cozy mystery

The Courtagonist: Cozy Mystery YouTube Channel

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(3)

I’m really excited to be featuring an interview with Courtny from The Courtagnoist, a super fun cozy mystery YouTube channel. When I’m in the mood to procrastinate, I like to check out what Courtny is up to and what cozies she’s been reading lately. I always walk away with a ton of new books to add to my TBR list and a smile on my face.

Courtny is a huge cozy mystery fan and a great resource for cozy community (both writers and readers). Settle back, grab a cookie or two, and see what Courtny has to say about starting your own YouTube channel, writing her own cozy mysteries, and the scoop on her favorite cookie.

The Courtagnoist Screen Shot

Interview with Courtny

1 – What are your favorite things about cozy mysteries?

I love so many things about cozies! Where to start!?!? I love that you really do get to know the characters. They are all about creating a small town cozy feel. Of course we have the murders and the mysteries but we also having our heroic sleuth. One of the reasons that I love reading them so much is because I become tied to the characters! I love watching Katie Lightfoot grow in her magical abilities and figure out the whodunit in the Magical Bakeshop Mystery Series! Or I love watching Jules from The Peridale Cafe series grow in her relationship with Jess her adoptive daughter. It’s not just about the mystery, it’s about the characters too!

2 – Have you ever thought about writing your own cozy mystery? If so, what would your sleuth be like? What hook would you have?

Oh my goodness! This is a loaded question! Ha! I have thought about writing my own cozy mystery! Who hasn’t?! They are so much fun to read! I have started two cozies one is called Graded in Red (A Teacher in Trouble Series). The main character’s name is Maggie and she is a young woman who has to move back to her small town in Broken Bow, Oklahoma after falling in love with her married boss and finding that she isn’t who she thought she was. She moved back to start life over as a history teacher. This one is very close to home. Not the falling in love with her married boss! Get that out of your head! Ha! But the small town, I live in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and being a history teacher. I have my Masters in American Studies and was a history teacher before my current job.

The second book that I started was called Premonitions on Paper, The Psychic Librarian Cozy Mystery series. Amelia Buchard is starting over after ending a nasty divorce and finishing her Masters Degree in Library Sciences. With the blessing and encouragement of her Aunt Rachel, Amelia packs up her bags and her Australian Shepard Wesley and moves to Astoria, Oregon. A small town of 20,000 people and becomes the Head Librarian.

I’m not sure how well I’ve written them. I have always been great at writing research papers and things of that sort. But when it comes to writing fiction, I’m a little lost and A LOT self conscious.

3 – What inspired you to start your own YouTube channel?

To be honest my fiancé actually encouraged me to start my own YouTube channel! It was my very first summer off that I wasn’t in school myself and I needed something to do. I am not very good at sitting still or not having something to do. I was watching a lot of booktube and Aaron suggested that I start my own since I loved to read so much. I was super excited and sort of dived in head first! I never looked back and I have loved every second of it. The people I’ve met. The books I’ve been introduced to. It has been wonderful.

4 – What advice would you give someone who is thinking of starting a YouTube channel?

I would tell them to stop thinking about it! Do it! You never know how much you’ll like it until you try! It is okay to not have perfect shelves, the best lighting, or camera. I filmed on my iPhone for the first year in a half. I edited everyone on iMovie. Don’t go spend tons of money on the top of the line items until you know that this is something that you are going to want to do for years as a hobby. I just purchased a good camera.

5 – What’s on your cozy mystery TBR list? What books would you recommend to someone who has never read a cozy before?

Oh!!!! There are soooo many books on my Cozy Mystery TBR list! Where to start?! I am excited to read Spell Booked by Joyce & Jim Lavene, A tale of Two Kitties by Sophie Kelly, and Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien this month! With my Cozyopoly helping me pick out my Cozy TBR every month I am loving it!

For those that have never picked up a cozy before I would suggest Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander, The Peridale Mystery series by Agatha Frost, and Port Danby series by London Lovett. I have a couple of Top 5 videos for Beginners into Cozies!

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Hahaha! YES! Cookies are the absolute best! I would have to say that my favorite cookie is actually a No Bake Cookie! There is just something perfect about oatmeal, chocolate, and peanut butter all mixed together! It is the perfect cookie!

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Merl waddles in with a sombrero on applying sunscreen to his beak, “Are you ready to go?!”

I look up from my book, right eyebrow cocked in annoyance , I have less than 10 pages left and he knows not to interrupt a reader in their natural habitat.

“Almost. Let me finish! I’m only ten pages away! I think I know who the killer is!”

Shaking his head and giggling, “You always figure it out! One day there will be a mystery you can’t solve!” Merl grabs my rolling suit case and heads out to the car for our week long cruise on the cruise ship Pearl.

“I doubt that! Plus this is just fiction! It’s not like I will ever have to figure out a real mystery!” I holler as I finished the last page, satisfied that I did indeed figure out the whodunit.

Little did I know that fiction was about to become reality.

8 – What else would you like us to know about you?

