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Boat Life, IWSG, Writing

Writing while Crazy Busy & Slightly Stressed Out | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted not to answer this month’s question. Instead, I’m sharing thoughts on writing while crazy busy and slightly stressed out. Check it out below.

So yeah you can probably tell from the title of this blog post that I’ve got a lot going on. Trying to sell a sailboat, getting our teeny-tiny camper ready to move into, and meeting writing deadlines has me more than a little crazy busy.

We’ve had an offer on our boat (yay!), but until we close in mid-April, I see the money in the bank, and the papers are signed, I’ll be slightly stressed out. We’re planning on putting our boat in storage in mid-March and then hitting the road in our camper which means there’s a big list of items on the old To Do list.

One of those items is to finish writing Smitten with Ravioli by mid-March. Did you notice how that deadline is the same deadline as the one to move out of our boat and into our camper? Can it all be done by then? Tune in next month and see. My IWSG blog post will either be titled, “There’s Not Enough Chocolate to Deal with My Failure to Meet Deadlines” or “Celebrating with Lots of Chocolate for Meeting My Deadlines.” Either way, there’s going to be lots of chocolate.

So because I’ve got a lot to do, I’m going to have to end things here. I may be delayed in responding to comments and visiting your sites, but I’ll do my best.

Oh, by the way, did you know I have two books up for pre-order? Smitten with Ravioli is due to come out in July, but that date will likely be moved forward to May or June. Shooting by the Sea has an August release date.

Ginny isn’t sure what she’s most afraid of – cats who drool or falling for an annoying history professor.

Pre-order at: Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books

*Available on Kobo and Google Play closer to release

In her latest investigation, Mollie ends up doing some crazy things like giving the chief of police a pedicure and teaching her cat to play the ukulele.

Pre-order at: Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books

*Available on Kobo and Google Play closer to release

What’s going on in your world? Anything stressing you out? Are you crazy busy?

Reading

About Us by Elizabeth Seckman | Contemporary Romance New Release

If you’re like me, you probably have a million books loaded up on your e-reader vying for your attention and you add like a thousand more a day. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get what I mean.

How do you decide what to read next? One way that I prioritize is to bump books from my favorite authors to the top of the list. And Elizabeth Seckman is one of those authors, so you know that her latest book—About Us—is next up on my Kindle.

If you like contemporary romance, then you’ll want to check out About Us. And the great news is that it’s FREE on Kobo and Smashwords and only 99c on Amazon!

Blurb

Hayden Matthews isn’t looking for love—she’s trying to get as far from it as possible. She’s already wasted eight years in a failed marriage and is ready for a good life. A peaceful life. One where she can raise her daughter to be strong, independent, and happy. But to make that happen, she must fix her own life first.

Cam Vorelli has loved Hayden since he was in grade school. Always in the friend-zone, he stood on the sidelines, his heart breaking, as she said I do to the wrong man. A man he knew didn’t deserve her, who could never love her as he did. But what could he say? She was marrying into his family. Cam would never break a holy vow much less be disloyal to his kin.

Until he sees the bruises on Hayden. Abuse is a game changer.

Leaving a husband like Tag, who has a hot temper, a badge, and a gun is tricky. When Hayden calls Cam for help, she isn’t trying to lure him into any romantic webs. She needs someone she can trust and knowing her soon-to-be ex fears his former NFL cousin is a bonus.

When Cam comes to her rescue, he isn’t doing it to win her love. He does it because it’s the right thing to do. But if she starts to feel the same for him…couldn’t it be fate?

Buy Links

Kobo | Smashwords | Amazon

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a multi-published author of books for people who are believers in happily-ever- after, true love, and stories with a bit of fun and twists with their plots. The mother of four young men, she tackles laundry daily and is the keeper of the kitchen. She lives along the shores of the Ohio River in West Virginia, but dreams daily of the beach.

Connect with Elizabeth on Facebook | Blog |Website

IWSG, Romantic Comedy, Writing

Smoochy Face: Thoughts on Writing Romantic Comedies | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted not to answer this month’s question. Instead, Simon the Cat pops by for a visit and I’m sharing some thoughts on writing romantic comedies. Check it out below.

I felt something heavy land on my shoulder. Turning my head, I saw a large menacing-looking gray cat staring at my computer.

“You weigh a ton, Simon. Get off me.” I tried to shoo him off, but he dug his claws in. “Ouch! that hurts!”

“Toughen up, lady,” he said. “No pain, no gain.”

“What exactly am I gaining by having you claw me to death?”

He leaned forward and peered at my screen. “I’m going to criticize your book.”

“How exactly is that helpful?”

“You want to know if your writing is bad, right?” he asked as he leaped onto the table.

“Uh, sure, but in a constructive way.” I rubbed my shoulder and winced. Antiseptic was going to be needed for these scratches.

