The Setting Within a Setting

Creating a setting within a setting is an important tool for fiction writers. In the mystery genre, we place our sleuths within a distinctive milieu that becomes a character in itself. Whether it’s a small town, a neighborhood in a big city, or a regional locale, this setting imbues our stories with a unique flavor. Then we assign an occupation to our sleuth that further extends this world. We bring it to life using the five senses and determine how our protagonist fits into this environment.

Setting within a Setting

However, we can’t stop there. For each story, we need to add layers that become the setting within the setting. This is often where the murder takes place in a cozy mystery. It can also give you a built-in cast of suspects. Think of the stories that take place at a mystery book club, a winery competition, a bake-off contest, a trade show, or a sewing circle. Someone within this group of people dies. Even if your general setting is a southern town, within that town your sleuth may manage a Bed & Breakfast inn. Then a group books rooms at this lodging. They stay there while participating in a work conference, town festival, local fair or stage show. This proves deadly for one of the guests.

In my Bad Hair Day series, the settings go beyond South Florida and hairstylist Marla Vail’s beauty salon. For example, stories have centered around a coastal preservation society, sports club, farm festival, haunted hotel, day spa and historic mansion. I’ve gone astray a couple of times and had mysteries on a cruise ship and an Arizona dude ranch. Those were fun but you can’t wander too often from your general milieu or readers might protest.

My latest title, Styled for Murder, involves a design center company that does home renovations. Marla’s mother is doing a bathroom remodel when she finds a dead body in her shower. It’s the design firm’s job foreman. Who are the suspects? The company’s staff, suppliers and former customers. Once you pick the setting within a setting, you get a related set of potential suspects.

Varying the setting within the setting helps to keep your series fresh. Each new place gives readers an interesting locale or special interest to explore along with the sleuth (and the author!). The narrower the group of suspects, the better. They should all be connected to the victim so that readers keep guessing at their secrets.

Are there any particular tropes that appeal to you in terms of settings within a setting? i.e. Maybe you like mysteries set in the mountains, but where in particular? A ski chalet in the winter? A working cattle ranch? A family restaurant in a tourist town? Or a river rafting company? See how easy it is to narrow the setting. Now tell us where you’ve set your latest novel or where you might like to see one take place.

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New Mystery Release – Box Set Volume Four

I am excited to announce the release of The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Four: Books 10-12

Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Four

Copyright © 2021 by Nancy J. Cohen
Published by Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN: 978-1-952886-19-5
Cover Design by The Killion Group, Inc.
Digital Layout by Formatting4u.com

In this trio of adventures, hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail discovers the matron of honor stabbed to death under the cake table at her friend Jill’s wedding. She gets married and moves into a new house with a dead body next door. Her honeymoon at a dude ranch turns dangerous when ghosts from the past stir up more trouble than the horses.

SHEAR MURDER

Hairstylist Marla Shore is weeks away from becoming a bride when she walks down the aisle as a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s ceremony. Things take a turn for the worse when the matron of honor ends up dead under the cake table. Lots of folks aren’t sorry to see Torrie go, especially since the bride’s sister knew their deepest secrets. But when suspicion falls upon Jill, Marla wonders if her dear friend is truly innocent. She’d better untangle the snarl of suspects and iron out the clues before the killer highlights her as the next victim.

“Shear Murder is another stellar outing in Nancy J. Cohen’s Bad Hair Day mystery series.” Lorna Barrett, bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries

HANGING BY A HAIR

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her detective husband, Dalton, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Before her husband’s investigation can begin, he is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest. Now it’s up to Marla to clear his name and make the neighborhood safe again.

Suspense Magazine “Best of 2014” Cozy Mystery

“Marla is short for marvelous. If you like your mysteries ‘cozy,’ you’re going to enjoy every minute you spend with her!” Joanna Campbell Slan, bestselling author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries

PERIL BY PONYTAIL

Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle—the resort owner—on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns Uncle Ray has secrets he’d rather keep buried. With her new family in jeopardy, she’d better saddle up her sleuthing skills to figure out who’s adding to the spirits at a nearby ghost town before someone she loves gets hurt.

