Struggling to Juggle or Building a Better Reality by Molly MacRae

“This is a time-turner, Harry. McGonagall gave it to me first term. This is how I’ve been getting to my lessons all year.” Hermione Granger to Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


“You have a full-time job; how do find time to write?” Lots of people to me


“Sorrycan’ttalknowgottatypetypetypetypetypittytpyotype.” Me to my nearest and dearest


For the past six years I’ve been lucky enough to be writing full time. In those six years I’ve written five books in the Haunted Yarn Shop mystery series, two in the Highland Bookshop mystery series, and two in the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library mystery series. And now I’m thrilled that I have a contract for two more Haunted Yarn Shop books. Writing full time is something I dreamed of and something I’m absolutely tickled to be doing. The only problem is that I already have a full time job.


What’s the problem with that? Not enough hours in the day. When I wrote the first five Haunted Yarn Shop books (a book every nine months), I solved that by adding waking hours to my day—getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get writing time in before work. I also wrote over my lunch hour and in the evenings and ignored housework. All of that worked out fine (especially the housework part).


Lately, though, I’ve been noticing that my characters spend more time with their families and friends than I do with mine. They have time to read for pleasure and do fun things like knit and hike and get enough sleep. And they solve murders (they might be over-achievers).


What changed? Working on two contracts at once, which meant a book every six months. It was still doable, but . . . I found out that I’m jealous of my characters.


Struggling to juggle is a common problem for writers, and we each have to solve it in our way. My first shot at, after nixing 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls, was to ask my husband to invent a time-turner. He’s an engineer who invents and builds the equipment graduate students need for their research. He invented a levitation device, for heaven’s sake. But apparently a time-turner is out because we’re stuck with a small thing called “reality.” So I decided I would build a better reality.


“Revision is the key to success” is one of my writing mantras. It works for plots, dialog, word choice—manuscripts from concept to “the end.” Why not apply it to the writing process itself or some part of it?


My usual process is roughly this: idea, outline, daily word quota, revise previous day’s quota, finished manuscript, tada! This is essentially bash it out now, tart it up later, except that later is the next day. Each day I tart the previous day’s bashing and then move forward through that day’s word quota. What could I change?


For Scones and Scoundrels, coming out in January, I tried this revision: bash out the entire manuscript and then tart it up. Many writers are successful with that method, and given more than six months to complete a manuscript, I’d be willing to try it again—maybe. But for me it ended in a horrible time crunch during the tarting part of the equation. Very few hours of sleep and still the day job to smile for. Yow. I shudder at the memory.


For Cat and Mouse Murder, coming also coming out next year (under the pen name Margaret Welch), I tried this revision: instead of a daily word quota, I set myself an hourly word quota. It’s a very simple tweak to a process that has worked for me for years and it made all the difference. The hourly word quota concentrated my focus. I gave me more hours in the day. It let me have lunch with friends and actually talk to my family.


For me, the real writing is in the revision. It’s in the differences, some of them small and oh so obvious, that make the difference. A better reality was there, too.




The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” Scones and Scoundrels, the book two in Molly’s new Highland Bookshop Mysteries, will be out in January. She’s also the author of the award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries from NAL/Penguin (and being continued by Pegasus Crime). Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she is a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her at and


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Book Promotion – Lessons from an Introvert By R. Franklin James

At the beginning of a week I go over my calendar to see if I have any “events” (read promotions) coming up. If so, I initiate a mental self-speak of: next week this time it will all be over, or, at least it’s not far to drive; or, maybe Oprah will pick it up and I will never have to do this again.

That’s why they call it fiction.

But the fact is, we are writers because we want people to read our books. People can’t read our books unless they know we’ve written one. They won’t know we’ve written one unless we tell them why they need to read our book. And unless we only want to reach one person at a time (as in conversation), we must reach out to the universe of readers in the most expansive and effective ways possible.

Yep, it’s the internet.

But not the way you think.

Readers want to connect with authors through our writing or through who we are. Think one-on-one relationship, and the best way to do that is through social media.  For instance, an engaging website, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, are key access points for readers to connect with writers. That doesn’t mean that book store signings, panel presentations, or creative commercial outreach won’t work—they absolutely will, but it’s limited by logistics. One to one connections can be steady but slow. Location, time of day, other attention getters all work to diminish numbers reached. If you’re an introvert face to face may not be as attractive as responding to inquiries online.

