conversations with her? Things she may have been hoping to do once she got to Europe?” I picked up my mug of strong Gevalia coffee—not the cheap stuff they make in the kitchen, but the stuff the students make for themselves in the lounge. It lived up to my Portland-bred expectations for coffee.
Dani blushed ever so slightly.
I sipped my coffee. Drew had an embarrassing secret, maybe?
Dani pulled her skirt down a little so it fell over her knees again.
“There was only one thing I could think of, but it’s so dumb…”
“To you it’s dumb. It may have seemed incredibly important to her.” Drew was young. I really hoped she had “found” tickets to a One Direction concert.
“I mean, I’d agree it’s important, but it’s dumb to think it was what she was looking for, or what she found.”
“Try me anyway. Think of it as brainstorming.”
“Her last blog post was about finding true love.”
“Er…”
“Exactly.”
“She doesn’t strike me as someone looking for the one.” Far from it, in fact, much to the happiness of the boys at school.
“Not at first, I agree. But when you get to know her…” Dani smoothed her skirt again. I wished she’d stop doing that. “Drew’s a romantic girl. If she believed she had moved overseas to meet the one, then who knows? Maybe she met someone on the train. Maybe she thinks she found true love.”
I scratched my chin. Maybe she did think that. But finding a teenage girl who had run off with some romantic-seeming European man—with the whole continent to search—was not the problem I wanted to have to solve. Finding a student who had missed her ferry and was sitting on the wrong side of the Baltic Sea for an extra day, or someone who had gotten pickpocketed and was stowed away in some Danish police station with an interpreter trying to help her get back to school, or someone who had stayed a few extra days to catch a boy band concert…that was the kind of problem I could wrap my brain around.
Not eloping.
I did not get paid enough to deal with that.
“Yeah, we should dismiss it.” Dani stared at her hands. “I mean, even if she did think she had found true love, what’s the worst that could happen?” She lifted her face and stared at me with those eyes, the button nose, the light sprinkling of freckles. The trust.
I immediately pictured what I might want to do if I had met Dani on a train and Dani thought it was love at first sight. The worst that could happen… “We’d better contact the police.”
Dani chewed her bottom lip and nodded. “Okay. You know, she has the GPS on her phone, so maybe they can find her really easily.”
“Or find her phone, if it’s been stolen.” I stared at the phone on my desk. Who do you call in Sweden when you want to find a cell phone that has gone missing somewhere in Europe? “She was due back last night by nine, so technically she’s only been missing for eighteen hours. Let me call the local police and talk about the problem with them.” I looked at my watch. Afternoon classes would start in an hour. I had time to call.
Dani nodded. She fanned herself with her slender, tan hand. “Thank you. I’ll call my parents again and see if I can get through to them yet.”
I stood up, to indicate that maybe she ought to let herself out.
She did.
Before I called the police, I made my way to the office to talk to the admin assistant, a bombshell of a Swede who had caught my eye when I first arrived. She was the kind of woman I ought to be interested in. And I would have been, if she hadn’t been so scary.
I stood a few feet from her desk and cleared my throat.
She looked up, one blonde eyebrow lifted.
“Drew Honeywell hasn’t called, has she?”
“Nej.”
“What about her folks? Someone from home?”
Stina looked at her watch. “Drew is rather late, isn’t she?”
“She should have been here last night.”
Stina sucked in a breath. “Too bad.”
“What do we do now?”
She shrugged. She was so icy she could have been the model for that Disney princess.
“Getting back late from travel weekend isn’t abnormal, right?”
“Nej. Happens every year.”
“When do we start worrying?”
“We don’t.”