Third Place Winner in the Arizona Literary Awards

Peril by Ponytail ropes in the reader in Nancy J. Cohen’s captivating new tale, which deftly braids together deadly secrets, long hidden resentments, and romance on the range.” Ellen Byerrum, bestselling author of the Crime of Fashion Mysteries

Order Now

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BJY9L7X
Apple – http://books.apple.com/us/book/id1579075191
BN https://bit.ly/3yf1Xh6
Kobo – https://bit.ly/3im425e
Books2Read: https://books2read.com/BadHairDayBoxSetFour

Box Set 4 in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries is now available! #cozymystery #boxset Click To Tweet

Animal Kingdom Safari

We took a break and went to the Animal Kingdom at Disney World to make use of our annual passes. Our parking space was within easy walking distance of the entrance so we were lucky in that regard. We walked along the shady paths toward Africa.

Animal Kingdom

After stopping at Starbucks for some snacks to refuel our energy, we headed onto the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. No wait in the line, which we also saw later at Expedition Everest. The park is so spread out that it didn’t seem terribly crowded. We got front row seats in our safari vehicle.

   

The animals were strolling about or lazing in the heat. We viewed quite a few as you can see from these photos.

           

We lunched in Dinoland at a fast food place where we could sit indoors and enjoy the air-conditioning. On our way out, we browsed in the shops and then headed home tired but happy.

   

 

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The Babies in the Drawers

Most authors have several manuscripts gathering dust in their drawers. These are our unsold babies, books we wrote along the journey to becoming a published author. Are they really that bad, or were they merely not ready for the right market at the right time?

The Babies in the Drawers

Aside from the corrections that our more skilled eye could now see to make, are these books worth pulling out and making saleable? Would readers who like our series books even want to read a stand-alone?

And yet it’s sad that these early books will never get to see the light of day. The characters are all alone with nobody to appreciate their stories or the time and effort we put into them. They contain the building blocks of our careers.

What do I have hiding in my drawers? I’ll share my secrets with you. In return, let me know if any of these raise your interest. Some of these stories are so old that I don’t have digital copies. The typed manuscript is what you get. We won’t mention the Star Trek novel proposals hidden away, but I have those, too. Let’s check out the rest of them from earliest to latest:

Key of Death – A retired spy living in the Florida Keys encounters an enemy from his past who leads him to the Cuban exile community in Miami.

The Root of Evil – A scientist living abroad comes home and deals with a mystery. I don’t even remember what this one is about but it’s a long book.

Garden of Love – Floral designer Penny Winters is hired to plan a dream wedding for entrepreneur Whip Lanigan but finds herself falling for his charms. How can she compete with his elusive fiancée?

Lethal Designs – When a lovely botanist and a businessman meet over murder in Key West, they become entangled in a web of deceit where the ultimate betrayal is their own.

The Disappearing Diet – Nutritionist Regina Kent takes a job at exclusive Hillcrest Resort, where guests check in but they don’t check out.

Murder on the Menu – When two chefs meet over murder in New Orleans, they become victims of a dangerous conspiracy and a passion as hot as a Creole sauce.

These next ones were attempts at restarting my mystery career after I’d been published and was seeking a new publisher.

Murder at Your Service – When personal assistant Keri Armstrong discovers her favorite client dead in bed, she risks her reputation and her life to find the killer.

Murder at the Yacht Club – Newsletter editor Claire Rollins finds more than she bargained for when death stalks the members of an elite yacht club.

What is the lesson learned?

Persistence pays. Keep writing. “Never give up. Never surrender,” as they say on Galaxy Quest. Each book improves your skills as you learn more about the craft. It may seem as though you are climbing a mountain, but a beautiful vista awaits you on the other side. One final push might get you there, but you won’t make it if you quit. So keep following your dream and the road to publication might be just around the next corner. It takes hard work and dedication, and when you do find a publisher, this doesn’t end because then you have to learn all about marketing.

Excerpt from LETHAL DESIGNS 

The eerie whistling sang through the night like a banshee, ebbing and flowing on the wind. Lani had never heard it before, and she’d been to the Galleon Marina in Key West enough times to recognize the familiar sounds. This one was different, disturbing in its strangeness.

