Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Writing the Cozy Mystery (Magical Mystery Tour Part 2!)

Ruthy here, happily welcoming the mega talented, award-winning suspense and mystery writer Nancy Mehl! Nancy is doing Part 2 of our ongoing "How to be a Mystery Writer" Magical Mystery Tour series... and her advice is well-taken! Nancy, I've got coffee and cranberry muffins in honor of our Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard series that we're working on together... And Nancy will come by to answer any questions you might have about penning that first whodunnit! 
Ask almost any reader to explain what defines a mystery novel and most will respond with definite characteristics they feel should be present in this popular genre. However, ask the same reader to explain the elements of a “cozy” mystery and you may see a look of confusion creep across their face. So just what makes a mystery “cozy?”

The most fundamental elements in cozy mystery are fairly easy to define. First of all, there will be a basically bloodless crime that may happen “offstage.” In other words, by the time our amateur detective arrives on the scene, the dirty deed has already been done. Now, our sleuth, who is usually female, must solve the mystery because of circumstances she cannot avoid. In other words, the crime involves her directly in some way. This is true with any mystery, but in a cozy, many times the reasons behind her involvement are much more personal. Other signs that you’ve cracked open a cozy involve a small, confined setting; the lack of profanity and sexual content; a protagonist with an interesting hobby or job; and memorable, quirky characters. Also, many cozies are drawn with a touch of humor. Some go further, actually adding some giggles to the usual nasty business of murder and mayhem. Now let’s look a little more closely at each of these elements.

This is NOT a shameless Ruthy plug.... but this is the first book of the series Nancy and I are part of! There are 24 books scheduled, and we'll each write 3 of them. And we're having so much fun in our fictional Martha's Vineyard world!

One very important trait of a cozy mystery revolves around “location, location, location!” Cozies take place in confined settings, thereby drawing upon a small cast of characters and suspects. In other words, the killer can’t be someone passing though town who simply decides to “off” a few of the town’s gentle citizens!  The “investigation” needs to involve only the characters presented within this setting. You can use a small town (like Tisbuy, Massachusetts, in the Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard), a ship, even an old hotel or isolated castle. This restricted location keeps the mystery contained – and the world out. Since cozies are not police procedurals, many times the setting will actually cut down on official involvement. For example – a woman goes to visit an old friend who has turned an old Victorian-styled church into a bed and breakfast. Someone staying at the inn is murdered while a storm rages outside. The bridge to town is washed out, leaving our protagonist, the surrounding characters, and the murderer caught like rats in a trap. Of course, since our characters can’t get out, the police can’t get in. Now the fun begins! One caveat: if you draw law enforcement into your story, you need to be as accurate as you can. Again, police in rural towns may not be as “by the book” as say, detectives in New York City, but don’t fudge the details past the limits of believability. For my “Ivy Towers Series,” I consulted an actual deputy sheriff who worked in rural areas of Kansas. This helped me to “keep it real” for my readers.

Addressing the overwhelming glut of mysteries on the market with language and sexual scenes that would have caused my grandmother to “swoon,” brings a mixed bag of opinions from mystery authors and readers alike. However, I believe cozies should be “gentle” mysteries. In keeping with this idea, no “harsh” profanity or lurid “boudoir” passages should be present. Usually, cozy mysteries are selected by readers who specifically want to avoid graphic words and images. Of course, in an inspirational cozy, this point is non-negotiable. No profanity allowed at all! In fact, various inspirational publishers have different standards. One publisher bans the use of “Holy cow!” while another has no problem with it. In my book, “There Goes Santa Claus,” upon finding a dead Santa Claus that has fallen off his roof, Amos Tucker greets the sight with “J-Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, Ivy. I think we just killed Santa Claus!” Many of today’s contemporary mystery novels might have offered language a little more colorful!

Now, on to s-e-x. Cozies should contain little or no sexual content. In inspirational cozy, there can be romance, but sex only occurs between married couples – and it definitely happens offstage! Remember the old black and white movies where the couple kissed, the camera swung away from them, and in the night sky behind them fireworks exploded? You got the idea without the embarrassing details!