I would love to become your friend! I love getting to know people and getting to talk about books! Don’t be afraid of reaching out to me! I am nice! I promise! Not scary at all! I’m probably more afraid to talk to you then you are of me!

About Courtny

IMG_5840 (1024x1024)Hello! My name is Courtny! I am a booktuber, bookstagramer, blogger, and more -er words. Haha! I am a very awkward person when it comes to introducing myself! *waves awkwardly* I started my booktube channel about two years ago. I realized that there was this whole world out there full of people who loved books as much as me. There weren’t a lot of people in my life that I could geek out over books with. I focus mainly on Cozies! There is just something wholesome, loving, and safe about Cozy Mysteries. I can’t get enough of them! I’ve always loved the idea of being a sleuth! A detective! A PI! A Slewfoot! Oh you know! I blame Harriet the Spy! Sherlock Holmes! Ms. Marple! Jessica Fletcher!

You can connect with Courtny on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website | YouTube or reach her via email at courtagonist@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for being on the blog, Courtny! Your no bake cookies sound delicious. Oatmeal, chocolate, and peanut butter is a wonderful combination. Keep working on your cozy mystery books. They sound great and I can’t wait to read them, especially the one set in Astoria, Oregon as I lived there for a while.

 

cozy mystery, Cozy Mystery Publishing, Reading, Writing

Cozy Mystery Podcasts & YouTube Videos

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(4)

I have something to confess. Just give me a moment while I gather up my courage. Here we go . . . I’m a procrastinator.

Not with everything, mind you. When it comes to eating chocolate chip cookies, I don’t  procrastinate that particular activity at all. But when it comes to things like preparing our taxes or doing laundry, that’s when my talent for putting things off for yet another day come into play.

One of my favorite ways to procrastinate is by watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts. I figure if they’re related to cozy mysteries than it really isn’t procrastination, it’s research, right?

What does your To Do List look like today? Are there a few things on there that you’d rather not do? If so, check out the links below and avoid those unpleasant tasks for a little while longer.

Self-Publishing Authors Podcast

This podcast is hosted by four indie Kiwi authors who share tips, resources, and honest advice. I lived in New Zealand for five years, so I love hearing these ladies’ accents. Takes me right back to my days sipping on flat white coffee and exploring this wonderful country from the water on our sailboat.

You’ll want to check out this interview with Sara Rosett, author of several cozy series, as well as the non-fiction book, How to Outline a Cozy Mystery.

Plum Deluxe Teas Podcast

Seeing as Plum Deluxe sells teas, it’s no surprise that they have a podcast interview with Laura Childs, author of the Cozy Tea Shop Mysteries.

It’s a Mystery Podcast

Alexandra Amor features interviews with mystery writers, including some cozy authors such as Elizabeth Spann Craig, Ellen Byron, and Vicki Vass.

Reedsy Bestseller Podcast

Reedsy’s podcast is targeted at aspiring authors with the aim of demystifying the process of writing and self-publishing a book. The second season features cozy mystery author, Bella Falls who shares the writerly journey behind her Southern Charms series.

Courtagonist

Courtny is the cheerful, upbeat host of this YouTube channel which features all things cozy mystery including book reviews, book hauls, read-a-thons, and unboxings. You also get a peek at her daily life through her vlogs.

Create a Story You Love

On her YouTube channel, Lorna Faith shares author interviews and inspiration to help writers write, self-publish and market their fiction and non-fiction books. You’ll want to check out her interview on how to write cozy mystery novels with Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Diane Vallere

Cozy mystery author, Diane Vallere, shares info on writing cozy mysteries, her books, as well as a look at what goes on behind the scenes on her YouTube channel. I was particularly interested in this video, where she talks about the writing process behind The Pajama Frame, one of the books in her Madison Night Mystery series.

Ellie Alexander (aka Kate Dyer-Seeley)

Ellie Alexander’s You Tube channel features videos on her series and the research behind her books, as well as her fun 5 Things Friday videos. I laughed out loud during this video when she reads some of the worst reviews she’s received.

Meet the Thriller Author

Alan Peterson hosts the Meet the Thriller Author podcast featuring interviews with thriller, mystery, and suspense writers, including cozy mystery authors including CeeCee James and Carolyn L. Dean.

Do you like to watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts? Please share any cozy mystery related links in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the list.

cozy mystery, Reading

What is a Cozy Mystery?

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Once upon a time, I shared seven reasons why you should read cozy mysteries, but I realized that I hadn’t explained exactly what a cozy mystery is. And I probably should because it’s a question I’m frequently asked once someone finds out that I’m a writer.

Often the person asking will get a blank look on their face when I say, “cozy mysteries.” I then follow up with, “You know, like Murder She Wrote and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.” They usually nod their head after that. Cozy mysteries might not be their cup of tea, but at least they now have an idea about what it is that I write.

If someone wants to dig deeper into what the cozy mystery genre is all about, I usually share some of the common themes or tropes:

1 – Cozies feature an amateur sleuth, as opposed to someone with professional credentials such as a law enforcement officer, medical examiner, lawyer, private detective etc.

2 – The sleuth often has a sidekick who helps her solve the murder. Notice how I said “her?” If you had to place a bet on whether the protagonist of a cozy you were about to pick up was male or female, I’d go with female. But, while the sleuths are often women, there are a number of great cozy series out there that feature male sleuths.

3 – One of my favorite things about cozy mysteries is the quirky supporting cast. I love getting to know the secondary characters over the course of a series.

4 – You’ll often find cozies have a small town or village setting. Everyone knows each other and everyone knows each other’s business. However, this isn’t always the case. I’ve read a few series set in large cities and I think it works just as well.

5 – One of the reasons I decided to write my own cozy mysteries was so that I could share them with my mother. And the only way I’d share my books with my mom is if they were clean and gentle reads. Otherwise, it’d just be too embarrassing. If there’s any sex, it’s usually implied and takes place behind closed doors. And violence is kept to a minimum. Sure, a murder usually takes place, but the author doesn’t dwell on the blood and gore of it all. You also won’t typically find naughty words.

6 – At their heart, cozy mysteries are puzzles with plenty of clues and red herrings for the reader to collect as they try to solve the mystery themselves.

7 – Cozy readers love series. They want to get drawn into the world the author has created, following the adventures (and misadventures) of the amateur sleuth and the supporting characters as they develop and grow over time.

8 – Most of all, cozy mysteries are fun reads. They’re a chance to escape for a little while from the realities of life. Why not ignore that pile of clothes that needs to be folded and those dishes that need to be washed for a little while. Run a bubble bath, pour a glass of wine, and relax over a good mystery.

Now, having said all that, I’ve been seeing some really interesting discussions as of late on some Facebook writing groups about the definition of cozy mysteries.

Is it okay to have some swearing? Can you have a little bit of steamier romance? Is there such a thing as an “edgy cozy”? Does your protagonist have to be an amateur? Do you have to feature a pet, hobby, craft, and/or cooking? Does there have to be a murder? And so on and so on.

It’s been really fascinating to consider what the boundaries of the cozy mystery genre are and how it has evolved over time.

What do you think? What are the do’s and don’ts of cozy mysteries for you?

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries

Writing Update: The Science of Legwarmers & Poisoned by the Pier

Poisoned by the Pier - Legwarmers

It’s time for a glass of wine. Or some cookies. Or some wine and some cookies.

I’ve finally finished writing the third book in my cozy mystery series—Poisoned by the Pier! It’s off to beta readers, then to the editor, with the aim of publishing it sometime this summer assuming all goes well.

Writing this one was a bit of a hard slog. I ended up deleting pretty much everything I had written in my first draft, then started rewriting from scratch. I envy those folks who are fast writers and can churn out a new cozy mystery every month or two. My process takes quite a bit longer.

I’m really liking how things have taken shape in my latest draft. I find myself chuckling out loud when I read certain sections. I know that talking to yourself isn’t a good sign. Does that hold true for laughing to yourself as well?

Mollie is up to her usual tricks in this latest installment—discovering dead bodies and sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. Mrs. Moto is also along for the ride as well. After all, she’s the best clue-finding cat in the business. And Scooter. . .well, let’s just say he has another hare-brained scheme in the works, one that involves legwarmers.

When we got to the main stage, there were hardly any chairs left. Wow, maybe Scooter had been right and marine products really were scintillating stuff. We snagged the last two seats, sitting next to Louise in the back row.

She was wearing a Trixie Tremblay inspired outfit. “Aren’t you hot in those legwarmers?” I asked. It was an unseasonably warm day for March and I was already regretting wearing jeans.

“Well, a little,” Louise admitted. “But, you can speed up your metabolism if you keep your ankles warm. It has something to do with the detoxification of your energy follicles. I don’t really understand how it all works, but science was never my strong suit.”

Wow, the science of legwarmers. And I thought I had heard everything.

I’ll keep you posted on when Poisoned by the Pier will be out. In the meantime, make sure to wear your legwarmers and keep your energy follicles detoxified.

 

Cozy Mystery Publishing

Cozy Mystery Cover Design: Interview with Mariah Sinclair

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Today, I’m featuring an interview with book cover designer, Mariah Sinclair. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, chances are that you’ve read a book with a cover designed by Mariah.

Cover design is such a critical element when it comes to marketing and selling your books.  I’m always amazed at how cover designers, like Mariah, can take images, fonts, colors, and other design elements, sprinkle their magic on them, and transform them into pieces of artwork that draw potential readers in.

Mariah offers custom designs and pre-made covers. I’ve also seen some cozy cover makeovers she’s done recently. It’s been interesting to see how she’s taken the original covers and design concepts and transformed them into something that really captures the fun, quirky nature of the cozy mystery genre. When it comes time to makeover my own covers, I’ll definitely be touching base with Mariah.

You can find out more about Mariah and see her portfolio on her website, check out her pre-made covers at The Cover Vault, join her Facebook group, or connect with her on Pinterest and Instagram.

But before you check out all of those links above, have a read below and find out what Mariah has to say about designing book covers, penguins, and cookies. She’s got some fun answers!

Interview with Mariah

Mariah Sinclair Covers
Some cozy mystery book covers designed by Mariah Sinclair.

1 – What inspired you to become a book cover designer?

Desperation? LOL.

I was a graphic designer/art director for ad agencies and magazines during the 1990s and early aughts, but took a 10+ year hiatus from design. A few years ago, I was earning my income by being a voice over artist. (Listen to an example of my voice over work here.)

Relocating from New Orleans to the Arizona desert dried out my voice  so I couldn’t do that type of work. I had to come up with another income—and quick. I hadn’t truly designed in a decade, but started playing around with digital art on deviant art. Stock sites (not as prevalent when I was a designer long ago), made designing so much easier!

I spent 6 months designing book covers on 99Designs to test the waters. While I DO NOT recommend contest sites for authors, it gave me a way to test my abilities, and research the market. When I learned over 3000 new titles are published on amazon daily, I decided it was a healthy market to jump into (and doesn’t require a sexy voice!)

2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries? 

The titles. I didn’t know cozies existed before I started designing book covers. The word play of the quirky, punny titles drew me in and I *had*  to design those covers. Without examples of cozies in my portfolio, I couldn’t attract any custom cozy work. I started creating cozy premades which meant I could add my own quirky titles! Cozies have become a sprinkling of joy in my business and I’m so thankful I discovered them.

3 – What do you like the most about being a book cover designer? What do you like the least?

I love that I am helping individual creatives achieve their dreams of publishing (and hopefully earning a full time income.) It’s wonderful helping indie authors reach success, instead of marketing corporate widgets. I also get to work from my couch with my cats sitting on my lap!

The hardest part is when an author requests changes that break graphic design rules. Many people don’t realize how many *rules* are involved with design— including many book cover designers because they were self-taught. As a traditionally trained designer, I know the rules. Sometimes an author request will require breaking design tenets which forces me to choose between customer service and good design. Customer service wins, but it’s sad when good design is sacrificed in the process. 

4 – What does a typical day look like for you?

I naturally wake up between 5:30-6:00. I’m thankful that I don’t have to wake-up with an alarm. I grab some coffee and settle into my spot on the couch to begin working. Facebook and some word games while I’m waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Then email and admin and then I start designing.

Lately I’ve been doing design sprints with fellow designer Sylvia Frost of The Book Brander. We work for fifty minutes and share our progress. It’s been so helpful when the procrastination/burn-out bug hits. I work in silence in the morning, but around 2pm, I take a tv break while I eat lunch. Then a hot bath. Sometimes I go back  to work in the evening depending on my work load. I’m in bed around 9-10pm every night. It’s a pretty boring life, but should get more exciting in the coming months, as I’m making some huge life changes. 

5 – What advice do you have for cozy mystery authors when it comes to cover design? 

Your cover doesn’t require a lot of tiny details. It’s better to catch the eye with a specific focal point and engaging title. In my opinion, the title is really important to cozies, more so than other genres, so show it off! Contrast creates readability. If you want a readable title, make sure the image behind the words is simple and even toned (I use the “sky” as the title background most often) and use a contrasting color/value for the title. 

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Asking for my favorite cookie is like asking about my favorite color— I love them all!— but a rich buttery shortbread with a dollop of homemade lemon curd is sublime. 

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Ha! My first thought was the penguin saying “Slide” (fans of Fight Club will understand that reference as seen on this YouTube clip).

 In the interest of not using a pop culture reference, my penguin would say, “Hey love, it’s time to travel the world.” 

8 – What else would you like us to know about you? 

I’m truly thankful for this opportunity to work with other creatives achieving our dreams. Being a part of the author community as been life-changing for me and I will be forever grateful. 

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Mariah! It was really interesting to find out that cover designers do sprints, just like we writers do. And shortbread is always a good cookie choice!

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Margaret Lashley

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Today, I’m featuring an interview with the funny, hysterical, hilarious, makes-me-laugh-out-loud cozy mystery author, Margaret Lashley. Yep, just in case it wasn’t clear, she cracks me up!

Margaret is the author of the popular and best-selling Val Fremden humorous mystery series. There are nine books in the series (plus a prequel), all with cute titles that play off of the numbers one through nine. When it comes to cozy mysteries, I do love a cute title, as I’m sure many of you do too.

One of the things I really enjoy about Margaret’s mysteries is the fact that they’re set in Florida. We currently live on our sailboat in southern Florida, I was born in Florida, and my cozy mysteries are set in Florida, so it’s always fun to read books that are also set in the Sunshine State. There are so many things I can totally relate to, like dealing with the insane heat.

If you could use a good chuckle, scroll on down and see what Margaret has to say about writing, penguins, and cookies. Then be sure to check out her books on Amazon.

Interview with Margaret

Margaret Lashley Covers

1 – What inspired you to write your books?