“Er…” I hated to fall back on the monosyllable. I trust I’m a better communicator than that, generally speaking.
“This is Sweden, Isaac. A very safe country. The kids always come back.”
I pulled a chair up to the desk and sat on it backward. “Dani said Drew took the train to Europe to see how far she could get.”
“In a weekend?  What a waste.”
“But Dani said…”
“Sure, Dani said that. But did Drew really do it? Why would she want to spend the whole weekend on the train?” Stina typed while she dismissed my problem, missing kids being a normal kind of problem, apparently.
“For the adventure, I guess.”
“Ja. She might have. The train from Malmo to Copenhagen only takes half an hour.”
“So how far south do you think she got?”
Stina turned her computer screen to face me. “EuroRail travel planner. If she hitchhiked to Malmo, she could get on the train by, say, Saturday afternoon, and be as far as Venice by Sunday afternoon.” She pointed to the map on the screen.
“Venice?” I leaned back. Young American girl alone on a train. Italian men.
This was bad.
Stina nodded. “Or she could get anywhere else she wanted. And then she’d turn around and come back, but it might take her longer than she thought it would, since there are”—she referred to her screen—“at least seven train changes between Malmo and Venice. And anyway, if she made it to Venice, just for example, she’d only be getting back to Malmo now.”
“If she’s just lost on the train, why isn’t she answering her phone?”
Stina would have rolled her eyes at me if it wasn’t beneath her, I’m sure. “Drew Honeywell is twenty years old, Isaac. If she doesn’t want to answer her phone, meet her curfew, or even come back to school at all, she doesn’t have to. If she wants to disappear completely, she can, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“We can call missing persons.”
“Of course.” She paused. “But if she wants to stay gone, she can. She’s not a child.”
“She’s really twenty?”
Stina didn’t answer.
Drew didn’t seem like a twenty-year-old to me. And I did not agree at all that if she wanted to disappear, it was completely her right. Not while I was the one in charge of the school.
“Do you know how long a person has to be missing before you call it in?”
“I’m sure there’s not a time limit.” Stina’s eyes were trained on her screen, and her fingers were flying across her keyboard. She was clearly done with this conversation.
“All right, then.”
I took myself back to my office and dialed 411, the Swedish emergency number. I explained the situation to the patient (and fairly English fluent) operator.
“Ja, I understand,” she said. “A missing student abroad, this is very terrible.” She clucked in a motherly-hen kind of way. “We will contact INTERPOL. We will find her, don’t worry. Our police are very, very good. And we have a group—a very good group called Missing People Sweden. We find missing people very well. So you don’t worry, okay? Your missing student will be found, surely.” She clucked again.
I had Drew’s school application open on my computer and gave the operator all the vitals. I also gave her my cell number and the line to my office phone.
“Very good, Mr. Daniels. We will be in touch. A missing student…very sad and scary for you, but not for us. We will find her, okay?” She had a singsongy, soothing sort of voice. I wouldn’t worry. Stina seemed to think there wouldn’t be a problem. This nice emergency operator seemed to think it would be fine. Only Dani was freaking out, and what did she know? She was just a kid. “Thanks. Tack sa mycket. I really appreciate your help.”
“Oh, not a problem at all.”
I went to the next lecture ready to rock and roll. What at first had seemed like a terrifying dilemma was no big deal, and Drew Honeywell’s situation was safe in the hands of the experts.
Time to blow the minds of the Bible school kids by telling them that their idea of salvation was a modern construct imposed on the current church by the psychological needs of the postwar world. My favorite lecture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Christmas Mystery! - Cynthia Hickey