A current trend in cozies gives our amateur detective an interesting hobby or job that adds an element of interest. Of course, this isn’t always true. Although Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was an interesting character, her creativity expressed itself most clearly in her mental acumen. However, today’s heroines can be hairdressers, interior designers, own antique stores, be cooks, quilters or may be characterized by some other specific professional or personal involvement. And “county coroner” doesn’t work here. It’s difficult to make that funny. In my “Curl Up and Dye” mystery series, my protagonist, Hilde Higgins, is a hairdresser – for funeral homes. That’s about as dark as you can get. One side note: I came up with this idea because I was joking with my agent one day about all the “hooks” being used by mystery authors. We agreed that the hairdressing sleuth had been done. My mention of someone who worked in a funeral home brought the revelation of another author who was already writing a similar series. As a joke, I mentioned a hairdresser who works for funeral homes. The concept got burned into my imagination and the “Curl Up and Dye” mysteries were born.

Another “cozy” element involves likeable, “quirky” characters drawn with humor, who appear to have something “mysterious” in their backgrounds. These characters can all be possible suspects. Be careful though, not to paint a picture of someone who seems completely innocent and then surprise your reader at the last minute by making him the murderer. Mystery fans, including cozy mystery fans, ask you to play fair. Hints must be dropped and clues must be scattered! And whatever you do, pick up all your clues by the end of your story and explain. Mystery buffs don’t like to be left hanging. Never forget a cozy mystery is still a mystery and as an author, you must play by the rules.

In conclusion, cozy mysteries are stories presented as gentle gifts to be unwrapped while the reader snuggles under their favorite quilt and sips hot tea or cappuccino. Inspirational cozies should not only warm the heart but should also touch the spirit.  They will never shock the reader or cause them to upend their cappuccino. (A little laughter might cause a small spill – but in a cozy, this reaction is perfectly acceptable!)

And today we've got a wonderful book to give away... so leave a comment when you grab a cuppa and we'll throw your name into the Sherlock Holmes hat! 

Nancy Mehl – Short Bio
Nancy Mehl is a best-selling, award winning author who lives in Missouri, with her husband, Norman, and her Puggle, Watson. She’s authored almost thirty books and is currently writing a new series for Bethany House Publishing based on the U.S. Marshals. The first book, FATAL FROST, in her Defenders of Justice Series, released on November 1st, 2016. The second book, DARK DECEPTION, hit store shelves in June of 2017. Book three, BLIND BETRAYAL, will be released in the spring of 2018. She is also working on a new cozy mystery series for Guideposts, The Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”

Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She is part of The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.

Nancy's newest suspense novel:

Monday, June 26, 2017

From Down Under to Awed Wonder

with guest Carolyn Miller.

Hello Seekers - greetings from Australia!

It’s a real honor to be with you today, so thank you for taking the time to read about this Aussie historical romance writer’s love affair with England and Jane Austen.  🙂

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Jane Austen. I love her novels, I enjoy (most of) the film and TV adaptations of her books, I even appreciate the prayers said to be written by her. I like how the daughter of a country church reverend could be so irreverent in her social skewering of polite society, that she understood the inner foibles and fears of people, that her words contain such wit and wisdom. I like how her books have a core of romance that is so very different to what is deemed romance today. There’s barely any touching, let alone kissing, which means the entwining of hearts must come from other means—no, not just smouldering looks from Mr. Darcy-type characters, but the growing notice of and

appreciation for such qualities as kindness and concern for others, lively spirits, good temper, good humor, etc. I endeavour to emulate some of these qualities in my own Regency-era novels, including The Elusive Miss Ellison, and The Captivating Lady Charlotte, who makes her entrance into the world tomorrow!

I’ve always enjoyed Jane Austen’s work, and that of Georgette Heyer, which is why I felt extremely blessed to travel to England in 2015 on a ‘research trip’ (but also to visit my sister, who was living in London at the time). Now, Australia is a LONG way from England, and by the time I arrived I’d spent over a day in the air or waiting in airports. But did I care? No! I was finally in England, the land of so many dreams nurtured by the words of everyone from Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie to Shakespeare, the land depicted onscreen in shows like To The Manor Born and Midsomer Murders—and of course, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Anyone who has ever experienced a dream come true would understand the sense of wonder at sitting in the (recreated) Globe Theatre in London, watching a production of As You Like It, just as a theatregoer might have 400 years ago. Would understand the awe of seeing Roman-era baths in Bath (especially true for an Aussie when the earliest European contact with Australia happened in 1606, only a millennia and a half after Bath was founded by those Romans!). Anyone who has ever travelled to places only virtually explored via Google-Earth would know the thrill of walking the same Bath streets that Catherine Morland and Anne Elliot explored, or seeing…(drumroll, please) Pemberley.

Yes, Pemberley, the home of Mr. Darcy, hero of Pride and Prejudice, the hero responsible for countless women’s unrealistic expectations since 1813 (according to one popular meme).

