Posts Tagged ‘cozy mysteries’

Working with the Real World

So! October has not been going the way I’d like it to, in terms of writing, mostly meaning that the Changeling story continues to limp on and not get finished.

But, since the end of the month is a little over a week away, I have to accept that it’s not going to get done, and that I really need to get on planning my cozy mystery for Nano, or that’s not going to get done either.

So, alas, here we are.

I love mysteries, and I like cozy mysteries, though I do admit that the “theme” really makes or breaks them for me. My favorite series is the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews, of which I have read all 20-odd books (there’s a new one coming out for Christmas), which I suspect I like because the theme is mostly bird-pun titles (brilliant) instead of book content, and because they have a wonderful selection of weird relatives.

I’ve avoided writing one before because the whole concept of writing one is terrifying, but the thought of writing a novel with no speculative elements is ALSO terrifying, so, uh, I’m not going to. Luckily paranormal cozies are a thing.

Now, even so, I can’t really set a mystery in a secondary world of my own creation. Well, I mean, I can, but it’ll get categorized as fantasy and not mystery and long story short (too late), that means I have to use the real world as a backdrop.

Cozies usually take place in made up towns located in general real places. I intend to follow suit. I’m thinking small mountain town, probably here in Colorado. And I’ll do a better job than a certain cozy author I shall not name who I’m pretty sure has never stepped foot in Colorado in her life. But! I will have to make it up. Something to do over the weekend, I think. Make maps. Maybe I’ll share them next week. Maybe I’ll horde them. Who knows!

Anyway, real world. I’ve decided my main character owns a New Age shop. She’s a witch (kind of a mash-up of real world and fairy tale sorts of witches) so it helps her to hide in plain sight. Now, I haven’t been in a New Age shop (are they even called that anymore?) in a while, aside from booths at festivals and cons, so I went out this morning for research purposes.

I found three shops within a ten-mile radius and laid out a circle route to hit all of them.

Now, a good author who understands people would tell the clerk that she was researching for a book, and would the clerk mind answering a few questions about what it was like to run the store, and how busy they were, and what sort of people came in.

I, however, arrived at the first store, and when the very helpful clerk asked me what I was looking for or needed a solution to, I said, “I’m not sure,” and meandered about the store for ten minutes, looking at the offerings.

(I ended up with a book about Christmas magic and a stone bracelet made of sodalite, which is apparently good for creativity and focus.)

(With how the Changeling story has been going, I need all the help I can get.)

It’s probably a combination of being an introvert and not having had to talk to anybody new in approximately seven months, but despite the clerk being very nice and very helpful, the whole experience was overwhelming.

Next I drove to the second store, sat outside, decided I was done for the day, and went home.

So, uh, limited success.

I don’t know how people do that! How do you go up to someone and ask for their insights into their work? I know, probably, that most people like to talk about themselves, but it just feels like a huge imposition.

Eh, I’ll figure it out.

How’s your week going, squider?

And What About Cozy Mysteries?

Hey-o, squiders. Sorry for missing Tuesday’s post. I have no excuse except, uh…oh. Oh yeah. I had volunteer commitments. Okay, that’s a pretty good excuse.

So, as I move toward trying my hand at my first cozy mystery during November, I’ve been reading how to write mystery books for fun and profit. I read two, specifically, helpfully titled How to Write Mysteries and How to Write a Mystery respectfully, and am now done with both.

They were middling helpful, especially when talking about plot. A lot of the books were on more universal stuff, like creating characters or writing dialogue, which was less useful. And both contained extremely outdated information on agents and publishing. Good times.

But neither of them really touched on cozies as a subgenre. They both mentioned them, but were obviously confused by the concept. The second book author noted that he only included them because people had asked why he wasn’t. Both dismissed them as “an English sort of mystery” and didn’t have a lot to say.

Which was, of course, not useful for me, planning a cozy mystery. But I also found it interesting. These are older books–the first is from 1989 and the second is from 1995–but cozies are not a new phenomena. Off the top of my head, the Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun are very definitely cozies–and the inspiration for all following cozy series that include animal sidekicks–and the first of those was published in the mid-60s.

(And the Cat Who books also take place in America, and in Chicago for the first few, if I recall correctly. What does an “English sort” of mystery mean? Maybe they’re thinking of Miss Marple, which is probably also a cozy series.)

Now, if I had the time and inclination, perhaps I could pick up a much more modern book on writing mysteries, and I would probably find a larger section on cozies. There seems to be several dozen series going at any point in time, with new ones starting all the time. I was a bit concerned, when I first started thinking about my paranormal cozy series, because I couldn’t find any others, but now I know of at least three other paranormal series, so all is well.