I'd been invited a few months ago to be a part of A Christmas Cozy 2, and it's been a blast, and a challenge. Having a complete mystery in around 5,000 words is not an easy task. I hope I was successful as I show how, and why, the baby Jesus was stolen from a nativity set. My purpose in writing the short story was not only to alert readers to my newest cozy series, but to tug on the heartstrings. I guess I'll have to wait and see whether I accomplished that in "A Thief For A Reason".





Even a 50,000 word mystery has it's challenges, but trying to set the stage, lay red herrings, suspects, clues, all in such a short word span was great fun.





My character, Stormi Nelson, the main gumshoe in my Nosy Neighbor series, is hosting the dessert part of a progressive holiday dinner. What transpires after she welcomes her guests is a rollicking, fun Christmas story about the true meaning of Christmas. (I hope).


Writing Christmas stories are fun, especially at this time of the year, and difficult in July when I wrote this short story. Now that the holidays are fast approaching, I can't wait to hear how readers enjoy my gift to them.





I won't tell you Happy Holidays, no, I believe it is MERRY CHRISTMAS! shouted from the rooftops and hills to glorify the birth of our savior. So, Merry Christmas and enjoy A Cup of Cozy 2 when it releases in a few weeks.







 


Multi-published and Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey had three cozy mysteries and two novellas published through Barbour Publishing. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. All three cozies have been re-released as ebooks through the MacGregor Literary Agency, along with a new cozy series, all of which stay in the top 50 of Amazon’s ebooks for their genre. She has several historical romances releasing in 2013, 2014, 2015 through Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents, and has sold more than 260,000 copies of her works. She is active on FB, twitter, and Goodreads. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and two cats. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”. Visit her website at www.cynthiahickey.com  


 


 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time for a Tea Party!

Thank you for joining us today on Cozy Mystery Magazine. Please let me pour you a nice cup of tea before we chat. Milk? Sugars?

Do help yourself to savories.

Our authors are launching books right and left for your reading pleasure. These authors are amazing and entertain thousands of cozy mystery lovers just like you! (And me!)

In only a few weeks we are launching our second edition of "A Cup of Cozy." Here's the cover reveal. We've added more original stories, holiday menus and recipes that we think you'll enjoy.

More tea?

Now that we've finished with our savories I believe it's time for the sweets. This dessert tier looks nice. Please enjoy!


I hope you've enjoyed our time together this afternoon. And I hope you'll get a copy of "A Cup of Cozy 2" when it launches. Have a wonderful week, dear readers.

Cheers!

~Nancy Jill
Queen of Afternoon Tea

Nancy Jill Thames has three loves in her life besides her husband and family: murder mysteries, Reuben sandwiches, and afternoon tea. She lives in Leander, Texas - home of the Bagdad Cemetery - setting for the movie "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Her favorite actor is Vin Deisel, mostly for his acting ability. She clearly writes Christian fiction because her faith means everything. Learn more about Nancy Jill and The Jillian Bradley Mystery Series at http://nancyjillthames.com.




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Get Ready, It's October...


Hey it's October, and you know that means. The Creepy Birds Are Attacking!
Well, not yet, although they are plotting as we speak with their allies The Creepy Trees!
They always save their really creepy stuff for October. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Then again, no one ever listens to me.
So, since you chose to willfully ignore my dire warnings let us move on.
As you know The Reboot Files ended it's first season.I know, I said I was going to end the series, but but God gave me this idea and...well when God gives you an idea you don't argue. If you're smart. Less hassle that way.
So just to wet your appetite, I'm leading into the new season with a short story included in A Cup of Cozy 2, where my friends and I from the Cozy Mystery Magazine will band together to create another set of heartwarming Holiday Short Stories, Holiday Menus and Recipes.
I got Thanksgiving. That's a horror story in itself.
Right, the non-cook volunteered to do Thanksgiving. Get Nancy Jill and Linda to tell how they had talk me down when they told me I had to come up with a holiday menu. It was hilarious.
So why did I chose the biggest meal holiday, ever? Well it sounded like a good idea at the time.
Okay, it was my mother's favorite holiday. Strange since she did all the cooking, but then she liked to cook and she was good at it.
Sentimentalism, it'll get you every time.
So what heartwarming holdiay tale did I come up with for Irene and Troy?
It's called Irene vs The Giant Turkey!
Not really, although there is a really big bird in it, and it doesn't want to know how to get to Sesame Street, and apparently has a taste for little dogs. (Better hide Teddy, Nancy Jill, this bird is bitter about the whole Thanksgiving thing).
It's actually called Thanksgiving Rebooted.
So what's for dinner? It will be traditional, sort of.
This is me folks, I don't do normal.
Oh and also I'm in the process of posting all of The Reboot Files and Chasing Lady Midnight on several new websites starting with Lulu and Payhip. Other locations and links will be coming soon.
Everyone one have a Happy October!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sherlock Holmes—CSI Before the Acronym Became Famous

I’m sure most of our readers, along with my fellow Cozy Mystery Magazine authors, know by now that I’m a huge Miss Marple/Agatha Christie fan. For a cozy mystery author like me, Miss Marple’s powers of observation are an inspiration for my own books. But even as much as I love the elderly sleuth, I have to admit that she didn’t use science like one of the first literary sleuths--Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock had a brilliant scientific mind, and his crime scene technique was years ahead of real crime science.

