A Writer’s Life by Mary Cunningham

Let’s welcome our guest, Author Mary Cunningham, who will share what inspired her to write the Andi Anna Jones mystery series featuring a travel agent sleuth.

A Writer’s Life by Mary Cunningham

I’ve written most my life, but until the ripe old age of fifty, I’d never ventured beyond family memoirs and very bad poetry. Then five crazy women got together and formed WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty. All of us had reached that magical milestone, or were about to, and weren’t all that thrilled with the ramifications. Hormones, hot flashes, hair loss, and weight gain were just a few of the complaints. We decided to become proactive and write a book that not only made light of our fate, but would honor our love of dogs, too. We embarked on the WOOF adventure.

From there, I moved on to middle-grade fantasy. Huh? Not a natural transition you say? When you have a recurring dream about a friend’s attic that served as your clubhouse on rainy days, you have to write about it. Write? Er…right? Cynthia’s Attic Series features best friends, ancestors, family stories, and time travel. While I, my family nor friends have admitted to time travel, writing about family stories passed down from great-grandparents, grandparents, and my mom and dad, gave me as much writing material as any Google search could generate.

I’ve now jumped into a totally different genre—a cozy mystery series about an inept travel agent whose real talent is amateur sleuthing. One of the first “writerly” pieces of advice I got was “Write what you know.” I was that inept travel agent in North Miami Beach. (Won’t mention the agency in case there are pending lawsuits against me) Seriously, I was awful. And hated it. I’m thrilled this new book and series has given me some sense of redemption and exorcised a ghost or two.

All those miserable days I spent, completely out of my element, led to one of the most satisfying journeys of my life. Writing about Andi, and her quirky cohorts, has been a freeing experience. Not only does writing give me a release from the past, I can draw on the good and the bad. For instance, Andi’s sidekick (and true agency manager) Ellie, is based on Ellen, the proficient agent who worked with me, and saved my backside on many occasions. She knew, instinctively, when I was struggling to make an airline reservation or book a trip, and would subtly step in and guide me through the process.

So many characters in Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder are written for the reader’s enjoyment and for the purpose of making lemonade from lemons. I can’t remember writing a story that made me laugh out loud. This one did.

Throughout my writing life, I’ve made fun of the aging process (WOOF), made up adventures about my ancestors, and written about a poor, but short-lived career choice; all with self-deprecating humor. If you have life-experiences you want to remember, or would rather forget, maybe writing will help.

Do you have any memories of quirky characters or mysterious family stories?

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Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder

Andi’s step-mother, Ruby, is a real piece of work, but is she a murderer?

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will include the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby might be the main suspect.

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with charming local sheriff, Manual Gonzales. An embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, can’t quell her determination to clear the name of her ex-stepmother.

While gathering clues and interviewing witnesses, however, she suspects dear old step-mom isn’t the only one in jeopardy.

If you have as much fun reading Margaritas, Mayhem, & Murder: An Andi Anna Jones Mystery (# 1) as I had writing it, we’ll all be winners!

Order Your Copy Here or at your favorite online bookstore:

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Biography

Author Mary Cunningham grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn.” Through the author’s horrifying stint as a travel agent, Andi Anna Jones sprang to life. This series gives extra meaning to the phrase, “Write what you know.” Cunningham has several other books published, including five books in the Cynthia’s Attic middle-grade fantasy series, the women’s lifestyle/humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, Ghost Light and Christmas With Daisy.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Carrollton Writers Guild. When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming, and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

Find Mary on Social Media:

Website: https://www.marycunninghambooks.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/marycunninghambooks/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MaryCunningham
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002BLNEK4
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mary-cunningham

 

Writing a Book and Doctor Visits

Writing a book is like going to the doctor. You enter the office with nervous anticipation. You leave with a sense of relief. Writing a novel is similar. You begin the story with the same sense of heightened anticipation. When the first draft is done, you feel immensely relieved.

A doctor visit engenders several questions. Will he find something unexpected? Will the procedure hurt? Do I have to disrobe? What kind of follow-up will I need? And why is that poor fish swimming all alone in the waiting room’s aquarium?