She paused on the dimly lit dock, her sharp gaze scanning the darkness. Row after row of boats faced her in serene solitude, like sentinels of the night. Even the breeze, salty and laden with moisture, seemed to be whispering words of warning. A feeling of foreboding swept through her, chilling her despite the warm summer air.

Tightening her mouth, she strode forward. Her feet were bare, and the wooden boards felt cool and damp as she padded silently toward Don Cambridge’s yacht. Slip number sixty-six lay just around the next corner.

She spotted his boat right away. The bridge light was shining like a beacon which usually meant he expected visitors. Shrugging, she quickened her pace. Even if he already had company, he’d be glad to see her. She’d just gotten back from Miami and couldn’t wait to share her thrilling news. Don knew how much she’d wanted to win that research grant. As her best friend, he’d celebrate her triumph.

Nearing the vessel, she listened to the sounds of the night. The eerie whistling had faded, its melody a faint wailing that floated on the wind. Creaking and clicking noises from boats reverberated all around. Water trickled from through-holes and waves splashed onto rocks. Water, the music of the sea. 

Music. Lani stopped abruptly.

Don’s yacht was ominously silent. She didn’t hear any music coming from his stereo. Don always played it nonstop and loud enough to be heard outside but not too loud to violate the codes. He’d never turn it off unless something was seriously wrong or he was ill. Maybe he’d fallen asleep and had just forgotten to turn out the lights. But that was unlikely. Ten o’clock was like the middle of the day for Don the Night Owl.

Concern propelled her forward. Grasping hold of the boarding ladder, she climbed up onto the carpeted aft deck where her glance rose to the empty bridge. He’s not here. That leaves the cabin area below.

To be continued… or not. How many manuscripts are hidden in your drawers?

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Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche

Enola Holmes is back! Nancy Springer’s nationally bestselling series and breakout Netflix sensation returns to beguile readers young and old in Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche.

NANCY SPRINGER is the author of the nationally bestselling Enola Holmes novels, including The Case of the Missing Marquess, which was made into the hit Netflix movie, Enola Holmes. She is the author of more than 50 other books for children and adults. She has won many awards, including two Edgar Awards, and has been published in more than thirty countries. She lives in Florida.

Nancy Springer

Q: What inspired you to write the Enola Holmes series?

NS:   My literary agent suggested writing books with a “classic chassis,” so I did some set in the King Arthur mythos, and some based on legends of Robin Hood, and then moved on to the world of Sherlock Holmes.

Q: How do you feel about the film based on your book?

NS: I love it, which surprises me, because I don’t generally like the movies based on books I respect. Actually, I don’t generally like movies, period. I find them too intense. They make me shake, and give me bad dreams.

Q: Are you planning to write more titles in the series?

NS:  I’m working right now on another Enola Holmes novel. I don’t yet have a title for it, and who knows whether it will ever be published? There’s no way I can tell at this point whether it will be good enough.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge with this series so far?

NS:  The amount of research I’ve had to do. Getting the historical setting correct.

Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

NS:  To stick to one genre, which I totally have not done. Or do you mean writing advice? I had good advice early on about story logic, and synchronizing the psychodrama with the external drama, and lingering longer with the most emotional scenes.

Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche

ENOLA HOLMES AND THE BLACK BAROUCHE 

Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of her more famous brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft. But she has all the wits, skills, and sleuthing inclinations of them both. At fifteen, she’s an independent young woman–after all, her name spelled backwards reads ‘alone’–and living on her own in London. When a young professional woman, Miss Letitia Glover, shows up on Sherlock’s doorstep, desperate to learn more about the fate of her twin sister, it is Enola who steps up. It seems her sister, the former Felicity Glover, married the Earl of Dunhench and per a curt note from the Earl, has died. But Letitia Glover is convinced this isn’t the truth, that she’d know–she’d feel–if her twin had died.

The Earl’s note is suspiciously vague and the death certificate is even more dubious, signed it seems by a John H. Watson, M.D. (who denies any knowledge of such). The only way forward is for Enola to go undercover–or so Enola decides at the vehement objection of her brother. And she soon finds out that this is not the first of the Earl’s wives to die suddenly and vaguely–and that the secret to the fate of the missing Felicity is tied to a mysterious black barouche that arrived at the Earl’s home in the middle of the night. To uncover the secrets held tightly within the Earl’s hall, Enola is going to require help–from Sherlock, from the twin sister of the missing woman, and from an old friend, the young Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether!

