My new book, The Pepper Peach Murder (from Wild Rose Press), is a cozy mystery—the first I’ve tried. My other books have all been romances, contemporary and paranormal. But to me, cozy mysteries are also romantic mysteries. Or anyway, they should be, as far as I’m concerned.
When I told friends and family that I was working on a cozy mystery, a lot of them asked me what a cozy was exactly. Some things about cozies are easy to explain. Most of them are written from the heroine’s point of view, and a lot them are written in first person. The heroine usually has some kind of interesting occupation: there are lots of bakers, for example, and caterers and crafters and owners of bookstores or country inns. But the image a lot of readers have of the cozy heroine is Jessica Fletcher, a decidedly unromantic lady who wrote mysteries in Cabot Cove, Maine. Jessica did occasionally have a date or two, but she was much more into solving mysteries than dancing in the moonlight.
As a romance writer, I didn’t want to limit my heroine that way. I wanted her to have a love life along with her jam making and murder solving because that was the kind of book I wanted to read myself. Donna Andrews’ Meg has her Michael; Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna has her Daniel. And my Roxy has her Nate.
Now since this is a mystery rather than a romance, Roxy also has a murder to solve. But since it’s a romantic mystery, solving the mystery will involve solving Roxy’s love life. She had a bad experience as a line cook in Denver and has come back to her hometown of Shavano, Colorado, to restart. But Roxy has concentrated on getting her jam business off the ground rather than her relationships with men until she meets chef Nate Robicheaux at the local farmers market. The two hit it off immediately. There’s just one problem (other than Roxy’s nervousness about getting back on her feet romantically): another local chef, Brett Holmes, wants Roxy on his arm and in his bed, and he won’t take no for an answer.
When someone kills Brett in his restaurant kitchen, Roxy’s the logical suspect since she and Brett had a shouting match in front of the farmers market vendors. Now, she’s got to clear her name and keep her business afloat while she and Nate discover just how much she’s back on her game again romantically.
There’s a lot on her plate, but Roxy can handle it. After all, she’s the Jam Queen of Shavano County, and she wants her romance to be like her jam: sweet, hot, and very tasty.
Thank you, Delilah, for inviting me to guest post on your blog today. I’m happy to be here.
When I began writing, romance seemed to be the most logical genre choice. I’m a sucker for happy endings, even if it’s rough going for the characters while getting there. And, as love can happen in any century, I tried my hand at both historical and contemporary, creating two full series and a collection of short stories in the romantic realm before deciding I needed a change. Or, more like, my writing was begging for one.
To this day, I’m not sure what caused me to land on cozy mysteries as a genre choice. I’d never read one; had never viewed an episode of Murder, She Wrote, either, but as with everything else I do in my life, I dove headfirst into the story, making the appropriate adjustments along the way to stay true to the trope. Now, other authors may not find this to be true, but I’ll admit it was difficult for me to alter my writing style, especially when it came to the romantic aspects of the tale. Not that cozies can’t have a little romance; the challenge was learning to keep it simmering in the background while bringing the mystery front and center — a lesson I aced (don’t you love my confidence?) in Finn-agled, my very first cozy.
As a huge proponent of writing “authentically” — letting the story flow with little regard to the rules, aside from good grammar, accurate spelling, and precise punctuation. (Excuse me for a moment while I collect myself . I’m laughing because no matter how thoroughly I comb through my manuscript after a dozen different pairs of eyes have read it, mistakes still slip through. Okay; I’m better now. Back to my point) Writing from your soul should be the goal of every author. The thing to remember is that readers have certain expectations when it comes to their favorite genres, and while it’s our job to meet them, we shouldn’t let that hold us back from taking the opportunity to write something different; something new and exciting.
Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can!
(A Finn’s Finds Mystery)
A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school. There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.
Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters. But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message. There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.
A slip of paper slightly larger than an index card fell from between the seams and floated ever so gently to the floor. Almost dropping the case in my elation (wouldn’t that just be my luck?), I set it gingerly on the table and retrieved the note.
Zubcd Yefemeby Xlw k Wrlm no Vpqre Upbpqee
Huh? What kind of crazy language is this?