Besides the prospect of impending poverty, you mean? I think I was inspired to write my series because I couldn’t find very many books with fabulously quirky, middle-aged women in the lead.

I grew up in an era of strong women role models, such as That Girl, Laverne and Shirley, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the irreplaceable Carol Burnett Show. These women were out there pursuing their own dreams in their own unique ways. I don’t see much of that in fiction today. With my protagonist, Val Fremden, I wanted to create a character who was strong, yet vulnerable. She’s someone who hasn’t gotten her act all together yet, and probably never will. But who ever does? And we as women should know that it’s okay to not be perfect.

Val is a survivor who bears the scars of her hard journey proudly, with her own quirky coping mechanisms and sense of humor. The goal of my writing is always the same: To help readers remember to celebrate the everyday, the imperfect, and most importantly, the absurd. Laughter is the universal crud cutter of sorrow. And laughing at ourselves is the fastest way to self-love and acceptance.

2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?

The world is already overloaded with negative news. If someone wants to see gruesome, angry, spiteful, petty behavior, there’s a whole buffet out there on TV, radio, Facebook, etc. No thanks. What I love about cozy mysteries is that they offer a venue where I can escape this negatively biased world and disappear into one where everyone is good at heart – even if they hide it sometimes.

My Val Fremden mysteries don’t hinge around violence. Instead, usually something bizarre happens to Val, and impending hilarity ensues as she and her friends try to figure it out. Picture Bridget Jones in an episode of My Name is Earl. Currently, Amazon has no category for non-gory, humorous mysteries. So right now, the cozy mystery genre is where it’s at!

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I sacrifice a goat at the waxing of every blue moon. Or I wax a moon at the sighting of every blue goat. Whichever comes first. I’m flexible that way.

4 – What’s more important – character or plot?

No doubt about it: character.

The right character can make watching paint dry fun. But if you don’t care about the characters, no amount of plot will save you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that readers like to be taken by surprise – and to laugh and cry and dissolve into another world when they read. Nothing accomplishes that better than giving them a real, dimensional character they want to root for.

The Val Fremden books are all character-driven. Still, there’s plenty of crazy plot to drive them on. The cast of characters involved each have their great triumphs and cringe-worthy failures. They’re flawed and vulnerable and funny as hell. My stories draw laughs using a wide net – from twisted, dark family humor to slap-stick situational gaffs. Things don’t always turn out like the characters planned. But that’s what builds character in the first place – and makes life interesting.

5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?

I have to say, I truly love being an author. I’ve been writing since I learned the alphabet, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. When I die, I’ll probably be found buried under a pile of what I call my “Crazy Lady Notebooks” full of my wacky ideas and absurd musings on life. Hey…that sounds like a good idea for a plot….

I’m still over the moon every time I get that first glimpse of my next book cover or when I release my next book. And I’m in awe every time someone buys one of my books or leaves a review. The thrill never gets old. As a bonus, I get to create my own imaginary friends and have them do whatever I want. Uh…hello? What’s not to love about that?

What do I like least? Paper cuts.

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Pistachio biscotti.

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Penguin waddles up to me as I’m splayed out on a blanket on Sunset Beach:

Penguin: “Excuse me, Miss. You wouldn’t happen to know the way to Puerto Vallarta, would you?”

Me: “I don’t even know my way out of town.”

Penguin: “Oh. Well, that’s rather unhelpful.”

Me: “Thanks. Why did you want to go there anyway?”

Penguin: “For the margaritas and seafood.”

Me: “I’ve got a bottle of tequila and a can of sardines in my tote bag. Knock yourself out.”

Penguin: “You’re an excellent hostess.”

Me: “Yeah. I get that a lot. Hey! No pooping on my blanket!”

8 – What else would you like us to know about you?

I’m a comedian at heart. Writing allows me to perform my stand- up routine without being heckled or bombarded by rotten tomatoes.

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Margaret! Remind me to sit next to you at the beach. I do love a gal that always has a fully stocked tote bag. Although, if you could replace the sardines with chocolate chip cookies, that would be awesome.

About Margaret

IMG_1795Margaret Lashley is the best-selling author of the Val Fremden Mystery Series, including Glad One, Two Crazy, Three Dumb, What Four, Five Oh, Six Tricks, Seven Daze, Figure Eight and Cloud Nine. (Plus the stand-alone Val Fremden prequel novel, Absolute Zero.)

Featuring an extremely reluctant amateur sleuth in her mid-forties, each Val Fremden mystery is packed with laughs and plot twists you’ll never see coming. But the books also go deeper, exploring the ups and downs of being a woman, while mining midlife for all the laughs along the way.

Often compared to Janet Evanovich by her readers, Margaret Lashley’s books are similarly funny and upbeat, and offer a depth of character that will quickly have you rooting (and cringing) for Val all along the way.

Margaret is a native of Florida, and lives in sunny St. Petersburg.

From the Author: Like the characters in my novels, I haven’t lead a life of wealth or luxury. In fact, as it stands now, I’m set to inherit a half-eaten jar of Cheez Whiz…if my siblings don’t beat me to it. During my illustrious career, I’ve been a roller-skating waitress, an actuarial assistant, an advertising copywriter, a real estate agent, a house flipper, an organic farmer, and a traveling vagabond/truth seeker.

But no matter where I’ve gone or what I’ve done, I’ve always felt like a weirdo. As a child I lived in my own pretend world of tickling fairies and talking cats. I began writing when I found an ancient black typewriter on my grandparent’s back porch. (Inspired by my brothers, Boys are Stupid was my first masterpiece.)

I’ve traveled the world and learned a heck of a lot in my life. But getting to know myself has been my greatest journey. Today, I know I’m smart. I’m direct. I’m jaded. I’m hopeful. I’m funny. I’m fierce. I’m a pushover. And I have a laugh that makes strangers want to join me at restaurants. In other words, I’m a jumble of opposing talents and flaws and emotions. And it’s all good.

In some ways, I’m a lot like Val Fremden. My books featuring Val are not autobiographical, but what comes out of her mouth was first formed in my mind, and sometimes the parallels are undeniable. I drink TNTs. I once had a car like Shabby Maggie. And I’ve started my life over four times, driving away with whatever earthly possessions fit in my car. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that friends come from unexpected places.

You can connect with Margaret on her website, her Facebook author page, her private Facebook group (Val Talk), Goodreads, Bookbub, and Amazon.

Writing

Chocolate, the Ultimate Writing Inspiration

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More than one person recently emailed me an article which says that chocolate fights coughs better than codeine. This is the kind of science I like! I feel a coughing fit coming on—quick, pass the M&M’S.

Of course, I’m not sure what it says about me that people know I’d be interested in this kind of study. I guess I’ve developed a little bit of a reputation as a chocoholic. Okay, maybe a big reputation.

Chocolate inspires my writing in a significant way. Not only do I eat it while I’m writing, but my main character, Mollie McGhie, eats a lot of it while solving mysteries. Chocolate does help you think better, right?

Do you ever find things happen for a reason? I had been working on the next book in the series—Poisoned by the Pier—which has a sub-plot that revolves around Mollie’s husband going on an extreme diet. I was trying to figure out a way to work in a chocolate reference that Mollie could use along the lines of “science says chocolate is good for you” when I got sent a link to this study. Perfect! I figured out what scene to plug it into and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Now, if I could just find a study that says that chocolate is good for weight loss and my life would be complete.

Are you a chocoholic? What’s your favorite chocolate treat?

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Elizabeth Spann Craig

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Today, I’m featuring an interview with the bestselling cozy mystery author, Elizabeth Spann Craig. For those of you who enjoy reading cozies, many of you will already be familiar with her series—the Myrtle Clover mysteries, the Southern Quilting mysteries, and the Memphis Barbecue mysteries (under the name Riley Adams). She’s also at work on a fourth series—the Village Library mysteries—which I’m really looking forward to reading cause libraries and cozy mysteries go really well together, kind of like peanut butter and jelly.

Elizabeth is also well known within the writing community as a go-to resource on all things writerly. She publishes a helpful blog with general writing tips and tricks, as well as detailed posts on the ins and outs of writing and publishing cozy mysteries. She also curates writing links on Twitter and sends out a weekly Twitterific round-up.  And if that wasn’t enough, she also takes time out of her busy schedule to act as a judge for the annual Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) anthologies. (As an aside, submitting a short story to one of the IWSG anthology contests was how I got my start writing.)

So, without further ado, let’s get into it and find out what Elizabeth has to say about writing, cookies, and penguins.

Interview with Elizabeth

elizabeth spann craig books

1 – What inspired you to write your books?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s books, and then M.C. Beaton’s books (especially her Hamish Macbeth stories).  I’d always wanted to write and decided that it would be easiest for me to write cozy mysteries, since I enjoyed reading them so much. My first series was the Myrtle Clover series and Myrtle was a mishmash of different people…mostly my grandmother and her strength, razor-sharp mind, quick and intuitive impressions of people, and her clever sense of humor. I also incorporated my past experience of living in a small Southern town.  All the pieces were there and I just had to put them together.

2 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I never really know whether to call what I do in the morning a routine or a ritual!  I think it’s pretty much muscle memory and not cool enough to be a ritual.  I get ready in the morning, go downstairs, let the corgi out and feed him, fix some coffee (decaf, sadly, now) and then open my laptop and start writing. I’ve done it so often that it feels very natural and seamless.  But I’d rather say that I do something interesting like light a candle or meditate or read inspirational quotes!

3 – What’s more important – character or plot? 

Naturally, they’re both really crucial. But, as a reader, I’ve read plenty of books where I enjoyed the characters and wasn’t as interested in the story.  I rarely finish a book where the story is interesting but the characters aren’t.  So, for me anyway, character is more important than plot.  I also think that it’s easier to fix plot than characters. If you have your characters downpat, you’re in great shape.  If your plot isn’t any good, there are many resources out there to help you make it better. It’s tough to fix flat characters.

4 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least? 