Enola Holmes returns in her first adventure since the hit Netflix movie brought her back on the national bestseller lists, introducing a new generation to this beloved character and series.

My Book Review

I stumbled across the Enola Holmes YA mysteries by accident. I’d seen the Netflix film and absolutely loved it. Naturally, I had to follow up with the books, which I proceeded to devour. When offered the opportunity to host Nancy on her upcoming blog tour for Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche, I leapt at the chance.

Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer
In this enthralling adventure, Enola Holmes and her brother Sherlock accept a case involving a missing woman. The client has received word from her twin sister’s husband that Lady Felicity had caught a fever and died. He had her body cremated. The twin doesn’t believe a word of this odd message and hires the sleuthing duo to find out what really happened. When it turns out the Earl of Dunhench’s first wife expired in a similar manner, Enola believes it can’t be a coincidence. Using her skills at disguise, she gains entry to the nobleman’s gloomy mansion. Here her situation rapidly deteriorates as she begins to suspect the horrifying truth. Suspenseful and clever, this story is one you won’t be able to put down.

ORDER YOUR COPY NOW: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250822963
Release Date is August 31st, 2021

 

Book Event in DeLand

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at the “And the Women Gather” Annual Literary Event in Deland, FL sponsored by Desert Sage, a lifestyle wellness company. We left the house early to arrive in plenty of time for the book event, especially when I saw there was a Tuesday Morning store along the way. After shopping for autumn-themed goods, we headed into the historic downtown. Our first stop was The Muse Bookshop which is a wonderful bookstore to browse in for an afternoon.

We lunched a De La Vega, a Latin restaurant with a pleasant interior and an interesting menu. Here is my avocado stuffed with shrimp for the entree and flan for dessert.

De La Vega   avocado shrimp    flan   Lunch at De La Vega

Next, we headed a few doors down to the Museum of Art where the event was taking place. Guests came from all over Florida for which I was grateful. Our host, Lorna Owens, started off the event with a general introduction.

Lorna Owens

James Ryan, a guitarist, followed with a medley of popular songs.

Guitar Player

Following him was UCF Professor and Author Celilia Rodriguez Milanes, who discussed her works and read excerpts.

Cecilia Milanes

Next it was my turn to talk about my mystery series. I mentioned how I got started in the publishing business and what led to my going indie with my latest books.

Nancy at Podium   

On the drive home, we stopped at Stonewood Inn for dinner and to celebrate another successful book event.

shrimp pasta   

 

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Size Matters

Have you noticed how the size of your favorite brand items in the stores have shrunk while the prices remain the same or are higher? You’ve probably observed how your grocery bill has increased while portion sizes have gotten smaller.

milk bottles

While I was writing A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, I had to adjust recipes that called for box sizes no longer available. For example, cake and pudding mixes come in smaller boxes than in the past. This means less dry ingredients for your recipe. Take a look at your older cookbooks or family recipes and you’ll see what I mean. For other items, the bottle sizes have shrunk or the items inside are no longer as large or as plentiful. The manufacturers benefit while we get less and pay more.

Tomato Sauce  Pickle Jar

Does this also apply to book lengths? Do readers today, with short attention spans, prefer shorter works?

I looked at a few books from popular indie mystery authors and came up with these averages:

My books – 291 pages
Author A – 336 pages
Author B – 163 pages
Author C – 171 pages

What does this say? Those last two averages are considerably lower than mine. Does this mean readers prefer shorter and more frequent works? My books come out an average of once a year. If I wrote short, how many more stories could I produce? Being prolific isn’t my goal. I like to write a meaty story and that will take as long as it takes.

Another factor I noted is that all three of these authors have their e-books exclusive to Amazon in Kindle Unlimited. They are successful with this choice, but I don’t care to keep all my eggs in one basket. I’d rather offer my e-books wide. I do get sales from these other venues, including libraries, so it’s been worthwhile for me. My print books, too, are available wide through IngramSpark and KDP.