He pawed at the screen. “Ooh. This is gross. They’re smooching.” Then he lowered his paw and pressed the delete button.

“Simon, stop!” I pulled him off the table and into my lap. “I spent all morning working on that.”

“Nobody wants to read about people kissing, lady,” he said, squirming in my arms. “Get back to writing about dead bodies.”

Thoughts on Writing Romantic Comedies

So, yeah, last month I decided to start writing romantic comedies. I certainly didn’t see that coming! I was about a quarter of the way through writing book #5 (Shooting by the Sea) in my Mollie McGhie Cozy Mystery series when I opened up a new Scrivener file and began typing away at a smoochy face book in my new Smitten with Travel series.

All I knew when I started was that I wanted it to be about travel, food, and, of course, happily ever afters. Then I got in the zone and the words started flowing out, characters made their presence known, and I giggled to myself as I created some truly goofy (and hopefully humorous) scenes. Drooling cats are funny, right?

Then I did something crazy—or at least crazy for me—I put the first book in the series, Smitten with Ravioli up for pre-order with a July release date. I haven’t even finished writing it yet! I know people do this all the time, my release date is far enough out, and I’m about halfway done writing it, so it should be fine (she says to herself in a reassuring tone while scarfing down cookies). Plus, I’m finding it highly motivational to have a release date looming over me.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about writing romantic comedies that have struck me over the past month:

1 – It’s much easier to skip around from chapter to chapter.

When I write cozy mysteries, it’s a very linear process. I do a rough outline, then write each chapter in order. But when it comes to romantic comedy, I find that I’ve been hopping around all over the place. In fact, I’ve already written the epilogue with their happily ever after scene. {Spoiler alert: they get married.}

With cozies, I think a structured approach works much better for me because I need to make sure I plant all the clues and red herrings in such a way that Mollie can solve the mystery.

It might also have to do with the fact that there are more characters to worry about in my cozies—I usually have five suspects, plus Mollie, her hubby, and the other recurring characters. With my romantic comedy, there are two main characters—the heroine and hero. Sure, there are other supporting characters, but the story focuses primarily on the two lovebirds.

2 – Cozy mystery readers may not like romantic comedies.

Because this is a new genre, I debated about whether to write my romantic comedies under a pen name. As you can see from the cover above, I decided not to. It seems like way too much work and additional expense to have a pen name. Plus, because my romantic comedies are “clean” (i.e., plenty of sizzle, but no sex) and cozy mysteries are “clean” by default, I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about alienating any current readers since I won’t be publishing “steamy” books.

But I have to accept the fact that this new series may not be of interest to my current readers and that I’ll have to build up an audience who enjoys romantic comedies.

3 – What’s funny to one person may not be funny to another.

I’ve been reading / watching a lot of romantic comedies lately. Sometimes, I laugh out loud. Sometimes, I smile quietly. Sometimes, I don’t get the joke. Then I hear from other people that the joke I didn’t get had them rolling on the floor in hysterics.

People tell me that my cozy mysteries make them laugh, sometimes out loud. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to try my hand at writing romantic comedies. But what if I’m not funny enough? Or not funny at all? Has everyone been lying to me? Do they yawn when they read my cozies? Do they not get my jokes?

Can you tell I’m a little insecure about this? When I do start to panic, I try to remind myself that what’s funny to one person may not be funny to another. Then I have some chocolate. That always seems to help.

Want to know more about Smitten with Ravioli? Click HERE. I’ve been playing around with blurb and trying out different things such as first person vs. third person (the book is written in first person present) and how to position it (or not) in terms of heat level, so if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

By the way, for all you Mollie McGhie fans, don’t worry, I’ll get back to Shooting by the Sea once Smitten with Ravioli is finished. Mollie still has a lot of murders to solve.

What about you? Has a single photo or piece of art inspired a story? Do you like romantic comedies? What makes you laugh?

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Daphne McLean

Copy of Facebook Images(3)

Today, I’m featuring an interview with Daphne McLean, the author of the Jennifer Temple cozy mystery series. After reading her Amazon bio, I can tell that she’s someone I would like to hang out with. After all, she lists French fries, chocolate, and snarky coffee mugs as some of her likes. Right up my alley!

Grab a snarky coffee mug of your own, fill it up with your favorite beverage, and sit back and read what Daphne has to say about writing, penguins, and cookies.

1 – What inspired you to write your books?

I began by writing children’s picture books. I have two little ones at home, and I read to them often. I published the book on my own, and it ignited a passion for writing and publishing that I didn’t even know I had! The premise of my story, Red Picket Fences, was thought of during one of the many late night feedings that I had with my first son. The story just marinated in my mind for a few years. I finally was able to organize my thoughts and get the story out last summer, Which is 5 years after the story seedling was planted.

