The Hazards of Writing a Cozy
by G G Collins (Copyright 2017)
Mystery cozies were originally just called mysteries. Even before Agatha Christie, there was Mary Roberts Rinehart. She introduced the “had I but known” device. I devoured Rinehart’s books but soon attacked Christie’s as well. But I owe it all to a book by Shirley Jackson entitled We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The ending blew me away and it was my introduction to mysteries.
Cozies, a term introduced during the 1980s, have a few things in common. The murder happens “off screen” and is usually poison, a simple wallop to the head with say a candlestick or a clean shot without a lot of blood. Please no hollow R.I.P bullets, a .22 will do nicely.
These murders happened to people and in places where, well, these things just don’t happen: a mansion, bookstore or in my case a book publisher who specializes in mysteries. Did you see that coming? Often the sleuth is an amateur, although they can be a promising amateur.
In the early days, the emphasis was on the puzzle and the suspects. And everyone was and is suspect. The cats, recipes and delving into characters backgrounds and careers is a more modern concept. And if there is romance, it’s discreet. Like those kisses from the early movies that only allowed a 3-second kiss. And please, no bedroom scene unless you only see the lights go off from outside.
But here’s where I got into trouble; swearing! I admit it. I curse. And frankly, I don’t see how a someone who kills people would not use profanity. “Excuse me,” the killer said. “I’m going to cut your blankety-blank throat now.” Really?
Okay, I get it. Cozies are about having fun with murder. Someone gets the axe and we spend the rest of the book drinking tea, petting cats and maybe do a little baking until the perp is identified and all’s well with the world again.
My first cozy is due out in October 2017. I’m having a ball writing the Dead Editor File. But I’ve had a really difficult time, er, not cussing. I’ve even got my protagonist trying not to, you know; swear.
However, there is nothing I can do about her Abyssinian cat, Oscar. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with an Aby, and believe me he could let loose with the four letter words; in Cat of course. He lives on in Oscar. Oscar is known to leave “surprises” for Taylor when he isn’t fed on time or in the way he’s grown accustom to dining.
So I’ll be washing my mouth out with soap and tossing quarters in the “swear jar” before the book is complete as I try to think of clever ways to not write well, you know.
And when I use the term “dang it,” well I think you’ll know what I was thinking. It’s the cozy way.
I hope you enjoy mystery editor Taylor Browning in her first outing in the Dead Editor File. Available on Amazon October 15, 2017.
Adventure Fantasy: Why I Write
When I began writing fiction I was certain that mysteries were what I wanted to write. I’d read all of Agatha Christie’s books as a child, but by contrast, I read a lot of Stephen King as well. I just swear too much to fit into the cozy genre. I know very little about guns which kind of places the police procedural or crime drama out of reach as well. But I can’t get enough of paranormal anything and everything so I went for a paranormal mystery. And yes, there is a mystery in “Reluctant Medium” in that Rachel’s father died mysterious. Was it an accident? Was it a murder?
After publishing, I even placed the book in the mystery category, but as I wrote the next in the series, “Lemurian Medium,” things took an even stranger turn. It has to do with the lost continent of Lemuria (also called Mu). And Rachel has to learn to travel the astral plane—reluctantly of course—to get there. And she will have to ride a dragon to escape. Okay, so we’re definitely getting into new territory, unexplored parts.
My wonderful, supportive Florida friend, I’ll call her Cherie, is a voracious reader. She introduced me to some of her favorite authors: Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton. Then I discovered Patricia Briggs, Debora Geary, Jim Butcher and Elizabeth Hunter. Oh my, yes, good company indeed.
I did some research—something I love to do—and discovered the genre of fantasy, which is actually a subgenre of science fiction. It has a paranormal sub-subgenre and I went for it.
And here’s what fantasy is all about. Somewhere around the time we say “I do,” we take on a mortgage, a lawn and begin painting our house as a hobby. All that adventure we thought we’d enjoy as an adult evaporated. Most of us will not see the world, visit the space station or explore the Amazon rain forest. We’ll be too busy paying bills, doing laundry and oh yeah, painting our house, to be that adventurous person who lives deep inside ourselves.
We yearn for that incredible discovery that long-distance hiking or third-world travel holds. And while we may not want to dive out of an airplane or bungee-jump off Victoria Falls that thirst for the incredible journey won’t go away.
Which leads me to why I write fantasy. When I write this kind of story I can explore continents that may never have existed—but what if they had? What if there were dragons and we just haven’t found their remains yet? What if there is an astral plane and we can travel it? Where else can I fight (through my character) an ancient MesoAmerican deity that snacks on humans?
Rachel Blackstone can certainly do cynical, sarcastic and funny. She can also swear with the best of them. And on occasion, she and her friend Chloe smoke a bit of pot. And after dispensing evil spirits, Dracs and self-important (and hungry) antique deities, with the help of her spirit wolf and dead shaman friend, Rachel goes home, curls up with her psychic cat and writes her latest assignment.
The answer to our lack of adventure is fantasy. The truly wonderful part of this book-writing thing; I get to go along too! We take this adventure together.
I hope you’ll share this trip with me. “Lemurian Medium” is due out September 1, 2013. It’s a fun story with a bit of fact and a bit of mythology—at least we think it’s mythological. What if it’s not? Hmmm.
Read the adventures of the Reluctant Medium from the beginning.
“Atomic Medium” is already in the works. It will include alternative history, time travel and a space alien or two. After that, well, I feel a vampire story coming on. Maybe I can research that at a blood bank—or maybe not. One thing is certain, it will be fun.
— G G Collins