The best thing about being an author is creating every day. Every day I get to wake up and make something.  It’s like living in Mr. Rogers’ “The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” We create these little worlds and their inhabitants. It’s a really exciting process, when you think about it.  As far as what I enjoy the least, I don’t think I’m alone in listing promo.  🙂  That’s why I make my promo efforts as subtle as possible. My strategy has always been to build connections and to create visibility through a consistently-updated platform.

5 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?” 

People don’t like cookies?!  Can’t imagine! I like chocolate chip cookies: mostly the chewy type and not so much the crunchy ones. But I don’t bake them myself.  Fortunately, there are people who specialize in that sort of thing and they work at the grocery store deli.  I’m terrible at baking.  I either get distracted, am too impatient to measure properly, or mess up some aspect of the chemistry involved in the process.

6 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you? 

I think he tells me that he took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.  And then he says that he has an idea for a book, but he wants me to write it.  He wishes he had time to write. And read.  And perhaps he’s curious where my ideas come from.

7 – What else would you like us to know about you? 

That I don’t get out much, but when I do, I’m collecting ideas for stories and characters. That I can promise  that doesn’t take a lot of time to write several books a year if you set your bar low and write consistently.  That I’m trying to read as much and as widely as possible because I’ve found that it really informs my writing, even though I don’t read the genre that I write. And that I have a really bad habit of trying to convince everyone I meet that they should try to write a cozy mystery because it’s so much fun. 🙂  So you’re lucky that you already write them, Ellen!  As for everyone else…why not give it a go?

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Elizabeth! I loved your answers, especially the one to the cookie question. I’m a big fan of chewy chocolate chip cookies too. 🙂

About Elizabeth

elizabeth-s-craig-white-background-me-787x1024Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the upcoming Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently.

She blogs at ElizabethSpannCraig.com/blog , named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.  She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine WritersKB.com. Elizabeth makes her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband.  She is the mother of two.  To receive a free ebook, updates, and recipes, sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/kCy5j .

You can follow Elizabeth on BookBub, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

2018 in Review | Launching a Cozy Mystery Series

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2018 was a big year on the writing and publishing front for me. I launched my first cozy mystery series—The Mollie McGhie Sailing Mysteries—in June with the publication of my debut novel, Murder at the Marina. In November, I published the second book in the series, Bodies in the Boatyard. And, I made good progress on the third book, Poisoned by the Pier.

Now that the year has drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to share what my first year as a published author looked like in numbers. But, before we dive into that, if you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out this post where I talked about the launch of Murder at the Marina in numbers.

Please be aware that I won’t be sharing the number of sales I made over the course of the year. Yes, I know, that’s the number some of you are quite interested in and I’m sorry to disappoint, but I just don’t feel comfortable disclosing that. However, there are lots of other numbers you may find fascinating below.

{Note: Not all percentages add up to 100% and some items show up as 0% in the charts below due to rounding.}

Sales Peaks & Troughs

The chart below shows the peaks and troughs of my sales over the year. No surprise that I sold the greatest amount of books when I launched the first book in my series in June, followed by the second book in November.

After my initial release, sales slowed down quite a bit. I started to experiment with ads (more about that below) which led to a slight increase in sales. The release of my second book led to a spike in sales, but nowhere near the level of my debut book. That’s not all that surprising due to the fact that I didn’t do nearly as much marketing with the second book as I did with the first. I also assume that some people who bought the first book did so because they wanted to support me and not because they’re cozy mystery fans, then found that it really wasn’t their cup of tea and didn’t go on to buy the second.

I did have relatively strong sales during December which I think can be partially attributed to holiday gift buying (sales of large print books increased quite a bit during that period).

The other thing to note is that the majority of my sales are for my first book, Murder at the Marina, which isn’t really a surprise as it’s been out longer and I direct more advertising and promotional efforts toward it.

Sometimes people often focus on how many books they sold rather than how much they earned, which I think is an important distinction. Selling a lot of books at 99 cents may be less profitable than selling fewer books priced at $3.99. For example, although I sold more books in November than I did in December, my earnings were lower in November because I discounted Murder at the Marina as part of a promo.

2018 Review - Units Sales by Month Chart

Sales by Format

While the majority of my sales are in ebook format (67%), paperback and large print editions make up a substantial chunk of sales (21% of my sales are large print and 12% are paperback). I’m selling far more print books now than I did when I first launched Murder at the Marina due in a large part to Amazon ads. I’ve found that it’s definitely worth the extra time and expense involved in formatting and publishing print books and it’s something I’ll continue to do.

I use Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute large print and paperback books, however the majority of print books that I sell is via Amazon.

