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Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Adriana Licio

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This is the part of series of interviews with writers who are new to cozy mysteries. Some of them are established authors who have published in other genres. Others are in the throes of writing their very first book and planning its publication. It takes me right back to the start of my own writer’s journey before I hit the scary “publish” button with my first cozy.

Today, I have an interview with Adriana Licio, an Italian author who is getting ready to launch her first cozy mystery seriesThe Italian Village Mysteries. One look at the cover of the prequel to the series—And Then There Were Bones—made me want to drop everything, hop on a plane, and travel to Italy. Minus any dead bodies of course. By the way, if you want your own FREE copy of Adriana’s prequel, you can find all the details below.

So grab yourself a beverage and a snack, settle in, and find out more about what she has to say about writing, penguins, and cookies.

1 – What inspired / motivated you to write cozy mysteries?

On my bookshelves, beside classics and travel literature, you’ll mostly find mysteries Christies and cosies in particular. In fact, there are so many things in the genre that appeal to mea good mystery with little violence, no gore, a glimpse into a community’s way of life,
quirky characters, and… gossip! I love a happy ending, and I don’t like cynicism of any kind. I adore heartwarming stories, exploring the problems we all experience in daily life with a healthy dose of humor, since I’m a firm believer in the power of a good laugh. In what other genre can you find all the above?

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

The community aspect – the fact that beyond the mystery, there’s a whole village or town with its army of characters. Reading a good cozy mystery, you learn about a place, its culture, habits, food, so the mystery, which has to be intriguing with a few good twists, never occurs in a vacuum.

3 – What stage are you at in your writing and publishing journey?

I’ve just launched my website, and it’s a very exciting moment since I will connect with my readers for the first time. On subscription, readers will receive a free e-copy of And Then There Were Bones, a homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and the prequel to my An Italian Village Mystery series. It’ll be the first time readers in general will get the chance to read a book of mine, which is both exciting and scary. So far, people who’ve read the book have been generous with their enthusiastic comments and encouragement, mostly asking me when the series will be out, which is a good sign.

In the autumn, my first two full-length mysteries will be available on Amazon. My editor is currently checking through book one, Murder on the Road, one more time before it goes to my proofreader. I’ve already written book two, A Fair Time for Death, and put it through its first round of editing. It’s now taking a rest, before the serious business of self-editing and professional editing starts in earnest.

4 – What are you most excited about in terms of publishing your first cozy? What are you nervous about?

The idea that people in a small town in the United States, or in remote parts of Australia or India or New Zealand might turn the pages of my books is simply exhilarating. That’s the reason why I accepted the challenge to write in English and not in Italian, my native tongue. English is a global language; it’s a doorway to the world. And we’re lucky to live in times where publishing our own work as indie authors is possible.

I love and fear technology at the same time. What if I don’t manage to upload my book to Amazon properly on launch day? I’m sweating, beating my fists frantically on my PC, then the whole thing explodes…

But hey, I’m in my bed! It was just a bad dream.

5 – Tell us about the cozy mystery you’re currently working on. What’s your sleuth like? Where is it set? Do you have a hook?

My heroine is feisty travel writer Giò Brando. At the age of 38, she comes back to her hometown in Southern Italy, devastated after breaking up with her fiancé just 30 days before their wedding was due to take place. Hoping for peace, quiet and family life, she stumbles on to… a corpse!

Apparently, a falling rock killed a woman as she parked her car. But, was this tragic accident really an accident? And was the woman, PA for a powerful local man, the intended victim?

The setting is Maratea, a quaint little village on the Mediterranean coast, which is a real place I visit every time I need peace of mind. Its spectacular wild beauty, with vertical rock walls plunging into the waters below, never fails to remind me that life is far more than the daily rush or occasional grump.

Tapping into her adventurous nature, Giò looks for clues among the gossips that abound in this quirky Italian village, her quest for the truth regularly taking her into the local cafes and bars, and her sister Agnese’s perfumery. Here, customers come and go with their unique problems and pains, some touching, others laugh-out-loud funny, knowing that Agnese will advise them on the right perfume to use at the perfect time. Not easy, maybe, but still much easier than keeping her impetuous sister Giò from nosing around and putting herself into real danger…

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?”

It’s not exactly a cookie, more of a pastry called bocconotto and it’s a specialty of Maratea. You can try them in a local shop where the fragrant treat is served hot, straight from the oven. There’s a whole range of fillings to choose from – I prefer the sour cherry version, but I’m guessing Mollie would lead you straight over to the chocolate one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mollie she’s referring to is the main character in my cozy mystery series and she does have a serious obsession with chocolate. I do too. I wonder where she got it from?

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

The poor wee one is wearing a sombrero to protect himself from the summer heat of Maratea. But what is he holding in his hands? It’s a Nativity scene musical box, and he’s here to remind me that I need to go to Christmas Land and finish that novel of mine.

Where had I got to in the story? Well, there’s an old Irish tune being played in an ancient Christmas crib; a lonely mother and daughter landing in Maratea; books disappearing from the local library only to reappear a few days later; and Giò trying to make sense of it all. Have you got all that? No? I’d better don my mittens and scarf, ready to follow the penguin, then.

Oh, hold on a minute, Ellen has one more question for me. Of course, I’ll answer that before I go. What did you want to ask, Ellen?

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

I’m never too good at talking about myself, despite being a writer. Such a shame, I know. But I’d love to invite readers who like cozy mysteries in stunningly beautiful settings to come over and get to know my corner of Southern Italy through my free e-novella, And Then There Were Bones. And then let me know their frank opinion of it! It’s an exclusive gift on subscription to my newsletter – the terrific Maratea Murder Club.

[Adriana waves farewell to Ellen and her readers and follows the impatient penguin to Christmas Land. Bye-bye, summer.]

About Adriana

Adriana, who lives in Southern Italy, is the author of the upcoming series An Italian Village Mystery. She resisted writing as long as she could, but one day she found an alluring blank page and the words flowed in the weird English she’d learned in Glasgow.

She loves loads of things: traveling, reading, walking, good food, small villages, and home swapping. She runs her family perfumery, and between a dark patchouli and a musky rose, she devours cozy mysteries. Adriana finds peace for her restless, enthusiastic soul only when walking in nature with her golden retriever Frodo and her hubby Giovanni.

You can find out more about Adriana on her website: adrianalicio.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, you can download your free e-book And Then There Were Bones, chat about cozies, and receive a map of Maratea and Giò’s photo album of her favorite places by subscribing to her newsletter at: www.adrianalicio.com/murderclub

Thank you so much for being on the blog today, Adriana! Your new series sounds wonderful. And I can’t wait to get to Italy soon and try one of those cookies.

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: V.L. McBeath

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This is the part of series of interviews with writers who are new to cozy mysteries. Some of them are established authors who have published in other genres. Others are in the throes of writing their very first book and planning its publication. It takes me right back to the start of my own writer’s journey before I hit the scary “publish” button with my first cozy.

Today, I have an interview with V.L. McBeath who is launching her first cozy series—Eliza Thomson Investigates. Grab a drink and a snack, sit back, and read what V.L. has to say about writing, penguins and cookies.

VL McBeath Image 1

1 – What genres have you previously published in? What inspired you to start writing cozies?

My first foray into publishing was with a historical family saga set in Victorian-era, England.

The thing was, when I started writing I had no intention of being a published author, it just sort of happened. The work was a passion project based on several years’ research into my family history. It turned out that my ancestors had quite a story to tell and I ended up writing a five-book series with a short story prequel, (The Ambition & Destiny Series).

From start to finish, the project took the best part of eight years to complete and once I’d published the final book, I was left with a feeling of ‘what now’.

Writing had become a way of life, but because I’d exhausted my family research (for the time being at least), I turned to a genre I had always loved. Murder mysteries.

Because my first series had been historical, and because I wanted to write ‘whodunit’ types stories (of a similar nature to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books) historical cozy mysteries seemed to be the way to go. The main difference though is that my amateur sleuth, Eliza Thomson, is anything but a passive little old lady. I don’t think I’m capable of writing such characters, and so Eliza is very progressive given that the books are set at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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

As I mentioned, I love whodunit types of mysteries, but I also like the more light-hearted, feel-good, nature of cozy mysteries. After writing about life in the Victorian-era with all the challenges that entailed, being able to switch gears and write something with an element of humour, as well having all the twists and turns of the plot, has been great fun.

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t have rituals as such, but I’m not a great one for change!

When I started writing, I had a full-time, office-based job, which meant I did all my writing of an evening.

I now have more flexibility with my working hours, but I still find I am most comfortable writing in the evening (usually between about 9pm and midnight).

I go to the gym every weekday morning – because I need to do something, and then I use the afternoon to do admin / marketing or other such things. I do still work part time and so that has to fit into the afternoons as well.

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

Character. When I wrote my first series, I was struck with how readers identified with the characters in the books and so when I came to write the Eliza Thomson Investigates series, I knew I needed Eliza to be someone readers would remember, and hopefully like.

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

I love being able to go off into my own little world and back to a time when things seemed so much easier, especially given that everything seems to be in so much chaos nowadays.

I also particularly like writing murder mysteries because if anyone upsets me, I can always get my revenge by using them as the inspiration for my next plot!

What don’t I like? The hardest part is actually sitting down to write – especially when I’m stuck on a plot point. I can procrastinate for hours!

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?” 

