Thursday, April 28, 2016

Male Amateur Sleuths!

When I think of cozy mysteries, I think of a female main character acting as the amateur sleuth, solving murders in a small town populated with somewhat quirky neighbors. But there is the rare exception--the male amateur sleuth.

One of my favorite T.V. series is Grantchester, based on the series by James Runcie. I haven't read the books yet (they're on my exceedingly long TBR list), but set in the 1950's in a small, English town of Grantchester, they feature Sydney Chambers, a vicar, who teams up with Inspector Geordie Keating. And I can't forget Sydney's black lab, Dickens!

Sometimes I define a book as cozy, but it's not categorized as such. For example, the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). The description for The Cuckoo's Calling does say it's a mystery in the classic vein, which, to me, suggests an Agatha-esque novel. If you've read The Cuckoo's Calling or The Silkworm, let me know if the comments if you would classify them as cozies.

It seems as though most detective or mystery novels with a male lead character are hard-boiled or feature a man associated with a crime-fighting agency, such as an FBI agent. For the cozy-loving reader, it's a nice to have diverse options for our beloved genre. I will always adore my strong heroines, the bakers, realtors, and book collectors who stumble into murder and can't resist the urge to figure out who done it. But every now and then it's nice to find a series that opens the door wider, broadening the cozy landscape.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy reading from a male POV, or do you prefer to stick with female sleuths? Any recommendations? Please let us know in the comments!

If you're looking for male amateur sleuths, here's a list from The Cozy Mystery List Blog:
Mystery Books With Men As Sleuths*

*note - this list is dated 2012, however, it's been updated in the comments

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chag Sameach! (Happy Passover)

This weekend marks the beginning of Passover. I'm not a particularly observant Jew (read not observant at all), but
Passover is one of my favorite holidays so we pretty much always have a seder. I like the message of how important freedom is and how none of us are free while any are enslaved. The numbers wax and wane, but this year there will be 21 of us gathering at my house to tell the story of how Moses led the Jews out of Egypt.

And that's where this whole thing ties back into books and writing.

I often say that I come from a family of storytellers. My uncle is a published author. My cousin's first book spent weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. The only reason my sister isn't a multi-published award-winning bestselling author is because she won't sit down and type her stories on the computer. Some of my best lines have come directly from her lips. We spend hours telling each other stories, sometimes the same stories. We laugh. We cry. We come together over story. So this holiday is pretty much made for us.

It is incumbent upon all Jewish parents to tell the story of the Exodus to their children. It's apparently also incumbent upon us to make them eat gefilte fish, make them steal a half a piece of matzah and demand payment for it, and make them drink too much. I'm pretty sure every Jewish person had their first real hangover the day after a Passover seder.

It's these kinds of experiences that I think helped make me into a writer. What about you? Are there any rituals in your family that made you who you are?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Views from the Irish Writing Desk

My writing spot waiting for me every morning.
By Lisa Alber

Between last month's post and today's, I spent nearly three weeks in beautiful Ireland--my fourth trip, in fact, and the best one yet. I had a list of research topics for the third County Clare mystery (2017) that I'm calling "Touch of Death." As an example of my research, I hit four hospitals in search of information about care for coma patients, psychiatric nursing, and end-of-life care.

(Aren't you curious about #3? But you've gotta read #2, Whispers in the Mist first. Coming August!)

If you thought our health care system was nuts--try Ireland's! In the end, I got what I needed and decided on what I could fictionalize for the sake of storytelling.

You know what I was mostly about in Ireland? Being. Just being. The joys of slowing down, of going deep into my writing rather than struggling to fit it in, fast fast fast, so fast that I often don't get a chance to savor the creative process.


In my exalted state of being, I got over a massive "block" (in quotes because I don't actually believe in blocks--call it denial) that had lasted for about three months. I was stuck at about 50K words on my first draft. I wasn't feeling it--at all. Now I understand that my well had dried up. The bloody Sahara. Desiccated. Arid. Powdered. Mummified.