But this still begs the question – Do readers prefer shorter books that are quick reads with more frequent releases? A subscription service like Kindle Unlimited? Or books that are available from a variety of sources in varying lengths? What’s your opinion?

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New Mystery Release – Box Set Volume Three

I am excited to announce the release of The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Three: Books 7-9

Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Three

Copyright © 2021 by Nancy J. Cohen
Published by Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN: 978-1-952886-18-8
Cover Design by The Killion Group, Inc.
Digital Layout by Formatting4u.com

Meet Marla Shore, a Florida hairstylist and salon owner with a knack for styling hair and solving crimes. In this trio of cozy mysteries, Marla stays at a haunted hotel, works at a beauty trade show, and sails on a Caribbean cruise with a killer onboard.

DEAD ROOTS
Hairstylist Marla Shore is eager to introduce her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, to her extended family over Thanksgiving weekend at Sugar Crest Plantation Resort. Their festive turkey dinner turns into a serious bad hair day when she finds her aunt suffocated in bed. Aunt Polly isn’t the only ghost at this haunted hotel. Marla uncovers secrets and skeletons that should have stayed buried. It’ll take all her sleuthing skills to untangle the clues and root out the killer, even if it means exposing her family’s unsavory past.

“Dead Roots has all the right ingredients for a great hair day, absolutely fun, winsome characters, a fast‑paced, wonderful mystery read!” Heather Graham, NY Times Bestselling Author

PERISH BY PEDICURE
Salon owner and amateur sleuth Marla Shore ends up fixing more than just hair at a Fort Lauderdale beauty show. When the much‑disliked director of Luxor Beauty Products is murdered, Marla finds herself investigating a quirky group of industry characters including a pompous celebrity stylist, an ambitious salesman, and a rival hairdresser.

“Find your favorite beach chair and a tall glass of lemonade to enjoy another Marla Shore mystery amidst the fashionistas! The perfect read for a beach chair or under the hair dryer.” Nancy Martin, author of the Blackbird Sisters mystery series

KILLER KNOTS
Florida hairstylist Marla Shore hopes for a romantic interlude with her fiancé on a Caribbean cruise, but troubled waters lie ahead when their dinner companions disappear one-by-one. Then Marla learns a killer is along for the ride. Onboard art auctions, ports of call, and sumptuous buffets beckon, but she ignores temptation and musters her sleuthing skills to expose the culprit. She’d better find him fast, before her next shore excursion turns into a trip to Davy Jones’s locker.

“Delightful…The Love Boat meets Sex and the City. A charming heroine and a hero to die for, pick this one up posthaste!” MaryJanice Davidson, NY Times Bestselling Author

BUY LINKS

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Apple Books – https://apple.co/3fNeSzQ
BN Nook – https://bit.ly/3g4gd4i
Kobo – https://bit.ly/3cEnhn9
Books2Read – https://books2read.com/BadHairDayBoxSetThree
Goodreads – https://bit.ly/3jF2ynC

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Tying Up Those Pesky Loose Ends

When writing a mystery, it’s crucial to tie up any loose ends by the end of the story. You don’t want to leave readers hanging on what some incident or snatch of dialogue might have meant when they finish the book. There are several ways for you to keep track of these plot threads.

You might make a list of all the questions that will arise in a reader’s mind as you write the story. Or you can create this list as you do your first read-through revision. If you write a synopsis, that’s another way to keep tabs of what’s going on. Once you’ve finished the first draft, read through your synopsis and make sure you’ve resolved all the plot points. If not, fix them during the revision process.

Here’s an example of some loose ends from Easter Hair Hunt. A brief story blurb will fill you in so you can follow these questions.

When hairstylist Marla Vail attends an Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor, she’s only there to fix hair for a client, Bonnie “Blinky” Morris. But when she’s asked to comb the grounds for leftover goodies, Marla discovers more than just a few dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. And Blinky seems to have disappeared down a rabbit hole.

LOOSE ENDS – Spoiler Alert!

Where is Blinky?
Why did Blinky give her costume to the dead guy?
Who stabbed the victim and why?
Where and what is the murder weapon?
What does the autopsy report say?
How did the Faberge egg end up in the grass next to the body?
Who is stealing artifacts from the house? Is the motive money or spite?
Why did Connor Tremaine deed his property to his wife and leave nothing to his son?

