I’ve heard it said that cozy mysteries are constraining. These criticisms are then followed by a clarion call for authors to “push the boundaries” of the cozy mystery envelope to bring the subgenre into the twenty-first century. But, the things that some might consider constraining are probably the main reasons I like writing cozy mysteries. In order to understand the complaints, you must first understand what cozy mysteries are.
So, what is a cozy mystery? Cozies are mysteries that almost always feature an amateur sleuth in a small community. They also do not have excessive violence, no explicit sex and no bad language. Let’s start with the amateur sleuth. Not being a member of law enforcement, I find using an amateur sleuth to be a major benefit. I don’t have to understand police procedures since an amateur isn’t bound by any of those rules. My amateur sleuth can (and usually does) make mistakes and gets into situations that can create interesting problems. Setting cozies in small communities helps to limit the pool of suspects, which is another positive. Readers can focus on the main characters in the story rather than several million possible entities that can be a factor in larger areas. No excessive violence is another plus in my opinion. Even though, I write murder mysteries, I will admit to being a bit squeamish when it comes to the reality of murder. I much rather gloss over the gory details and get straight down to finding clues and figuring out whodunit. No bad language is probably one of the most fun “constraints” in cozy mysteries. Rather than spewing out expletives commonly used by sailors, I view this as an opportunity for creativity. It forces me to look for creative ways for my characters to voice their frustrations. Some of my solutions are quite humorous. And, no sex? Well, there’s nothing in the cozy mystery rulebook that says cozy characters can’t have sex. We just can’t write the scene.
As a cozy mystery reader as well as a writer, I feel the guidelines help set reader expectations. Readers know what to expect when they pick up a cozy mystery, and as a reader I appreciate not being surprised with graphic descriptions of violent crime scenes that will give me nightmares and keep me awake all night. I’ve received letters from readers ranging from ten to well into their nineties. It definitely makes me happy to share my love of mysteries with people from different age groups.
Lilly Echosby just witnessed a murder on a pet cam. Or did she?
When a last-minute opportunity arises to accompany her boss to an art auction in Atlanta, Lilly throws some money at the problem of where to board her toy poodle Aggie (short for Agatha Christie). Posh Pet Haven offers the most luxurious canine accommodations in all of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The place even provides pet cams so anxious owners can check in on their pampered pooches.
But when Lilly tries to take a peek at her poodle, she gets a terrible shock—she witnesses what she’s sure is a murder. She thinks the victim may be the wealthy co-owner of Pet Haven. The police follow her lead but find no body, no evidence of a crime, and no video record. Starting to feel like the dog owner who cried wolf, Lilly decides to go undercover to catch a killer who may be hiding in plain sight . . .
I have a hundred reasons for writing cozy mysteries—because I love reading them, because I like the comfort and humor they add to my life, because I enjoy inventing worlds in which things go awry and get righted again before the last page of the book.
A pleasure I didn’t anticipate was the joy of learning new things and meeting new people. In my second Ditie Brown Mystery Into the Frying Pan, Ditie’s old boyfriend turns up as a Civil War reenactor. Although I lived in the South for many years, I never knew much about Civil War reenactments.
With the generous help of a real Civil War reenactor, I learned what they were all about. I went to battlefields, talked to people, and watched two reenactments. There was a lot of noise and action in each, but nothing unexpected happened during the carefully planned battles. Naturally, I twisted that around in my book for more sinister outcomes.
My third book, A Fatal Food, to be released in 2020, led me to the wonderful town of Beaufort, South Carolina. It is steeped in layers of history and if you haven’t visited there you should. It served as the perfect milieu for a cooking contest and murder set in an antebellum mansion. I created a small town nearby called Veracrue, so no one in Beaufort would have to worry about a murderer on the loose. Continue reading “The Unexpected Joy of Writing Cozy Mysteries: Guest blog by Sarah Osborne”
First of all, I love reading cozy mysteries. I started out like a lot of others, reading Agatha Christie. One of my bookshelves is still taken up with lots of her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple novels. I even read my share of Tommy and Tuppence.
After I ran out of her novels, I discovered Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, Nancy Pickard and Carolyn Hart. I fell in love with M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth. I finally ventured into reading a few grittier mysteries—Barbara Hambly’s historical FEVER SEASON and Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST, among others, but when I’m in the mood to read just for pleasure, I turn to a cozy.
I like the feeling of a small world that they create—a small town, a village, a hamlet—a place where people know one another. I also like tripping over dead bodies instead of vividly watching the murder as it happens. I appreciate shock value occasionally. I just finished reading J.D. Robb’s first gritty futuristic mystery, NAKED IN DEATH, and being a voyeur can be fun sometimes. But again, when I want to curl on the couch and relax, I’d rather have all the gory details off-stage. Continue reading “Why I love writing cozy mysteries by Judi Lynn”
Writers write. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? My first short story was written when I was four-years-old. I used to think first drafts were all you had to write, that was it! Boy did I have a lot to learn. It’s probably why my early attempts didn’t go anywhere. Octavia Butler says: “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff. And then gradually, you get better at it. That’s why I say the most valuable trait is persistence.”
I totally agree!!!
Now that I’ve been writing for twelve years and teaching for the past six of those years, boy do I know that’s true. The more you write, the better you get. And after that first draft? You rewrite it. Usually five to ten drafts. Neil Simon in Neil Simon Rewrites really opened my eyes to rewriting. So did Jerry Cleaver in Immediate Fiction. It was his course that helped me revise my first novel, and it’s his course that I now own and teach in Chicago, with an online component soon to come. (Thewritersloft.com).
Here’s another tip: The less you worry, the better you write. Here is just a snippet of things I wrote before (and one after) becoming published:
Things I wrote before writing my first novel:
The Boy and the Mouse — Age 4 — Short story
First lines: “Oh boy,” said the boy. “A mouse.”