I attempted to sound it out, tripping over my tongue because – let’s face it – it’s impossible to pronounce words that have no vowels. Thinking I’d stumbled onto either an ancient, and possibly forgotten, language, or a secret military code, I hopped back on the computer for some serious research. It wasn’t until the Gothic cathedral mantel clock perched on the shelf above a row of whiskey barrels chimed twelve that I realized I’d been staring at the screen for the better part of three hours. That would explain my grainy eyeballs.
“Time to call it a night. Come on, Garfunkel. Let’s go home.”
Shutting off the computer, I slipped the note into my pocket, leaving the writing case in my office for the time being. Who knew what other mysterious messages might be hidden inside? Turning off the light, plunging the room into darkness, I walked out front to collect my sleepy hound, dim lumens from the streetlamp outside filtering in through the plate-glass window, illuminating my way and casting shadows along the floor and walls. Headlights from a passing car briefly lit up the interior of the shop, glinting off the wind chimes that hung over the front door.
If only I’d had the forethought to hang a set of chimes over the back door as well. Then, perhaps, they would’ve warned me about the person who jimmied the lock, crept up behind me, and wrapped his fingers around my neck, squeezing until everything went black.
About the Author
Kristine Raymond didn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up until later in life. Since writing and publishing her first book in 2013, she’s gone on to complete two romance series – one historical western and one contemporary; a humorous non-fiction story; a collection of seasonally-themed short stories; a contemporary erotic drama; and a cozy mystery. She also hosts a podcast called Word Play with Kristine Raymond.
When not writing, she’s navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.
When I began writing in the Brotherhood Protectors World last year, I wanted to create characters and stories that would cross over into my cozy mystery series and yet still be romantic suspense.
So I came up with the concept of creating a case of younger characters who are related in some way, fashion or form to the older characters in my cozy mystery series.
I thought this would be a good way to create great romantic suspense stories that might bring readers over to my mystery series out of curiosity to find out more about the town of Mercy, Mississippi — and the quirky characters who live there.
My first book in the Brotherhood Protectors World, Persuading Piper, features Ian “Hawkeye” Elliott, who is the son of the real estate agent in the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery series. He’s come back to Mercy, Mississippi to conduct undercover protection for the town mayor. Trouble is, Piper, the daughter of the mayor, is his high school sweetheart and the one woman he could never forget.
My second book in the Brotherhood Protectors World, Handling Harley Ann, just came out. In this book, Harley Ann is the great-niece of Miss Edna — the eighty-year-old town busybody in the Lily Gayle Lambert mystery series. In this book, Harley Ann’s criminal past comes back to haunt her. And, Jesse “Bird Dog” Miller just happens to be in town visiting his buddy Ian. Jesse won’t stand for any craziness going on around the lady he’s just discovered he might be falling for.
It’s been great fun to write a romantic suspense series that crosses over into my mystery series and yet appeals to a broad audience. I plan to continue to weave the two series together in the future and give readers a birds-eye view into multiple generations in a small town.
About the Author
Susan Boles is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery series and a contributing author to Elle James’ Brotherhood Protectors World.
A lifelong love of all things mysterious led Susan to write mystery and suspense stories. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were the first to show her that girls can be crime solvers, Agatha Christie showed her that even small towns have big secrets, and Phryne Fisher showed the that lady detectives can be outrageously individual. Combining romance with the mystery is just the cherry on top of the writing cake!
She lives in Mississippi with her rescue mini dachshund, Lucy and her rescue cat of no particular breed, Zimba.
I first visited Amelia Island to attend the Amelia Island Book Festival, and was struck by the crazy quilt of events it had witnessed. Known as the Isle of Eight Flags, it had seen wave after wave of conquering armies, some big—like the Spanish, and some tiny—like the Patriots of Amelia Island, who mustered nine gunboats and maybe a hundred men. Timucuan Indians, French, Spanish, pirates, Scots mercenaries, Confederate and Union soldiers—all occupied the tiny island at one point or another. It also has a sizable Geechee (Gullah) community. Faced with a setting like that, who wouldn’t want to craft a nice little murder mystery?