It’s about our comfort zone.

The thing to remember is that selling is hard for an introvert because it is selling. But talking about your book, or pointing out books by favorite authors, or sharing new found favorites, are not only topics interesting to readers—it’s interesting to us too, because it doesn’t feel like selling. The good thing is, “not selling” offers the opportunity for readers to get to know us, and trust us.

I’ve come to realize that sustained readership comes from building relationships with readers through our mutual love of storytelling and books.

I remember when I got the call from my agent saying she had sold The Fallen Angels Book Club, and I was offered a three book contract for the Hollis Morgan Mystery Series. Life was all gold. Then almost immediately I was asked about my marketing plan and ideas for a book launch. My head spun. Fortunately, I loved my protagonist and I already had a series outline in my head.  Writing was the easy part. Selling was hard. Well after a few bumps and dragging of feet, I finally got the hang of things.

If you’re a blazing extrovert or moderately outgoing, you don’t understand what the big deal is. Talk up your book for goodness sake. Get over it.

And they’re right. The key is to do it the introvert way.

Everything counts.

First, working with a good PR firm can get you a lot of miles down the road. Your publisher, if traditional, or, if you self-publish, are both jumping off points, but the real work still falls to you. While public relations fees will vary from company to company, it can get expensive. Remember choose a firm that fits your personality and wallet. Janet Evanovich said: “Think of publicity like a restaurant menu. If you order only the appetizer, the cost is low, but with wine and a steak it escalates. In short: you get what you pay for … sometimes.” PR firms can be an introvert’s dream come true (Breakthrough Promotions is an example).

Not ready for a PR firm?

Second, try “non-selling”.  Use social media on a daily basis to support other authors and promote your book at the same time. Be sincere and remember you want readers (authors are readers too), to trust you and your thinking.

Third, meeting your readers periodically isn’t going to kill you. Pal up with other authors to make up a panel and visit senior homes, libraries and book clubs. Panel presentations work well because they spread out the spotlight so the focus isn’t just on you and you don’t have to be the whole show.

The thing is, it’s okay to be an introvert and a writer. But promotion is an essential part of the writer’s package. If I can do it, you can do it. I still creep up on my weekly calendar, but it’s getting easier each time.

Go for it.

  1. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from Cal Berkeley, and flourished in a career of public policy and political advocacy. In 2013, the first book in her starred Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was published by Camel Press. Four books later, The Trade List, was released in 2016 and book five, The Bell Tolls, was released in 2017. James resides in northern California with her husband.

The Bell Tolls  –  Book Blurb


In his will, blackmailer Matthias Bell let his victims off the hook, and probate attorney Hollis must track them down to return the damaging goods he had on them. But Bell was murdered, making these victims suspects. Hollis steps in, and finds out quickly that sins do follow after the grave. Meanwhile, all is not calm in the rest of her life, her estranged mother needs a kidney, her fiancé is on a dangerous mission, and she’s hard-pressed to help a dying client find peace of mind.



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Report from Killer Nashville 2017 by Catherine Dilts

Before I relay to you the tidbits of wisdom I gleaned at Killer Nashville, I’d like to discuss conferences in general. Choosing the right location, type of conference, and style can make your experience more rewarding.


Confession time. I chose to attend Killer Nashville primarily because I had never been to Tennessee. I’m not the only author to select conferences based on location. A writers’ conference is a large expense once you figure in travel, hotel, food, and the conference registration fee. Getting in a little vacation sightseeing can help justify the trip. If money is super tight, find one close to home to avoid a plane ticket and hotel expense, or try sharing a room with friends.


An aspiring writer might not get as much out of a huge conference as he or she would from a small local affair. Killer Nashville is a mid-sized conference, as compared to behemoths like Bouchercon for mystery writers, or the RWA conference for romance writers, which draw thousands of attendees. Some conferences are geared toward fans, others appeal to fiction writers in general, while many are genre specific. Killer Nashville is specifically for mystery and thriller fiction writers.


Conferences may offer a mix of workshops and panels. Killer Nashville had primarily panel discussions, with a crime scene workshop and guest interviews. Hands-on writing workshops were add-on expenses. This is the norm, as you typically pay extra for the banquet (if there is one), or special workshops with big name presenters. Before you hit the confirm button, be sure you understand what you’re getting for what you pay. A big draw at conferences is the opportunity for an appointment with an agent or editor. This was true for Killer Nashville, and was included in the registration fee.

Whether big or small, fan-oriented or geared toward writers, your goal in attending is to gain some knowledge and inspiration, and to network. Killer Nashville did all this wonderfully. Breakfast buffet style in the hotel encouraged writers to mingle and chat. Lunch at large tables likewise led to many conversations and exchanges of business cards.

Here are a few gold nuggets of wisdom I gained at this friendly conference:

Opening keynote speaker Steven James – Be satisfied with quiet accomplishments.

Time Management for Authors panel – Panelists suggested setting habits and routines for writing. For those with day jobs, there are moments of “found time” in a day. Writing over the lunch break, or editing when there is downtime, can squeeze a few extra minutes of creative time into a day.

Interview with Chris Grabenstein – “We all start out imitating people we like,” Grabenstein said. He advised we “find a voice.” A first person narrator demands a strong voice, so writing in first person is a good way to discover your writing voice. Strong voice is key to succeeding in fiction writing.

How to Write Short Stories panel – Kathryn Lane believes creativity is important, but writers need discipline to write the story.

Interview with General A. J. Tata – Writing is butt in seat time.

Keeping Perspective panel – Sheila Sobel: Understand the difference between critique and criticism. Sit down and write what you love, and you’re in for the ride of your life. Bob Mangeot gained perspective when a friend told him, “you’re doing something a lot of us would love to do.” Bryan Robinson shared that the key is, “How am I treating my writing life, not how is my writing life treating me.”

On the Character Arc panel, J. A. Jance said she maintains a file for characters with details including physical descriptions and weapons they use. Even then, details can slip over the course of a series. This is where Jance told the audience GYAB: Give Yourself A Break.

Everyone on the Social Media for Writers panel agreed that pushing a buy-my-book message is guaranteed to fail. Creating an on-line persona consistent with your fiction is a better approach.

Killer Nashville had a fantastic mock crime scene set up in a hotel room. Former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Assistant Director Dan Royse did a great job of explaining how law enforcement would put together the clues to solve an actual crime. Much time, creativity, and labor went into setting up the scene, the suspect interviews, and the scenario. This was one of the highlights of the conference.

The closing speaker Pamela Fagan Hutchins said she has observed that after a conference, people typically do one of three things: they go catatonic, their heads explode from an overload of stimulation and information, or they experience 13 weeks of mouse-on-a-treadmill meteor-to-ashes writing before collapsing. She suggested giving yourself permission to write at your own pace. Her key line was “You only have to do this today – tomorrow you can quit.” She closed with a line that mirrored the opening speaker’s message, telling the audience to find joy in the milestones.

I enjoyed this friendly conference, met several new writing friends and reconnected with others. I left with my basket full of gold nuggets of wisdom and inspiration to keep me going until my next conference.


Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running. Her story The Chemistry of Heroes was a 2017 Derringer finalist. This fall, she takes a turn in the cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at

Goodreads: Catherine Dilts – author page

Amazon: Catherine Dilts – author page

The Last Deception by DV Berkom

What is The Last Deception about?

The Last Deception is the latest Leine Basso crime thriller, which pits the former assassin against a Russian general in the GRU, with help from a billionaire arms dealer. As with the other books in the series, the settings are international with scenes in Moscow, Athens, and Washington, DC. This time, though, instead of working a case for the anti-trafficking organization, SHEN, Leine learns of a deception that could lead to nuclear war, and must try to convince the powers that be to take her warning seriously. Here’s the blurb:

Lies. Deception. A nation on the brink of war.

In the Cold War, you knew who your friends and enemies were. In war today, there’s no difference. Just when Leine Basso thinks she’s free from the business of murder and deception, a desperate call from a friend drags her back into the dark world of espionage and arms dealers.

Leine uncovers information that implicates a well-known Russian businessman in a horrendous deception that affects national security and could have global repercussions. It’s up to the former assassin to persuade the powers that be to ignore the obvious and trust her, or disregard the information and bring the world to the brink of a devastating war. Can she make it in time to stop The Last Deception?


Why did you choose The Last Deception for the title?


I was looking for something that communicated how dire the choices in the novel would be, and also give a hint to its espionage component. Readers who have followed Leine through the series have come to expect a certain kind of thriller (e.g., anti-trafficking, smuggling, organized crime, etc.) but I wanted to take her in a different direction and bring back some recurring characters from her early life. Since she used to work as a black ops assassin and has been attempting to cut all ties from her former life, I thought it was time for her former bosses to return and try to drag her back into that world.


Why an espionage novel?


Why not? Ever since I discovered spy novels at the age of nine, I’ve devoured as many as I can get my hands on. Maybe it’s the heart-in-your-throat, mortal danger of a double-cross, or maybe it’s the twisted logic of the end justifying the means that accompanies so many of the operations I’ve studied and read about—agents, double agents, lies, deception, tricks, and games, many of them deadly, all to achieve some end. It’s endlessly fascinating, and way too much fun to write.


You mention a terrorist organization called Izz Al-Din in the book. Are they real? And what do they have to do with Russia?


No, Izz Al-Din is entirely fictional, but certainly based on terrorist groups operating in the world today. Bringing Russia into the mix was a natural, especially when you consider both the US and Russia have fought proxy wars against each other using various warring factions. It’s certainly not a stretch to imagine the events that happen in the book.


How do you research this stuff? Have you ever worked as an assassin?


I’m sorry but if I told you, I’d have to kill you…


Seriously, though, when I first started writing about organized crime and assassins, I’d traveled a lot and had some understanding of how things worked, but certainly not enough. So, I quickly began my search for people who would be able to fill in the blanks for me. In the course of writing these books, I’ve met some amazing people, many of whom I never would have had the opportunity to know if it wasn’t for the wonders of social media and networking with other authors. I’m lucky in that I find people fascinating—what drives them? what makes them who they are? and I believe I communicate that when I approach folks for information. I love to put myself into another person’s shoes, especially someone with an entirely different worldview than my own. I’ve been fortunate to have interviewed and worked with some amazing folks, many of whom were generous in sharing detailed aspects of their lives. Serendipity has played a role in my research, too. The perfect contact always seems to appear just when I need them.


What’s next for Leine?


Currently I’m working on the as-yet unnamed Leine Basso thriller #7. I’ve got a new antagonist for this book, one who is unlike any of Leine’s previous nemeses. It’s sure to be a page-turner, and quite explosive, if I do say so myself.


When will The Last Deception be available?


The Last Deception is available for pre-order right now across all platforms for $2.99 (USD), with a publication date of September 20. (The price will increase at that time.) Go to to find out more.


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Clouds of Enemies by Triss Stein

A mystery starts with a crime. Obvious, right? It might be depicted in the first pages, or even in a prologue; it might only be in the author’s mind at the beginning and then we the readers are led up to it.

For most crimes, and certainly for murder, that means there is a victim. The telling of the tale will revolve around that person. That’s something the reader may not even notice, because the story seems to revolve around the main character in a series, the sleuth, the protagonist, or the narrator. The victim probably isn’t even a living character for most of the book. Nevertheless, if there is a murder, the investigation will have to reveal around who the victim was, in order to figure out who wanted him or her dead.

The second book in my series, Brooklyn Graves, had a victim with not one enemy in the world. For the new one, the fourth, I thought it would be interesting to write about a victim who had nothing but It is called Brooklyn Wars, but it could have been called Clouds of Enemies, after Dorothy L. Sayers Clouds of Witness.

My amateur sleuth, Erica Donato, witnessed the murder. It was a plausible case of “wrong place, wrong time. “ She doesn’t see much but it becomes impossible to forget. In addition to the natural horror of the event, the detectives continue to hope she has more to tell them, and it’s all over the news because the victim was prominent in local politics and killed in a public space, the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then she learns she has a neighborhood connection to him, just three degrees of separation, and later, a family connection not to him but to the Navy Yard location itself. And the more she asks questions, the more people she meets who had good reasons to hate him. The crucial question, “Who wanted him dead?” begins to change into, “Who didn’t?”

The sweet elderly first wife, who is long over him? Or so she says. Her surprising friend, the younger second wife, who may be on her way to ex-wife status too? The bitter daughter? The estranged and missing brother? Or could his death be the actions of a business enemy? This man has made his career around New York harbor, at one time known for criminal activity. There seems to be only one person who will miss him.

The setting presented lots of opportunities for conflict. It was a major arsenal of democracy during World War II, an important piece of Brooklyn’s economy, a place where that seemed like a whole world to lifetime workers. It was all that and more: a nexus of political infighting, then, a large dead piece of valuable real estate, and nowadays, a phoenix rising from the ashes. They were big stories. Which of them could support my story of a crime?

Creating the book this way gave me some interesting dead ends, otherwise known as false leads. Lots of enemies make for sub-plots, hidden histories, and wrong conclusions. In fact it took me awhile to find the right conclusion myself, the angriest of all those angry people, hidden in plain sight all along.

I hope readers will enjoy figuring it out as much as I did.

What Does the Perfect Book Cover Include? By Karen McCullough

Karen and grandchild

I’ve been designing book covers, both ebook and print, for clients for a while now.  My goal has always been to try to get the client to tell me what they want and then give them something as close to exactly that as possible.  I’m limited in this endeavor by a distinct lack of artistic talent.  I can’t draw anything that looks remotely like what I’m attempting.


What I do have is good design sense, thanks in some part of an art director I worked with at a magazine years ago.  Before I started doing web sites I was an editor at a couple of trade publications. Back in the late 1990s, when the web began to explode, the publisher of the series of magazines I worked for at the time asked me to create websites for each.  I knew nothing about the web but I did have a background as a computer programmer.


Because I knew something about the technology and nothing about the aesthetics of designing websites, I went to the art director of the publications and asked for help. She gave me a terrific crash course both in using Photoshop and in basic design things like using harmonious color palettes, creating balance, and how to focus a viewer’s attention.


Fortunately there are many stock sites that can provide a gloriously varied array of photographs and illustrations I’m pretty good at taking stock images and combining them, picking out elements to highlight and finding new and creative ways to use them. But what sort of images work best?


And what else should a cover include?  Title and author name are givens. A lot of publishers and authors add banners with “Bestselling Author” or “Award-winning Author.” Some put their own publisher banners and or series title on as well.


To try to get some answers to those questions, I took a few genres on Amazon and checked out the covers of the top 40 books in the genre.  The things I found most frequently on book covers beside a graphic and title and author name are:


Series name and number

Tagline for book

Quote from another author or review snippet

Publisher banner


In most cases the largest text was the book title, often far larger than anything else, unless the author was a well-known figure. In that case the author’s name was usually larger than the title.


Other text was more likely to appear on covers published by major New York houses where they reflected the print cover. Quotes from reviews or other authors were almost exclusively on those. In most cases it was impossible to read the secondary text at small sizes. Indie-published books usually had less text, though a series name was fairly common.


For the images on the covers, I found most frequently a single strong intriguing image dominated the visual space. In general about two-thirds of those were of a human figure, evenly split between male and female. There were some interesting genre differences, however.


Mystery/Thrillers – The covers were mostly dark, and less likely to have human figures on them. When they did, the figures were usually small and shadowy. Titles tended to dominate the cover (except for very well-known authors), sometimes with patterned or even indistinguishable backgrounds. Interestingly, this held true for almost all of the subgenres, except for cozy mysteries, which were very different.


Cozy mysteries – illustrated covers dominated, often featuring animals or food; it’s a female-focused genre and the covers reflected that. Most are bright and colorful, projecting an upbeat mood even when the title included the words “murder,” “killer’ or death (and many of them did). If there is any human figure on the cover it’s almost exclusively female.


Romance – These covers were lighter and brighter. In general the image itself was more dominant and the text for title and author smaller. About three quarters of the top 40 books listed had human figures.  Of those, six showed couples, and two thirds of the rest had a single male figure.  In the subgenres, Historical had more couples and female figures by a good margin. Paranormal romances tended to have darker covers and were also more likely to feature a female character. Romantic suspense also had darker covers but otherwise the breakdown of human figures was about the same as the romance genre overall.


Science fiction and fantasy—It was harder to find any trends in these.  The only thing that jumped out at me were more covers that had no background image at all or a very minimal design.  Science fiction tended to have more landscape or starscape backgrounds. Fantasy also seemed to feature fewer identifiable humans and more landscape or architectural background images.


So there’s a quick (and rather subjective) cover analysis. I already knew that the cover was an important (if not the most important) marketing tool for a book. The most effective ones give quick visual cues about the content and the target market.


Anyone responsible for their own cover or designing for others needs to keep that in mind. A cover that’s a work or art is useless if it doesn’t help to sell your book. The cover must convey a genre-appropriate feel for the content.


The second most important marketing tool is your title, unless you’re a well-known author, in which case the name is the feature.  I did notice some interesting trends in titles, but that’s a blog post for another day.


Karen McCullough, a former editor for a series of trade publications and web designer, is also the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres. Her publishers include Avalon Books, Harlequin, Kensington, Belle Bridge Books, and Five Star/Cengage. She’s won several awards including an Eppie Award for best fantasy novel and been a four-time Eppie finalist, a Daphne finalist, Prism finalist, Rising Star Award finalist and several others. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and small press publications in the mystery, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent publication is a short story in the Triangle Sisters in Crime anthology: Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need, Greed and Dirty Deeds, published July 31 by Down and Out Books. She has three children, eight grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband of many years.



Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog





I hope I’ve done a decent job of sticking to the genre conventions for my most recent release, a romantic suspense novel. In Hunter’s Quest, Kristie Sandford’s vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he’s hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd “gift”-she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he’ll die.

Jason Hunter is an SBI (N.C. State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small, North Carolina mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could. Still, the message said he’d die if she didn’t help him, and the messages have been right before.







Mystery Series: Is there a Magic Number? by Elaine L. Orr

A couple of years ago I was on a panel with a popular romance and mystery author, and several times she said, “The new thinking with series is three and done.” I internally discounted the idea, but I’ve since understood it better.


By the time a series has three books, it’s probably picked up some loyal fans who anticipate the next installment. (If not, it’s three and better be done.) Unless it’s a blockbuster series, how many more readers will grab the fourth book and more? I’m not wise enough to speculate, but I think if there are not thousands more fans per new book, an author has to wonder if it would be more worth her time to work with a new set of characters.


Clearly, I’m not grappling with that, since I just issued The Unexpected Resolution, number ten in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. I’ve considered whether time should pass and characters should stay roughly the same age. Beyond age, how much do the characters change – in terms of personality, relationships, careers, and more?


Sue Grafton left Kinsey Milhone (protagonist of the wonderful PI alphabet mysteries) in her mid-thirties, remaining in the 1980s. Some aspects of Kinsey’s life change, but the essentials remain.


Grafton likely had many reasons, but one might be that if time had passed, Kinsey’s landlord Henry (in his nineties) would have had to die. Hard to imagine the books without his bread-baking and droll humor.


I had initially planned that the third book of the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series would be called Justice for Scoobie, and Jolie would solve her friend’s murder. Since she gets engaged to him at the end of book eight, clearly those plans changed. They had to. Not only was he popular with readers, I had the most fun when writing him.


Once Scoobie stayed in the picture, I believed he and Jolie had to marry. I didn’t like the idea of teasing readers with break-ups and make-ups, and neither of them were the type for long-term cohabitatation.


In television series, culminated relationships tend to ratchet down the creative tension. Should I end the series with Jolie and Scoobie’s life merger, or continue?


The question answered itself. No way could I abandon those characters–yet. However, with marriage, Jolie could no longer pursue crime solving behind Scoobie’s back. I also wanted to avoid the Cabot Cove syndrome, defined as having lots of murders in a small town. Okay, the murders continue in some form, but they have to move beyond Jolie discovering bodies as she appraises houses.


Book ten (The Unexpected Resolution) also had to be more than a wedding, but I didn’t want a murder (though integral to the story) to take center stage. Instead, the book ties up secrets in Scoobie’s life – things he couldn’t begin to suspect. Jolie also has the chance to become a more well-rounded person — while maintaining her sense of irreverence and need to connect the dots.


Book eleven (Underground in Ocean Alley) will move the characters three years into the future. Three years! A character introduced in book ten has a prominent role, Aunt Madge is running for mayor, and Jolie is done with investigating things that don’t make sense. Or is she?


Characters evolve, and I hope they keep readers interested in more than solving a murder. However, in moving life forward in Ocean Alley, I’ll have to slow the passage of time. If not, some of the oldest characters would exit. I don’t like those options, and I don’t think readers would, either. Decisions, decisions.



Link for The Unexpected Resolution



Elaine L. Orr is the Amazon bestselling author of the ten-book Jersey shore Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, and the two-book (so far) River’s Edge series, set in rural Iowa. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, a regular attendee at Magna Cum Murder, and a lecturer on self-publishing.