Now I consider the 1995 BBC five-hour production with Colin Firth to be the definitive

version of P&P, partly because its length means it can explore some of the novel’s nuances that much more, and partly because the house used as Pemberley is not Chatsworth, as is used in the 2005 Keira Knightley version. (A careful read of P&P mentions Chatsworth in its own right as one of Derbyshire’s “celebrated beauties." Later mention of Pemberley House shows these to be two distinct great houses in the Peak District of Derbyshire. But I digress…)

Lyme Park, a magnificent estate that dates back to the 14th century (my Aussie mind can’t process such antiquity—heaven help me if I should one day visit Israel!), was used in the 1995 version of P&P, its grand Baroque-inspired features perfect for the home of the ultimate Austen hero. The day I visited the house was closed, but my sister and I could wander the grounds, which suited me as only the exterior was used in the 1995 version. (Interesting side note: my husband actually worked at Lyme Park! – last century, and on the grounds staff, but I’m pretty sure that gives him bonus Mr. Darcy points. 🙂)

As mentioned above, Chatsworth has also been used as a film location for Pemberley, in both the 2005 version, and the 2013 adaptation of PD James’s P&P sequel Death Comes to Pemberley. I was fortunate enough to see inside the house, as well as the amazing gardens, and can fully attest to the grandeur and splendour depicted in the films. To think this was a home—still is a home!—for one family, the Cavendish family, who just happen to be known as the Dukes of Devonshire…

Chatsworth is considered by some to be Jane Austen’s model when creating Pemberley. Consider these lines from Chapter 43 of P&P:

They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. 
Compare that description with images of Chatsworth and there may be some basis for such belief. 

Regardless of which Pemberley you prefer, I think it cannot be argued that Jane Austen was a master craftswoman of words, someone whose writing ushered in the advent of realism in novels (unlike the Gothic and sentimental of the 18th century), whose significance is such that this year, 200 years after her death, the Bank of England is commemorating her life with the release of her image on the ten-pound note. (Ironic, because she sold her first manuscript for ten pounds.) Jane Austen’s legacy of realistic yet romantic novels—and creation of such characters as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy—is definitely worth celebrating.

Visiting England (and side trips to Ireland and Scotland, but that’s another story and a half!) was a dream come true for me. Seeing gentle rolling hills and muted skies so different to the brash landscapes and bold blue skies of Australia, experiencing a tiny taste of life as I imagine might have been lived by some of my literary heroes, was something I shall always cherish, and something I shall always be grateful to my husband, as much for his encouragement to go see the places I’d researched and written about, as his willingness to look after our four children – God bless him!

Now over to you. Have you taken a ‘dream come true’ vacation? Have you ever travelled to England (or Australia!), and if so, what did you enjoy seeing? What would you like to see? Which is your favourite Jane Austen film, and which location would you like to visit? 

Leave a comment today for  chance to win an e-copy of either The Elusive Miss Ellison or The Captivating Lady Charlotte. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte
Her heart is her own--but her hand in marriage is another matter.

Lady Charlotte Featherington is destined for great things on the marriage market. After all, as the beautiful daughter of a marquess, she should have her pick of the eligible nobility when she debuts. She, however, has love at the top of her list of marriageable attributes. And her romantic heart falls hard for one particularly dashing, attentive suitor. Sadly for Charlotte, her noble father intends her betrothed to be someone far more dull.

William Hartwell may be a duke, but he knows he was Charlotte's father's pick, not the young lady's own choice. And the captivating Lady Charlotte does not strike him as a woman who will be wooed by his wealth or title. While she has captured his heart, he has no idea how to win hers in return--and the betrayal and scandal his first wife put him through makes it difficult for him to believe that love can ever be trusted. His only hope is that Charlotte's sense of responsibility will win out over her romantic notions.

Can a widowed duke and a romantically inclined lady negotiate a future and discover love beyond duty? Will they be able to find healing and hope from the legacy of grace?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. A long-time lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her debut Regency The Elusive Miss Ellison released in February 2017 from Kregel; The Captivating Lady Charlotte releases June 27. Both are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD etc.

Connect with her:


Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes. Send to Seekers@Seekerville.net

 Monday: Mike Ehret was here chatting about editing... tiny houses... and the delightful new anthology he's part of, in his post "Editing the Editor." Winner of a copy of "Coming Home" is Deb H!