I write a synopsis up front as a writing guide. I’ve just gone through the one for Styled for Murder, my next Bad Hair Day mystery, to make sure it matches the story changes I made along the way. Whoops. It appears I’ve left too very obvious loose ends and forgot all about them. One factor is part of the killer’s confession, and another relates to a subplot with a secondary character.

Re the subplot, I left a hint in a conversation but have no idea what it meant. I can’t find an explanation for this statement anywhere in my character profiles or plotting notes. Do I eliminate this snatch of dialogue, or do I come up with a reasonable explanation? I chose to leave it in and explain what this character meant later on. That’s what I get for not keeping better track of each detail. I didn’t keep my list of loose ends for this story like I usually do, and that would have helped. All is not lost, though. I can write them out during my next revision pass to make sure everything is solved.

This is also why a story needs multiple views. We need to make sure all the questions have been answered by the end. Even our editors and beta readers sometimes miss things that our fans will point out later.

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Do you have lapses like this? How do you catch them?

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Writing the Cozy Mystery – Howdunit

When writing a cozy mystery, you need to decide upon crime scene details even though interpersonal relations, and not forensics, are your story’s focus. The murder might even be off scene, but you’ll still have to determine how it happened.

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Howdunit

In Trimmed to Death, the story begins at a farm festival bake-off contest, which my hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail enters as a contestant. But I was stymied regarding the setting because our city’s fairs were held at athletic fields or local parks. I was telling this to my manicurist when she suggested Bedner’s Farm as a possible model for my story. The next day, my husband and I drove north to visit this farm in Boynton Beach. See my post for a report on this visit. The varied structures and grounds were ideal for my purposes, but I’d move my fictional site nearer to Marla’s hometown.

Now what? I had to select a victim. Spoiler alert!

After looking up farm festivals online, I decided my story would include a live scavenger hunt with the prize going to the guest who collected all of the stamps. Francine Dodger is the final target of the festival’s Find Franny game. Unfortunately, she is slated to die.

Next, consider the five Ws to expand the details.

Who ends up dead? Francine is the victim.

Where is she killed? In the strawberry field. How does she arrive there? Is she lured on purpose, or it is a crime of opportunity? Did the killer follow her? Determine Where-dunit.

 

strawberry plants

How does she die? Will it look like an accident or right away be clear it’s a homicide? Water-filled canals line the U-pick rows. She could be drowned in a ditch. Or she can fall down a silo and smother in the grain. But what would make her climb up there in the first place? Or maybe we should run her over by a tractor.

What knowledge does the killer need? If the murder involves an equipment accident, it’ll have to be someone who knows how to operate the machinery. Ditto the hazards inside a silo. You don’t want to point the finger at a particular suspect like the farmer, because it’s too obvious. Maybe give one of the other characters a secret history of working on a farm or of selling agricultural machinery if you go this route.

If you poison a victim, who has knowledge about the type of poison plus has access to it? Is it fast-acting enough for the circumstances, or do you need a slower more insidious death? What are the particular symptoms? In a cozy mystery, we want to avoid anything messy or too graphic. 

When does it happen? Think about not only about the time of death, but also why not a week or a month ago? Why NOW? What happened to trigger the killer at this point in time?

How does the killer get away? Does he have blood on his clothes? Are his shoes wet or muddy? Is he able to blend back into the crowd at the farm festival?

Now let’s throw a wrench into the works. What if it’s a case of mistaken identity? The murderer thought he had killed one woman, but he got somebody else who was similarly attired. How will he react upon seeing his intended victim alive and well? This leads to another set of problems. It means he can’t see the victim’s face before he kills her, or he’ll realize it’s the wrong person. So again, we go back to Howdunit?

Once you figure out these details, you’ll have to determine how your amateur sleuth stumbles across the dead body. And this is when the story actually begins.

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Previous posts on this topic:

Writing the Cozy Mystery – Whodunit
Writing the Cozy Mystery – Whydunit

Note: This post topic originally appeared in Feb. 2017.

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Enter Here Aug 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors 

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