Oct 202015
 

ImpartialWhen I decided last year to change the direction of my series from not-having-a-distinct-genre to cosy mystery, I suddenly needed to find out how to write one.
I have read mysteries in all its forms for as long as I have been reading, including a large amount of cosies. But to go from loving to read a cosy to suddenly writing one, is a completely different story.

Here’s what I quickly found out about how to write a cosy mystery series.

  • The setting is a smallish local community. This can be a village, a hotel, a neighbourhood etc. There needs to be a good influx of ‘new blood’, otherwise it might become a bit unbelievable, with not many people left to ‘be murdered or be murderers’.
  • There is an amateur sleuth. There are exceptions, but in general the person who solves the crimes in a cosy is an amateur. They will however have contact with the local police, often in the form of a friend or family member. This gives the sleuth access to information about the murder, other people wouldn’t have. Often, but not necessarily, the sleuth is a woman.
  • The murder itself is not overly bloody or violent. Choking, smothering, poisoning etc. are accepted. Chainsaw hacking, not so much. On top of that the crime is not describes in too much detail. The ‘why’ the crime was perpetrated is far more important than ‘how’ it was done.
  • There are no overt sex scenes. Things like that happen behind closed doors.

Keeping these things in mind I realised that it is also important that the book is constructed in such a way that the reader is not already able to guess on page 2 who did it. This is easier said than done and requires careful planning.

A cosy mystery usually contains a so-called Web of Lies. This is a group of people who know each other well, but who keep secrets from each other. The victim is often an in general disliked person, sometimes part of the Web of Lies, on bad terms with a number of people, thus creating a list of suspects.
Even innocent people might become suspects, as, being part of the Web of Lies, they have secrets they like to keep under wraps. These secrets become the red herrings for the sleuth, covering up hopefully to the last page, who the real murderer is.

StringsI found that it is a lot of fun to create a Web of Lies. Maybe even the best part of writing a cosy. It doesn’t only contain ‘why’ the murder was done, but also a complex social structure between people, which the writer can make a deep as they like.
It took me three months to create my Web of Lies for Book 1, as new ideas and connections kept popping into my head, making the Web even more complicated.

Best thing of writing a series for me is that I get to create another Web of Lies for Book 2 and Book 3 and so on, all the way to Book 9. It’s great to be the devious mastermind that pulls the strings of imaginary characters, until they do just what you want!

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Oct 122015
 

ADuelgainst better judgement, I decided on having two heroes in my new series.
Now you might be wondering why that is wrong. Two heroes, more heroics, right?

Well, in general having two heroes is seen as a bad choice.
For instance, if only one of the main characters has a clear journey throughout the story, the other might feel like an annoying hanger-on. Or, if the goals and roles of the two main characters are too similar, why just not have one hero?

Despite these concerns, I decided on having two main characters. Perhaps I am too stubborn to listen to sound advice from people who have been writing fiction for years. Or perhaps I am making the rookie mistake of counting on beginners luck.
In any case, Jacob and Paddy are here to stay.

Let me explain why.
My series actually takes place in two worlds. A human world and a rat world. The rats live in the human world, but they have their own concerns and storyline.
But wouldn’t it then be better to write two stories? Each in their separate worlds? Well, no, as the two worlds do collide and influence each other.

I am writing a cosy mystery series, which means there are murders to be solved. Jacob is my (human) amateur sleuth, who unwillingly gets dragged into this and after a while starts to enjoy playing detective.
Paddy the Rat doesn’t actually help him solve the crimes. I don’t want anthropomorphic, Sherlockian rats in my series. However, unwittingly, Paddy might be of help every now and then, unknown to Jacob, of course.

Although my two worlds are very different, there are similarities as well. This is because a story can have two heroes, as long as their storylines are running parallel and are connected at the same time.
Jacob and Paddy each have their own lives to live and problems to solve. And although one is a human and one a rat, their problems are similar.

I am aware that I have bitten of a whole lot and might not be able to chew it all. It has, however, been great fun creating these two worlds and finding ways to connect them and have them influence each other.
I don’t think having two heroes is going to be a problem.

The journey of both my heroes is now well thought out and planned. This is not going to be an average cosy mystery series. Instead they are Cosy Mysteries with a Twist, two heroes and all!

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Jan 132015
 

writerHard to belief it’s already halfway January, but I think I’m still in time to post a quick update on my plans for 2015.

The most important thing I hope to accomplish this year is writing and publishing the first two books in my new cosy mystery series. The last six months I have been very busy creating a new world and characters. Now I am finally at the fun stage of plotting and writing the first book, which is where all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
If all goes according to plan Book 1 is published in October and Book 2 in November. And if I’m lucky and everything goes smoothly, Book 3 in January 2016.

At the same time I’m planning to set up a new blog, aimed at Dutch authors. Self-publishing is still a relatively unknown thing in the Netherlands, even though it is now much easier to self-publish (e)books in Dutch. I have a feeling a lot of Dutch authors prefer to go the traditionally published way (looking for a publisher), because they lack the knowledge about self-publishing. There are few Dutch websites that guide and help self-publishers, unlike in the English-speaking world. On top of that self-publishing is still seen as ‘vanity’ and of ‘lesser quality’, which perpetuates the idea that to be a ‘real’ author you need the approval of a ‘real’ publisher.

With my new (Dutch) blog, I hope to dispel some of the self-publishing myths and create some clarity for Dutch authors. Hopefully they can then make a more well-rounded choice to either start looking for a publisher, or go the self-publishing route.
The plan is to use my current mariastaal.nl website for this blog. Although now only a website with some general info about me and my books, it is not difficult to add a blog to it.

I have however made the promise to myself that I won’t start this new blog until I have finished writing Book 1 and plotted Book 2, which in all probability will not be before July-August.

With all this going on, I will be plenty busy this year, but I know I will have loads of fun along the way!

What are your plans for 2015?

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Aug 142014
 

ShirleyHolmesIt has been a while since my last post and a lot of things have happened since then, mostly to do with the writing of my fiction series.

In May I had finished writing the first two novellas in the series, which had the combined word count of 70,000 words. Both books went through the ‘beta reading stage’ and in June were on the brink of being send to my editor.
Something was wrong, though. Even though the beta readers were mostly positive, I felt that both books could be much better. The plot, the characters, it felt like everything was only 80% there.

After some soul-searching during my holiday, I came to the conclusion that the books simply weren’t at the publishing stage yet. Then a brainstorming session with my developmental editor Eva, confirmed what I deep down already knew. I wanted to start from scratch. Change the concept, find the right genre to write in and rewrite both books.

This might sound crazy, specially keeping in mind I had already written 70,000 words, but my decision felt right. I want to publish the best possible product and simply have to be patient and wait until I am there. No use publishing a book that is only 80% right.

The facts are now as follows:

  • My series will now be a cosy mystery series, revolving around two main characters, Jacob Hicks (neighbourhood warden and amateur sleuth) and Paddy the Rat (keen observer of human behaviour).
  • It might well be that the length of the books turn out more than novella length, although I have no idea about that yet.
  • I want to publish the first three books close together somewhere next year, most likely the autumn.
  • I have also decided that the series will be published under my penname ‘Annie Appleton’, about which more in another post.

I have a good feeling about the changes, even though it means that my readers will have to wait longer for a new book to come out. I hope they will find it worth waiting for!

Go to Jacob Hick Mysteries for more info about the new series.

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