OH man. The trip saved me. It really did. And I fell into the most luscious, perfect kind of busy, which is to say, occupied but not swamped, making progress but not overwhelmed. You know what I mean?

I fell into a routine that went something like this:

Every morning little Aidan sat on my lap
for a bit to point at things outside.
Morning-->Noonish: I parked myself in the B&B's light and airy sunroom munching on breakfast (veggie omelet most days) and sipping coffee. Letting myself stare out the window. Over the course of my trip I noticed many things. The arrival of robins and loads of songbirds. Blooming lesser celandine. The farmer who drove by like clockwork. Rainbows and hail and sun and wind and rain and mist and even snow!

In the midst of all this gazing, writing happened. And pretty soon, I was over my "block." I'd spend my mornings writing, travel journaling, curating my photos, doing some online research (in the Irish .ie domain--much better results than I'd been getting in the States), collating research notes. The writing work part of my trip--but it didn't feel like work. Heaven!

Noonsh-->Late afternoonish: Most days I had research tasks. I did a lot of driving, which I didn't mind. I'd stop and grab shots. I'd talk to the Voice Memo app. I met up with two detectives who'd helped me with my debut novel, Kilmoon, and that was a blast! They loved receiving signed copies of the book. I'd wander off the beaten track, driving down bumpy little roads. I'd also visit tourist spots.

What a way to greet the day!
Depending on how quick the research and exploring went, I'd often drop by my favorite coffeehouse, Ginger Lou's, for more writing and a chat with the owner. By early evening, I was often at the Roadside Tavern or Cooley's House pub drinking a pint (or two) and chatting with the locals (local color!). That could last for hours.

Evening: After a full and pleasant day, I was content to hole up in the B&B, reading, doing little research/writing tasks, relaxing.

So now I'm back to reality (I still have a day job, alas, as so many of us novelists do), and I'm doing my best to ride the writing high. So far, so good!

Every day like clockwork.

The trick, I think, is learning how to keep the well filled in the midst of an overly busy life with two jobs, family stuff, life stuff, everything stuff.

I've been telling everyone who will listen that I'd prefer to live a slower deep life than a faster skimming-the-surface life. Have you noticed that modern life tilts us toward the latter? So I've been thinking a lot about how I can get some of that slower, deeper in ...
My writing spot

What do you do to keep your well filled? Any tips and tricks welcome!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Killer Excerpts and Killer Prices

by Tracy Weber

I'm so excited I can barely see straight!  A Killer Retreat, the second book in my Downward Dog Mystery Series, was a BookBub featured deal on Saturday!  It's still on sale for only $1.99 (Regularly $10.99) on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo!

Sale ends April 23, so don't wait!

Below are a few excerpts (and some photos that inspired them)  to whet your appetite.

Excerpt 1:

Bella didn’t share my initial dumpy-digs disappointment. She charged gleefully through the door and explored her new surroundings, completely ignoring the “Please Keep Dogs Off Furniture” signs. First she ran into the kitchen and placed her paws on the counter, hoping to find pot roast, I assumed. Then she jumped on the couch and furiously dug, as if searching for buried treasure. Finding nothing of interest there, she leaped onto the room’s only guest chair, sat, and regally stared across the room at Michael and me. A German shepherd queen commanding her subjects.

German shepherd queen
Excerpt 2:

The night was completely black, almost obsidian; its darkness, impenetrable. A carpet of moldy leaves and fragrant pine needles crunched under my shoes. Bella and I passed several empty campgrounds, a few fallen trees, and a pair of beady red eyes that didn’t belong to a German shepherd. I played the flashlight in front of me, grateful for its tepid illumination. With it, I could see the broken branches that were strewn haphazardly across the path. Without it, I’d be blind.
A sharp sound cracked behind me. Bella stopped, sniffed the air and looked over her shoulder. The hair on the back of my arms tingled.
“Hello, is anyone there?”

Excerpt 3:

I stood near the bluff’s jagged rock outcroppings, entranced by the view. Greenish-blue water extended for miles and birthed powerful waves that crashed over fifty feet below. The smooth, crescendoing sound was both calming and awe-inspiring at the same time. I moved closer to the edge, as if hypnotized.