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

I’m really into true crime. However, those stories can be very heavy at times. Cozy mysteries provide me with what I like to call “murder lite” I get my fill of intrigue and crime without all of the heavy emotions. I also love that many of them are set in small tight-knit communities. I live in a lovely little community that I’m grateful for, and so I love seeing that played out in the stories I read as well.

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I do! I always need a candle burning and a drink of some sort. Right now, it’s iced tea. I also like to create a visual board to plot.

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

Character. You can have a plot that’s well paced, well thought out, and with no loopholes and that won’t matter if the readers cannot connect with the main character.  I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t continue with a book before because they found the MC very unlikeable. Sneak in a couple of quirky but lovable supporting cast members and they might even forgive a plot hole or two.

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

As a stay-at-home mom of two little ones, the little time I get to myself every now and then is very important to me. I value it, and use it wisely. I’ve had a few readers who are also mothers say that I’ve given them time to relax and escape or they used their precious time alone to read my book, it sends me over the moon.

I’ll be honest, what I like least about being a writer is marketing my book. However, it’s a necessary evil. If I could just write and write and hand things off to be polished, published and pushed into the hands of readers, I would be a happy woman.

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?” 

Hands down a plain soft chocolate chip cookie. I’m typing in a coffee shop near cookies, and now I must buy one.

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

He followed me all the way home from the party last night to give me my sombrero back.

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

I’m just a typical mom, who is turning her passion for writing into a career. Much like my MC, Jennifer Temple, I also keep chickens. Aside from that and our love of true crime, that’s where our similarities end. I love to cook, and would never stake out a rumored mobster!

Get Daphne’s Books

Daphne McLean Image 2Pick up a copy of Red Picket Fences – the first book in the Jennifer Temple cozy mystery series – on Amazon.

 

Connect with Daphne

Daphne McLean ImageYou can connect with Daphne at Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website

 

 

 

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Daphne! I love the fact that you keep chickens – very cool. You also have excellent taste in cookies. I’ve never met a soft chocolate chip cookie that I didn’t like.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries

2019 in Review | Writing & Publishing Cozy Mysteries

It’s time for my annual “year in review” post where I share how things went on my writing and publishing journey during the past year.

Hang on a minute. Talking about my annual review posts sounds so grand. Truth of the matter is that I’ve only posted one of these so far. And that’s because I published my first book only a year and a half ago. So much has happened since then! I’ve gained a few pounds and lots more gray hairs, but I’ve also written a few more books.

So in honor of all the extra weight around my tummy and my gray hair (which has a mind of its own), I thought I’d continue my new tradition and let you know how it went for me in 2019. If you’d like to read my 2018 review first, you can find it HERE. Otherwise, let’s get started, shall we?

Writing & Publishing Accomplishments in 2019

I published a prequel novella (Robbery the Roller Derby) and two full-length books—Poisoned by the Pier (book #3) and Dead in the Dinghy (book #4)—in my Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series, as well as a box set of the first three books in the series. This series is inspired by my own adventures and misadventures living aboard a sailboat with my husband. Fortunately, I haven’t run across any dead bodies, unlike Mollie. For some reason, she seems to keep stumbling across them.

In terms of other writing projects I worked on during 2019, I started drafting the fifth book in the Mollie McGhie series (Shooting by the Sea) and sketched out the final two books I have planned in this series—Overboard in the Ocean (a full-length book) and Murder Aboard the Mistletoe (a Christmas novella)—all of which I hope to publish in 2020.

Random side note: I originally wrote “intend to publish in 2020,” then changed it to “hope,” cause you know life doesn’t always go the way you want. “Hope” seems to have more wiggle room than “intend.”

Covers for the complete Mollie McGhie series. Books 1 & 2 published during 2018. Prequel novella and Books 3 & 4 published during 2019. Books 5 & 6 and a Christmas novella planned for 2020.

I also worked on a high-level outline for my next cozy mystery series (The Dewey Decimal Library Mysteries) which I’m planning to launch in 2021. And I toyed around with another bright, shiny idea—a Mollie McGhie spin-off series of novellas set on Destiny Key which will feature a psychic and her pet hamster.

Random side note #2: “Planning” is another vague term for something I “hope” might happen.

Covers for the Dewey Decimal Library Mystery series. Looking at them provided inspiration when I was working on the high-level series outline. They’re going to be set in North Dakota. Brr…I feel cold just thinking about the setting.

And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s the travel rom-com series I have a hankering to write. Sigh. . .too many ideas, not enough time.

But enough about what I hope/plan/intend to do in 2020. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details and numbers from 2019. Please note that I won’t be sharing the actual 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.

Random side note #3: Not all percentages add up to 100% and some items show up as 0% in the charts below due to rounding. Isn’t math fascinating? I’m kidding. It really isn’t. At least not to me. Now cookies, those are fascinating. Math, not so much.

Sales & Revenue

The chart below shows the peaks and troughs of my sales and revenue over the year. Note that I used the term revenue, not income. Revenue is how much money has come in from the sales of your books. Income is what’s left over after you deduct expenses. You may see people post their earnings in various Facebook author groups and be in awe of how much they’re making, but don’t forget that the numbers they’re sharing may be before expenses which means they’re taking home less than you think (in some cases, a lot less).

As an independent author, I have a number of expenses including:

  • editors (one of my biggest expenses, but so worth it to me)
  • ISBNs (these don’t come cheap if you’re based in the States—$575 for 100 of them—which is one reason why not everyone uses these book identification numbers)
  • proof copies of paperbacks and large print editions from Amazon KDP and IngramSpark
  • paid email promotions
  • advertising (I primarily use AMS ads, but I have also dabbled with Facebook and Bookbub ads)
  • licenses for images used in marketing and book covers (DepositPhotos and Shutterstock)
  • author website hosting / domain fees
  • other system subscription fees such as BookFunnel (used for ebook distribution to my ARC team and for distribution of my reader magnets) and Mailerlite (used for newsletter)
  • printer ink and paper
  • books related to writing craft and marketing
  • membership in the Alliance for Independent Authors (the cost of membership is offset for me by the fact that I don’t have to pay fees for paperback uploads / changes on IngramSpark)

Okay, enough talk about revenue vs. income and expense, let’s get back to the chart. You’ll note that I show both the number of units sold (blue) and the income (red). I like doing this because I can get caught up in how many books I’ve sold but that doesn’t always correlate with how much I’m making.

See that peak in July? I did price drop promo of my first in series—Murder at the Marina—and sold a fair number of books. But because I was selling them for 99c (normally $3.99), I wasn’t making very much per sale (only 34c on Amazon). Contrast that with December. I sold less than half the number of books, but made more money because I was primarily selling full-price books.

Sales by Format

While the majority of my sales are ebooks (73%), I still sell a fair amount of large print (21%) and paperback (5%) editions. I’d be curious to know if this split between ebook and print books is the norm or not for indie-published cozy mysteries.

I have to confess that although I read mostly on my Kindle these days, I love the idea that people are out there reading my books the old-fashioned way by turning one paper page at a time.

I use both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark print-on-demand services for my large print and paperbacks, but I sell way more books through Amazon then Ingram Spark. This is due in large part to the fact that I run AMS (Amazon Advertising) ads. They were particularly effective in the run-up to the holidays as print books make lovely presents.

Random side note #4: When e-readers first came out way back in the dark ages, my hubby wanted to get me one as a present. I poo-pooed the whole idea, swearing that I’d never be happy reading books electronically. My how times have changed – I can’t imagine life without my Kindle.

Sales by Book

Now that I have five books out, I’ve started to pay attention to what percentage of my sales come from each book. No surprise here, my series starter—Murder at the Marina—outsells the rest of my books (71% of sales). That’s because: (a) it’s been out the longest; (b) because I focus my advertising/marketing/promo efforts on it; and (c) after reading Murder at the Marina, some folks decide my cozies aren’t their cup of tea and don’t continue with the rest of the series.

Some of you are probably wondering what my sell-thru rate its. Others of you have no idea what a sell-thru rate is which is fair enough. I had no idea what it was until I got into this whole writing thing. Basically, you summon all your mathematical powers to figure out what percentage of readers go on from the first book in your series to buy the next book, and then the next book, and so on.

I’ve sliced and diced the sell-thru data in a variety of ways (by format and by retailer and by time span). Because the fourth book in my series—Dead in the Dinghy—was published mid-December 2020, I’m not paying much attention to the sell-thru rate from book #3 to book #4 right now, but I’m super interested in how many people go from book #1 to book #2 and book #2 to book #3.

Curious what I found out when I crunched the numbers? Here’s the sell-thru stats for my ebooks on Amazon for all of 2019—13% of readers went on from book #1 to book #2 and close to 100% went on from book #2 to book #3.

The 13% from book #1 to book #2 seems disappointing at first blush, but it’s not all that surprising given the big 99c promo campaign I did for my first in series in July/August 2019. Lots of people bought book #1 because it was a bargain. Who passes up a bargain?

So what happened with those bargain hunters? Some of those people probably never even read it (ask me how many unread 99c books I have on my Kindle), so of course they wouldn’t have gone onto the next one. Others might have started it but decided it wasn’t their cup of tea and gave the rest of the series a miss. And some folks might have read it and enjoyed it but didn’t love it enough to buy the next book in the series at full price.

As a writer you have to embrace the fact that not everyone is going to like what you write. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

It’s interesting to note that if I calculate sell-thru based solely on the last three months of 2019 (when Murder at the Marina was full price), around 40% went on from book #1 to book #2. The read-thru during that period for book #2 to book #3 remained consistent at close to 100%.

On a positive note, the nearly 100% read-thru from book #2 to book #3 is encouraging. Those are the folks who like my quirky sense of humor. Those people are my tribe. I just need to figure out how to find more of those types of readers and introduce them to Mollie McGhie.

Random side note #5: I love spreadsheets! It’s so much fun to track sales and then make groovy charts from the data. I know this makes me a big weirdo.

Ebook Sales by Retailer

I’m wide—and I’m not just talking about my hips. When I first started out I decided not to be exclusive to Amazon. Instead, I publish widely, i.e., on Amazon as well as on other retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and Google Play.

Given its market dominance, it really isn’t surprising that the majority of my ebook sales were on Amazon (57%). But I am pleased that I sold almost half as much on other retailers. This is a huge increase from last year when Amazon accounted for 86% of my ebook sales.

After Amazon, I did best on Barnes & Noble last year (31%), in large part due to a 99c promo they invited me to take part in. Kobo came in third (8%), followed by Apple Books (3%). I sold some books on Google Play, Scribd, Biblioteca, and Overdrive, but nothing to write home about.

Random side note #6: For those of you not in the know, Biblioteca and Overdrive are two systems libraries use for ebooks. I love seeing my books in libraries, both print and ebook editions! If you’d like to ask your library to acquire my books, you can find a handy-dandy info sheet HERE.

Well, I think that about sums it up. Overall, 2019 was a good year for me in terms of writing and publishing and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2020!

How did 2019 go for you? What are you looking forward to in 2020?

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

Crazy Cat Lady, IWSG, Writing

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Writing Advice

I have an imaginary gray cat named Simon who has the ability to travel through time. He’s a pretty grumpy cat who is always complaining about not getting enough saucers of full-fat milk in his life, having his naps interrupted, and the “stupid” books I write. Simon pops up quite frequently in vignettes that I often include in my monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) posts.

Until recently, I wrote my IWSG posts on The Cynical Sailor, a blog I started in 2013 when my husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand. Now that I have this author blog, I’ve realized that my IWSG posts are a better fit over here. But I don’t want lose sight of all of the Simon-related posts that I’ve written over on The Cynical Sailor, so I’ve created an index of them here.

As I’ve pulled this index together, it’s been fascinating to see how my writing journey has evolved over time. Have a look at the list below and check out the posts. They’re good for a few giggles and you might find some useful writing advice along the way.

An Index of Simon the Time Traveling Posts on The Cynical Sailor Blog

The Time Traveling Cat (March 2017) – Simon makes his first appearance on the blog while I answer the question, “Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it?”

How’d You Get So Full of Yourself? (April 2017) – I make cookies and have a chat with Simon about how I worry that people are going to think I’m full of myself because of all the promotion I’m doing about my upcoming release.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Plays Monopoly (June 2017) – Simon complains about not getting to be the top hat in Monopoly while I answer the question, “Did you ever say I quit? What made you come back to writing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Goes for a Walk (July 2017) – Simon is less than impressed when I buy a leash and harness for him, and I answer the question, “What’s one valuable lesson you’ve learned since writing?”

Interstellar Voyages with Simon the Time Traveling Cat (Sept 2017) – Simon uses his time traveling powers to take us to another universe where I answer the question, “Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Gets a Visitor (Oct 2017) – Simon is rude to a visiting cat and I answer the question, “Have you ever slipped any of your own personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Coughs Up a Hairball (Nov 2017) – I explain to Simon what beta readers are when I answer the question, “Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNoWriMo project?” (Note: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a month-long event where participants from around the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during November.)

Waking Up with Simon the Time Traveling Cat (Dec 2017) – Simon and I travel back to January 1st to answer the question, “As you look back at 2017, with all of its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Takes a Nap (Jan 2018) – Simon gets grumpy when I try to move him from his favorite napping spot while I answer the question, “What steps have you taken, or do you plan to take, to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Gets Evicted (Feb 2018) – Simon knocks stuff off the table (very annoying) while I while I answer the question, “What do you love the most about the genre you write in?”

Celebrating with Star Trek & Dead Lizards (March 2018) – Simon tries to convince me that leaving dead lizards on my pillow is how he pays rent while I answer the question, “How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal / finish a story?”

Why Don’t Cats Sweat? (May 2018) – I complain about the heat in Florida to Simon and answer the question, “It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Dubious Advice (June 2018) – When I try to answer the question, “What’s harder for you to come up with – book titles or character names?” Simon suggests that I name all characters after him. Silly cat.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Freaks Out (July 2018) – The 4th of July fireworks scare Simon while I answer the question, “What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?”

Simon the Cat Travels through Time (Aug 2018) – Simon uses his powers to take us back to ancient Egypt. He likes it back then because cats were worshiped. While we’re there, I answer the question, “What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?”

Simon Goes Nuts for Catnip (Sept 2018) – Simon gets high on catnip while I answer the question, “What publishing path are you considering / did you take and why?” Wide, self-published

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Life Gets Disrupted (Oct 2018) – Simon freaks out when I serve him a new brand of cat food and I answer the question, “How do major life changes affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?”

Stop Being So Nosy! (Jan 2019) – Simon tries to find out how much money I make from writing when I answer the question, “What are your favorite and least favorite questions that people ask you about writing?”

What Cats Think about Heroes & Villains (March 2019) – Simon takes over the blog from me and answers the question, “What perspective do you like to write from the best – the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)?” It probably won’t surprise you, but Simon thinks all books should be written from a cat’s perspective.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat vs. Dewey Decimal the Talking Chameleon (June 2019) – I tell Simon all about the talking chameleon I have planned for my next cozy mystery series. He’s not impressed.

Release of Poisoned by the Pier & Character Traits (July 2019) – Simon hacks up a hairball on my keyboard while I answer the question, “What personal trait(s) have you written into your characters?”

How to Read without Opposable Thumbs (Oct 2019) – Simon and I chat about whether you can be a writer if you’re not also a reader while Simon shows me how he reads without opposable thumbs.

If you’ve had enough of Simon, here are some other writing-related posts from The Cynical Sailor you might be interested in.

Read an excerpt from Mrs. Moto’s diary – Mrs. Moto’s Murder Meows & Bodies in the Boatyard (Nov 2018). If you’re not familiar with Mrs. Moto, she’s the feline star of my Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery series.

Finding Time in My Busy Day (Sept 2016) – I share the results of an MIT study which compared how writers and cats spend their days. No surprise – cats take more naps.

About the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

If you’re not familiar with the IWSG, it’s an online support group founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers with different levels of experience from folks who are just daydreaming about writing to those who have published bestselling books.

I’ve made wonderful connections with fellow writers through the IWSG and the support and encouragement I’ve received from the community are a huge part of why I’m now a published author.

Want to get involved in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG)? Just hop on over HERE to sign-up. We’d love to have you on board!

IWSG, Writing

My Writerly Journey | IWSG

Hello! If you’ve been directed here from The Cynical Sailor, welcome to my author site. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with that site moving forward, but, in the meantime, I’ve decided to move my Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog posts to this site. Thanks for following me over here!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher, coach, spouse, friend, parent? Did you just “know” suddenly that you wanted to write?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. You can find out how I answered the question below.

It seems like a lot of folks were born with the writing bug. Me, not so much. All I was born with was a birthmark on my arm. Sure, it’s a pretty cool birthmark (if you squint just right in really poor light after a few vodka shots, it kind of looks like Elvis), but it’s not quite as cool as coming out of the womb ready to write the next Great American Novel.

I didn’t start any form of creative writing until 2013. That’s when I launced The Cynical Sailor, a blog originally dedicated to documenting the transition from moving out of a normal dwelling on land and onto our sailboat in New Zealand. Sure, there was a lot of boring boat stuff on there, but I also took the opportunity to inject some humor into writing about our adventures and misadventures. And, to my surprise, people responded positively to my wacky sense of humor.

I began to “fictionalize” some of my blog posts, even writing little Nancy Drew stories about how I was trying to investigate and track down the mysterious leak on our boat. That led me to taking my fan fiction to the next level by writing a full-blown Nancy Drew series of posts about “The Case of the Missing Anchor” as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in 2016.

People began to urge me to write a cozy mystery of my own. And by “people,” I mean my mom. And you can’t say no to your mom, can you?

So, with massive support from followers of The Cynical Sailor and members of the IWSG, I got cracking and started seriously writing. I cranked out a 50,000 word draft of what would later become Murder at the Marina during National Novel Writing Month in November 2016.

I also decided to try my hand at writing a fantasy short story which I submitted to the IWSG anthology contest. To my utter surprise, it was accepted. It was such a thrill to see my words in print! I think that’s the point when my writing journey kicked into high gear.

So, I guess I can’t point to one exact thing that started my writing journey, but rather people who supported me along at various points from the original followers of my Cynical Sailor blog, the people behind the IWSG anthology contest, my writing buddies, my family and friends, and everyone who reads my books and continues to encourage me to keep writing.

PS If you’re wondering where Simon the Cat is today, he’s too busy napping in a sunny spot by the window to be bothered with the blog today. He promises that he’ll be back soon.

What about you? What inspired you to start writing? If you’re not a writer and have another creative pursuit, what inspired you to start that?

Dead in the Dinghy is now available! Get your copy of the latest Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery at your favorite retailer and find out what happens when Mollie and Scooter participate in their first sailing regatta.

Spoiler alert: someone ends up dead in a dinghy & Mollie eats a lot of chocolate!

Ebook available at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Also available in PAPERBACK and LARGE PRINT.

Find out more HERE.

