Category Archives: romance

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!



Historical Fiction

My husband reads lots of nonfiction, especially history and biographies.  I, on the other hand, love a book with a historical background, but I prefer fiction.  I want a plot, a story, with a sense of a time period.

Right now, I’m reading the second book in Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series, MORTAL ARTS.  Set in Scotland in 1830, it’s a mystery–a little on the dark side–with the feeling of English lords and ladies with a bit of Gothic thrown in.  I’m a fan.

I recently read Mae Clair’s END OF DAY, with a present day mystery linked to a heinous event that happened during the founding of Hode’s Hill in 1799.  The chapters from the past added depth and gravity to a curse that’s released when Gabriel Vane’s remains are stolen from the town’s old church yard.  Those scenes from the past were vivid and emotional.

Another author I return to with every new book she writes is my friend Julia Donner/ M.L. Rigdon.  I love her Regency romances.  They take me back to my love of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.  But she’s started a new historical Western romance series, and I love those books every bit as much.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the first book in her Westward Bound series, AVENUE TO HEAVEN, is available now on a Goodreads giveaway.  100 lucky winners will receive an e-book copy of her book.  Here’s the link:  And here’s a tiny tease about her book:

Mary Lou's Avenur to Heaven twitter post

Hope you have a great week and Happy Writing!

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: )

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!

For Better or For Worse

My HH (handsome husband) and I celebrated our anniversary in August.  47 years together, and we still like each other.  A few of the couples we get together with have already hit the big 5-0.  When our friends got married, they signed up for the long haul.  It didn’t work out for a couple of them, but it’s not because they didn’t try.

I always say that I’m not an especially romantic person.  HH is.  He loves to buy me flowers, loves it when he finds jewelry he thinks I’ll like.  (I can only wear rings anymore.  Metal makes my skin itch and swell.)  He buys cards that drip with sentimentality.  Me?  I love to cook for him, to see him happy.  But mushy?  It’s not in me.  When I wrote romances, though, it was fun watching two people who were drawn to each other work to get it right.  There were missteps, of course, and false starts, but by the end of the book, they’d worked things out.  And they only had one book to do it in.  Each novel had to end with a happy ever after.

Now that I’m writing a mystery series, I can take more time.  In Body in the Attic, Jazzi and Ansel work with each other.  He has a live-in girlfriend, but when she says Jump, she expects him to ask How high?  Ansel’s an easy-going guy, but he has his limits.  And Emily pushes them.  When she finally pushes him too far, Ansel’s a free man.  And a drop dead gorgeous one, too.  At six-five with white-blond hair and blue eyes, he’s one of Norway’s best exports.  By the end of the book, (and this won’t ruin any great surprise), he and Jazzi move in together.  He wants to get married.  She wants to wait.  She thinks she’s just the rebound girl, and after he licks his wounds for a while, he’ll move on.  But, hey, in the meantime, why not have a little fun?

If you’ve read Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series or Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson novels, you know that it takes a few books for the hero and heroine to finally get it together.  For a lot of readers, once the protagonist and her love interest make it official–one way or another–the stories get even better.  It’s fun to see them working as a couple.  But not for everyone.  For some readers, making the two a couple takes the edge off both of their personalities.  To each, his own.  But for me, endless flirting and misunderstandings get on my nerves.  I get tired of the mating ritual and want them to get it right or move on.  But then, as I said, I’m not a romantic.  And I guess I’m not all that patient either:)  But throwing Jazzi and Ansel together was fun.  And I don’t have to resolve everything in one book.  I have more in the series to go . . .

Happy writing, everyone!


Chapter 35’s up

Chapter 35

Wouldn’t you know it?  Just when things opened up for him, Randie was busy.  When Lucas got off work on Monday night, he called his brother, Dylan.  December had started out mild, not even the hint of a snowflake.  But it never lasted.  The weatherman was predicting two inches of the white stuff later this week, which reminded Lucas that Christmas was right around the corner.

“Don’t know about you,” Lucas said, “but I haven’t bought the kids’ Christmas presents yet.  Want to come with me to shop for them, and then we can grab something to eat?”

“I just got home.”  Dylan sounded rushed.  He must have just walked through the door.  “Give me a minute to change before you pick me up.”

“See you soon.”  Lucas spent a few minutes playing with Hercules, tossing and tugging on his braided rope, before feeding him and heading to Dylan’s apartment.  The chihuahua hated it when he came home and then left a short time later, but Lucas wouldn’t make this a late night.  He and the dog would be on the sofa, watching TV in the early evening.

It was only a fifteen-minute drive to Dylan’s.  His brother lived in an apartment complex close to Toby.  The real reason for him living there, though, was the nearby city park.  Dylan loved being outdoors and in Nature.  Lucas had tried to talk him into buying a piece of property outside of the city, but Dylan had decided it would be too lonely.  In the city, he could walk nature trails and still be around people.  Not that he’d ever interact with them.  He might like to see other people, but he tended to avoid them.

Dylan’s apartment felt claustrophobic to Lucas, but his brother rarely spent time there.  He was usually out and about, alone.  Lucas often wished that Dylan would find his Miss Right, someone who was as warm and caring as he was, but who enjoyed solitude.  He had no idea how that could happen, though, when he mostly kept to himself.

When Lucas pulled in front of Dylan’s apartment, his brother walked out the door, pulling on his wool coat.

“Getting colder,” he said.  “Supposed to get snow later this week.”

“Got anything in mind to buy the kids?” Lucas asked.

“Dulcey told me she’d bought them a few big things, and she was hoping we’d buy a lot of stocking stuffers and small things for them to open.”

With a nod, Lucas headed to the outdoor mall on the southwest side of town.  There were a few stores that would have toys.  The bookstore was there, too, and he thought he’d buy them a few books and some puzzles and games.  On the way, it occurred to him that he’d like to buy Randie a present, too.  Not jewelry.  That was too serious.  And no candy or flowers.  Too mushy.  And then he thought of it.  She talked about cookbooks with reverence.  There was a new one she wanted but hadn’t bought yet.  He’d buy her that, along with a few cooking magazines.

Dylan startled him out of his thoughts.  “I met a really nice woman today.”

Dylan?  A woman?  “Where?”

“I’m plumbing this new house—a huge place—and the owners hired Amelia to paint three murals on the walls.  She came to see the spaces and take measurements.”

“How old is she?”  He shouldn’t get his hopes up.  Amelia was an older name.  Maybe she had gray hair and eight grandchildren.

“Early thirties?  She has this short, sandy-colored hair that bounces around her face like little springs.  It looked like if you pulled on one, it would curl right back again.”

When had Dylan ever described a woman’s hair before?  “Is she nice?”

“She almost felt other-worldly, like she didn’t see things the way the rest of us do.”

“Is that a good thing?”

Dylan smiled.  “I liked it.”

“Would you ever ask her out on a date?”  He was treading on thin ice, but he could at least throw the idea out there.

“A date?”  Dylan looked startled.  “No, but we’re going to meet by the big sycamore tree at the park.  Amelia’s never been there and she wants to see it.  She paints and sells a lot of nature scenes.”

“So, she probably tromps around as much as you do?”

“She goes out every weekend to take pictures of different things that strike her fancy.  Then if they tug at her, she paints them.”

“Every weekend, huh?  She must be single.”

“I guess so.”

Lucas ticked things off in his mind.  Curls.  An artist.  Single.  “You’ve gone to a lot of odd places to hike. I bet you have some ideas she could use.”

“We talked about that.”

Lucas decided to leave it alone.  If he pressed too much, he might scare Dylan off.  They moved on to work topics before he pulled into the entrance to the mall.  They spent the next hour and a half shopping.  When they finished, Jordy and Beth would have lots of things to unwrap under the tree and some fun gifts in their stockings.  Lucas was especially happy with yoyos that lit up when you used them.  And he’d have a present for Randie he thought she’d like.  He’d ended up buying her four cookbooks and as many food magazines.  She’d told him she loved to flip through recipes.

They stopped at Five Guys to buy a quick burger before Lucas drove Dylan home.  When he finally got back to his own place, he was feeling pretty satisfied with the world.  Nothing might come of Dylan meeting Amelia, but then again, it might.

He and Hercules settled on the sofa, content to watch mindless TV and chill together.  He wouldn’t see Randie again until Sunday, but after that, they both had some free time.  Soon, school would be out and she wouldn’t have to get up to go to work in the mornings.  He usually had down time the week before Christmas, too.  People didn’t schedule repairs when their kids were home for the holidays, and any new building projects could wait.  If he played his cards right, maybe he could talk her into spending the night.