Take fingerprints, for example. Scotland Yard didn’t start using fingerprints until 1901. Sir Author Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes using fingerprint evidence in the Sign of Four, published in 1890. Holmes was also the first to analyze typewritten documents. In A Case of Identity, published in 1891, Holmes recognized that letters were typewritten, with no signature. He obtained a typewritten note from his suspect and analyzed the idiosyncrasies of the man’s typewriter. Case solved. The FBI only started a document section of the bureau in 1932.

If you want to learn more about the science of Sherlock Holmes and how he influenced the crime scene investigating field, there are a number of websites to read, along with a fascinating PBS show I just finished watching called, How Sherlock Changed the World.
You can find the show through Netflix. You can also buy the DVD at Amazon.

Here are some interesting websites, if you’d like to read more about the science behind Sherlock Holmes:

Six Methods of Detection in Sherlock Holmes


How Sherlock Chaged the World Shows Evolution of Modern Crime Solving

In closing, I will say that despite Sherlock Holmes’ abilities, I’d prefer to spend a day with Miss Marple. I’ve always found Sherlock Holmes an unlikeable guy, even though I admire his intelligence. I enjoy the stories, but they don’t contain the characterization of the Miss Marples novels—and I love character development. Sherlock Holmes books are more about him and his smarts. Miss Marple is more about the people. This is just my opinion. I'd love to hear what our readers have to say.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bare Bones of Writing a Cozy Mystery


So you want to write a cozy mystery. You’ve come to the right place. Where do you start you ask? Many writers face this same question while staring at a blank page. Let’s tackle this together and see if we can’t come up with the bare bones of writing a cozy mystery.

Before starting on our skeleton I want to explain what constitutes a cozy mystery. In a cozy the protagonist will be an amateur sleuth. Instead of law enforcement personnel, the cozy protagonist could be your local hairdresser, the local baker, a magazine writer, a landscaper or even your local soccer mom.

There will be a private investigator, detective or police officer working the case. More than likely they will not welcome your protagonist’s assistance. The setting is usually a small town or community. You can make up your own or use a real setting. The murder will always take place off stage and in a cozy the reader is two steps behind the detective. An example of what the reader will say: “I should have known that! If only I’d remembered Tom was a landscaper, I could have figured out that he had access to poisonous plants.”

Let’s start with the Cranium – ingredients that are essential to the story. Where do ideas for your cozy come from? Try newspapers or news stories. Don’t just focus on the front page story or television headlines. You might find your story in the smaller sections. Conversations are another good source of fodder. How many times have you overheard people talking while in line at the grocery store or eating at a restaurant? Carry index cards or a notepad to jot down inspiration. Now you’ve got your idea where to next?

Your cozy will need characters. A story happens to and because of someone, so characters are a basic ingredient. There are several ways to do this. One such way is to go online and find a form for building a character. There are some that will be several pages long and some that will have just the basics. You’re characters should be unique and make your reader care about them. Here are a few traits in building your character: vital statistics (name, birthplace, education level…), distinctive features (height, weight, physical features, ethnicity…), make-up (happy/depressed, talkative/quiet…), and occupation (how does he/she feel about their career…) the list goes on and on.

Another important ingredient for each character is goal, motivation and conflict and the best way to discover more on this subject is to read Debra Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation and Conflict.”   

Let’s move to our skeleton’s clavicle – setting. Think of the setting as the atmosphere of your cozy, the air your characters breath. This can be a made up town or it can be a real place. In my Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Series I chose to use real towns. All of the buildings and roads that I mention are real places. To do this you need to either be familiar with the area through research or have a map handy. I’ve discovered readers enjoy identifying with familiar places.

Some areas to be aware of in your setting are the location, weather, transportation, population, economical level, and the general crime level. If you choose to make up your town or use a real one it’s important to make it realistic to the area.  