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Connie B. Dowell

Today, I’m featuring an interview with cozy mystery author, Connie B. Dowell. She’s the author of the Emma and Dessie Mysteries and the Millie Monroe Mysteries. She’s also written a book on how to get the words down when you’re a parent without childcare, a topic she knows well as a mom of preschoolers. And if all that didn’t keep her busy enough, she also hosts Book Echos, a podcast for authors.

You’ll want to hear what Connie has to say about writing, penguins and cookies, so grab a beverage and a snack, find yourself a comfy chair, and have a read below.

Interview with Connie B. Dowell

1 – You’ve previously published YA mysteries. What inspired you to start writing cozies? What differences / similarities do you see between the two?

I started out publishing historical mysteries aimed at a YA audience, but they were very much inspired by the cozy and traditional mysteries I grew up reading. The lovely thing about YA is that you can publish in any genre, because YA is about the life stage of the characters, not the genre. However, about the time, an idea for a contemporary cozy mystery series started percolating, I did some surveys of my audience. It turns out they were big cozy fans and not as many were YA—and these are the folks who love my books! So I’m retooling a lot of my packaging and marketing of these books for a historical cozy audience, but like most cozies, all my books remain teen-friendly in content. It’s come with a nice bonus that I can age my characters a little more rapidly and explore what college life was like for some of the first women to attend the University of Georgia in the 1920s.

There’s some difference in expectations for the two markets. YA tends to expect more romance elements, and my historical book 1 was very light on that, perhaps why it appealed more to adult cozy readers. Also, there’s some plot challenges with writing YA versus adult mysteries. You have to come up with reasons to give your characters enough independence to find clues and talk to suspects and witnesses.

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

I adore the combination of setting and puzzle. That’s what keeps me coming back to cozies and looking for cozies set in new and interesting places and around interesting activities.

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I do most of my writing with two preschoolers underfoot, so I can’t be too picky about rituals. Gotta grab the words while I can. What I do as a habit, though, is micro outline my scenes before I start writing. Then, I dictate the actual words. It took a long time to feel comfortable dictating, but it has made writing while watching the kids in the backyard much easier.

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

Character. Plot will pull me into a story but character will keep me there, and keep me coming back for more in the series.

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

I love seeing people engage with my stories and have fun in the whacky worlds I’ve come up with just out of my head.

My least favorite part of being an author is a lot of the little administrative tasks I end up doing, but It’s all part of doing the job I love.

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?”

Snickerdoodle, hands down. Best flavor: cinnamon. Best name. What could be cozier than a cookie called snickerdoodle?

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

Actually, penguin with a sombrero is one of my husband’s habitual doodles! So I’d assume he’d speak with Steve’s voice and say “Steve found a magic pencil.” Just like the episode of Spongebob. There’d probably be an animated tic-tac-toe and some sketchy cats coming in next.

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

I have a podcast for authors called Book Echoes where I feature author interviews and tips on all aspects of the writing life. New episodes on Wednesdays.

Years ago, I used to be a bookmobile driver in rural five-county area. It was a fun job for a grad student, and after hearing folks tell me multiple times that it sounded like the perfect inspiration for a cozy mystery series, I finally started work on the Millie Monroe Mysteries, launching in late February. It’s been great fun reliving my youth but with a murdery twist.

About Connie

Connie B. Dowell writes contemporary and historical cozy mysteries as well as nonfiction for writers. When not writing or wrangling preschoolers, she plays violin badly and bakes weird concoctions. She and her family live in Central Virginia where both adults drink far more coffee than is probably wise.

Find out more about Connie at her Website | Podcast | Facebook | Twitter

Editor’s Note: Thanks so much for the interview, Connie! How fascinating that you used to drive a bookmobile! I love snidkerdoodle cookies too, especially the ones my sister makes.

IWSG, Writing

Imagining My Future Writing Self | IWSG

Hello! If you’ve been directed here from The Cynical Sailor, welcome to my author site. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with that site moving forward, but, in the meantime, I’ve decided to move my Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog posts to this site. Thanks for following me over here!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Let’s play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. You can find out how I answered the question below.

Simon the cat getting ready to lay waste to the Christmas tree.

Simon the Cat Demands His Breakfast with Very Sharp Claws

Note: If you’re new to my IWSG posts, I often write stories about my imaginary cat, Simon, to answer the monthly questions. He’s rather a grumpy cat who loves full-fat milk, bashing my writing, and making a general nuisance of himself. The complete opposite of Mrs. Moto from my Mollie McGhie mysteries.

“Wake up, lady,” a low voice growled.

I groaned and pulled the covers over my head. “Leave me alone, Simon. I’m trying to sleep.” A paw snaked underneath my blanket, its sharp claws fully extended. “Ouch! That hurt.”

As I sat up in bed, my large gray cat glared at me. “Stop being so lazy and feed me breakfast.”

“You know, you’re much more pleasant in my dreams.” I stretched my arms over my head. “It was such a nice dream, too.”

“What did you dream about?” Simon asked as he rolled over on his back.

