What is a supernatural mystery anyway?

When I tell friends that I finished Muddy River Mystery One and put it on Amazon, they ask, “What is it?”

Well, a mystery.  That’s in the title.  Muddy River is the town on the Ohio River that the supernaturals settled.  They found a nice, hilly, secluded area in southwest Indiana, far from mortals, to call home.

“The supernatural?” they ask.

Yup, witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons, among others.  Most friends know that I used to write urban fantasy.  And now I’m writing mysteries.  So I decided to combine the two.  Sort of like the Babet and Prosper novellas that I used to write.    Prosper was a bearshifter and his partner on the force, Hatchet, was a Druid.

I like writing about Druids.  Of course, I jazz them up a bit.  My Druids can call on lightning to strike and their tattoos are alive and writhe when they’re angry.  It’s Prosper and Hatchet’s job to solve crimes committed by supernaturals who break the rules.

Prosper teams with Babet, a witch, to solve a murder.  In Muddy River, Raven Black–a fire demon–teams with Hester Wand– a witch–to solve the deaths of thirteen young witches who were just starting their own coven.  Of course–no suprise here–while they work together, they fall for each other.

“Oh, a paranormal romance!” someone says.

“No, wrong emphasis.  A paranormal romance has the romance as the story’s main focus.  Raven and Hester’s relationship is more of a subplot.  The mystery forms the main plotline in my story.”

“Why is it different than an urban fantasy?  You started with those.”

“Urban fantasies are about the bad guys, usually evil, bumping heads with the good guys–the protagonist and his friends.  The battles escalate until it’s life or death at the end of the book.  This book, even though it has a few battles, is about solving the mystery.”

This is when my friends usually scratch their heads.  But fellow writers–they’ll understand.  The main plot line is what distinguishes one kind of story from another.  And this story is …a mystery with a romance subplot in a world peopled by Fae, Druids, witches, vampires, shifters, and one banshee.  And it was really fun to write!  As fun as Babet and Prosper.

A close friend and fellow writer still looks at me, bewildered.  “But why?  Your cozy mysteries are doing so well.”

All writers know that it’s dangerous to switch genres.  People who read cozy mysteries might not want anything to do with a fire demon for an enforcer.

Well, I didn’t know how well The Body in the Attic would sell when I started my second series, did I?  It came as a wonderful, happy surprise.  But I’m not sure it would have made a lot of difference.  I tend to lose interest if I read one author, one genre, over and over again, back to back.  Sorry to say, but that holds true of my writing, too.  I really do love the cozy mysteries I write, but I need to change it up once in a while, or else my writing goes flat.

I have no idea if I can find success with Muddy River, but I’d written three cozies, and I needed a witch or two to break things up.  And it worked.  I’m ready to dig into serious rewrites for Jazzi and Ansel’s fourth book now.

Whatever you’re writing, whatever your writing habits, have a great week of it!

 

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It’s up!

I wrote a supernatural mystery and posted it, chapter by chapter, for free on my webpage.  Once it was finished, I gave everyone a week to read it, and then I took it down to make into a book.  It’s only 56,000+ words, and some people have already read it, so I’m only charging 99 cents for it.  But it was so much fun to write about witches, shifters, and demons again!  I didn’t want to go back to writing urban fantasy, so I decided to do a cross-genre story–a traditional mystery peopled with supernatural citizens who live on the banks of the Ohio River in southwest Indiana.  Michael Prete created a cover for me that I love, and M.L. Rigdon (Julia Donner) donated two afternoons to me, showing me how to download it to Kindle.  So, here it is, MUDDY RIVER MYSTERY ONE (Black Magic Can Backfire).

 

Some Good News

2-7-2019

It all started with a phone call from my agent.  MMB Media had contacted her and wanted to buy all three of my Jazzi Zanders mysteries to make into digital audio books.  That made me pretty excited.  I got even more excited when Lauren told me that I owned all of the audio rights for my mystieries.  It was in my contract, but I never expected to have to consider it.  I’m glad I have Lauren for an agent.

Then my editor, John Scognamiglio, at Kensington, told me that The Body in the Attic had been scheduled at 99 cents for BookBub on Feb. 7.  Always a good thing!   Kensington had already offered 100 copies in a giveaway on Goodreads that garnered the book 100 reviews there, mostly good ones. And I had some more reviews on Amazon.  That was a first for me.  I’d never reached 100 before.