Tuesday: Pam Hillman discussed six things she learned from a "Crunch Deadline." Kathryn Barker is the winner of  The Promise of Breeze Hill, coming August 2017.

Wednesday: Publishers Weekly Bestselling Author Debby Giusti has been in a book club for more than a decade and talked about "Book Clubs" and why she loves them! Marcia is the winner of the first book in Debby's Amish Protectors series, Amish Refuge!   

Thursday:  Love Inspired Suspense author Jessica R. Patch was our special guest today with her post, "Why Writing is Like Walking on Water." Sally Shupe is the winner of a copy of her latest release, Deep Water!

Monday: Aussie Carolyn Miller joins us with her post, "From Down Under to Awed Wonder." Pack your bags as we go on a whirlwind trip to visit London and Jane Austen. Leave a comment for your chance to win an e-copy of either The Elusive Miss Ellison or The Captivating Lady Charlotte.
Tuesday:  Welcome award-winning mystery/suspense author Nancy Mehl as we continue Ruth Logan Herne's series about writing who-done-its! Join this incredibly talented author as she give us her inside tips about this crazy popular genre! One lucky commenter will be chosen for a copy of a wonderfully delightful book!

Wednesday: Seeker Tina Radcliffe brings you "The Stoic's Guide to Emotions." So you're not a Drama Queen--more like a Mr. Spock? No worries. Today Tina will provide tips to bring out your inner angst, whether you like it or not. Leave a comment for your chance to win a fabulous and fantastic and special giveaway. Did we mention utterly stupendous?

Thursday:  YES! Today we welcome four of the ladies responsible for the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat, on August 12th this year in Cincinnati! Amazing bloggers Carrie, Annie, Beth Erin and Rachel have begun an annual tradition that brings authors and readers together in one place. Stop by and leave a comment for a delightful giveaway, but more because you want to meet these wonderful women who are also setting the bar high as successful bloggers.and see what it takes to run a successful blog in today's online market!

Friday: Today we bring you The Best of the Archives, with one of our finest vintage posts. Comments are closed so we all can catch up on our reading and writing.

Congratulations to Mary Connealy! No Way Up is a 2017 Carol Award Finalist! No Way Up is the first book of the Cimarron Legacy series. 

Tina Radcliffe returns to her Oklahoma roots for her brand new series: Big Heart Ranch. Book 1, Claiming Her Cowboy is available for preorder here. If you are a newsletter subscriber you can join the baby naming fun! Book 3 features Emma Maxwell, widow, and mother to these adorable twin girls. Join the newsletter here,  and then name the twins on Tina Radcliffe's Author Facebook page. (Avoid rhyming names.)  If your names are chosen you'll be acknowledged in the book and receive an autographed advanced copy of Book 3 of this heart-tugging new series about God's grace, second chances and forever love.

Congratulations to Seeker, Pam Hillman! The Promise of Breeze Hill, the first book of her new Natchez Trace series has received an RT Book Review TOP PICK with 4 1/2 STARS!! (Click on the image above for a peek at the review!) You can preorder your copy of this August release here.  

 FREE DOWNLOAD 5 DAYS ONLY! If you haven't  read Julie Lessman's 5-star, Family Fiction magazine's Best of 2015 ISLE OF HOPE, book 1 in the 
Isle of Hope series, now is the time!

Book 2 in Julie Lessman’s Isle of Hope series, EVERLASTING LOVE, has a 5-star rating on Amazon and is NOW on sale at almost 50% off!  

 Book 3 in Julie Lessman’s Isle of Hope series, HIS STEADFAST LOVE, is NOW available for PREORDER!!  And good news! Pre-ordering 
gives you extra points in Julie's contest below!

CONTEST! Julie Lessman is kicking off the launch of His Steadfast Love with a new contest where you can win a character named after you in both the e-book and paperback versions, a signed copy, plus your choice of a $50 Amazon gift card OR a box of 10 top CBA books, so here’s the link:   

Thanks for the link love!

Congratulations to the 2017 ACFW Carol Award Finalists. The awards ceremony will be held at the ACFW Conference in Grape Vine, Texas, September 21-24. Keep an eye on the ACFW website for details on live streaming of the event!