Unexpected Finds

We’re always afraid the doctor might find a disease we didn’t know we had. This question also applies to writing your book. Will you discover some unexpected plot twists as your characters take over the story? Will the results turn out the way you’d planned? New ideas may pop into your head or be inspired by things you see and hear around you. These may take your story in a whole new direction. For writers, the unexpected reveal is a pleasurable event. The more your story stews in the subconscious, the more chances of this happening. Embrace the unexpected and see where it leads you.

Will it Hurt?

Writing a novel can be painful. Not because it may dredge up memories from your past, but because it’s not easy to face the blank page every day. Will you be able to reach your word count? What happens if you write yourself into a corner and get stuck? Will this book be as good as the last one? We struggle with these demons and others as we sit at the computer each day. Nonetheless, we keep plugging away until the first draft is complete. Similar to a medical procedure, if it’s something that needs to be done, you just have to do it. Remember BICHOK – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. That’s the key to writing a novel.

Do I Have to Disrobe?

Your novel, once published, exposes your vulnerabilities to the reader. This book baby is naked to the world. Reviews will be mixed, hopefully with the good outweighing the bad. It’s inevitable that you expose yourself as a writer when you publish your work. You invite feedback every time you put a story out there. Grow a thick skin and get over it.

What about Follow-Up?

Like the next doctor visit, fans will be anticipating your next book. You need to get started on it soon after you finish this one, while allowing yourself time to decompress, research, and plot the sequel. Marketing is essential at this stage, too. You can’t put your book out there and forget about it. If you slack off in your promotional efforts, book sales will lag, too.

The Lone Fish

Writing is a lonely business. We sit in our home office in front of the computer all day. When we’re not writing, we are working on promotion and marketing. Friends and family don’t understand the hours of dedication we need to get the job done. It’s a full-time career with no time off. The pressure is always on to produce more or to do more social media.

We have to remind ourselves that we’re not the only fish in the sea, and we need our families to support us. In return, we have to take the time to be with them because that’s what really matters in life. Writing a book is an achievement, but you want someone with whom to share it. In terms of understanding what you do, your critique partners and writing friends can empathize. Don’t feel you’re in the turbulent waters all alone.

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Upcoming Workshop

Saturday, June 4, 2:00 – 3:30 pm, “Self-Publishing Made Simple” Writing Workshop via Zoom with Nancy J. Cohen sponsored by Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University. Pre-Register at https://bit.ly/3ytN1yn

Do you have a novel that doesn’t fit genre guidelines or a personal project you want to self-publish? Or perhaps you want to reissue backlist titles or become a hybrid author? In this workshop, award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen will discuss setting up your own imprint, buying and assigning ISBNs, preparing your manuscript, ebook and print distributors, and marketing tips.

Writing the One Page Synopsis

Your publisher requests a one-page synopsis, or you’re required to submit a short synopsis to enter a contest. How do you condense an entire story into a single page?

One Page Synopsis

First give the book title, author name, and series number a few lines down from the top and centered. Then offer a tag line that sums up the plot. Here’s an example from SHEAR MURDER:

A wedding turns deadly when hairstylist Marla Shore discovers a dead body under the cake table.

The Setup
This initial paragraph presents the setup for the story.

Hairstylist Marla Shore is playing bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the bride’s sister stabbed to death under the cake table. Torrie had plenty of people who might have wanted her dead, including her own sister who threatened her just before the ceremony.

The Personal Motive
Why does your sleuth get involved?

At Jill’s request, Marla agrees to help solve the case. With her own wedding four weeks away, her salon expanding into day spa services, and her relatives bickering over nuptial details, she has enough to do. But when Jill is arrested for Torrie’s murder, Marla has no choice except to unmask the killer.

The Suspects
Give a brief profile of the suspects along with possible motives.

Jill and Torrie owned a piece of commercial property together. Their cousin Kevin, a Realtor, has been trying to find them a new tenant. Meanwhile, Jill’s uncle Eddy, a shady attorney, has been urging them to sell. Now Torrie’s husband, Scott, will inherit his wife’s share. Scott has another motive besides greed. Torrie had announced her plan to leave him for another man, Griff Beasley. Griff was Torrie’s colleague at the magazine where she worked as well as the photographer at Jill’s wedding. Griff implicates Hally, another coworker. Hally and Torrie were competing for a promotion. Then [Suspect X] turns up dead.