“Oh boy,” said the mouse. “A boy.” Continue reading “Things I Wrote by Carlene O’Connor”
One of the luxuries of being a writer is the ability to work from home. I have to admit that the Federal Express guy has caught me in my jammies before. And makeup? Nope. Not unless I’m going somewhere.
But the ones who really make the most of it are my cats and dogs. They assume that all humans stay home. And when I don’t pay attention to them because I’m writing, they test me. Each of them has a mission.
This is Baron, aka Sugar Bear. Baron was rescued from dog jail by Angels of Assisi. I’m so glad that someone recognized what a wonderful fellow he is. Baron thinks it’s his responsibility to get me outside and exercising. Every day he takes me for a walk, whether I want to go or not. His hobby is making sure I share all my food with him so that I don’t eat too much.
His youngest sister, TwinkleBelle, aka Twinkie, aka Tubby Twinkie, shares Baron’s interest in food. She’s so afraid I won’t feed them that she eats everyone’s food. After all, bowls that aren’t empty might not be refilled. Twinkie is on a diet, which does not make her happy. Did I mention that she’s a talker? Oh my, does she talk when she thinks she should be fed! Twinkie was rescued from a barn when she was only two weeks old! Her eyes weren’t open and they’re a little bit scarred. Fortunately, she can see very well. Continue reading “Writing With Paw-some Friends by Krista Davis”
Writing the Cozy mystery – why I love the genre.
As I write this blog, I’ve written 24 cozy mysteries. There’s something to the genre that makes me feel warm and comfortable. Like going home to grandmas and eating her oatmeal and raisin cookies. I love the endings where good conquers evil and misunderstandings clear up, and even bad relationships turn at least a bit for the good.
Community. Small towns where people say hi at the coffee shop even if they just told their best friend what a witch you are. Gossip flows from the old men having breakfast at the diner. And most of the town attends one church or the other. Which also leads to a bit of a competition on who’s worshiping the ‘correct’ way.
I grew up outside a small town. We lived on a farm but I had a lot of adult siblings that came home on Sunday’s to visit and have dinner. Food was big in my family. We didn’t have much but my mom put up everything she got. She canned, froze, jellied, and pickled all summer so we’d have food in the winter. I didn’t totally recognize the work she put in the preparation and storage of the food until I was out on my own. Pizza, tacos, and Chinese food were a treat and only happened when we went to the larger town twenty minutes to the west of our farm. Continue reading “Writing the Cozy mystery by Lynn Cahoon”
Words are powerful. Seductive, charming, gut-punching.
Cozy is a nice little word, isn’t it? Conjures up images of a crackling fire, a nice mug of hot cocoa or tea, curled up in an over-sized chair in your jammies, reading a good book. I don’t know about you, but it certainly doesn’t go with murder. Does it?
I do know one thing. We love opposites. Contradictions. There’s something delicious about the tough football player who secretly loves painting watercolors in his spare time. The femme fatal who graduates top of her class. The Clark Kent who turns in Superman. And, yes. A cozy mystery. What are the people in that sweet little town up to?
I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and before that Encyclopedia Brown. We like to trust our sleuths. We want them to be good people so we can root for them. We want to bring justice to death. We want a puzzle that delights us and characters who draw us into their colorful world. Continue reading “Writing a Cozy Mystery by Carlene O’Connor”
One of the great unexpected perks of writing cozy mysteries is that of forming new friendship. It happens in lots of different ways. Some I get to meet in person at events, and that’s truly wonderful.
And some come from my search for the one perfect pattern to include in the book I’m working on at that moment. In addition to finding patterns, I have found lovely people behind those designs.
Examples (just a few): While writing a holiday themed mystery, I was on the lookout for an ornament pattern that the seaside knitters could work on. I quickly fell in love with Linda Dawkins’ fanciful knit animals and toys on line. (Linda lives on a farm in South Africa with her family and lots of animals. Check her out on Ravelry) Being the generous soul she is, she sent me her a pattern for a sailboat ornament for the seaside knitters to hang on their tree.
For another book, a PhD student who designed knitting patterns as a break from studying, allowed me to use her ‘shipwrecked shawl’—renamed in the book and presented as a gift for Izzy on her wedding day. And in yet another book, a talented yarn shop manager in Kansas City agreed to design a wedding shawl afghan the knitters could work on for a wedding anniversary in the book.
And when I was looking for a ‘girl-sized’ pattern so Birdie could knit a sweater for her granddaughter, Cheryl Erlandson, owner of In the Loop yarn shop in Plainville, MA, designed the perfect one for Gabby. Continue reading “Knitting, Writing, and Making Friends by Sally Goldenbaum”
I enjoy doing many crafts, painting, gardening, and more, but one I’ve recently picked back up is quilting. I admit I had a strong motive, the arrival of my first grandchild, Laura. A momentous occasion, like a story, where a new character is brought to life, except in this special life moment, it’s the arrival of a precious little girl who has stolen my heart.
Until I started the process, I didn’t realize how much quilting and writing were in essence, cut from the same cloth. Like the fun of deciding upon a plot, I had a blast choosing a pattern and selecting various types of cloth. Then, as in researching the time-frame and preparing to write, I cut out numerous pieces of fabric, and set up my sewing machine. Similar to creating a hero and heroine’s journey, then came the time to place all of the sections together into a cohesive pattern and sew them together.
Except, what I hadn’t anticipated was that like crafting a story, where the characters dig in and I’m forced to alter the course of their journey that I had planned, at times the pattern that I had envisioned changed. Several times I ended up disassembling blocks, reorganizing them, then continue to piece the swaths together. Continue reading “Quilting & Writing ‒ Cut From The Same Cloth by Diana Cosby”