“Kate, what are you doing? Get away from there.” Michael pointed to a sign several feet behind me.

“Danger. Cliffs are unstable. Walking prohibited less than three feet from edge.”

As if on cue, a rock broke free and clattered over the edge. I took several large steps back. “Suicide Bluff” suddenly felt more like a warning than a quip. The steep, dark cliffs dared me to come closer. Goaded me. Urged me to jump. An inexplicable chill burned the back of my neck. I couldn’t explain it, but the cliffs felt malevolent—evil somehow. Like they hungered for human sacrifice.

I looped Bella’s leash handle around my wrist and pulled her in closer. Gorgeous view or not, I wouldn’t come back here again. I didn’t trust this place.

Excerpt 4:

The terrier sniffed the air. His brown eyes glinted with interest.


My pretend authority morphed into all-too-real terror. I vigorously gesticulated at the phone-engrossed woman. “Hey!” I yelled, pointing at Bella. “This one doesn’t like other dogs!” The oblivious owner looked up from her phone, frowned, and turned away.

The pup took one last glance at Bella, then made his decision.

Target acquired.

This was not going to end well.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, you can purchase A Killer Retreat at a Killer Price at the links below, but only until Saturday!

Many, many thanks to Eileen Rendahl for trading blog dates with me.  I was too excited to wait until the 4th Monday, and by then the deal would have been over anyway! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to Get Stuff Right

Edith here, almost all blogged out!

My first Quaker Midwife Mystery came out last week from Midnight Ink, and I've been all over cyberspace talking about it: here, here, here, and plenty of other places.

Today I thought I'd just list a bunch of my favorite historical reference books, the ones I keep close at hand to check as I'm writing.

How to Be a Victorian: a Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victoran Life from Ruth Goodman, 2013.

Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon, 1993.

The Massachusetts Police Officer: a Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and Other Civil Officers, 1891.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. Consumer's Guide for 1894.

Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue and Buyers' Guide, 1895.

Miss Parloa's New Cook Book and Marketing Guide, 1880.

A System of Midwifery, Including the Diseases of Pregnancy and the Puerperal State, by William Leishman, 1879.

John Greenleaf Whittier Biography, by Roland H. Woodwell, 1985.

That's it for now. Readers: do you have any fabulous late Victorian research sources? Please share!

Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The tale features the 1888 setting and characters from her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, which debuts with Delivering the Truth on April 8.
Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site,

Monday, April 11, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH MONDAY | Bill Fuller's Journey from Scripts to Novels

Web mistress Lisa here to introduce Bill Fuller, whose debut novel, A Girl's Guide to Landing a Greek God, has just released. Today he shares his learning curve in transitioning from TV writing to novel writing. Please welcome Bill! ~Lisa

My Journey from Scripts to Novels

I was seven years old when I took my first stab at writing, penning a sequel to Mary Poppins with Crayolas and construction paper. I eventually traded it to a friend for three packs of Batman cards, but the fire had been lit.

Three days ago, on April 8, that fire was stoked by the publication of my first novel, A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God. Like Mary Poppins, my book combines fantasy and reality as well as joyous experiences and sobering losses. It tells the story of Angie Costianes, a woman from Queens who ditches her wedding because she’s not feeling the love and travels to an uncharted island where the gods of Olympus are plotting their return to power. In the course of her adventures, she tangles with all the bigwigs, from Zeus to Hades; battles monsters both reptilian and lipsticked; and romances Milos, a descendant of the Olympians who, as it happens, has been crushing on her for years even though they’ve never met. The book has been categorized as both a mystery and a romance, but I consider it a hybrid—a romantic action-adventure, if you will.

Although my writing career has spanned more than thirty years, it took me until last week to achieve this particular milestone. I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, a small-town movie critic and a public relations specialist. But I’ve spent the bulk of my years writing and producing half-hour television.  It’s been a great ride, with stints on shows like Newhart, Night Court, Living Single and Hope & Faith. These days, I’m consulting on an animated kids’ show for Disney Junior Channel called Puppy Dog Tales. I often joke with friends that as I get older, the TV audience I’m writing for gets younger.

