Saturday, December 4, 2010

Still waiting

Hi everyone!

Just a quick update to add to the blog to keep it somewhat active. Unfortunately, I am still waiting for Donna F. Crow's book "A Very Private Grave" to arrive from I usually don't have to wait this long, but I am chalking it up to all the shipping they must have to do for the holiday season.

While I have been waiting for this book, I read a "cozy" book, but it wasn't about murder. Sometimes, I just need a break from the murder mystery world and enter another one for a while. I've decided that I love books that are set in the South. I am hoping to visit some of those beautiful southern states one day. My first stop will be South Carolina. That's about as far as I have gotten with my "bucket list". I am going to blame Anne George for my love of the South since she was the first author I read in the cozy murder mystery world where the setting was in the South.

I have decided that after I read "A Very Private Grave", I am going to ready Laura Alden's "Murder at the PTA". That one sounds right up my alley, being a stay at home mom and all. I can't wait! I may have to bump this one up if Amazon doesn't deliver to me soon. I can't stand to not have a book available to me to pick up and read whenever I get the chance.

If anyone has read either one of these books, I'd love to hear your opinion on them!

Until next time . . . . .Meg

Monday, November 22, 2010

A big warm Thank You

First off, I want to send out a big warm Thank You to the ladies that have contacted me and have welcomed me to the blog. I truly appreciate you reaching out and making contact. I have a feeling this is going to be a fun journey for me.

I have made contact with a few authors and am excited that they will be contributing to the blog. My first contact has been with Donna F. Crow. She has a new murder mystery out, A Very Private Grave, which is her first book in the new series The Monastery Murders. Before I have an author contribute to the blog, I have to read their book first. I feel that by reading the author's newest book, I will have a better feel for what to ask them and understand better where they are coming from. It's kind of like my own homework assignment. So starting this week, I will begin A Very Private Grave. I am really looking forward to it!

Somehow, I have to find the time to sit down and read with Thanksgiving hot on my heels. I am hosting this year. I love to host Thanksgiving (mostly because I LOVE to cook), but it certainly cuts into my time to read. My two passions are reading and cooking.

I am planning on contacting Donna F. Crow within the next few weeks to contribute to the blog.

If you happen to be reading A Very Private Grave, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have for Ms. Crow and I will do my very best to get them answered for you.

Happy Reading . . . .oh and Happy Thanksgiving! -Meg

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Introduction

Hi Everyone!

My name is Meg and I contacted Donna about taking over the Cozy Murder Mysteries blog. I am a huge fan of Cozy Murder Mysteries and came across this blog while searching for some new cozies to read.

I plan on keeping the "Why I Write Mysteries" column and "Q & A" with cozy murder mystery writers. I am hoping to get to "meet" some of my favorite authors.

A little about me, I am currently a stay-at-home mom to my two sons. One is 10 years old and the other is 1 1/2 years old. I started reading mysteries in general back in 2002. My first ever mystery was a Mary Higgins Clark one. The more I read, the more I realized how much I loved mysteries. My first Cozy Murder Mystery was by Anne George called "Murder Boogies with Elvis". I have read all her books in the series and fell in love with them.

I think that everyone has their own definition of what a Cozy Murder Mystery is. To me, it takes place in a small town, with a lot of descriptive language so that you feel like you can imagine yourself living there. You get to know the characters and love to read about them developing as the author continues to write book after book about them. I love the thought of getting a good Cozy Murder Mystery book to read, crawling up in a nice soft spot with a cup of coffee and throw and just letting myself be taken away by the story.

My favorite authors are Anne George, Diane Mott Davidson, Leslie Meier and Joanne Fluke.

I would love to hear from the "Cozy" followers about what they would like to read about in this blog and am open to any ideas that may improve it and help us gain even more followers.

I look forward to getting to know you all! -Meg

Friday, February 26, 2010

Are Crime Fiction Cliches Comforting?

Are Crime Fiction Clichés Comforting?

By: Brooklyn White

We’re all guilty of using them once in a while or more often too; in fact, clichés are a constant weapon in any writer’s arsenal. The problem with using them however is that you have to be careful not to rub your readers the wrong way – one too many of them and they’re bound to label your writing a bundle of clichés that has no originality at all. Crime writing is an especially difficult genre when it comes to avoiding clichés; it’s so full of authors who exploit them and use them even without realizing they’re doing so, and very often, they continue to enjoy success even though they resort to clichés.