Let’s move on to the ribs that hold the important internal organs. What is the heart of your cozy? How will you give your readers a chance to solve the murder along with the protagonist? Clues. What is a clue you ask? A clue is something that is tangible. Clues can be the time of death, alibis, or things left/taken from the scene. Often found at the scene of the crime are clues such as fingerprints, fibers, hairs, blood, or murder weapon to name just a few.

How do you hide your clues? Use the clue as a line in a conversation. Humor is an excellent place to hide a clue. If it’s hidden in a form of a joke the reader will assume the information isn’t meant seriously. Give the reader an obvious clue then hide another one behind it.

Another type of clue that is essential to have is the red herring. And I’m not talking about a fish. A red herring suggest a trail to follow, but in reality that trail leads nowhere and has no significance.

Plotting is another important organ in the ribcage. Everyone will eventually discover their own method of plotting. Someone may ask you if you’re a plotter or a panster. I’ve heard of authors who almost write the book during the plotting phase or there are some who write by the seat of their pants. Which one am I?  I’m a panster. Getting down to the bare bones, it doesn’t matter which one you are because plotting is essential.

There are different models of plotting but one of the most popular is the three-act model. In the first act the protagonist’s intentions become clear to the reader. It consists of the first third of the book and will introduce the crime and the conflict as well as the characters, their interactions and the setting. To keep my notes/scenes organized I use Microsoft One Note.

Consider act two as the middle of the book. By this act the tension/conflict should be building. This is where your protagonist will do most of their sleuthing. He/she will have discovered the problem/conflict is not so easily solved. Several failures may occur before the success comes in act three. This is also the point when something in your protagonist’s life considerably changes. 

In act three the protagonist will reach a low point and the reader will wonder whether he/she will fail or succeed. The tension/conflict has reached a crescendo at this point. The subplots will be tied up and the sleuth finally has a confrontation with the villain.

Nancy Curteman sums it up nicely. The ending will reinforce the themes of the book – crime does not pay, people are basically good, love conquers all. Perhaps most important, the ending will demonstrate that the protagonist’s world will return to normal after the disruption caused by the climax – the librarian returns to the library, the school principal opens the school term on time, the knitting club resumes knitting. The end of a mystery novel must be short and concise, and must not introduce any new problems for the protagonist to solve.

Now we move to the most important part of our skeleton – the feet. Take your feet and run to the nearest computer and write. Steven King says in his book on writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all other: read a lot and write a lot.”
 
Deborah Malone's first novel Death in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer's Category Five writing contest! Deborah was also nominated for 2011 and 2012 Georgia Author of the Year in Novel category. She has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, for the historical magazine, "Georgia Backroads" since 2001. She has had many articles and photographs published, and her writing is featured in "Tales of the Rails," edited by Olin Jackson, as well as the "Christian Communicator." She is a member of the Georgia Writer's Association, Christian Author's Guild, Advanced Writer's and Speaker's Association and the American Christian Fiction Writers.
 
 

 
 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eight Ways to Launch a Series--By Linda Kozar

When The Fat Ladies Sing Cozy Mystery Series

Not that I'm an expert or anything. I've come this far by learning, reading, listening and experimenting. Did I mention praying? Well I did that too. A lot of that.

Everyone knows that experience is what you get when you expected something else. And I've learned a lot by the experience of failure. But instead of curling up into a ball of self-pity, I used my stubborn drive to succeed in a positive way and a kept on trying new things.

Where ever you are in the publishing process, I hope you'll benefit from what I've learned. Of course we all know that experience is non-transferrable. Ask any parent. But you might just try to absorb some of this stuff and save yourself the trouble of learning the hard way. Like I did.

By the way, I'm still learning, and trying and doing. But mostly writing. Because I'm a writer, not a shady salesman flashing my books to readers from a dingy trench coat. The part of marketing that drives me is simply connecting potential readers with my books. The decision as to whether or not to like those books belongs to them. My part is to deliver on the promise, to meet reader's expectations, to be true to the characters, true to my voice and true to the God I serve wholeheartedly.


1.   Pick out an engaging name for your book series and your brand.

The first and second books in my series were contracted by Barbour Publishing back in 2008, but only the first book was actually published. Happily, I was paid for both!!! My editor and I were talking on the phone and in a burst of inspiration, she came up with the name for the series. At first I thought she was joking, but I soon realized she was serious, so I mulled it over in my head. It seemed like a good fit--intriguing, even engaging, so I agreed.

2.   Make sure each story revolves around the main character(s), along with a cast of interchangeable, yet memorable secondary characters. 

While the main character(s) should evolve and grow, resist the urge to radically change or cause them to act or react in a manner contrary to their personal code of ethics they've followed in previous books. Readers will feel betrayed, even angry if your characters behave "out of character."

3.   The books in a series should have a visual continuity that daisy-chains them together.

Visual cues stimulate a reader's memory. Each book should visually tie-in with the other books in the series. The books should be instantly recognizable to fans. My "When The Fat Ladies Sing" series covers (above) each have:
  • Similar slanted banners
  • Bright, cheerful colors
  • Quirky, playful art work
Another element to consider, one I have yet to implement, is to have all the covers in a series designed at once and to include a piece of a larger image on the spine of each book. When all the print books are together and in order on the shelf, the unique design would then be revealed. This is my dream!

4.   Include a list of each book in the series, linked to Amazon or other online bookstores.

The back of your book should include a comprehensive list of all books in your series, even those not yet written. List the titles you plan to write so your readers will keep checking to see if your new one has come out.

Each title should be linked to an online store where readers can conveniently purchase the other books in the series.

5.   Include a QR Code to your author website.

Google a QR Code Generator to create your free QR Code. You can even personalize the QR with a cover from your latest release or the first book in the series. Worked for me! Here's mine:



6.   Offer the first book in your series free for either a limited time or permanently.

This technique will trigger a large spike in sales of the other books in the series. The only downside might be a landslide of reviews from those who downloaded the free book. There will be good reviews and certainly bad ones as well.*

7.   Consider publishing a digital boxed set after the series is complete.

Readers who are new to your series will appreciate being able to acquire the entire set without waiting for the next release to come out. And if they become fans, they will eagerly look for other books you've written--ideally more series!

8.   Release a special Christmas (novella or short story) edition with a bonus of some sort.

*Many authors and publishing houses offer these books free as a way to interest readers in acquiring the other books in the series. It is actually better to offer this edition rather than the first book in the series free of charge. There isn't usually as much personal and financial investment (hiring editorial help, etc.) in writing a shorter book.

Include mouth-watering recipes appropriate to the season as a bonus to your readers. Or come up with other innovative ideas to satisfy fans.

Below is my Special Christmas edition set to release SOON. If you'll notice, it's not branded like the others. Why? Because I fell in love with the design and made the cover myself. And...I'm still experimenting.





My Special Christmas Edition releases October 2014


Linda Kozar is the co-author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Hardcover/eBook, Howard/Simon & Schuster 2009) and author of Misfortune Cookies (Print, Barbour Publishing 2008), Misfortune Cookies, A Tisket, A Casket, Dead As A Doornail, (“When The Fat Ladies Sing Series,” eBooks, Spyglass Lane Mysteries, 2012). The series continues with, That Wasn't Chicken, 2014. Strands of Fate released October 2012), (Hardcover/eBook, Creative Woman Mysteries). Her latest foray into indie publishing, produced Alligator Pear, (historical fiction) and her nonfiction anthology Moving Tales, Adventures in Relocation, (2013). Doomsday Devotions released in June, 2014. She received the ACFW Mentor of the Year Award in 2007, founded and served as president of Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas ACFW chapter for three years. In 2003, she co-founded, co-directed and later served as Southwest Texas Director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild.

In addition to writing Linda is Lead Host of the Gate Beautiful Radio Show, part of the Red River Network on Blog Talk Radio—interviewing Christian authors from Debut to Bestselling, airing the 3rd Thursday of every month. She and her husband Michael, married 25 years, have two lovely daughters, Katie and Lauren and a Rat Terrier princess named Patches.

Member of: CAN (Christian Authors Network), RWA (Romance Writers of American), NHRWA (North Houston Romance Writers of America), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas Chapter of ACFW, Toastmasters (Area 56) The Woodlands, Texas, The Woodlands Church, The Woodlands, TX.


Represented by Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary.