Friday, April 6, 2012

Top Tips for Cozy Mystery Writing and a Crazy Cozy Blogfest

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Crazy_Cozy_Blogfest_v1-2_400pxToday I thought I’d move into mystery writing territory for a while and include some of my top tips for cozy mystery writing (some of which will work well with other types of mysteries.)

Today’s post comes a little less than two months before the release of a new cozy series for me and the debut of a new cozy series from my friend Hart Johnson. We thought we’d band together and make a fun blog hop on June 5th) to celebrate our releases and host a giveaway. More information is at the bottom of the post.

What’s a cozy mystery? Cozies, sometimes called traditional mysteries, are a subgenre in a large field of mystery subgenres. They’re primarily defined by their use of an amateur sleuth, lack of gore and profanity, offstage murder, and focus on the whodunit puzzle. These mysteries are frequently (not always) humorous, character-focused, set in small-towns, and are part of a series.

Tips for cozy writing:

The sleuth will be a gifted amateur, but you’ll want to have a police source. Make sure your sleuth has access to some of the same information that the police has—time of death and the potential weapon, for example.

Make sure you’re leaving several clues to the murderer’s identity, but aren’t making them too obvious. The clues need to be scattered throughout the book, but the reader doesn’t need the equivalent of a neon sign pointing out that a clue happened. Find a way to lay the clue but to distract attention from it—maybe another suspect arriving on stage? A sudden argument between the sleuth and another character? Something that seems like a more important clue?

Give the reader a reason to care about the case. Is the victim someone very likeable and innocent and they want to avenge her death? Is one of the suspects wrongly accused and needs to be vindicated? Is the sleuth somehow personally involved or emotionally connected to the case?

Be careful with your number of suspects. Suspect numbers can get a little tricky. You want enough suspects to ensure that the killer’s identity is a surprise, but not so many that the reader forgets who they are. I usually like five suspects, killing one in the middle of the book. One of my editors actually prefers fewer.

Have suspects tell both lies and truths. The sleuth and reader will try to discern which is which. If everyone has something to hide or someone to protect, it creates a lot more conflict in the story.

Consider eliminating the most promising suspect. It can shake up a story in the middle of a book.

Crazy Cozy Blogfest

Now, to help Hart and me with our upcoming releases (and have the chance to win signed books) you can create your own cozy mystery. Except it will be a lot shorter and you don’t have to use any of the tips I included above. :)

Sign up with the Linky tool below, adding your blog to our list of June 5th participants.

Include: 1) Sleuth (age, occupation, maybe a little family info) 2) Sidekick (either friend or foil, but someone who always seems to be around) 3) Setting (town, city, or other sort of place) 4) Theme (go nuts) 5) Twist (be as creative as you like) Write it up in 150-250 words (keeping things short for the blog hop). Please include either our book descriptions or a promo mention or a link to our sites or for buying books.

Click here to enter This list will close in 61 days, 3 hrs, 54 min (6/5/2012 11:59 PM CST

The Azalea Assault Cam Harris loves her job as public relations manager for the Roanoke Garden Society. It allows her to combine her three loves, spinning the press, showing off her favorite town, and promoting her favorite activity. She's just achieved a huge coup by enlisting Garden Delights, the country's premiere gardening magazine, to feature the exquisite garden of RGS founder, Neil Patrick. She's even managed to enlist world-famous photographer Jean-Jacques Georges. Unfortunately, Jean-Jacques is a first-rate cad—insulting the RGS members and gardening, goosing every woman in the room, and drinking like a lush. It is hardly a surprise when he turns up dead. But when Cam's brother-in-law is accused and her sister begs her to solve the crime, that is when things really get prickly. Alyse Carlson: Alyse Carlson is the pen name for Hart Johnson who writes books from her bathtub. By day she is an academic researcher at a large Midwestern university. She lives with her husband, two teenage children and two fur balls. The dust bunnies don't count. This will be her first published book. Links: Amazon Barnes and Noble Indie Bound Confessions of a Watery Tart

Prizes: Hart/Alyse and I will pick our our favorite entries and both winners will get signed copies of both books.

Please help us promote the blogfest by taking the button and banner (thanks to artist Joris Ammerlaan for the buttons) and/or share the Linky Tool below for the blog hop.

Quilt or Innocence Beatrice has a lot of gossip to catch up on—especially with the Patchwork Cottage quilt shop about to close. It seems that Judith, the landlord everyone loves to hate, wants to raise the rent, despite being a quilter herself… But when Judith is found dead, the harmless gossip becomes an intricate patchwork of mischievous motives. And it’s up to Beatrice’s expert eye to decipher the pattern and catch the killer, before her life gets sewn up for good. Elizabeth Spann Craig: Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer's Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010, 2011, 2011. Links: Amazon Barnes and Noble Indie Bound Mystery Writing is Murder

Thanks, everybody!