Welcome to my blog!

This is where I share love of classic mysteries, my work as a mystery writer, random stuff, and a bit about my dog. Do you love sleuths, detectives, clues, and puzzles? If so, you’re in good company. I love comments, so please feel free to add your thoughts, follow me on social media, or just browse around. 🙂

Agatha Raisin

20170119_154253After a recommendation from another mystery fan, I’m reading my very first Agatha Raisin.

M.C. Beaton’s storytelling is smooth and enjoyable, but I haven’t quite clicked with Mrs. Raisin herself. The character is funny, yes, but she’s also a bit grumpy, petty and even rude.

Still, the expansive series has a huge following, so I won’t give up. I might find myself in the fan ranks before the end.

Romantic Mysteries

20161121_081514I’m not a particular fan of the romance genre, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a mystery that just happened to have a splash or romance, provided that the mystery itself was compelling, puzzling, and downright exciting.

By the way, since classical or “traditional” mysteries omit overt sex, I’m really only talking about subtle romance — not the racy stuff that makes you blush and hide your book cover when you’re in public.

For those of you who read Agatha Christie, (and I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t) you know that the Queen of Crime often laced a bit of romance in her books. In fact, several of her stories end with a solved murder and a couple in love. So in short, a little romance with my mysteries great, but there better be a clever crime to solve!

The Tugboat Murder: a novelette

photos-from-jennifers-phone-087When my editor and I finished working on my first book it disappeared into the design process I began to wonder how I could help mystery fans decide whether or not my work fit their interests. After all, there so many types of mysteries, and I don’t want anyone spending their time or money on books that aren’t actually their style.

To that end, I wrote a 15 thousand word “mini mystery,” called The Tugboat Murder. It’s a single mysterious murder and the whole story takes place over a weekend. More importantly, it will give curious mystery lovers a chance to sample my storytelling. It will soon be available, free and in its entirety, on the Barking Rain Press website.

Book Cover Art

photos-from-jennifers-phone-011I’ve just reviewed 2 more artist’s concept sketches for my upcoming book. Originally, I thought THE HATBOX MURDERS would be an easy cover. After all, it’s got two main characters, a hatbox, and it’s set in the 1950s.

But each sketch goes in a completely different direction from what I had been imagining. They’re unexpected but also very cool, and I can can only guess what the finished art will look like.

At the end of the day, I’m neither the artist nor the publisher, but it will be fun to see what Barking Rain Press and the artist come up with for my book! I love the old covers for Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers, but I’m not sure if they would fit the contemporary mystery market. Here’s the Pinterest board I’ve created for Mystery Retro Book Covers: http://pin.it/J0RjENY

Advanced Readers Copies

photos-from-jennifers-phone-019-2Sometime this month, I should receive ARCs from my publisher. It will be the first time I see the Hatbox Murders in print — if you don’t count the half dozen times I printed the book loose-leaf at staples so I could edit the whole thing before showing it to anyone. This time, everything will be (should be) polished and presentable.

If I’ve learned anything from the book industry so far, it’s been that publishing keeps its own pace, and that pace isn’t committed to speed.

So, I’m waiting patiently, but I’m very excited.

A mystery by any other name…

20161204_114917How does one describe a mystery genre? 5 or 6 years ago, when people used to ask me what I write, I would tell them I wrote mysteries. I would often have to explain that, no, I didn’t write thrillers, horror, or medical suspense. I wrote more old-fashioned mysteries, more like Agatha Christie’s stories. Classic whodunits, with a fairly small cast of characters, a clever sleuth, a charming location, and nothing too offensive or graphic. You know; just fun, old-fashioned murder mysteries.

Until one day, someone nodded knowingly and said, “Oh, you write cozies.”

Cozies, I learned, are a subgenre of mystery where the sex and violence happened “off stage,” and the primary focus is on solving the “puzzle” of the crime. So far, so good. I did some research. Stephen D. Rogers (who knows his stuff) even wrote that cozies are “typified by Agatha Christie.” Brilliant. My books apparently had found a home; they were cozies.

But it’s not that simple.

With two completed books, I boldly went to my first writers’ convention. And a prominent agent (who also knows her stuff) promptly informed me that my books were not cozies. Her explanation was that cozies absolutely must have an amateur sleuth (sorry Poirot!) and even though I have an amateur sleuth in my character, Victoria, the presence of the handsome Inspector Riggs disqualifies my books from using the cozy title.

I did a little more research and while I couldn’t find a universal definition, most people in the cozy-loving world seemed to agree (more or less) that cozies should: 1) balance the protagonist’s personal story with the mystery, 2) contain a cat, dog, or some other adorable animal, and 3) should not contain more than two victims per book. That’s 3 strikes for me. (But only 2 strikes if you happen to consider seagulls “adorable”).

Maybe genres evolve. Maybe it’s a great big world of mysteries and we don’t always define genres the same way. That’s okay. As long as we get to read what we love.

These days, if you ask me what I write, I’ll say I write mysteries. They’re historical because they’re set in the 1950s. They’re traditional because you’ll need to sort through clues and red herrings to solve the puzzle of the crime. They’re detective mysteries because, they usually have a detective somewhere. You know, just fun, old-fashioned murder mysteries.

You can read Roger’s excellent article: From Cozy to Caper: a Guide to Mystery Genres at http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/genres.shtml. For further complications on the exact definitions of the various mystery subgenres, just ask anyone.

blogging pains

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Years ago, and I’m talking roughly 2007, I kept a blog at blogspot. I found it more or less intuitive and fairly straightforward. It was my own little experiment and I didn’t expect much. I didn’t get much either, and that was fine. This time around is another story. For some reason, this site has been a steady source of frustration. In the fine tuning process, I’ve accidentally deleted posts, pages, and even some comments from strangers who were nice enough to encourage me. Woops. To myself and the world, if you’ll please just give me time, I’ll figure it out.

UPDATE: 2 months later and I’m finally getting this thing down. It may not be perfect (ever) but it’s a lot closer to what I had in mind. As always, persistence counts.

Last sunny day this week

20161221_162744The change won’t stop.

We’ve had lots of rain in the last few weeks. But there’s still enough sunshine to go around. Whether it’s sunny, cloudy, or pouring, I always find nature and seasons inspiring.

I’m currently reading two mysteries for fun (a Rex Stout and an Agatha Christie) and I’m outlining book #4 in my Elliott Bay series while going over book #2 with my editor.

Lots of plots, work, and fun. So here’s to the ever changing-weather which helps me stay on top of it all.