The Big Reveal
The final paragraph is where the clues lead to the killer, and the protagonist has an insight about what she’s learned. This last is important for emotional resonance so readers will be eager for the sequel to see what happens next to your heroine.

It appears Suspect Y did [Evil Deed]. Snooping into his background, Torrie learned that Suspect Alpha helped him [Do Something Bad]. Suspect Alpha murdered Torrie because she found out about [His Illegal Business], and then Suspect X because she’d discovered [fill in blank]. Marla reveals the killer and is free to enjoy her own wedding ceremony.

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Writers Who Kill Guest Post

Hi, I have a guest post today over at the Writers Who Kill blog on the “Elements of a Cozy Mystery.” If you’re a writer with an interest in this genre, these tips will be helpful. Or if you’re a reader who wants to know more about the writing process, this will give you a glimpse behind the scenes.

Go to: https://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2022/04/elements-of-cozy-mystery-by-nancy-j.html

Plotter or Pantser

As a novelist, we’re often asked if we are a plotter or a pantser. These refer to your technique in plotting a story. Do you outline ahead of time, knowing each plot point that will occur? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants as you write, unaware of what will come next in your novel?

Plotter or Pantser

It’s possible to be a bit of both. For example, as you approach each chapter, you may know what is supposed to happen. But how do you get from Point A to Point B? That’s where creative magic comes into play. It’s exciting to discover things about your characters that weren’t in your original notes.

I got into the habit of writing a synopsis for each Bad Hair Day mystery. These ran fifteen or so pages long and acted as a daily writing guide. I always knew where I was going if not how to get there. If the story changed along the way, I’d revise the synopsis accordingly.

A synopsis may be required by traditional publishers. As in indie published author, it’s a choice. You may need a short synopsis to enter your book in a writing contest, or to send to a blurb writer or cover designer upon request. It’s still a good thing to have and can point out any flaws in your story that aren’t readily evident.

Despite my preference for plotting ahead, I found myself unable to get past the first few pages in writing a synopsis for my current Work in Progress. I had done rough sketches of the suspects but still wasn’t clear on all their motives. And so I began writing to get a feel for the story. Now I’m 75 pages into the tale and still winging it. I’m learning things about my characters I didn’t expect. Nor do I have any idea whodunit at this point. My only fear is writing myself into a corner and getting stuck.

To avoid this mishap, I’m writing down every loose end or question that comes to mind from the reader’s viewpoint. If I run into a wall, I can go back and pick up on threads I’d missed. Will being a pantser work for me? Time will tell. So will my critique partners who’ll let me know if the plot doesn’t make sense. Here’s an example of some of these loose ends from the opening chapters:

Loose Ends

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Which one are you – a plotter or a pantser? Or a combination of both? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers other than to use whatever technique works for them?

Adding Descriptive Details to a Scene

How do you avoid turning descriptive details in your novel into an info dump? When writing fiction, you have to be careful how you weave in this information. Add too much prose, and your reader will skip over those passages. You can insert material more enticingly by using dialogue, brief introspections, and short paragraphs.

Descriptive Details

My readers like to learn new “factoids” as they call them, and they’ve come to expect these tidbits in my books. It’s thanks to my editor and critique partners that these don’t become lengthy dissertations on my research findings. It’s tempting to share what you’ve learned, but you need to limit your enthusiasm and save this fascinating material for future blog posts.

Nonetheless, a critique partner recently asked me for more details regarding my story’s historical background. The setting involves a battle reenactment at a living history village. I’d skimmed over the details, but my writer friend wanted more. She even suggested I make the guide’s lectures more touristy.

Okay, I could do this. Here’s an example from a scene that takes place during the skirmish. Be kind in your appraisal. It’s a first draft excerpt.

Original Passage:

A man’s voice on a loudspeaker rang out, welcoming the guests. She recognized the marshal’s gritty tone.

“This battle is representative of the one that occurred on July 3, 1836. Out of one hundred and ten soldiers, only two survived. They made it to Fort King to explain what happened and so a contingent could return to bury the dead.” He continued to narrate as the action unfolded.

A line of blue-coated soldiers moved out at a slow pace, muskets at the ready. They followed a dirt trail among the pines and scrub brush. A small group wheeled a cannon, the only artillery in sight. The officers rode on horseback behind the troop’s drummer. The men looked weary, as though they’d been on the road for days.

Suddenly, shots rang out. The solders scrambled for defensive positions as the officers rode up and down the line, shouting orders.

Rewrite:

A man’s voice on a loudspeaker rang out, welcoming the guests. She recognized the marshal’s gritty tone.

“Today we are commemorating a massacre that occurred on July 3, 1836. One hundred and ten U.S. Army troops were on a mission to deliver a cannon to Fort King in Ocala. Along the way, they were attacked by one hundred and eighty Seminole warriors. Only two soldiers survived. Hungry and wounded, the men made it to the fort and explained what happened so a contingent could return to bury the dead.”

The blue-coated soldiers moved forward in a column. They followed a narrow dirt trail among the pines and scrub brush but still in view from the bleachers. A small group wheeled the cannon, the only artillery in sight. Three officers rode on horseback behind the troop’s drummer. The soldiers looked weary, as though they’d been on the road for days.

“The troops weren’t ready for action,” the marshal continued. “Their muskets were not loaded, and their ammunition was stuffed under their jackets. They’d grown tired and didn’t notice the tribesmen following them.”

Suddenly, shots rang out.

“The captain is hit!” the marshal exclaimed as the other officers shouted orders. The soldiers scrambled for defensive positions. Then the lieutenant toppled from his horse.

“Another officer down! The Seminole chief is a wily fellow. He knows which men are commanding the force, and he’s taking out the leaders one-by-one. Oh, no! There goes the sergeant. Now the rest of the troops will be mowed down like blades of grass.”

Which version is more vivid in your mind? What else should I add?

Another suggestion was that Marla’s husband Dalton should share some of his knowledge during the battle sequence since he’s a history buff. In the original draft, he said nothing.

New Passage:

Dalton nudged Marla. “The army soldiers had muskets that were smooth-bore and more suitable for short-range firing. The Native Americans used Deringer percussion rifles given to them in the Treaty of Paynes Landing of 1832. These had greater accuracy from a distance but took longer to load.”

“Why was that?” Marla asked. Clearly, he’d researched the topic.

“Both were muzzle-loaders, at least until 1850 or so. This means a powder charge and ball had to be inserted into the end of the barrel and pushed down to the firing mechanism. It was easier to do this for a smooth-bore musket with a larger barrel. Pushing the same ball down a tighter-fitting rifle took longer. However, the spiral grooves, termed rifling, inside this barrel meant greater accuracy. For tribesmen shooting at a distance on horseback, it gave them the advantage.”

What do you think? Too much detail or are these revisions just right? You be my critic.

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Blending Romance and Mystery

Mystery fans enjoy a romantic subplot that is slow and subtle. In a series, you don’t want to resolve the relationship by the end of book one. You’ll want to build it step-by-step, advancing or retreating with each story. Especially in a cozy mystery, any graphic sex scenes must take place behind closed doors. Sexual tension is welcome, but it’s not an essential element.

Romance Mystery

As for the heroine juggling multiple boyfriends, this gets old after a few installments. Have her make a decision after the first few titles. It doesn’t have to be the right one, but it’s less frustrating for readers than to keep stringing two suitors along.

The key is to have complications so the main couple can overcome the issues that keep them apart. Once one complication is solved, you need to bring in another. Life is never smooth and always has problems.

Keep in mind that you are writing a murder mystery, and the romance takes second place to the puzzle of solving the crime. If you include a strong romantic subplot, your story may be termed a romantic mystery.

How to Blend Romance and Murder

Give your characters conflicts to keep them from making a commitment. The external conflict is your mystery. The internal conflict is the reason why the protagonists are hesitant to get deeply involved in a relationship.

Conflict

Maybe your heroine was hurt by a former lover and fears getting burned again. Or she has a fierce need for independence because she has to prove herself worthy of respect. Why? What happened in her past to produce this need? Keep asking questions to deepen the motivation. Maybe your hero doesn’t want a family because his own parents went through a bitter divorce. Secretly he feels he isn’t worthy of being loved. Or maybe he suppresses his emotions and doesn’t know how to give affection. Whatever the opposite sex character does seems to deepen or challenge this inner torment.

Your characters are immediately attracted to each other through physical chemistry. This pulls them together while the inner conflicts tear them apart. Yet the benefits of being a couple begin to outweigh the risks. As the characters become emotionally closer, they’ll progress through the stages of intimacy.

Six Stages of Intimacy

1. Physical awareness: Your characters notice each other with heightened sensitivity. For example, the heroine is aware of the man’s physical attributes. She detects his personal scent and has a physical response to his presence. They steal looks at each other when together.
2. Intrusion of thoughts: Your character begins thinking of this other person often. The love interest invades your character’s mind.
3. Touching: First, it may be an arm around the shoulder, lifting a chin, touching an elbow. The couple comes closer until the desire to kiss is almost palpable. Have them lean in toward each other for a kiss and then interrupt them, so when they get to the next stage, it’s highly anticipated. Use the five senses as much as possible to enhance the sexual tension. Flirtatious banter can add to this mounting desire.
4. Kissing
5. Touching in more intimate places
6. Coupling: In a cozy, these scenes are off the page. But if you’re writing romantic suspense, you can include them. Here it’s important to focus on the emotional reactions of your characters rather than the act itself. This is lovemaking, not just sex.

Throw a wrench into the relationship when all seems to be going well. His former spouse appears on the scene. Her on-again, off-again other boyfriend shows up. The heroine does something thoughtless and alienates the guy she likes. He feels pressured and backs off. Finally, they both change and compromise to resolve their differences. Let’s see how this works.

The Bad Hair Day Mysteries

PERMED TO DEATH: Hairstylist Marla Shore meets Detective Dalton Vail. [girl meets boy]. While instantly attracted to each other, they share a mutual distrust. Marla is the prime suspect in her client’s murder [external conflict]. Dalton is suspicious of her, and rightfully so. Marla hides a secret that gives her a motive. Meanwhile, Marla is suspicious of Dalton’s interest because she thinks it’s a pretense to interrogate her. At the story’s end, he asks her for a date and she accepts [relationship moves forward].

HAIR RAISER: Marla meets Dalton’s daughter [forward]. She dates a handsome accountant who earns her family’s approval but may be a murder suspect [relationship moves backward]. Marla and Dalton share their First Kiss [forward].

MURDER BY MANICURE: Marla takes Dalton’s daughter, Brianna, to dance class [forward]. Marla pretends to be her friend Arnie’s fiancée so he can rid himself of an amorous old flame. They coax Dalton to date the woman instead. Marla gets jealous of Dalton when he pays the woman more attention [backward]. Marla earns his daughter’s regard [forward].

BODY WAVE: Marla’s ex-spouse, Stan, enters the picture when his third wife is murdered. Marla and Dalton work together to solve the case [forward]. Stan stirs up feelings Marla would rather forget. Dalton is jealous. Marla accuses him of wanting to pin the murder on Stan [backward].

HIGHLIGHTS TO HEAVEN: Marla and Dalton argue over his restrictive rules for Brianna, and Marla feels she has no place in his life if he won’t listen to her advice [backward].

DIED BLONDE: Dalton acknowledges his need for Marla, and he proposes [forward].

DEAD ROOTS: Dalton meets Marla’s extended family. He presents her with an engagement ring [forward].

PERISH BY PEDICURE: Marla meets the parents of Dalton’s dead wife. Dalton takes their side [backward].

KILLER KNOTS: Marla meets Dalton’s parents on a cruise. She and Dalton set a wedding date [forward].

SHEAR MURDER: Marla and Dalton tie the knot.

If your people get hitched, it doesn’t mean their problems are over. Keep throwing roadblocks in their way. Life is never perfect. In reality, married couples still have conflicts as they learn to face life’s challenges together. If you keep your sleuth single, make sure to motivate her choices to show why this path is right for her. Either way, keep things changing and evolving between your characters. It’s this personal thread that compels readers to come back for more.

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Are you a fan of a romantic subplot in a mystery?

Planning a Sequel

When you’re writing a series, how do you know what comes next? Book One lays the groundwork, introducing the setting, characters, and premise for the entire series. How can the second book build on this beginning?

Planning a Sequel

That depends on if your stories are more episodic or serial in nature. For whodunits, we’re more episodic with a different murder mystery to solve in each book. The crime is the focus of the plot, like exploring a new planet on each episode of Star Trek.

But this is only your main character’s external conflict. What about their internal angst? Here’s where you can introduce a serial element. By this, I mean an overarching thread that isn’t solved in book one. This thread deals with the protagonist’s struggle to overcome obstacles to achieve her ultimate personal goal. Each book should evolve from this core inner conflict.

In my Bad Hair Day series, hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail progresses in her dating life and matures to overcome past traumas and to embrace a happy future. But once your character fulfills her destiny, you’ll have to throw in another wrench to clog the wheels. This means that when one thread is tied up, you’ll need to introduce another source. Each story should evolve from the personal issues introduced in the previous story as well as any external problems that remain.

   First Four

A romance series is more likely to feature spinoffs, or a new set of protagonists per book. These stories might take place in the same town or share a theme, thus adding a commonality. i.e. A missing object must be found or something bad will happen. Each book would then focus on the protagonists revealing a new facet to this mystery, perhaps leading to another clue. It would reflect on their inner journeys as well. This is in addition to whatever external conflict is affecting their relationship.

Or in a science fiction series, perhaps the evil galactic warlord must be stopped. The heroes have many adventures along the way, making friends and enemies as they seek to end the tyranny or to prevent a worse threat from emerging.

Drift Lords Series

Think of Harry Potter. Readers know he’ll have to face Lord Voldemort someday. Meanwhile, he has other villains to defeat. Along the way, he has to find the courage and power to defeat his mortal enemy.

Your cast of secondary characters can provide plenty of opportunities for sequels based on their goals and conflicts and interaction with the protagonist. Give one a prominent role in the next story and focus on this person’s problems. Your hero gets involved because she cares about this character. She’s also grappling with some aspect of her own personal struggle to overcome.

It all goes back to the writing advice that your main characters must grow and change. What would normally happen next in this person’s life?

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Figuring out what to write next hasn’t been a problem for me. The biggest obstacles have been time and marketing decisions. What about you?

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A Eureka Moment

Every author likely goes through a phase when we are waiting for inspiration to strike. Or perhaps we have a plotting problem and need to find a solution. If you’ve been thinking about this issue for some time, the response will pop into your head at unexpected moments. It’s like a lightbulb turns on in your brain with just the answer you need.

A Eureka Moment

It’s ironic that I was slated to speak to the Citrus Crime Writers chapter of Sisters in Crime on “Creating Settings that Sizzle.” I was struggling to figure out the setting for my next Bad Hair Day mystery.

It had been several weeks since I’d started preliminary research for this book on topics that interested me. But I still lacked the single cohesive factor I needed. In my blog post on the Five Stages of Writing, I mention Discovery as number one. This is wherein you discover the story before you begin writing. I knew the inciting incident had to take place at a fairground or a park. I had several disparate elements that I couldn’t tie together. What was I missing? The setting within a setting, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. I needed a group of people who knew each other, but I couldn’t repeat what I’ve done before. This will be my 18th book in the series, and it becomes a challenge to keep things fresh.

I sat on my couch, intending to ruminate about the plot, when EUREKA! The answer popped into my brain! It was PERFECT for what I needed!

It’s amazing how the subconscious works. This is why you need to give yourself time during this discovery phase and not rush things. Gather the story elements, let them stew in your mind, and out will come the answer you need.

I’d visited this place and wrote a blog on it. I had an album with over sixty photos. And there was even a haunted house with ghost tours on the premises! Moreover, this setting within a setting was located at a fairground and would have a built-in group of suspects.

I’d have to adjust things a bit to fit my scenario, but this idea hit the nail on the head. I even remembered an episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries that took place in a similar setting. I’ll watch it to see how they set things up. Fortunately, I have the DVD in my collection.

You never know when a research trip will pay off. As a writer, you should take notes and photos wherever you go. At some point in the future, you might need those notes to set a scene or an entire story in that place. Every site you visit becomes a potential goldmine.

Now I’m excited to bring the pieces together. I’ll have some weaving to do but I have my basis to get started. At this point, I can determine the suspects. Then it’s a matter of figuring out their secrets and interconnecting them. All of this takes place as part of the Discovery phase before writing the story. More research may be required but at least now I have a direction to follow. I’m excited to see where the trail will lead.

My fellow writers, have you ever experienced this Eureka moment? It’s a glorious feeling, isn’t it?

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