Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: What’s the Mystery?

cemeteryw1-998819_1920Here’s a prompt for the holiday. I love stories that combine the creepiness of Halloween with perfectly rational mysteries. What’s the mystery about the mausoleum?

The deputy turned as the sheriff strode over from this SUV.

They both stared at the body of a man lying in front of the door to the Ryder mausoleum. Blood cake around several wounds on his head.

“Do you know him?” asked the deputy.

“Nope.” The sheriff lowered himself onto his haunches for a better look. “Nope. And I haven’t heard anybody mention a stranger like this visiting the county.”

“No ID. Or a phone or a wallet.” The deputy frowned. “I suppose I should ask the Ryders if they know him.”

The sheriff grimaced as he stood. “I’ll ask them. Taking on the tough jobs is what I was elected for.”

The frown vanished. “Thanks, boss.”

Be sure to check out my giveaway!



Writing Tip — Cozy Mysteries

candlew-2400240_1920When I wrote my Christmas mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes,” I thought it might qualify as a cozy mystery. What makes a mystery a cozy? At Killer Nashville, a writers’ conference, I attended a session hosted by authors Debra H. Goldstein, Phyllis Gobbell, Maggie Toussaint, Alexia Gordon, Linda Thorne, and J.C. Kenney to find out

Cozy mysteries always have amateur sleuths.

The amateur sleuth can come in many flavors, but she should have some talent or ability or quirk that helps her be successful as an investigator. He could have an insatiable curiosity, or be just plain nosy. She can have a desire for justice or to protect those less fortunate than herself.

My teen detective Rae Riley possesses great determination and persistence. She knows if she uncovers the person who tried to murder her mother twenty years before, she may also discover who her father is.

Secondary characters are important.

Many cozy mysteries are in 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.

There are three men Rae suspects of being either her mother’s attacker or her father. I introduce each man with his family connections: the professor and his wife, the rich business man and his kids and brother, the sheriff and his kids and mother. The family connections make all the characters seem more real and also give them a history. Readers feel like they’ve entered into lives that have both pasts and futures. Plus I have a lot of fun creating quirky characters.

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. Her other advantage is that no one in the county knows who her mother was.

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?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway! Click here and read the rules to enter.

Blog Tour & Giveaway!


To celebrate the publication of my YA mystery short story, “A Rose from the Ashes” in Christmas fiction off the beaten path, I am holding a giveaway! Below are photos of the two prize packages. To enter, just leave comment on this post. It can be as simple as “I’m in!”. The giveaway runs from October 22 to November 13, 5 p.m. EST. I will announce the winners that day.

Rules: You must be a U.S. resident. You must 18 years old or older. If you are younger than 18 years old, you must verify that you have your parents permission to enter. I will  notify winners by email on November 13. Winners have until November 27, 5 p.m EST, to acknowledge their prize.

IMG_0600This package has a signed copy of From the Lake to the River, containing my country noir short story, “Debt to Pay”, set in December. I’ve included candy buckeyes (chocolate and peanut butter) from the Ohio candy company Anthony Thomas, and an Ohio Christmas ornament.




IMG_0602This next package has a signed copy of Christmas fiction off the beaten path, candy buckeyes (chocolate and peanut butter) from the Ohio candy company Anthony Thomas, and an Ohio Christmas ornament.


Blog Tour

Below are the dates and sites of my blog tour. I’d love for you to visit me there as I discuss how I came to write “A Rose from the Ashes.” If you would like to help me and the fiver other authors in the anthology, please leave an honest review of the book at sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble.

Oct. 23 — Inspired Prompt

Oct. 25 — Author/agent Hope Bolinger’s blog, A (Hope)full blog

Oct. 28 — Author Sandra Merville Hart’s site, Historical Nibbles

Oct. 29 — Author Jason Joyner’s site, Unleashing the Truly Heroic

Oct. 30 — Author Carole Brown’s site, Sunnybank Secrets

Nov. 2 — Author Cindy Thomson’s site Cindy Thomson: Writing Stories of Our Inheritance

Nov. 5. — American Christian Fiction Writer’s blog

Nov. 6 — Author Rebecca Waters’s site, A Novel Creation

Nov. 13 — Author Anne Clare’s site, Anne Clare: Sharing the Stories of the Second World War




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