The main town, Fernandina Beach, contains several historical buildings, a marina, and Fort Clinch. Built in 1847 by the US, the fort sits on the northern corner of the island, protecting the entrance to the Amelia River. South of it is Egan’s Creek, a marshy area. In Flotsam & Jetsam, four bodies are discovered, ranging from north of the fort all the way to Egan’s Marsh. While Ellie and Simon investigate the deaths, they have to draw on much of Amelia Island’s colorful history. I hope readers find it as fascinating as I do.
Flotsam and Jetsam: The Amelia Island Affair
Who’s littering the park with corpses?
State Park Rangers Simon Ribault and Ellie Ironstone are used to dealing with messy campers and ravaging raccoons, but when three bodies wash up on the beach, they mobilize all their powers of deduction. Who are they and how did they get to the shore of Amelia Island? Are they connected to the secretive League of the Green Cross? Or linked to a mysterious Jamaican drug ring?
Ellie, new to Amelia Island, must penetrate a close-knit community if she wants to find answers to the mystery, all while deciding between two rivals for her affection: Thad, the handsome local idol, and Simon, the clever, quirky bookworm.
Simon, for his part, will have to call on his not-so-well-honed romantic prowess to lure Ellie away from Thad and at the same time use his wide-ranging research skills to solve the case.
Excerpt: First Kiss
The magic word. He walked the finger up her arm, circled her neck, and brought her lips to his. The kiss lingered, but not enough to satisfy him. He had adored this little creature for so long—since she arrived at the fort in fact, in a crisp new uniform, her campaign hat still unfaded, her expression a mix of terror and determination. He had fallen like a shooting star and could still feel the burn marks. But he had never in his wildest dreams thought she might feel the same way. He sat back, letting his hand fall.
She pulled him toward her and kissed him again. As the kiss wound down, they heard a tapping on the window. Georgia stood on the sidewalk grinning. “There’s a hotel around the corner, you know.”
Simon swiveled to look at Ellie and found himself the butt of a furious, hissing face. “You.”
“Me? What are you talking about?”
“Two-faced, two-timing, two-dollar bill. Or should I say multiple timing. How many other women do you have hidden in island nooks and crannies—this island which you know so well?”
“Huh?” This isn’t going as swimmingly as I thought. “I…uh.”
“Take me home. Now.”
When they rolled up in front of Ellie’s house, a cheery yellow bungalow on Fletcher Avenue with a wide porch and hanging geraniums, a silver sports car sat at the curb. Oh great, the mighty Thad.
Simon’s nemesis disentangled himself from the wheel. Slowly, as if for maximum effect, he unfurled his powerful body, planting his size fourteen shoes solidly on the ground. A beefy hand languidly brushed the sandy hair from his forehead. Strapping shoulders squared, he loped over.
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents,the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. She has two grown children and a perfect granddaughter. Ms. Spencer has published twelve mystery/romantic suspense novels, and currently divides her time between Florida and Maine.
Thanks for letting me visit with you, Delilah! I thought it would be fun to share the story behind the story with your readers. Let me back up a minute. The first question usually starts: Where do authors get their ideas?
Someone told me they think an author’s brain is a scary place! We do constantly ask, “What if…?”
Sometimes a daydream offers a story start, but ideas and inspiration can show up in the strangest places. My husband and I were in eastern Washington state, hiking along the Snake River in a game management area called Big Flats (which happens to feature in So About The Money, the first book in the Holly Price Mystery series). We had to push through some tangled foliage at the shoreline. Being a mystery writer whose mind really can go strange places, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?”
Fortunately, he laughed.
That germ of an idea—a body in the middle of nowhere—kept growing. Why would the heroine be at Big Flats to stumble over the body? How did the body end up beside the river in the first place?
The idea for In It For The Money (Book 4 in the series) came while I was chatting with a friend’s nephew at a party. He was all excited about designing some bizarre machine called a Rockcrawler. I had no clue what he was talking about, but I picked up on his passion. And my writer’s brain went, Hmmm… Rockcrawlers… That’s different.