Even though I’ve enjoyed the heck out of working in television, I’ve never lost the desire to write a novel. So a few years ago, I decided to put that passion to the test by turning one of my  unsold screenplays into a novel. I figured, how hard could it be? I was already a writer. It just meant shifting gears a little, right?

Boy, was I in for a wakeup call.

The experience of transitioning from scripts to novels has been both humbling and enriching. And while I still have a ways to go, I think I’m finally on the verge of being able to call myself a novelist.  With that in mind, I thought I’d blog about two of the differences I’ve experienced between the two mediums—one in the writing and the other in the process itself.

Me (top row, second from left) and my writing/executive-producing partner, Jim Pond,     (second row, far left), along with the cast of the long-running Fox series, Living Single.
First off, when you’re writing half-hour television, virtually everything is expressed through dialogue. Sure, there are the occasional nods and sighs and furtive glances, but just about every element of the story happens as a result of characters speaking with one another, usually within a handful of locations for reasons of practicality and budget. That’s because your soundstage is only so big, and even though it costs upwards of a million dollars to produce a half-hour episode of television, a lot of that money gets eaten up in cast salaries.

In a novel, dialogue is still important, but equally important is internal monologue—what’s going on inside the heads of characters. That never occurred to me when I lifted big chunks of dialogue out of my screenplay and plopped them onto the page. Other than occasional breaks for action, there was little to the manuscript other than talk, and virtually no insight into what was going on in my characters’ minds. What was my college football hero thinking as he flirted with the young bookkeeper he met at a school dance in 1919? Was he as cocky as he came off, or was he so awed by her beauty and wit that he was surprised he was getting the words out? And what was she thinking when she boldly matched him word for word? Was she intrigued about where this might lead or scared half to death?

Description is also much more important in novels than in TV scripts. A living room that might be described in a sentence in a half-hour script might take several pages to describe in a novel. That’s partly because your so-called standing sets in television (the bar on Cheers, the coffee shop in Friends) already exist, and everyone involved in the process knows what they look like. And your occasional one-time-only sets (called swing sets), can be described to your set designer in person rather than by increasing the page count of a script that’s often required to be no more than a certain length.

In any case, neither of those things was obvious to me when I set out to write my first novel. But thanks to the help of a friend who’s a seasoned novelist, I learned how to expand my sequences so there was often as much going on internally as externally. It was hard at first. I felt like I was forcing it, when in reality, I wasn’t going deep enough into my characters’ heads. In regard to description, being an impatient person I often thought, “Let’s just get to it,” rushing through description to get to the heart of the scene. But over time, I learned that getting there is often as interesting as being there.  And it certainly paints a more vivid picture.

The other difference I’ve experienced is in how the two products are put together. When you’re a writer in Hollywood, the process is very collaborative. While you still come up with jokes and story ideas on your own, you’re working on a staff with ten or more writers, so the final product is usually the result of a group-think process. Somebody comes in with an idea that everyone agrees would make a good story, and you work as a group to “break” it, fleshing it out scene by scene, before sending a writer off to do an outline, followed by two drafts of a script. At each stage, the group, led by the executive producer, gives the writer feedback or “notes” on the script. Then, when the script is handed in for good, the executive producer leads the group in taking a pass at it, known as “tabling.”  During this process, jokes often change and whole scenes can be replaced. I’ve occasionally been in situations where no more than a couple of my original lines have remained. Not the most secure feeling in the world, but a reality of the business.     

When you’re writing a novel, you’re on your own. You’re coming up with your story and dialogue while sitting in front of your computer, running on a treadmill, sipping coffee or walking your dog.  It’s all you. That might seem like a huge amount of freedom, but for me it was intimidating. After twenty-some years of working on a writing staff, I was suddenly all alone, staring at a blank screen.  Some days, I’d start writing with no particular plan, just to assure myself I was still a writer. But because most of those days went nowhere, I learned to brainstorm on my own. Not that I haven’t leaned on my friends and fellow novelists for ideas, but by and large I’ve learned to do it alone, without the safety net of another creative mind.    

