Cover Reveal and Pre-Order TODAY!

I can’t believe it’s cover reveal and pre-order today for A Shadow on the Snow, the sequel to my short story “A Rose from the Ashes.”! I’m so excited to show all of you the wonderful cover to my debut mystery novel. Please let me know what you think!

To give you a little background on this design: Mt. Zion Ridge Press had me fill out a form, asking me all sorts of things about my novel, like my social media platform and blurbs. They also asked to give them ideas for my cover. They wanted general descriptions for main characters and antagonists, what my dream cover would look like, and what I knew I didn’t want on the cover. 

So I answered:

  • Protagonist: Rae Riley—nineteen years old. 5’11’’ with dark gold hair growing below her shoulders. Always carries a camera.
  • Antagonist: A shadowy figure appearing in a wintery rural scene. (Anything more would ruin the mystery)
  • Dream cover: A winter night scene with a shadowy figure and snow falling. A fleeing female figure in the middle ground or background. Or a backpack dropped in the snow with a shadow falling over it.
  • Don’t wanna: Mystery and YA readers expect dark covers. It qualifies as a cozy because I have an amateur detective but it shouldn’t have the bright or cutesy covers a lot of cozies have.
  • Special note: The cover should convey the darkness of the mystery as well as the winter and rural setting. 

Well, Tamera Lynn Kraft, author/publisher/cover designer, knocked it out of the park. At the beginning of June, she sent me images. My family and I were visiting my father-in-law on the coast of North Carolina at the time, so while we were enjoying sand and sun, I was trying to get into a wintery mood to work on the cover. As soon as I saw the image of the silhouette against the snow, I knew that was it. Tamera and I worked together to add elements and select the lettering, but that image truly captures the mood of my novel.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Nineteen-year-old Rae Riley can barely believe her gamble paid off. After spending seven months investigating the identity of her father and whether he tried to murder her mother, Rae has been accepted by her dad, Sheriff Walter “Mal” Malinowski IV, and his immediate family with open hearts. And for the first time in her life, Rae is making friends, jamming with three cute cops who play outlaw country music.

But someone is leaving Rae threatening notes, reminding her of her late mother’s notorious past when Bella Rydell wrecked homes and lives during the few years she lived in rural Marlin County, Ohio. Fearing the threats will make Mal and his family reject her, Rae investigates the mystery on her own. But her amateur sleuthing may cost her the father she’s always wanted when the stalker changes targets and takes dead aim at Mal.

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Featured post

DSC_6334_smallWelcome to my writing pages!  The main focus of this website is to offer writing tips, prompts, and inspiration to writers, no matter what their genre or skill level. You’ll also find information on my published works and the ones in progress. My schedule for posting is:

Monday Sparks: Writing prompts to fan your creative flame.

Thursdays – Writing tips based on a monthly theme

You will also find me on AmazonFacebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Featured post

What Makes a Mystery a Cozy?

This is an updated article from 2019. The term mystery or crime fiction covers many subgenres, cozy mysteries being a very popular one. What makes a mystery a cozy? Below are the four most prominent features of cozy mysteries, ones that I incorporated into my YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow.

COZY MYSTERIES ALWAYS HAVE AMATEUR SLEUTHS.

One reason I think cozy mysteries are so popular is because, in the end, they are underdog stories, and these have huge appeal. The amateur sleuth can come in many flavors, but he or she can’t have any official standing within law enforcement, automatically making them the underdog. However, amateur sleuths do need some kind of advantage or skill they can rely on when they tackle a case. For more details on that special ability, click here for my post, “Three Tips on How to Build a Teen Detective.”

SECONDARY CHARACTERS ARE IMPORTANT.

Many cozy mysteries are series, and readers derive a lot of enjoyment from spending time with characters they regard as old friends. It’s important to develop secondary characters, who add a family feel to the stories.

I had a ton of fun creating secondary characters for Shadow. My main character Rae has just discovered who her father is and that she has a whole herd of relatives. As Rae gets to know her new family, so does the reader.

  • Her worry-prone, protective dad who is the sheriff.
  • Her three half-brothers: Rusty, the quiet, imaginative writer. Aaron, the enthusiastic inventor. Micah, the easy-going, practical first-grader.
  • Her laid-back, unflappable grandmother.

Rae has more relatives but those are the ones I focus on in my novel. Because I’ve created this world of complex secondary characters, I have a great raw material to work with in my next novels. In my second book, maybe I’ll focus on Rae and her cousins or on the young deputies she jams with in a band. Two of my beta readers really liked Rae’s great-grandfather. That surprised me, but I’ll try to work him into future stories.

THE CRIME TAKES PLACE IN AN INSULATED COMMUNITY.

For many cozies, this translates into a small town, like St. Mary Mead where Miss Marple lives, or Three Pines, the hometown of Inspector Armand Gamache. But the setting can be any small, tightly knit community. The members of a community theater, a sorority, or a carnival would all fit in a cozy mystery. In fact, the amateur sleuth’s membership in this community may give her an edge. Such as the teen who is investigating threats at her high school. She would be able to questions suspects in a much different way from the police.

Rae Riley is a newcomer to rural Marlin County, Ohio. It’s the kind of county where a newcomer stands out, and several generations of a family live within its borders. One of Rae’s advantages in such a community is that she can judge people without any preconceptions that might come from knowing someone for twenty years.