But clichés are not all bad; actually, they can be quite comforting and even necessary at times, like when:

• Readers are comfortable with a certain style of writing: I hardly ever read new authors unless I’m forced to do so because I have nothing else to read. That is when I explore new options and select one person whose writing suits my taste in books. In the course of this process, I’ve found that I gravitate to a certain kind of books, those that are written in a style similar to my favourite authors. Now these new books may not have the same clichés as the old ones, but the situations are similar, as is the method of solving the crime. Come to think of it, all of us choose what we’re comfortable with when it comes to change. So when clichés cause déjà vu, they may not be all that bad.

• You have the same protagonist in all your books: If your hero is the same person (or team) in all your books, you’re bound to use clichés more often than not. Take the Perry Mason books written by Earl Stanley Gardner – Perry Mason, Della Street and Paul Drake are recurring characters, and almost every book features a case which is seemingly unwinnable at first glance, but which Mason solves with his usual ingenuity and quick wits when there are hardly any options left or time remaining. But you put up with the clichés because you know that Mason’s sense of deduction more than makes up for the rest of the banal stuff.

• You’re writing a spoof: Any self-respecting spoof (it may not respect other books, but it sure does respect itself) must be full of clichés so that readers know it is a spoof from the word go. So you’re forgiven for using them, or rather, if you don’t use them, you’re not likely to be forgiven.
So if you feel the clichés flowing from your fingers onto your screen, don’t worry too much. Just eliminate the ones that seem too obvious when you’re doing your edit and keep the rest as part of your artistic license.

This guest post is contributed by Brooklyn White, who writes on the topic of Forensic Science Technician Schools . She can be reached at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I Write Mysteries - Phyllis Smallman

Editor's Note: Welcome to Phyllis Smallman for today's 'Why I Write Mysteries' Column. Harriet Klausner, one of's premier reviewers, says about Sherri Travis, Smallman's sleuth, in Margarita Nights: "She makes the tale fun with her sass, spunk and spitfire sleuthing. " Enjoy!

Why I Write Mysteries.

Phyllis Smallman

When I was asked why I write mysteries it didn’t take me long to come up with a dozen solid reasons. To start with, writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on and mysteries are the most popular form of fiction in the world. But more than that, I love mysteries, love to read them and love to write them.

The often reluctant and unprepared hero or heroine goes on a quest - often a life and death struggle, taking us with them on an epic adventure to right wrongs, to see justice done or to discover truth.

These stories of crime explore the dark side of human nature; greed, anger, jealousy and even love when it’s beyond control. All of these emotions are at the heart of a good mystery. Cautionary tales, they tell us what happens when our emotions get out of control.

Mysteries hold up a mirror to society, showing it without its make-up on, revealing all its warts. Mental illness, drugs, and the social problems we all have to deal with in our neighborhoods, workplaces and yes, even our families, are examined. We see how ordinary people deal with extraordinary circumstances, how they cope with what life sends them. And all this wrapped up in a puzzle.

Stories about crimes spot-light our fears. Each of us feels as vulnerable to crime as we do to disease. All those little security signs in flower beds are the new crosses over doors to tell misfortune to move on.

And how many of us think human beings are becoming less moral and more violent? Remember the first crime stories appear in the bible. Cain murdering Able, Joseph being sold into slavery, the bible is full of tales of theft and murder and even tales of the slaughter of babies. And you think identity theft is new? Think of Jacob stealing Esau’s birthright.

Human nature flows through crime books, entertaining us, frightening us and even educating us. That’s why I love a mystery! I have a new one out in March, A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN. Holding your brand new book in your hands, well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Phyllis Smallman

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why I Write Mysteries - Nancy Means Wright

*Editor's note: Welcome to Nancy Means Wright, author of the soon-to-be published historical mystery 'Midnight Fires', starring an admirable woman, Mary Wollstonecraft. Her official bio: Nancy Means Wright is the author of 15 books, including 5 mystery novels from St. Martin’s Press, and this April, an historical novel, Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft (Perseverance Press). She was an Agatha winner and nominee for two kids’ mysteries, and has published stories in American Literary Review, Level Best Books, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, et al). Enjoy, everyone!!

Why I Write (Mostly) Cozy Mysteries
Nancy Means Wright

Shortly after I was divorced and had begun to teach in a small liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, I read a newspaper account about a pair of elderly Vermont farmers who kept their money in barn rafters and under mattresses. They were assaulted one night and the cash stolen—but the thieves were caught when they tossed the money about in bars and restaurants—and it reeked of barn! Up to that point, I’d published stories, poems, novels, and nonfiction books, but I hadn’t even read a mystery since fourth grade when, inspired by Nancy Drew, I penned a novella about the kidnapping of a pesky older brother—and my mother threw it out.

But I felt like a pariah so far away from my Vermont family, and desperately needed to put some kind of order back into my life. And mysteries, I knew from Nancy Drew, begin in chaos, but invariably end up in order—something I craved in my disjointed life. Moreover, in a mystery, one can do in the bad guys, including one’s former husband, and end on a bright note. I knew then that I had to write one. I’d begin with that assault, but change those elderly brothers to a French Canadian farmer and wife, and set the story on a small town dairy farm. After all, I’d lived most of my life in Cornwall, a town composed largely of farms and orchards, where Jamaican pickers came each fall to sing like dark birds in the ripe trees.

To me Vermont had always seemed an Eden, a place for healing and quiet meditation. But now I was beginning to discover the snake in the garden. Small independent farmers were being forced to sell their farms; I’d write in defense of those farmers. And I’d make the town of “Branbury” a character in the novel; I wanted a strong sense of place that was more than local color. But setting demands a sleuth. And knowing little about homicide detectives or PIs, I decided to make my sleuth an amateur, a good Samaritan farmer-neighbor to those assaulted men. Since I was going through a divorce, my fictional Ruth Willmarth would be a single mother of three. She would be like the novel’s author, the two of us trying to find out whodunnit and why—especially why—all those fractured relationships that can cause a murder. Ultimately, St. Martin’s Press published five Ruth Willmarth novels and a novella—until Ruth’s thirty cows were quarantined for mad cow disease, and the series came, like my first marriage, to an inevitable end.

But I had to keep writing. Writing is a compulsion—it keeps me out of the psychiatrist’s office. It’s my meditation, almost my raison d’être. I published two mysteries for middle grade kids—one an Agatha winner; and then a memoir about family, with real life people in it. I’ve always loved writing about real people, present or past—especially those with whom I share feelings and principles. One of them is Mary Wollstonecraft, 18th century feminist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and led a wholly unconventional, rebellious life. I’d already published a small press book of poems in her persona, and now I wanted to write her into a mystery. She makes an ideal sleuth, I think, with her inquiring mind, her charismatic personality, and her daring. I would start with her year as impecunious governess to three unruly girls in Mitchelstown Castle in Ireland where, in my fictional telling, she saves a young rebel from hanging and tracks down the assassin of a roué aristocrat. A 2011 sequel will find her in colourful London, and then in bloody Paris during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, where in real life she lost her own head to a dashing but feckless adventurer.

I’ve loved writing Midnight Fires, which will be published in April by Perseverance Press. Writing about Wollstonecraft offers the chance to get into her head, to become her, to feel her passions and pains, the way I felt my farmer Ruth’s pain when the Feds killed her favorite cow Zelda in the end of Mad Cow Nightmare. Writing, then, is both pain and deepest pleasure, when light and order prevail in the end. It has given so much insight into other people and other worlds. How can one ordinary person live so many different lives—and all at once!

Nancy Means Wright
Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft (Perseverance Press--April,'10)
"Becoming Mary Wollstonecraft" Facebook page

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I Write Mysteries - Penny Warner

Editor's Note: Welcome today to a wonderful Thursday edition of 'Why I Write Mysteries'. This installment features Penny Warner, author of the fun mystery 'How To Host a Killer Party' (Signet - February 2010 - Available Now!) This prolific author walks the walk and talks the talk, having written numerous non-fiction party handbooks. Enjoy, all!!


By Penny Warner

I didn’t plan to be a writer when I grew up. When I was a kid, I placed writers on pedestals—“writers” like Carolyn Keene, “author” of the Nancy Drew series. Larger than life, they seemed as fictional as their characters. Turns out some of them were—like Carolyn Keene. But not my other favorites like E.B. White, A.A. Milne, L. Frank Baum. With authors like that, I found it hard to believe that an ordinary person like me could become a writer.

Then, when I was in sixth grade, I got mono and missed two months of school. That’s when my mother handed me a copy of my first Nancy Drew mystery—“Secret in the Old Clock.” It wasn’t long before I became obsessed with the girl sleuth. I started wearing a trench coat, made my own sleuth kit, and wrote my first mystery, “The Mystery of Mr. X.” While Nancy Drew was fiction, she inspired me to follow my passion—and that passion turned out to be writing mysteries.

I’ve had 50-plus books published over the years, including eight mysteries and THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK. Now the first book in my new mystery series, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY will debut on February 2—and I owe it all to Nancy Drew. I’ve come to realize that everything I know about writing, I learned from reading Nancy Drew mysteries. I thought I’d share some of Drew’s clues to writing that worked for me.

1. Create unforgettable characters: “You know Nancy.” All agreed she possessed an appealing quality, which people never forgot. ~ Clue in the Diary

All stories are based on interesting characters—there are no exceptions. Introduce us to your character a little at a time, using action and dialogue (showing), rather than a thumbnail sketch (telling). Create realistic characters without using stereotypical traits, and include some surprises about the character that are believable. Finally, give the characters conflict—happy characters make dull characters.

2. Use dialogue: Suddenly the young sleuth snapped her fingers. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll set a trap for that ghost!” ~ The Hidden Staircase

Dialogue makes a story come alive. It also helps move the story along, increases pace and creates drama. Listen to real conversations for realism, then edit and tighten them to make the dialogue readable. Keep attribution simple—use action or “said,” rather than adverbs and euphemisms for “said.” Finally, read your dialogue aloud.

3. Set the scene: Many Colonial houses had secret passageways. “Do you know any entrances a thief could use?” ~The Hidden Staircase

A vivid setting pulls the reader into the story. It also intensifies suspense and becomes a character in itself. Show the setting through the character’s eyes and include all five senses, telling details, and occasional metaphors.

4. Add mood and atmosphere: Nancy had heard music, thumps and creaking noises at night, and had seen eerie, shadows on walls. ~ The Hidden Staircase

Give a sense of foreboding through description. Mood and atmosphere give the story depth and stimulate the emotions of the readers. Use foreshadowing to give the reader a feeling of unease.

5. Outline your plot: Ellen was alarmed. “We must do something to stop him!” “I have a little plan,” Nancy said. ~ Quest of the Missing Map

Before you begin writing, outline your plot so you know, generally, where the story is headed. You can keep it simple and just jot down the major plot points of the story—where the story takes a surprising turn and how it ratchets up the suspense. Or you can write a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, with the option of veering off if the story requires an alteration.

6. Start the clock ticking: “Hurry, girls, or we’ll miss the train to River Heights!” Nancy knew being on time was important. ~ Secret of Red Gate Farm

Begin with the inciting incident, which starts the clock ticking. Include not only the situation, but where it takes place, and who’s involved. This is where you ask the story questions: What if….? Think about your goal as start the story and where it will lead.

7. Create conflict: Nancy struggled to get away. She twisted, kicked and clawed. “Let me go!” Nancy cried. ~ Secret of the Old Clock

There is no story without conflict. The protagonist must come up against an antagonist, which can be a person, an idea, a corporation, or some kind of evil. Conflict helps reveal the protagonist’s needs, values, and fears, and causes her to confront her demons, challenge herself, and become a hero of sorts.

8. Pack it with action: “How do we get in?” “Over the top, commando style,” George urged. “Lucky we wore jeans.” ~ Clue in the Crumbling Wall

Today’s reader wants action, so give your protagonist opportunities to do something physical. Give her a choice between fight or flight, and when she fights—make her strong but still vulnerable.

9. Spark reader’s emotions: Nancy was too frightened to think logically. She beat on the door, but the panels would not give way. ~ Secret of the Old Clock

Crank up the reader’s involvement but increasing the character’s emotional risk. This way the reader will care about the story. If she can relate to the protagonist’s emotional jeopardy, she’ll be hooked on finding out what happens.

10. Raise the stakes: In a desperate attempt to break down the door Nancy threw her weight against it again and again. ~ Secret of the Old Clock

The story begins with a challenge for the protagonist. But that’s not enough. As the story moves along, something worse must happen. And just when you think it’s safe to go back into the water, things become even worse. Keep raising the stakes to keep those pages turning.

11. Make the situation hopeless: “We’re locked in!” Nancy exclaimed, and began banging on the door with her fist. ~ Nancy’s Mysterious Letter

When all seems lost and the protagonist is about to give up because she’s running out of time and is under extreme pressure, she must find the courage to go on, make another decisions, and get herself out of this devastating trouble.

12. Give the protagonist strength: “Girls don’t faint these days,” George scoffed. ~ Secret of Red Gate Farm

As the protagonist comes face to face with the antagonist, she must pull out all her reserves and use her own skills to change the situation. This heroic attempt must also create growth and change in the protagonist.

13. Don’t give up: Nancy tried to open the door. It was locked. Not easily discouraged, she tried a window; it was unlocked. ~The Hidden Staircase

I really believe the reason I’ve had over 50 books published is simply because—like Nancy Drew—I followed my passion and never gave up!

Penny Warner is the author of THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, and the upcoming mystery series, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, from Penguin. She can be reached at

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Diane Gilbert Madsen - Q and A - Part 2

Editor's Note: Welcome back to Diane Gilbert Madsen for Part 2 of our Q&A!

Diane Gilber
t Madsen Q&A - Part 2

CMM: Do you have a favorite place to write: office, library, under the stars? Under the stairs?

DGM: I usually write in my office which is in my home. I live on a five-acre parcel in rural southwest Florida called Twin Ponds. My office desk is positioned in front of a window overlooking Sunrise Pond, making it sometimes hard to concentrate, like the time I spotted a Florida Panther at 8:30 AM walking slowly around the pond toward my house. I suspect he’d just had breakfast because he was very lethargic and sat down on the apron of my garage with his rump against the garage door. It’s quiet and the desk is big – my husband put it together for me so I can spread out ideas and workbooks and research papers. I like to have classical music playing in the background. I have two little Japanese Chins, Sugar and Spice, and they always go into the office first thing in the morning – so you know I’m a creature of habit.

CMM: You do talks and booksignings… have you had any interesting experiences during that?

DGM: I love booksignings. You get to meet the most interesting and friendly people and you often get to hear from other people who’d like to write. I love to meet fans of my work who’ve read my book and want to get it inscribed. At a recent booksigning, I had Gary Reinstrom, the piper, come for a few hours. He and my video were the hits of the evening. It was around Christmas and he played Christmas songs on the pipes. It was wonderful.

CMM: Reviews are a mixed blessing for most authors; we love the good ones, hate the bad ones, and know they are just one person’s opinion. How do you deal with negative reviews? Do you even read reviews?

DGM: I just read an article on bad reviews and how a writer should NEVER comment on them. That being said, I regard reviews as a marketing tool. Good reviews help sell books and bad ones don’t. Obviously I desire to have good reviews, which “A Cadger’s Curse” has luckily garnered. But tastes vary – thank goodness – and not everyone is going to love you or your book.

CMM: Did you always want to be a writer growing up, or did you have other aspirations?

DGN: Growing up, I loved to read and went to the library faithfully every Saturday. I would read anything, but I was especially attracted to mysteries. When I was in grammar school, my cousin Sharon and I (in the same grade) liked to write “little mysteries.” We would do alternate chapters and amaze ourselves at how the plot turned out. I also loved the business world, and went on to become the Director of the Economic Development Department of the State of Illinois where I was in charge of the Tourism and Film and Economic Development offices. Then I owned my own business for over 20 years, including my own grantwriting business here in Florida - talk about the urge to write and the urge to murder. The more I learned about the business world, the more I wanted to write mysteries!

CMM: What do you read? Any favorite authors?

DGM: My favorite authors are Doyle, Sayers, Christie, Tey and John Dickson Carr. I like to read Michael Connelly and Stuart Kaminsky (especially the Lew Fonesca series set in Sarasota), anything by Dick Francis, Nicholas Blake, Amanda Cross, Patricia Wentworth, Sara Woods, Barbara D’Amato, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, and John Dunning. There are so many good mystery writers out there right now, I can’t name them all. It’s like a feast - the second golden age of great mystery writers. I also like history and biography. Right now I’m in the middle of reading “The Gardner Heist” by Ulrich Roser; “Forty Odd Years in the Literary Shop,” by James L. Ford; “Scotland is not for the Squeamish” by Bill Watkins; “To the Tower Born,” by Robin Maxwell; “The Egyptologist” by Arthur Phillips; and “The Book of Air and Shadows” by Michael Gruber.

My website is:

Thank you so much to Diane Gilbert Madsen for joining us here at Cozy Murder Mysteries!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Diane Gilbert Madsen - Q and A with the Author! - Part 1

*From the Editor: Welcome to Diane Gilbert Madsen. Here is a brief 'About the Author' to whet your appetite! 'Chicagoan Diane Gilbert Madsen has an M.A. in 17th century English, was the State of Illinois Economic Development Director, and later ran her own consulting firm. She’s listed in Who’s Who in Finance & Industry and the World Who’s Who of Women. Fascinated by crime, history and business, her interest in writing murder mysteries was sparked when she met someone convicted of murder who was later exonerated. The encounter caused her to rethink how people form their first impressions of murder suspects. “A Cadger’s Curse,” is the first in the DD McGil Literati Mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. Diane and her husband Tom now live in Florida at Twin Ponds, a five-acre wildlife sanctuary.' Thank you to Diane for taking the time to do this.

*Note... today, coincidentally, is Robbie Burns Day (The Cadger's Curse involves Robbie Burns!) The Scot would be 251 today. Raise a glass of whatever you tipple!

Q&A with Diane Gi
lbert Madsen

CMM: First, tell us a little about your writing history… did you write before the DD McGil series?

DGM: I’m an English major and our curse as well as our blessing is that we all write -- or try to. I did write an early murder mystery called “Wild Life” centering around art forgery, but it never got picked up. Then I was interested in writing True Crime but got diverted when I started the DD McGil Literati Mystery series.

CMM: Now tell us about your DD McGil Literati Mystery Series; where did the idea for the series come from? What made you decide on a literature theme for your mysteries?

DGM: The Literati Mystery Series is a melding of my two interests, history and mystery. I like to read about famous authors. They all have some hidden mysteries in their own adventuresome lives. I like to take these incidents in authors lives and speculate on how the story might have continued after the final page. So I decided to combine my speculations about incidents in authors lives with my other passion – mysteries - and create the Literati Mystery Series. In the first book in the series, “A Cadger's Curse – The Robert Burns Affair,” the mystery revolves around an incident in Robert Burns’ life. The mystery took shape when I read that Burns had taken a diamond tip pen and boldly scratched a treasonous verse on the window of the Lion’s Head Inn in Stirling. It was a wild and crazy thing to do and could very well have cost him his life.

CMM: You have a book video for A Cadger’s Curse… how did that come about? Did you do the video yourself or did someone else do it for you?

DGM: I love all the book trailer videos. I had one done through COS productions. They worked closely with me and were excellent. I had a friend, Gary Reinstrom, who is a Jacobite piper from Sarasota Florida who teaches the bagpipes, and he did a special arrangement of Auld Lang Syne which we used as the music for the video. It turned out fantastic. I use the book trailer video at speaking engagements and book signings, and it’s been very enthusiastically received. I definitely plan on doing another one for my next DD McGil Literati Mystery, Hunting for Hemingway.

CMM: How do you create characters that can/will sustain a series of books? Do you know everything about them going in, or does that come bit by bit as you write the books?

DGM: Characters need to grow and develop and take on a life of their own during a book and from book to book in a series. In my case, I believe if I simply plot out a character, that character would turn out very wooden. Sometimes a character surprises you and takes over and you find yourself writing things in a rush, not really knowing where it’s all coming from. In A Cadger’s Curse, that happened with Aunt Elizabeth, or the Scottish Dragon, as she’s referred called.

CMM: Cozy mysteries generally take place in a small town, but you’ve set your DD McGil series in Chicago. Was that a conscious choice? Tell us about your decision making process?

DGM: Location, location, location! Maybe all cozy mysteries don’t have to take place in small towns. I would classify my mystery, A Cadger’s Curse, as “a slice of life” – a

“not-quite-cozy” rather than a “cozy.” I believe my story worked out very well in a large city where my heroine, DD McGil, can rely on a number of contacts offered in a large city. The larger venue also allows interactions which come out of “left-field” and keeps the mise en scene changing and unexpected. I don’t think I’m the only writer who’s done a “not-quite-cozy” in a big city. I wrote about Chicago because it’s my hometown, and I know it well and love it. I lived and worked there until I moved to Southwest Florida. I visit often and have many friends and family there and my visits keep me up to date on the city I love. Like politics, I think all stories are local, and if you have a feel for a city or town, I believe you can make the venue work - even in a cozy or a “not-quite-cozy.”

Check back here Wednesday for Part 2 of Diane Gilbert Madsen's Question and Answer with Cozy Murder Mysteries!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anne White - Malice and the Road to Lake George

Editor's Note: A big 'Cozy Murder Mysteries' welcome to Anne White, author of the Lake George mysteries, as she tells us about her experiences with Malice Domestic, a wonderful organization for authors of murder mysteries. Enjoy!!

Ten years ago, a talented young writer, Matt Witten, from nearby Saratoga Springs, taught a mystery writing course for the Lake George Arts Project in upstate New York. Matt, who wrote a series of mysteries set in Saratoga Springs, including the prize-winning Breakfast at Madeline’s, is now in California where he’s been a writer for Law and Order, Poltergeist and other TV shows.

Matt was not only a great teacher; he was incredibly supportive and encouraging to his students. He urged me to finish my first Lake George Mystery, An Affinity For Murder, and to enter the Malice Domestic Unpublished Writers Grant competition, which he’d won a few years before. Malice Domestic, an organization of mystery writers and readers, holds a mystery conference every spring in Washington, D.C. ( I urge you all, especially those working on their first book, to check this out.

The afternoon I picked up my phone and learned I was a winner of a Malice grant is still one of my all-time highs.

The next thing I knew I was getting calls from a literary agent suggesting he represent me. I didn’t realize what a miracle that was – an agent calling me, not once, not twice, but three times, before I stopped putting him off

The ups and down which followed made for a wild ride. The grant ($500 then, now $1000, plus registration for the Malice conference) was a terrific boost, but financial problems at the company which published the book plunged me into despair. Fortunately, things straightened out, and two years later Affinity (Oak Tree Publishing) had been published and was nominated as a Malice Domestic Best First Mystery.

Since then, I’ve published three more Lake George Mysteries (Beneath The Surface, Best Laid Plans and Secrets Dark and Deep) with the fifth, Cold Winter Nights, coming soon. (Hilliard and Harris)

This time I’ve set the story in winter and have included some of the cold weather activities we enjoy here, like skiing at fabulous Gore Mountain and other terrific ski areas. My characters take part in a colorful winter activity held each year at Lake George Village on New Year’s Day, the annual Polar Bear Plunge, in which almost 1000 men, women and adolescents wade, creep or dive into the icy waters in temperatures which often hover around 0 degrees. Believe it or not, this event has actually taken place for more than twenty years and grows in popularity all the time. I also introduced a fictional winter activity, a Carnivale on the Ice, and set a maniacal killer in a Mardi Gras mask in pursuit of Loren Graham, my protagonist.

Loren gave me so much trouble as I was finishing this book, I was tempted to let the villain catch her. But maybe your readers will want to find out what happens for themselves. Cold Winter Nights is now available from Amazon, and will soon be at Hilliard and Harris and book stores.

The first four books were also published by Harlequin’s Worldwide Book Club. ( Worldwide Library Worldwide Mysteries)

Anne White:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I Write Mysteries - Diane Gilbert Madsen

Editor's Note: Welcome to Diane Gilbert Madsen, who writes the DD McGil Literati Mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. From Diane's Website: "The DD McGil Literati Mystery Series features DD McGil, Insurance Investigator, probing the true mysteries and secrets that famous authors have in their past. The series gives readers an intriguing blend of mystery and history. If you think you know all there is to know about Robert Burns or Ernest Hemingway, you’ll discover some interesting – and deadly – mysteries afoot – all set in today’s world of academic and corporate treachery."

Why I Write Mysteries

Diane Gilbert Madsen

Since the November 1, 2009 publication of “A Cadger’s Curse,” the first in the DD McGil Literati Mystery Series, this is a question I’ve been asked frequently, (why I write mysteries) and I find myself not giving any one answer.

One of the obvious answers is that I like to write, and I like to read mysteries, so I’m writing what I’d like to read. My goal is to write an entertaining, amusing story with a good plot, engaging characters, and clues that are fair but still manage to misdirect the reader. I’m not striving to be socially relevant, and I don’t espouse causes. I leave that to others. I’m striving for goode olde entertainment. (Don’t you just hate it when people add all those extra “e’s?)

Another reason (and you probably won’t hear this from a lot of writers, but I’m being perfectly honest) is that over the years I’ve run across a number of people I don’t like, and writing mysteries give me a chance to kill off these folks. What a thrill to achieve the great satisfaction of getting rid of my foes and not have to suffer any real consequences! “A Cadger’s Curse” has five murders -- five being better than one. My husband Tom tells me I’ll never have to see a psychiatrist because I purge all my angst through the murders in the books. Tom also tells me he’s sure I’ll never run out of villains. (Does this mean he thinks I’ve made a lot of enemies?)

One unintended consequence of writing mysteries is that I have found people love to talk to a mystery author. It is great fun to talk with mystery fans, whom I find are invariably knowledgeable and friendly with wide ranging interests. Many fans want to write their own mystery novel, and they like to get reinforcement to convince them that it can be done.

Writing mysteries gives me an opportunity to combine a good mystery plot with interesting bits of history. I’ve always been interested in both mystery and history, and combining them both in my DD McGil Literati Mystery Series has been a fun challenge. I enjoy doing the research. For “A Cadger’s Curse,” I researched a true incident in the life of the great Scottish Bard, Robert Burns. In the second of the Literati Mystery Series, “Hunting for Hemingway,” coming out in September 2010, I take the consequences of a pivotal event in Hemingway’s life into modern day Chicago. The third in the Literati Mystery Series focuses on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1894 trip to Chicago.

When I attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate, I loved to write. Many of my fellow students who had trouble with their English Lit papers would beg me for help. The papers I wrote for them all got “A’s” for my efforts, but my professor would not give me an “A,” try as I might. Soon this was the joke of the campus and stayed so through the years. That’s why “A Cadger’s Curse” is dedicated to my college roommate, Alta Sumner, with these words, “Thanks for helping me remember and helping me forget the infamous Dr. Bailey.”

A Cadger’s Curse – Midnight Ink – November 2009

Hunting for Hemingway – Midnight Ink – September 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why I Write Historical Mysteries - M. E. Kemp

Editor's Note: Welcome to M. E. Kemp, who writes an unusual historical murder mystery series set in Puritan-era America. Enjoy!

Why I Writ
e Historical Mysteries


I write a series of historical mysteries set in Colonial days with two nosy Puritans as detectives. Well, Puritans were supposed to be nosy, to keep watch on their wayward neighbors. And a detective has to be nosy, so...

Actually, I decided upon Puritans as a reaction to all the medieval mysteries featuring monks, nuns, sisters, brothers, etc. Increase ‘Creasy’ Cotton is a member of the famous Mather family who led the largest and richest church in al of the colonies. Except that Creasy’s congregation is made up of poor widows and sailors in Boston’s south end. The Mathers were community as well as religious leaders and were very busy people, father and son, so they delegate ‘Cousin Creasy’ to do the dirty work for them in such mundane matters as murder.

Assisting him is Hetty Henry, a wealthy widow with connections to high and low society. Hetty is such a pushy broad she took over the first book, MURDER, MATHER AND MAYHEM, and then the series. The two are always quarreling, which helps to show humor in Puritan life. The poor Puritans have gotten “bad press” over the centuries. They were quite progressive in matters of education, style of dress and enjoyment of food, drink, and yes, SEX.

They were a lusty peoples – how do you think we got here? I believe American history is just as bloody and colorful as medieval Britain, so that’s what I try to convey in my books, which include DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE (set in Albany,) DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLE (the Salem witch trials,) and in my fourth book due out in ’10; DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER. My books are based upon historical incidents but are works of fiction.

Email M. E. Kemp at: mekemp at

Visit M. E. Kemp at:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Great Writing Advice

I am always interested in good solid writing advice, and today, at Bookends Literary Agency's blog, one of the Bookends murder mystery authors, Jennifer Stanley, has some great advice; stay true to yourself!

It's not like I haven't thought of this before, but I think I need reminders every once in a while.

To read her post, go to:

For more about her books, go to her website:

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Start

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are going back to work/school/slothdom with a fresh outlook and fresh start.

I finished two mystery books during the holidays:

The Case of the Tough Talking Turkey by Claudia Bishop
(The Casebook of Dr. McKenzie #2)
Berkley (Prime Crime), August 2007
ISBN #0425216691
288 pages Paperback

This new-to-me-author is now going on my 'must-glom' list, because I love her 'voice'. Voice, impossible to define, impossible to mistake, is that elusive quality that carries a reader along to the finish with no effort. A writer's 'voice' won't work for every reader, so when you stumble across one that does, you hang on for life!

This book, the second in the series, was funny, warm, smart and quick. I dub Claudia Bishop (if it hasn't already been done) the new Charlotte MacLeod, because that is exactly what Ms. Bishop's voice reminds me of, especially MacLeod's Professor Peter Shandy series.

I also read Dashing Through the Snow, a Christmas mystery by Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. This was a slight, light, fast read, without a lot of meat. Quite frankly, it felt 'phoned' in, like the two didn't put a lot of thought or time into it. Aside from that, it was an easy and relatively enjoyable read, but not one I'll remember a week from now. Or even a couple of days.

Website alert:

As always, I like to pass along info on websites Cozy Murder Mystery readers might enjoy. Check out this site, Mystery Readers International.

It lists reading groups, mystery bookstores, and is the online home of Mystery Reader's Journal. In association with that is this blog, by Janet Rudolph:

So... we're ba-ack! And ready for a new year of murder, mayhem and fun!