For a Jazzi and Ansel

I’ve started working on The Body in the Buick, Jazzi and Ansel #8. When I wrote the straight mystery, I concentrated on the Midlife Murderer and his crimes, plus a romance subplot…and trying to keep enough tension in the story. When I work on Jazzi and Ansel, I try to juggle a few more elements.

In each book, I choose a house for them to flip and I renovate rooms as the mystery progresses. This time, Ben, one of Jerod’s friends, buys a round barn that he wants to convert into a home. He gets it for cheap, but the project will be expensive to pull off. I didn’t think about it, but most barns have dirt floors. That means Jazzi, Ansel, and Jerod will have to jack up the building to pour a foundation under it. Time for me to do research! The frames of most barns are old and warped, so they’ll have to build a new one, and put on a new roof. Electricity, plumbing, and HVAC are nice to have. And that’s just the basics. They’re going to keep busy.

Jazzi loves her family and friends, so invites them to a Sunday meal every week. I enjoy catching up with them, seeing what her parents, sister, and the others have been doing. But Jazzi’s always in charge of the entrĂ©e, so I have to decide what she’s going to make. Which means I need to think about food and recipes for each book. Something I enjoy, since I love to cook.

I like the characters to advance as time passes. And yes, I include George and the two cats in that category. Interests people share at twenty change when they get closer to thirty. In their twenties, they’re dating and getting married. They’re plugged into their careers and buying houses. Closer to thirty, they start thinking about having kids. Do they want them or not? In book 7, Elspeth got pregnant. That made Ansel want a baby even more. At the end of the book, Jazzi threw her birth control pills in the trash and Ansel started taking her temperature every morning.

Then, of course, the main thing I have to think about in each book is the mystery. Jerod’s dad, Eli, is a mechanic and owns a garage that specializes in foreign cars and high-end models. When one of his mechanics is found dead, tossed in the trunk of his antique Buick, Eli asks Jazzi and Ansel to find out what happened to him and who killed him.

You’d think with the four elements for each book, it would be a cinch to avoid a soggy middle, but it’s something I always have to face. But trying to balance all four things sure helps. I didn’t have that luxury in the straight mystery, but I got to kill more people:) That helped, too.

I’m going to be busy for the next few months, pounding the keys and plotting. Hope the rest of your year flies, too, and it’s all smooth sailing. Happy Writing! (Or Reading). (Or whatever you’re up to).