WAY back, when I wrote my first urban fantasy–FALLEN ANGELS–I sent it to BookBub and they accepted it.  I offered it for free, and it got LOTS of downloads.  It zoomed to number one for FREE e-books.  What I was too-new-to-the-business to understand is that MOST authors wait to do that until they have a few books in a series.  Then people order the first book and many order the next ones, too, and the author makes money.  Shrug.  You live and you learn.  At least I got name recognition from it.  And I learned some business savvy.  These days, it’s not easy to get a “yes” from BookBub.  But Kensington has more clout than start-up writers, so I got lucky.

The Body in the Attic went on sale there today, and I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t concentrate on the chapter I was writing because I kept looking at my numbers to see how I was doing.  Making it even harder to concentrate, my husband got more excited than I was.  (He’s pretty cute.  That’s why I keep him).  And every time we looked, my numbers were better.  Now, I can’t tell how many actual sells it had.  Those numbers all go to Kensington.  All I can see are the rankings, but when it went to #12 in Kindle store, #1 in Cozy culinary mysteries, then #1 in amateur sleuth mysteries, and #1 in hobbies and crafts, and again in “animal” mysteries, I printed it out, because I might never see those numbers again:)  To say I was distracted is putting it mildly.

My nerves are starting to settle now.  And I realize what goes up must come down.  But at least it FINALLY went up.  I’ve been working at writing for a long, long time.  A lot of writers have.  Writing isn’t for the faint of heart, or for the easily disheartened.

I try to share the different ups and downs of my writing with you.  This time, it’s nice to share an “up.”  A month from now, who knows?  I might grumble about a “down.”  But I believe in enjoying every little success that comes my way, so I’m enjoying myself now.

The next realization?  I can do a happy dance around the house today, but tomorrow, I need to plant my fanny in my chair and hit the keys again.  I want the next book to be as good or better than the first.  I’m so happy for readers.  I don’t want to let them down.  And I don’t want to let myself down either.

So for you?  I wish you Happy Writing!

 

P.S.  I ask this every once in a while, but does anyone have any questions they’d like to throw out there.  I’d be happy to try to answer them, if I can.

Hibernating

The temperatures are dropping in northeast Indiana.  It’s going to be a cold weekend and an even colder week.  Thankfully, my husband and I are retired, and we don’t have any appointments on our calendar.  So, we’re hibernating.

I’ve always loved the four seasons, but I have to admit winter was more fun when I was young.  As a kid, it meant snowball fights and sledding.  As a young adult, it was something to battle to make it to work.  When our backs were strong and supple, we shoveled it, but the fresh, crisp air was bracing, and the yards looked beautiful covered in their white blankets.  Sometimes, when the schools and businesses closed, John and I would pile in the car with a snow shovel and take off to drive around the lakes.  Ah, youth. We never worried we’d get stuck.  We’d shovel and rock the car until we broke free.  When we got older, we bought a snow blower.  We still got out and about unless there was ice.

I don’t like the feeling of no control when my car goes into a skid.  My grandsons, however, headed to the biggest parking lots to do donuts with my old, beat-up Ford, enjoying the spinning and sliding.  And now that the kids are grown and gone, we’re retired, and we can watch snow fall and deal with it when we get around to it.  There’s no sense of urgency.  So, for the coming week, snow and bitter cold mean filling the bird feeders and snuggling up inside, spending more time writing and reading.

First, we’re finally taking down our Christmas decorations.  The kids made it up last weekend, so the tree and wreathes have served their purpose.  John and I are going to store things away for next year, then bake a coffee cake together.  The fridge is stocked with plenty of food.  No worries we’ll starve.

I’m going to work in more writing time than usual.  I’m halfway through my free supernatural mystery for my webpage, and I’d like to write a chunk of chapters ahead.  John went to the library and has a pile of books to read.  I’m expecting a manuscript to critique.  Never work.  I love Julia Donner’s historical novels.  This one’s a Western.  I can’t wait to read it.

All in all, dear hubby and I are ready for a quiet, easy week, staying home and cocooning.  Hope you find some solid writing time, too.

 

 

Mysteries

In my first mystery, The Body in the Attic, I meant to write an Agatha Christie type murder where a body is found in the first chapter and then countless witnesses and suspects are introduced until the murder is solved.  That was my intent.  And I didn’t quite stick to it.  But I just finished reading Mary Angela’s A VERY MERRY MURDER.  She purposely structured her book to be like a Christie novel, and she pulled it off.  She even used a Christie story for her protagonist, Professor Emmeline Prather, to teach in her Crime and Passion English class–an elective class that focused on mysteries and romances.  Even better, Angela used the same murder technique for the current mystery that Christie used in hers.  If you’re a Christie fan, it was awesome!

Such attention to detail, alas, I didn’t manage.  I discovered poor Aunt Lynda’s body in the first chapter, yes, but then I introduced a subplot that intrigued me a little too much, and before long, another body was required to move the plot along.  Which, I have to admit, I was pretty happy with.  Which shows that even if you outline, like I do, the best laid plans can go awry.

In my second mystery, The Body in the Wetlands, bodies seemed to pile up without my even trying.  One murder leads to the next and the one after that until Jazzi and Ansel, along with Detective Gaff, finally catch the killer.  The moral of the story?  Try never to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And of course, there’s another dog in this story.  I grew quite fond of Cocoa, the chocolate Lab.

I’ve been reading quite a few mysteries lately, and back when I read Christie, the actual murder and puzzle are what made me turn the pages.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed Miss Marple and Poirot.  And Christie could draw a character in only a few brush strokes, so I “knew” them–what motivated them–but didn’t get to know them, if that makes any sense.  Lately, though, I’m every bit as interested in the characters in the story, who they are and what they’re doing, and I’m disappointed if they’re not filled out more.

I liked Mary Angela’s professor and how seriously she took teaching college students who often weren’t as motivated as she was.  I enjoyed the budding romance between Enmeline and Lenny, and I loved the widow who lived across the street and didn’t miss anything.  She was a whiz at baking and let Emmeline know her Christmas cookies were inferior.  All fun stuff that added layers to the story.

I guess, these days, I enjoy lots of different kinds of stories hung on a mystery plot.  The only time I’m disappointed is when the end of the mystery–how it’s solved and whodunnit–aren’t handled well.  After all, it’s a mystery, even if the murder only serves as a foundation to wrap other subplots around.  But I expect a murder, clues, red herrings, and a satisfying conclusion.  The rest is all extras.  I don’t want a murderer pulled out of a hat or for the clues to not add up.  Other than that, I go along for what I hope is a fun ride.  Whatever you’re reading now, I hope it keeps you turning pages and you’re happy you read it when you close the book.

And happy writing!

 

 

 

Cover Reveal

Lyrical Press has released the cover for my second Jazzi Zanders mystery.  It’s due out April 23, 2019, but I’m always excited to see what kind of a cover they’ve created for me.  And this time, I loved it that they featured Cocoa, the chocolate Lab, in a similar pose as George, Ansel’s pug, in book one.  Only in this book, Cocoa’s digging up a fairly fresh corpse(:  That puts a real downer on the fixer-upper project Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel are working on.  Here’s the cover.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

TheBodyInTheWetlands_hires

High summer in River Bluffs, Indiana, is always sweltering and sweet. But the heat is really on when a decidedly dead body turns up in the neighborhood.

When established house flippers Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod donate a week’s worth of remodeling work to Jazzi’s sister Olivia, they’re expecting nothing more than back-breaking roofing work and cold beers at the end of each long, hot day. With Jazzi’s live-in boyfriend and partner Ansel on the team, it promises to be a quick break before starting their next big project—until Leo, an elderly neighbor of Olivia’s, unexpectedly goes missing . . .

When the friendly senior’s dog tugs Jazzi and the guys toward the wetlands beyond Olivia’s neighborhood, they stumble across a decomposing corpse—and a lot of questions. With Jazzi’s pal Detective Gaff along to investigate, Jazzi finds her hands full of a whole new mystery instead of the usual hammer and nails. And this time it will take some sophisticated sleuthing to track down the culprit of the deadly crime—before the killer turns on her next . . .

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/37414

I hope all of you have lots of good things to read, can sneak in a little writing, and enjoy a merry Christmas and happy holidays!

 

Stan Lee

I don’t buy comic books and I don’t know much about any of the heroes, but when my grandsons lived with us, they dragged me to see a lot of Iron Man, Avengers, and X Men movies.  And I enjoyed almost all of them.  Just like the urban fantasies that I love, comic book heroes always face overwhelming odds.  Good always versus evil.  The fate of the world is at stake.  And there’s so much action.  How fun is that?  So it surprised me when I listened to a quote by Stan Lee, after his death, where he said, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end.”  (I got that quote from Screen Rant’s list of 10 most important quotes from Stan Lee:  https://screenrant.com/10-inspirational-stan-lee-quotes/ )

I love his words.  When I was a kid, I always wanted to do something important with my life.    It wasn’t about making oodles of money.  It was about changing the world, and in my eight-year-old mind that equated to becoming a teacher.  To me, teachers shaped kids’ minds and kids were our future.  And I didn’t change my opinion all through school and college.  That’s why I taught elementary for six years.  But it dawned on me that yes, teaching was important, but there were so many other factors that shaped a child, my influence was like a pebble dropping into an ocean.  And when laws changed, and Indiana wouldn’t hire anyone with a Master’s Degree anymore when I wanted to return to my old job, I told myself that raising two awesome daughters could change the world, too.  Still believe that.  And then when I discovered writing, I thought I’d found the perfect vehicle for more.

Somewhere in time, though, I realized that serious fiction might not be for me.  I was more drawn to genre novels.  At the first writers’ conference that I ever attended, the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we wrote genre.  My friend and I lifted our arms, and he sneered at us and informed us that we were hack writers, that we only worked for money.  (I wish).  Now, I knew that I’d never be compared to Margaret Atwood or Shakespeare, but that still ticked me off.  I took pride in what I wrote whether he thought it was worthy of literature or not.

A few writer conferences later (and I chose ones that focused on genre fiction), and the speaker asked one of the really talented romance writers why she chose to write “beneath” her.  Again, I silently fumed while the poor writer struggled for an answer.  (She came up with a good one, too.  Not that it satisfied Mr. Smirky Pants).  Since then, I’ve decided that it’s hard to write ANYTHING well.  And if you do a good job, you’ve earned my respect.  I’ve also learned that some people STILL have to have an hierarchy of what’s important literature and what’s not.  That’s their problem, not mine.  But I still fussed about the things that, in my mind, I couldn’t write well.

That’s part of the reason I had so much fun writing outside of my comfort zone for the three short stories I posted on my webpage for the beginning of October.  I’d told myself that I couldn’t write dark and dismal very well.  And when I posted those three stories, I was pretty satisfied with them.  I’d achieved my goal.  And do you know what?  It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.  Because they’re not the real me.  Yes, I could write them.  Did I want to write any more?  Not really.  And that was a revelation for me.  I’m happy writing what I write.  That’s why Stan Lee’s quote struck such a chord for me.

I’m grateful to all of the authors who write the books that I love to read, the ones that bring me so much enjoyment.  Stan Lee’s right.  Offering entertainment is an end in itself.  Yes, serious, weighty volumes inspire me, but so do cozy mysteries and smalltown romances.  The world needs people who care about what they do, whether they collect garbage, perform surgeries, sing and dance, or write comic books.  Do what you feel passionate about (within reason:)

P.S.  I won’t be posting another blog until after Thanksgiving, so enjoy the holiday.  And happy writing!

Book Signings

My husband and I went to hear Anna Lee Huber at Barnes & Noble on Thursday night, and as much as I enjoyed it–and I enjoyed it a lot–I think he enjoyed it even more.  He has a thing for World War I and II history, and Anna’s new Verity Kent mystery series takes place right after World War I.   She had information neither of us had ever heard of.  Did you know that Britain recruited aristocratic women to be spies and go behind enemy lines when Germany cut off Belgium and occupied it?  The conditions of that poor country and German-occupied France was deplorable.  Never mind the conditions in the trenches.

Before Anna even started her presentation, she let us chatter with her about writing and publication.  John loves that, too.  He actually likes talking writing and the business end of it as much as I do.  Probably has to out of self-defense.  Anna writes TWO historical mystery series.  Both of them intrigue me.  Her Lady Darby series is set in 1830s England.  Now, as everyone must know by now, I’m a huge fan of Julia Donner’s Regency romances, which take place from about 1810 to 1820 (unless Julia reads this and corrects me).  Anna loves research as much as Julia Donner, but she purposely picked the 1830s because no one had written very much about that time period.  A good writers’ tip.  Find a niche of your own.  The 1830s were between the Regency period and the Victorian years.  A nice pocket to explore.  Too soon for Jack the Ripper–which always intrigues me:)  That series is her Lady Darby series, and I’ve already bought the first book (on sale as I write this) to try.

Her second series is the one John’s excited to start.  It’s the years right after World War I with plenty of flashbacks about the war.  It’s her Verity Kent (she’s a spy for England) series.  The second book in the series recently came out:

The good news is that Anna Lee Huber was interviewed on NPR the morning of her signing.  The sad news is that John and I and ONE other person showed up to hear her, besides her mother.  Fun for us, since we got to ask more questions and interact with her more.  And she’s DELIGHTFUL.  Just saying.  But not so good for her, because she didn’t sell many books.  She took it in her stride.  Book signings are like that.  Sometimes, people show up.  Sometimes, they don’t.  And only the heavens know why.

Talking about people showing up, I’m plugging the reading event (with Kyra Jacobs, Julia Donner, TG Wolff, L.A. Reminicky, and me in Decature on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. again.  It’s hosted by The Next Page Bookstore and Monster Pizza.  Hope you can make it.

AND, it snowed today.  Just enough to let you know it’s cold outside.  So I hope you’re holed up inside and hitting the keys.  Happy writing!

 

P.S.  If you look up Anna Lee Huber on Goodreads and look at her reading lists, etc., she has a shelf of books she uses for research…in case you’re a history buff like someone I know who writes Regencies.

 

 

Borderline Illiterate

I went to the writers’ conference Magna cum Murder last weekend.  It’s a small, intimate feeling conference housed in the Columbia Club on the circle in Indianapolis.  The building’s old with that faded glamour of yesteryears that I love.  I didn’t learn any of the things I went for.  The panels were designed mostly for readers, so no panels on publicity or marketing.  I was hoping to hear how other writers and their publishers handled those challenges.  BUT, the conference was small enough to make it easy to meet fellow conference goers.  And the readers who attended read a LOT.

Some of them had attended the conference every year for 17 years.  They’d heard the majority of the international guests of honor and domestic guests of honor.  And the lists were impressive.  This year, they were Reavis Z. Wortham and Peter Lovesey, who sat at our table for the final lunch.  Previous guests were M.C. Beaton, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, and Mary Higgins Clark, among many others.  Most attendees could claim 10 years or more.  Only a handful of us were new.

One of the women I met there had recently retired and joined SIX mystery book clubs, 1 nonfiction book club, and 1 fiction club.  I asked how she kept track of everything she was supposed to read, and she said she stacked her books in the order of her meetings.  I was so impressed!  This year, I’ve been making a real effort to read one book a week, if I possibly can.  One lady I talked to zipped through one book A DAY.  And these people were well read.  They didn’t just read one sub-genre, though they had favorites.  They read thrillers, suspense, cozies, and PIs.  And they read outside of the mystery genre.

By the second day, I was beginning to feel borderline illiterate.  But then one of the attendees generously told me, “You’re spending your time writing instead of reading.”  What a kind woman!  Many people I met encouraged me to come back next year.  I sure enjoyed myself, but things have been so busy in my life for the last two years, I don’t feel confident making plans that far ahead.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed, though.  I wouldn’t mind spending another October at Magna cum Murder.

 

Conference weekend

When you read this, I’ll be in Indianapolis at a mystery conference, Magna cum Murder.  It’s been a LONG time since I’ve attended a conference, so I’m looking forward to it.  And I’m a little nervous.  I’ll be on two panels, and I haven’t done that for a long time either.  The last time I did a workshop was here in Fort Wayne with my writer friends M. L. Rigdon (Julia Donner), Les Edgerton, and Kyra Jacobs.  It’s always fun to talk writing with them.  Heck, it’s always fun to do anything with local authors I know.

I hope to learn a lot and come home energized with all kinds of new ideas swimming in my head.  Swimming is the right word.  After listening to panels for three days, my mind’s so full, it turns to mush for a while.  A few authors from Kensington whom I’ve never met will be there, too, one even has the same editor I have–the wonderful John Scognamiglio.

When I first got serious about writing, I tried to attend one writers’ conference a year.  Published authors pushed me to look at writing from a business angle.  They talked marketing and trends, things I didn’t think about that much when I first decided to try my hand at novels.  I’m constantly surprised by how generous other authors are with their hard-won experience and advice.  Eventually, though, after enough conferences, authors don’t go to learn new things.  They go to promote themselves and their books.  So I’m hoping to get better at that part of writing, too.

Even when I only sold short stories, though, I learned how wonderful readers are.  The very first time I was ever on a panel, readers came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the stories I had in WomenSleuth anthologies and Alfred Hitchcock magazines.  It’s hard to beat the joy of having readers like what you’ve written.

My first mystery for Kensington, THE BODY IN THE ATTIC, doesn’t come out until November 27, so I’m not expecting many people have read it yet.  Some have from NetGalley and the giveaway on Goodreads, but I doubt many of them will be at Magna cum Murder, so I’ll be pretty much an unknown quantity.  I had postcards made for my book with the cover on one side and an excerpt on the other.  That’s about all I could do this time.  But it’s exciting to get back into the mystery buzz again.

I should be having a good time when you read this.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend, too, and happy writing!

P.S.  I’m starting to post new chapters from a YA novel I wrote and never did anything with on my webpage.  It has a little paranormal element in it, but back then, I’d decided I’d rather write urban fantasy, so tossed it in a drawer.  If you go to my webpage to take a look at it, I hope you like it!