Hmm – cookies. I wouldn’t say I don’t like them, but I rarely eat them.

Maybe it’s because in the UK they don’t seem to be as prominent as in the US?

Or maybe it’s because I try to avoid buying sweet things? Eating cookies and sitting at a computer all day really would have me growing about 3 dress sizes!

Not that I’m totally angelic. Occasionally I will have one – and it will always be a white one with milk chocolate chips. Other than the double chocolate chip (which I’m less keen on) I don’t think I’ve tried any other varieties!

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

Penguin – “Have you seen the weather out there? It’s pouring down.”

Me – “I thought you liked it wet.”

Penguin – “I like water I can dive into, not when it’s falling from the sky!”

Me – “It’s a good job you have your hat, then.”

Penguin – “Are you kidding me? The water’s soaking straight through.”

Me – “What do you expect? It’s a sun hat, not a rain hat. Have you learned nothing while you’ve been in the UK?”

Penguin – “I’ve learned that I like snow better than rain. The guys are coming to pick me up shortly. We’re going back to Antarctica.”

Me – “Oh no … and at such short notice. I’ll miss you!”

Enter three more penguins.

Penguin – “You will? Do you have any more fish, then? That would delay us.”

Me – “Did you leave any in the fridge after breakfast?”

Penguin – “Leave fish? Do you know who you’re talking too!”

Me – “All right, I know, silly question. So, is that it? You’re just going to walk out of here?”

Penguin – “Well we can hardly fly, can we? Although perhaps it’s something we should work on. It would save us a fortune on air fares.”

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

VL McBeath Image 2
Lea, a gorgeous Burmese!

I can’t claim to be very exciting, but I’m married to Stuart and have two grown-up daughters and a lovely Burmese cat, called Lia.

I spent most of my career working for the pharmaceutical industry and still work as a consultant on an ad-hoc basis.

I’m originally from Liverpool, and so I’m a big fan of Liverpool Football Club (soccer if you’re reading this in the US).

My other passion is music. Unless I’m watching the TV (which might be for about an hour a day) or sleeping (considerably longer, although maybe not for long enough), I have the radio on ALL the time. I love rock music and can’t bear to be in a quiet room.

Get V.L. McBeath’s Books

A Deadly Tonic and Murder in Moreton—Books 1 and 2 of the Eliza Thomson Investigates series—are currently available for preorder on Amazon at the introductory price of 99c / 99p.

A Deadly Tonic will be available to buy from 22nd June, but is also available as a FREE download to anyone who joins V.L.’s mailing list.

Connect with V.L. McBeath

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You can connect with V.L. at Facebook | Amazon | BookBub | Website

Thank you so much for being on the blog, V.L.! Your cat is absolutely gorgeous and your new cozy series sounds great. I love the idea of a progressive amateur sleuth in the early 20th century. I hope your penguin friend made it back to Antarctic safe and sound.

Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, New Zealand, Writerly Nonsense, Writing

Writerly Nonsense

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Why do writers write? They have stories bubbling away inside them that need to get out. Sometimes, the writing process is a lot of fun. The words ooze out of you effortlessly. Other times, well, it can be torturous. You know what you want to say, but all you end up with is a blank computer screen or a page full of nonsense words.

I’ve been working on Dead in the Dinghy, the fourth book in my cozy mystery series for the past few days and it’s been a struggle at times.

Naturally, I turned to my favorite way to break through that writer’s block—procrastination. How did we procrastinate before the advent of the internet?

Sure, I watched a lot of cat videos, but I also did some serious writing “research.” I learned about grammar.

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I researched what causes writer’s block.

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I figured out how to explain to my friends and family what a writer actually does.

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Then I got serious, closed the internet browser, and wrote a scene where my characters debated a really important question about dolphins.

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My cozy mysteries are set at a marina in Florida and my main character and her hubby own a sailboat, so dolphins are kind of a thing. Because I live on a sailboat with my husband, I often draw on my own experiences when I’m writing my books. The dolphin snot vs. dolphin spit is one of those.

When we were sailing in New Zealand, a dolphin came alongside our boat and sprayed something on us. We had a long discussion about whether it was snot or spit. What do you think—is the stuff that comes out of a dolphin’s blowhole snot or spit?

{If you want to know more about the subject, you can read the blog post I wrote about it here.}

Well, that’s probably enough writerly nonsense for now. Time to get back to the actual writing!

cozy mystery

The Courtagonist: Cozy Mystery YouTube Channel

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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.

 

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Cozy Mystery Podcasts & YouTube Videos

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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.

Comfy Cozy Podcast

Cozy novelist, Etta Welk, and her skeptical mom, Deb, explore cozy books, series, authors, origins, culture, and tropes in their weekly podcast.

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.

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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

10 Reasons(17)

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?