“My future writer self,” I said, as I rubbed his belly. “I’m doing really well in the future. I’ve written in some other genres like sci-fi and sweet romance. Plus, I have several cozy mystery series published including one with a talking chameleon who lives in a library in North Dakota.”

“Whoever heard of a talking chameleon? That’s a stupid idea, lady. Chameleons don’t talk. “

“And cats do?”

“Well, duh. You can hear me, can’t you?” Simon crawled onto my lap and kneaded my legs. “What are your other series about? Me?”

“You? No way,” I said. “Who would want to read about you?”

“You really aren’t very bright, are you? There’s people reading about me right now.”

I chewed on my lip. “Well, that’s different. This is a blog post, not a book.” Before he could interrupt with another smart aleck response, I added, “The other idea I have is a side series of novellas about a fortune teller who lives on Destiny Key.”

“Your new book is set there, isn’t it?” Simon asked.

“It is. Mollie and Scooter sail there during the Coconut Cove regatta.” I furrowed my brow. “How did you know that? Have you been reading my books?”

“Only when I have insomnia.” Simon yawned. “They’re so boring that they put me right to sleep.”

I lay back down and pulled the covers up to my chin. “If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go back to sleep and dream about my future writer self and my future cat. He’s really sweet.”

“Future cat?” Simon jabbed my face with this paw, then sat back on his haunches. “Oh, I get it. You’re going to travel into the future, use their cloning machine and come back with a dozen more Simons.”

“That sounds like a nightmare.” I grabbed a pad from my bedside table. “Note to self,” I said as I scribbled on the paper. “Do not engage in time travel. One Simon is plenty.”

What about you? When you dream about your future, what do you envision?

Dead in the Dinghy will be released on December 13th! Pre-order your copy of the latest Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery at your favorite retailer and find out what happens when Mollie and Scooter participate in their first sailing regatta.

Spoiler alert: someone ends up dead in a dinghy & Mollie eats a lot of chocolate!

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Find out more HERE.

Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview: Summer Prescott

Today, I’m featuring an interview with cozy mystery author, Summer Prescott. She’s the author of several cozy mystery series including Cupcakes in Paradise Series, the Incredibly Sweet Series, and the Frosted Love Cozy Mysteries. The cupcakes and other sweet treats on the covers of Summer’s books always make my mouth water.

In addition to writing her own cozies, Summer also runs an indie publishing company. Grab a beverage and a snack and find out what Summer has to say about writing, penguins and cookies!

1 – What inspired you to write your books?

I’ve always loved writing and mystery is one of my favorite genres to read. I also love food, animals and hobbies, so when I discovered that Cozy Mysteries involved all of the above, I was super excited!

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

I love the relationships between characters, whether they’re family, good friends, coworkers, etc… There’s a sweetness and simplicity to Cozies which makes them a welcome escape from reality.

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes, I always have to have a cup of coffee at my side, and I usually wear fuzzy slippers, no matter what the time of year.

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

Both. Strong characters are essential, but the storyline has to be equally strong.

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

I love creating make believe worlds which transport readers into kinder spaces, even if it involves murder, lol. What I like least…hmm…that’s a tough one. I suppose what I like least about being an author is the business side of things that are involved in the production and publication of books. I’d much rather spend my time writing than doing marketing.

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?” 

Hahahahaha! No worries, I LOVE cookies! All of them! If I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to say either shortbread, or sugar cookies.

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

Come away with me and tell me stories and I will feed you tacos and margaritas.

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

I own Summer Prescott Books, an Indie publishing company, and have been fortunate to work with some very talented authors. The company functions as a launching point for gifted new Cozy Mystery authors, many of whom stay onboard for years. Patti Benning, Gretchen Allen, Allyssa Mirry, and Carolyn Q. Hunter are the current core writers at SPBP right now, but we’ve also had the pleasure of working with many other talented folks in short-term and boxed set arrangements.

Our commitment to quality and fostering good author relationships has helped to make us a healthy and happy company.

About Summer & Her Books

Summer Prescott is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal Best-Selling Author, who has penned nearly one hundred Cozy Mysteries, and one rather successful Thriller, The Quiet Type, which debuted in the top 50 of its genre. As owner of Summer Prescott Books Publishing, Summer is responsible for a combined catalog of over two hundred Cozy Mysteries and Thrillers. Mentoring and helping new Cozy writers launch their careers has long been a passion of Summer’s, and she has played a key role in the incredible success of Cozy writers such as Patti Benning and Carolyn Q. Hunter.

Summer is a doting mother to four grown children, and lives in Champaign, Illinois with her Standard Poodle, Elvis.

Connect with Summer on her Website | Summer Prescott Books Facebook Page | Twitter

Editor’s Note: Thanks so much for your interview today! I loved your answer to the penguin question. Tacos and margaritas sound like a great exchange for stories 🙂