Although small-towns might seem cliched, I think a majority of Americans don’t know what small-town living is like and find reading about it in fiction intriguing. This truth came home to me last week. I’d been invited to a Bible study in a town of about 700 people. We were going to meet in an old bank that’s been converted into rental office space. When I got there, I couldn’t find any of the ladies who’d invited me. But I knew one owned the salon across the street, so I poked my head in and asked if I’d gotten the wrong day. She said no. We were starting at 7:30, not 7.

Later the salon owner told me that when I stopped by, she had a couple ladies from a nearby big city waiting. One of them was surprised by my visit, remarking that everybody really did know everybody else in a small town. Her reaction made me smile.

NO GRAPHIC SEX OR VIOLENCE, PLEASE.

Readers of cozies do not want heads rolling down the stairs or couples rolling around in beds. That doesn’t mean they expect a G-rated story. They know someone will be murdered. They know adultery or other plots revolving around sex are likely.  They just don’t want every grisly detail of the murder described or told exactly what the two-timing wife did in the bedroom with her boyfriend. Those details are not essential to solving the mystery.

What are some of your favorite cozy mysteries?

Collaborative Fiction Part 3

Today’s photo prompt is for our collaborative mystery, part 3. If you want to read part 1 of the mystery, click here. For part 2, click here.

If you are new to this kind of writing prompt, here are the rules:

  • I’ll write two or three sentences in the comments to start the next section of the mystery.
  • Anyone who wants to may write two or three more sentences. 
  • Please no graphic content.
  • Next week, I’ll take the last sentences in the comments from this week and repeat them as the lead sentence for the next photo prompt.
  • By the end of the month, we’ll have a story!

Three Tips on How to Build a Teen Detective

For almost three years now, I’ve spent time in the company of Rae Riley, my nineteen-year-old detective. I introduced her in the short story, “A Rose from the Ashes”, and she continues her amateur sleuthing in A Shadow on the Snow. By the way, the cover reveal is tomorrow! (Cue confetti and a blare of trumpets). But back to the post–working with my main character for so long has led me to three tips on how to build a teen detective.

Teen Needs a Reason to Detect

Like all amateur detectives, the teen detective must have another reason for sleuthing besides perpetually tripping over bodies. Maybe she has a thirst for justice. A recent teen detective is devoted to true-life crimes. Maybe he’s just plain nosy.

Rae solves mysteries because she has to. In “A Rose from the Ashes”, she investigates the murderous attack on her mother when her mom was pregnant with her in the hope of finding her father. In A Shadow on the Snow, someone is leaving Rae threatening notes. She starts her own investigation because she is getting along so well with her newly-found family that she doesn’t want to burden them with her problems and make them regret inviting her into their lives.

I gave Rae a few other traits to make it more believable for her to undertake a case. Her mother battled cancer while Rae was in high school and died before she graduated. Rae is used to looking after herself. She also moved many times as a kid and doesn’t make friends easily. So it makes sense for her to go it alone on her hunt for the stalker.

Teen Needs Specialize Knowledge

By this, I mean the teen should have some knowledge not readily available to traditional law enforcement. The teen could be solving a case involving a friend or relative and learns things from suspects who are reluctant to share with the police. Or he is looking into a cold case and brings a fresh perspective to it. Or the teen is an expert in some field and that skill aids in solving the case.

In Shadow, Rae uses the skills she developed to investigate her mother’s assault, such delving into sources at the library where she works and questioning people without letting them know exactly why. Rae also loves photography, a passion I hope to work into future mysteries.

The teen detective needs these talents or abilities because …

Teen Should Not Be Smarter Than the Cops

Readers of teen mysteries already have to suspend their disbelief to buy into a story in which a teen solves a case. As a writer, I don’t want to force readers to throw away their disbelief all together and make my teen detective the smartest person in the book for a couple reasons.

First, the era of the bumbling or stupid cop is past. It’s been done. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle started this trope for mysteries and actually changed it in some of his later stories, portraying the police as more competent and imaginative.

Second, it’s not playing fair, giving the teen detective too much of an advantage, and that could annoy readers. If every single character in a mystery is amazed by the intelligence of the detective, as a reader, I’m liable to turn against him. Only Sherlock Holmes gets away with such universal praise.

Rae’s dad is the sheriff of the rural, southeastern Ohio county where they live. She makes friends with three young cops and plays outlaw country music with them. I can’t make any of these characters look like dolts. Rae wouldn’t respect them and neither would readers.

One believable way for cops to have missed clues or become stumped by a mystery is overwork, especially in an urban setting. A city, town, or county only has so many officers who only have some much time to work multiple cases. Many small agencies can’t afford a separate detective unit. That would give a writer a decent reason for the teen detective to uncover something the police hadn’t.

Who are your favorite teen detectives? Do they have any of the three points I describe?

Collaborative Mystery Part 2

Today’s photo prompt is for our collaborative mystery, part 2. If you want to read part 1 of the mystery, click here.

If you are new to this kind of writing prompt, here are the rules:

  • I’ll write two or three sentences in the comments to start the next section of the mystery.
  • Anyone who wants to may write two or three more sentences. 
  • Please no graphic content.
  • Next week, I’ll take the last sentences in the comments from this week and repeat them as the lead sentence for the next photo prompt.
  • By the end of the month, we’ll have a story!

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