Let me explain Rockcrawling—or rather, here’s how Holly described the sport to her friend, Laurie Gordon, after Holly dragged Laurie to the opening day events:
“Two guys were sitting on their back porch, drinking.” Holly raised her wine glass and Laurie clicked the rim. “One polished off his beer, belched, and popped open another can. He pointed at the vacant lot next door and said, ‘Betcha I can drive my truck over those rocks.'”
“You’re lying.” Laurie narrowed her eyes.
“Swear to God.” Holly raised her right hand. “And since God takes care of idiots and drunks, the first one made it over—alive—and his friend and all their friends had to try. And their friends…” She waved at the scene before them.
Continuing that excerpt…
Beyond the last vendor booth, Holly saw another jacked-up truck rumble toward the enormous pile of boulders that marked the start of the rockcrawler course. The crowd shifted, watching the truck’s progress up the torturous 45-degree angle.
Just past a short series of tented seating—the sponsors’ section and some “premium seats”—an array of parked pickup trucks overflowed the designated parking area. Men—and a few women—stood in the beds for an elevated view. More than one person had climbed onto the top of the truck’s cab. The coolers and grills gave new meaning to the term “tailgate party.”
Holly waved a hand at the crowded areas beside the course. She wasn’t sure what to call the space. The stands? Infield? Peanut gallery? “Trucks climbing over rocks may be nuts, but this is fun. It’s like a big party.”
“Clearly, you don’t get out enough,” Laurie said dryly.
“’Course, when you told me rockcrawling was a big deal, I about laughed my ass off. I mean, seriously? Rockcrawlers? I still can’t believe they drive trucks over big piles of rocks.” Laurie worked in admin at the local hospital. The Boulder Bounders sporting event wasn’t exactly her scene, either. “I’ve never seen so much alcohol and testosterone in the same place. It’s like a slow-mo NASCAR race with giant wheels.”
“And rocks. Don’t forget the rocks,” Holly said. For a moment, she longingly watched the partying instead of the competing truck. She needed to, make that wanted to, invite friends over for a cookout at her house—if she could find an open afternoon in her overcrowded schedule.
Yeah, good luck with that.
IN IT FOR THE MONEY
Holly Price traded professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisition team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.
When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative car suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The Rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her already shaky relationship with JC.
Cathy Perkins started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories. When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.
Sign up for her newsletter on her website or follow her on BookBub for new release announcements.
Fifty years ago, I published my first attempt to become a writer. Over the years, I’ve seen so many changes. In the old days, I often received my manuscripts with comments written in the margins or in letters helping me improve my stories. These days, editors seem to want a manuscript nearly ready to publish. In those days, there were magazines galore waiting for short stories and an agent wasn’t needed for submission. Slowly, the magazine market dried up. A number of book publishers have either closed their doors or merged with other publishers. In some ways, this is sad.
But there are positive matters to consider. Back then, there were only hard cover and paperback books. I remember being at a small conference when two writers so envied me because three of my books were in hard cover. Now, there are many ways to publish. Major publishers, small publishers, electronic publishers, self publishing.
I found electronic publishing near the end of 1997 and had my first eBook appear in 1998. These times were exciting and sometimes traumatic for writers, if they chose to go that ways. My first book, though it’s been updated and parts re-written, is available today. The book in its many incarnations has not made me a fortune but has continued to sell and sell. MURDER and MINT TEA was and is the title.
Murder and Mint Tea
Katherine is a retired nurse and a retired church organist. The small Hudson River village where she lives in her Victorian “Painted Lady” makes her the neighborhood matriarch. Along with her Maine Coon Cat Robespierre, she guards friends and families.
When amoral Rachel moves into the first floor apartment of Katherine’s house, trouble erupts. The murder weapon is one she recognizes and makes her fear for her friends and family.
Finding the killer becomes her goal.
Editorial Review “Murder and Mint Tea is a gem in its genre, combining the voice of a classic American whodunit with that of a traditional British detective novel. Murder She Wrote meets Miss Marple in a beautifully crafted tale that makes the reader want to reach into the pages and dispense justice to the villainess themselves.” ~ Writer Gail Roughton