But at this point I’m also running out of learning time and need to get on to the doing phase of things. (Though I may cruise around the Internet and see if there’s any good blog posts or YouTube videos on the subject.) So now I’m on phase 2, which is market research, as I’m calling it.

Market research consists of reading cozies from the last few years and analyzing things like setting, structure, characters, and plot. I’ve got two out from the library. The one I’m currently reading came out in September, and is called Murder Goes to Market. So far I’m enjoying it!

(It’s third person, which is interesting. Most cozies are first person.)

(Also, reading cozies is definitely more fun than reading probably too old books about writing mysteries.)

Still weird, though, how those older books just brushed the subgenre off. There are probably numbers, somewhere, of what subgenres sell the most and how much money they’re making. They do it for books in general, right, so someone probably tracks by genre and specifics. I would think cozies have to be a sizeable chunk of the market, given how many are published (and how quickly you can read one).

Ah well. Onward!

(Favorite cozies, squiders?)

Nanowrimo Comes Earlier Every Year

You know what showed up in my inbox this morning?

NaNoWriMo’s preparation workshop for the year.

It’s SEPTEMBER. It’s barely MID-SEPTEMBER. What the heck? What happened to waking up on November 1st and going with whatever caught your fancy at the moment in time?

I kid. I only did that once. And it was November 3rd.

But ugh, it still feels early. And when I get planning stuff now-ish, it makes me anxious. Should I be planning my story already? Am I setting myself up for failure?

I know I’m not. I’ve done–and won–Nano a ridiculous number of times. I know what works for me. But there’s always a thread that goes you are behind and you are going to fail when I see what feels like everyone else already starting to get ready.

Also, how much of the year needs to be dedicated to Nano, honestly? It already eats the entirety of November. And some of October. It’s like Halloween and Christmas, invading stores a little earlier each year. Do we really need to sacrifice September to Nano too?

I mean, maybe, if you need a lot of plotting or research. But otherwise?

Maybe I’m just getting grumpy in my old age.

At this point, I’m not 100% on Nano. I had fun last year, and it was nice to do it again, but they’ve cancelled all in-person events for this year (understandable, but still sad), and I wonder if it’ll be as easy to get the momentum going without them. I try to hit at least one in-person write-in a week normally. Virtual write-ins are harder for me, because I find it easier to get distracted. (And no one’s looking over your shoulder to see that you’re messing around on YouTube or tumblr instead of what you should be doing.)

Also, you know, the small, mobile ones are only partially in school, which means they need daily supervision, and this year is just all over the place in terms of productivity.

I would like to do Nano. I have a project in mind–the first book of a paranormal cozy mystery series that I’ve been planning on and off for about two years now. You guys know I always like to do something new each Nano, and I love cozy mysteries. Mysteries have always seemed really hard to write, but I figure it won’t hurt to try!

(Plus cozies are shorter, so I might be able to get a whole draft written, instead of half a draft of an epic fantasy, har har.)

It’s just…ugh. I don’t want to start planning Nano yet. I’m not ready! I have to finish my changeling story draft and, uh, I dunno. Something else.

What do you think, squiders? Do you Nano? When do you start planning? Do you go through Nano’s prep program or do your own thing?

Comfort Books (Or Where to Go When Your Genre Betrays You)

Each of us have a comfort book–or even a comfort genre–that we turn to when we just want to relax or when times are tough.

I go for cozy mysteries. I like them because they tend to be witty, fun, romantic, and sometimes even a little sexy. Oh, yeah, and there’s mystery solving!

And generally there’s not a fantasy creature or a spaceship in sight. (Although I am currently reading Donna Andrews’ We’ll Always Have Parrots, which takes place at a fantasy convention.)

I find, that when I dedicatedly working on a story myself, I can’t read the genre that that story is. I know some authors that can’t read at all when they’re writing, which is a very sad state of affairs, so I will take my genre-block over that. If it’s high fantasy, then high fantasy is out. Same for urban fantasy and science fiction. (Luckily, urban and high fantasy are typically different enough that I can squeeze in a little bit of magic into my day.)

A lot of times, to play safe, though, I’ll just head for the cozies. Writing/editing/submitting/publication can certainly be stressful enough to warrant going for the comfort books.

It’s not that I necessarily think that I’ll be influenced by other books in my same genre (though that’s a realistic concern), but I actually feel a little repelled by the genre at that point in time. Maybe it’s because I’m already spending too much time thinking about it.

I was a bit surprised to find that this was true for the publication process, honestly, but I haven’t been able to touch a fantasy novel in over a month. So I’ve gone to the library and stocked up on my favorite cozy series, and hopefully they’ll see me through til launch.

What’s your go-to comfort genre, Squiders?