But there are benefits. When you’re writing a novel, you have the freedom to create an infinite universe, one that’s not limited by budget restraints or an actor’s abilities. And there’s something to be said for the feeling you get at the end of the day when you can sit back and acknowledge you did it all yourself.

In spite of the differences between the two mediums, there are some basic similarities. Both are essentially about setting up a good story, then telling it compellingly and passionately. And whether I’m writing a script or a novel, I love creating something original. That doesn’t mean it comes easily.  There have been days in comedy writing when the jokes didn’t flow and many, many days as a novelist when I couldn’t get a plot point right or make a passage read as anything other than hopelessly awkward. But when it does come, when you finally make a piece of writing sing, it’s an amazing feeling of joy and accomplishment.

I hope all that shows in A Girls Guide to Landing a Greek God.  It certainly was a kick to take my little nugget of an idea all the way to publication.

Thanks for joining us, Bill! Readers, what surprises or interests you about Bill's journey? Which would be more challenging for you--writing collaboratively or writing solo?

Bill Fuller is a novelist as well as a television writer and producer. As a producer, his credits include Hope & Faith, For Your Love and Living Single. Before becoming a producer, he was an executive story editor on the long-running series Night Court and story editor for Newhart, as well as a writer for numerous other television series for Paramount, USA, NBC Universal, HBO, Disney, and others. 

His first novel, A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God, was published this month by Llewellyn Worldwide, and is the first of a trilogy. He’ll follow it up with a standalone novel, The Forever Year, in July. He lives in Redondo Beach, California, but still holds his hometown of Warren, Ohio, close to his heart. Read more about his books at

You can find A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sisters in Crime: Adapting to Hollywood

by Linda O. Johnston

Welcome to the first Monday in April. 

Last month, I blogged about attending Left Coast Crime in Phoenix.  This month, I'm blogging about a national Sisters in Crime conference, Adapting to Hollywood, which occurred last weekend.  Yes, it was held in Hollywood.  And since I live in the Hollywood Hills, it was practically in my backyard.  So, I definitely had to attend.

The premise was a good reason to attend, too.  It was all about how novel writers can try to sell their works to the film and/or TV industries.

Fascinating?  Yes.  Do I think I've learned everything and will therefore have one of my stories or series picked up as a movie or TV show?  Who knows?

It's not impossible, after all.  One of the speakers at the conference was Ellen Byerrum, who attended the first SinC Hollywood conference in 2006, and subsequently had two of her novels made into movies for the Lifetime Movie Network. 

There were quite a few people there from the film industry, from screenwriters and producers and studio executives to agents and film industry attorneys.  Topics they spoke about included who's looking for what, what makes a good character, the development process to production and making a deal to sell your story.

Quite a few of the attendees got the opportunity to pitch to a professional, although I wasn't among those who were assigned pitch time, unfortunately.  I'd have liked the opportunity to at least practice a pitch, even if I didn't sell one of my stories on the spot.  I did learn a lot, though, including the fact that Hollywood and its peeps are always looking for good stories to produce. 

Sisters in Crime members from all across the country attended, including other Midnight Ink authors.  Will any of them be successful in selling their work, or even getting it optioned?  I'd love to see that, but will undoubtedly have to wait quite a while before anything like that happens.  That was one of the things stressed at the conference.  Few things happen fast in Hollywood.

In any event, I really enjoyed the conference.  And since I write the Superstition Mysteries, don't be surprised if you see me with my fingers crossed a lot.  Even though writers lose a lot of control over their characters and stories if they enter into an agreement to potentially have something produced in Hollywood, there's always at least some money involved--and I think it would be fun to see some of my characters appear in real life on a movie or TV screen.

By the way, it's almost time for my second Barkery & Biscuits Mystery to appear: TO CATCH A TREAT.  I'm sure I'll say more about it next month, since it'll be published in May.