2018 Review - Sales by Format Chart

Ebook Sales by Retailer

Because I decided to go wide rather than be exclusive to Amazon, I was quite interested in seeing what proportion of sales came from non-Amazon retailers over the year. While the bulk of sales were on Amazon (86%), I had some sales on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, and Overdrive. I’d like to continue to see this percentage grow and will be focusing more efforts on advertising and promotions targeting non-Amazon retailers.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Retailer Chart

Ebook Sales by Geographic Region

It’s no surprise that I sell most of my ebooks in the States (81%), but it’s nice to see sales in other countries as well. It’s pretty cool to know that people are buying my books in places like Japan and Brazil.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Country Chart

Experimenting with Ads & Promos

As mentioned above, I started experimenting with advertising in September and October, which accounts for the gradual increase in sales during those months. During that time, I focused on Amazon Marketing Services sponsored ads (AMS), primarily for my large print edition of Murder at the Marina. I set pretty low daily budgets and bid levels and was pleasantly surprised to find that they worked pretty effectively. I think this is in part due to the fact that not many cozy mystery authors advertise large print editions so there isn’t a lot of competition for keywords such as “large print” and “large print mysteries.”

I also played around with a few ads for the ebook and paperback editions, but didn’t have much success with them. For ebooks and paperbacks, I can’t bid high enough for Amazon ads to be cost effective (people with several books in a series can bid higher on ads for the first book in their series and recoup their costs through read-through to subsequent books).

In December, I ramped up my spending on AMS ads for the large print editions of both Murder at the Marina and Bodies in the Boatyard in the hopes of driving some holiday-related sales. That strategy seemed to have worked. It is a bit scary to see the advertising costs escalate, so I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve crunched the numbers and that the ads are more than paying for themselves.

I also started experimenting with BookBub ads for the ebook edition of Murder at the Marina, primarily on non-Amazon retailers. (Note: These are the CPC ads, not the feature deals). It’s still early days, but so far they seem to be driving a few additional sales. Nothing to write home about though.

Kobo promotions was the other area that I dabbled in. If you publish directly with Kobo, they have a handy tab on the author dashboard where you can sign up for promotional opportunities. During 2018, I participated in four promos. I didn’t see a huge amount of sales as result, but it was more sales than I would have made on Kobo otherwise.

How did 2018 go for you? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Are you interested in learning more about my cozy mystery publishing journey? If so, check out these posts:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400

Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon (US) |Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask you library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Cover 1000 x 1400 (2)

Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask your library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cozy mystery, Reading

7 Reasons to Read Cozy Mysteries

10 Reasons

People often ask me why I write cozy mysteries and I tell them it’s because I love to read them. I’ve been reading them in one form or another since I was a girl, if you count Nancy Drew as cozy mysteries, and continue to devour them to this day.

If you’ve never read a cozy mystery and you’re wondering why you should, here are seven reasons why I love cozies.

1 – They’re fast reads.

Cozy mysteries are generally shorter books. A typical novel-length cozy might be anywhere between 60,000 – 75,000 words. Cozy novellas are quite popular these days as well and they’re much shorter (perhaps between 20,000 – 30,000 words). Compare that to an epic fantasy which usually comes in well over 100,000 words and you can see the appeal when you’re looking for a fast read.

2 – It’s a chance to escape.

The world is crazy these days. The news is scary. Life can be downright depressing at times. Sometimes, you just need to escape into another world with a good book. Cozies are typically fun, clean reads—no gruesome violence, generally no swearing, and sex is just hinted at (if it takes place at all). When you pick up a cozy mystery, you know what you’re getting. Light some candles, run a bubble bath, pour a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate, relax, and enjoy your escape from the real world for a while.

3 – You get to solve a puzzle.

Cozy mysteries are just that—mysteries. Which means you get to try to figure out who did it along with the sleuth. You might not always guess correctly, but it’s fun to note the clues and red herrings, consider the various suspects, and think about motives and alibis.

4 – Learning about new things and places.

The amateur sleuths in cozies often have an interesting hobby or occupation, something you may have no experience with, or live someplace you’ve never visited. For example, I share my experiences living on a boat in my cozy series. I love learning about new things and places, especially from the comfort of my armchair. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll take up llama husbandry or glass-blowing.

5 – A satisfying ending.

Everyone likes to see the bad guy get caught, right? When you pick up a cozy, you know that justice will be served. Finishing one of these books is always so satisfying—the mystery is solved, good triumphs over evil and all of the loose ends are tied up.

6 – Characters you want to spend more time with.

Cozy mysteries are usually part of series, not stand-alone books. And there’s a good reason for this—you end up loving the characters and can’t wait to read the next book and see what happens to them. Personally, I love cozies that are chock-full of quirky characters that make me laugh out loud. It’s fun to see how they develop over the course of the series.

7 – They go well with chocolate.

I’m assuming everyone knows this already, but just in case, let’s just talk about how well reading a cozy mystery goes with nibbling on some chocolate. Or nibbling on some cookies, or candy, or a piece of cake, or two pieces of cake, or the whole darn cake because no one is around to see you. . .well, you get the idea.

So go on, if you haven’t read a cozy mystery before, now’s the time to grab one and try it out. Just make sure you stock up on some chocolate first.

If you’re interested in checking out my cozy series—the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries—check out the links below.

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon (US) |Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask you library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Cover 1000 x 1400 (2)

Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask your library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.