Amazon has done away with many popular lists, but you can still track new releases and sales from your favorite authors. Follow them on Amazon (Click on their name under their book title, and then click the plus sign under their name/picture.) and follow them on Bookbub. You can also get deals sent to your mailbox. Are there any newsletters you recommend for finding deals, new releases, and new authors? Please share in the comments! Here are some of our favorites:

An Agent’s Perspective: Why You Should Be Attending Conferences & Workshops as a Writer (WD)

New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors (PW)

How To Choose and Set Up a Pen Name (Jane Friedman)

Hacking Amazon's Ad System (AME)

The Difference Between a Press Release and a Pitch (You Need Both) (Jane Friedman)
Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – June 2017 (The Book Designer)

How to Write a Mystery (The Creative Penn)

7 Top Book Marketing Takeaways from BookExpo 2017 (BookBub Partners)

Family Affair: Religion Pubs Sign Bestsellers' Kids (PW)

An Agent's Advice: The Big Five No-nos to Querying a Literary Agent (Kill Zone)

How to Handle Conflicting Critiques (Fiction University)

Mrs. Austen: JANE!
Lady Gresham: What is she doing?
Mr. Wisley: Writing.
Lady Gresham: Can anything be done about it?

Becoming Jane

We're celebrating Jane Austen this weekend.
 Leave a comment for a chance to win this P & P tote. And if you haven't ready Mary Connealy's Carol Award finaling release, 
No Way Up, why we'll tuck a copy of that into the tote as well!
Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Best of the Archives: Wisdom--Drivel--Whatever

This post by Mary Connealy first appeared in Seekerville on October 4, 2010. Comments are closed today so we can catch up with our reading and writing!
Mary Connealy Circa 2010
 I'm in the middle of a terrible struggle here.

Do I tell the truth?

Or do I make this entertaining?

Oh, yeah. I can hear it now, TRUTH! TRUTH! TRUTH! TRUTH! TRUTH!

But really, is that what we're here for? Seriously?

Okay, the truth. Hmmmm….

I seem to write sort of compulsively.

The thing is, if you write for ten years and have twenty finished books on your computer and you get a book published, people say you've got a great work ethic. 

They say you're persistent, you pursued your dream, you're dedicated.

If you NEVER get a book published, they say you're got obsessive compulsive disorder and stage an intervention and try to get you into therapy, if not a psyche ward.

So I got published. Phew!

I look back on all those years of writing, writing, writing and I just don't know what possessed me to do such a thing.

My writing life is born of some kind of natural love for putting words down on paper. Add in I just am passionate about reading. I can remember reading my first Mary Higgins Clark book and closing it and staring at that book and thinking, "How did she do that?"

How did she make this book into a roller coaster ride? What does it take to write like this?

I remember her, Walter Farley and Clive Cussler when I write. They have a gift for dragging you right into the middle of the action and absolutely refusing to let you escape.

So, wait, that's not my writing life, is it? Rats! Okay, I write 1000 words a day. Every day. Seven days a week. I let myself off the hook if I miss, no big deal. I'm a Christian, the concept of forgiveness and starting new each day is alive and well within me.

But still, I write 1000 words a day seven days a week. Sometimes more. Rarely less. I'm not particularly finicky about my environment. I can write in an airport. I can write for ten minutes, get a phone call and talk for ten minutes, then turn right back and write some more.

I can write early or late. In quiet or noise. That's my writing life.

I think maybe it's pretty boring. I mostly stay home. For years I worked five days a week at a day job. I'm an insomniac and to some extent, writing helps me keep my sanity. (and why, oh why, do I know Ruthy will have a 'keep your sanity?' remark to make if the comments were open.)

I really don't think of writing as something I DO. I think of writing…being a writer…as something I AM. I look back and see I've been writing all my life. Scribbling always, everywhere. I'm surprised I haven't written on my walls.

The one thing I remember so vividly is when I began writing Petticoat Ranch, which ended up being the first released book of my published life, I knew what I wanted. Vigilantes. Romance. Cowboys. Comedy. Action.

I remember staring at that blank computer screen...I've always loved starting a new book...I remember thinking...Remember everything you know. Apply everything you've learned. I focused on that screen and I knew I had to explode my beginning. I had to show instead of tell. I had to dump the backstory and weave it in slowly. And I started typing. That's my writing life.

I write.

That is pretty much 100% of it.

So, do what you will with all this wisdom (drivel—whatever).

Long Time Gone

The Boden clan thought their problems had ended with the death of a dangerous enemy, but have they truly uncovered the real plot to take their New Mexico ranch? Rancher Justin Boden is now in charge. He is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn't help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on.

With her and the doc's timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It's clear now that everything that's occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine?

Mary Connealy writes suspenseful romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a two-time Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. She is the bestselling, award-winning author of 50 plus books and novellas.

Find Mary online at: