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The Writing Life: Winter Slump

Header graphic: a male and a female detective face off in a darkened office

Readers and friends,

I hope this blog post finds you healthy and happy. As for me, I’m crawling out of my winter slump. Winters can be tough in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures are mild, but the months of darkness have a way of grinding you down. Add to that our current pandemic woes and social isolation, and it’s no wonder I’ve been feeling slumpy!

I love gloomy skies and rain. I truly do. But five months into Seattle’s “big dark” my body is craving light, green plants, and movement. The pandemic is a marathon, and I’m limping my way to the finish line. It’s been a long haul, hasn’t it?

If it weren’t for the damn pandemic, I’d flee to Las Vegas for a long, sunny weekend and sit by the pool until my body charged up like a fleshy solar panel. I’d head to mountain country to have lunch with my Mom. And Patrick and I would take my father-in-law to his favorite bar and buy him some tacos, then fight over the check. (He’s cheeky! He likes to pay the bill while I’m in the bathroom.) But I can’t do any of those things, yet. So I’ll sit here in the same tiny condo I’ve occupied for a year, using walks and occasional video chats to stave off quarantine madness, trying to be mellow about all the things I cannot control.

Things will get better soon! my intellect says.

Not soon enough! my sulky heart replies.

Scribbling Away

My winter slump may have slowed me down, but the writing is going well. I’m editing The Case of the Red Phantom, and it’s been a fun project. The mystery takes place during a baking competition, inspired by The Great British Baking Show. I started the story with a firm idea of who committed the crime, but things didn’t go the way I expected, and I was surprised at the end! Writing a good mystery is every bit as much fun as reading one. I love all the twists and turns!

And I’ve come up with most of the story for The Case of the Fond Farewell, the sixth Ellie Tappet mystery. That’s up next. ☺️

Deslumpifying

So, how does one crawl out of a winter slump? There’s a physical component, for sure. I’m heading out for walks twice a day, and any day when I get at least 3 miles of walking in, I feel much better. My sleep has been crap, so I’m cutting back on caffeine, albeit reluctantly. No coffee after 1pm! This is a cruel, cruel, way to live, but I’ll endure. 😏

The mental component is trickier. After the last election cycle ended, I tentatively poked my nose back into Twitter after reorganizing my lists a bit. I’d missed the writerly chit-chat, but before long, I found myself zooming down the drama rabbit holes, reading about publishing drama du jour, marinating in the nastiness and performative slamming of one tribe vs another. Ugh! When it comes to Twitter, I’m like baby Yoda eating the frog lady’s eggs. I can’t be trusted to resist temptation! That’s why I’m back to my old rules: I’m allowed twenty minutes of Twitter per day, using a timer. That’s long enough to check in with the writerverse without getting myself into trouble.

So yes, Twitter is my intellectual cocaine. But just a small bump, please! I don’t want to end up hanging naked from a chandelier, screaming conspiracy theories until Patrick has to take me out with a tranquilizer gun.

ha ha. I do amuse myself.

It helps to remember that spring is right around the corner. Pale yellow daffodils are blooming near South Lake Union, the poor neglected grass is growing back, and the deciduous trees downtown have that clean, smooth look they get right before their leaves burst out. The days are getting longer. Vaccination dates are getting closer! And I just got my copy of Ready Player Two from the library, so I know what I’m doing tonight instead of watching TV or surfing the web.

If you’ve been dragging yourself through the last few months by the sheer force of will, know you’re not alone. Because I can work from home, and because I’m very lucky in that regard, I tend to dismiss my stress as unimportant. “What are you whining about?” is my common refrain. “You have nothing to complain about!”

But that’s not the healthiest attitude, is it? Sometimes it helps to say “Yup, I’ve been feeling crappy lately. And that’s okay.” Once you acknowledge your feelings instead of shunting them to the side, you’re in a better place to deal with them. I tend to forget this, but it’s true.

The day is getting late, and I should get back to work. This book isn’t going to edit itself. 😄 Wherever you are today, I encourage you to do something nice for yourself. For me, writing out this post was that thing, and I already feel better for having organized my foggy thoughts, and for having shared them with you. As always, thanks for reading my blog!

Until next time,

C

Winter Writing Update

Header graphic: a woman holding a knife sneaks up on her victim

Happy New Year, productive people!

Yes, I’m a few days early, but I’m eager to get the new year underway. With every January comes fresh possibilities and a reminder to discard outworn habits and old frustrations. Whatever your ambitions are for the new year, go chase em!

This is my first writing update of the new year. These list-y posts help me stay accountable to my goals, and for those who are curious, they’re a peek at what I’m working on and what’s coming next.

What I’m Writing

Cutting the Track (Kat Voyzey #4) - Woot! The book will be out on January 22nd and ebook pre-orders are live . 😃

Ellie Tappet #5 & #6 - I’m working on the next Ellie Tappet novel right now, and I can already tell it’s going to be a fun one. My plan is to pause after the sixth book, with the option to add more books later.

Next up on my radar is Hostile Takeover, Emerald City Spies book three. I’m stoked! Before too long all of my mystery series will be in a good state and I’ll be ready to start a new series or two.

A side note: Does it bug you that the word series is both singular and plural? I find it irritating when using both forms of the word close together. Let’s revolt and create a new word: serieses!

Ugh. That’s even worse! I sound like Smeagol.

Dreaming of Space Opera

The other day, my friend M said that my future space opera series has been haunting me for a while. And she’s not wrong! Twice now, I’ve gotten out of bed in the middle of the night, exhausted, to jot down ideas that wouldn’t leave me alone.

I don’t mind being haunted by stories. But I need my sleep! I updated my site header to show my multi-genre ambitions. See, sci-fi ghosts? I hear you.

Cover Design I’m working on my cover design skills by building a fresh set of covers for the Ellie Tappet Mysteries. Under the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” I won’t re-cover the books for a while yet, but here’s a peek at my rough drafts:

Updated Ellie Tappet Book Covers. They show beach sand, flip flops, and colorful elements from each story.

New Website - I have a new website and you’re looking at it. (Thanks, Patrick!) Most of the cool new features are under the hood, but I’m especially happy with the sortable “bookshelves” on the home page . And each book has just two dropdown buttons: buy digital or buy print. I hate cluttery buttons. This is better!

Thoughts for the Quarter

I’m sailing into 2021 with a mixture of relief and optimism. Sure, until the coronavirus vaccine is distributed, I’ll be on tenterhooks, concerned about the safety of my friends and family. But we’re starting a year with an amazing life-saving vaccine, sensible adults are about to move into the White House, and it seems that life and commerce are ready to flow back into our cities and towns like blood returning to a compressed limb.

I’m ready! I’m so-so-so ready. Bring it on, 2021! After the year we’ve all had, I’d say humanity is ready to bust down the doors of the new year and throw a party.

And there will be fabulous books at that party!

I know, because I intend to write some. ☺️

My Publishing Year in Review

An old-fashioned typewriter and the words 'The Writing Life'

2020 is coming to a close so I figured this would be a good moment to pause and check in on how my publishing year has gone. It should go without saying that 2020 has been an unusually difficult year. And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have “Global Pandemic” on my business’s SWOT analysis. I expect we’ll be grappling with the lingering effects of Covid for quite some time. But when it comes to the business side of things Adventurous Ink did pretty well! We’ve published five books over the last twelve months, and given that my stretch goal was six books, pre-pandemic, I’m quite happy with where we’ve landed.

In 2020, our little publishing business became modestly profitable. Woo-hoo! We’re not losing money! I attribute this to a few things:

  • Keeping our per-book costs low.
  • Publishing more frequently.
  • Avoiding big expenses like book conferences.
  • Putting my cozy series in Kindle Unlimited, which has been a good way to find new readers.

Beyond writing and publishing our books, we’ve been busy with behind-the-scenes projects. P improved our book build system, made an ePub error checker, and improved our accounting system. When you’ve got multiple books sold through various intermediaries in multiple currencies, financial reporting can get complicated, quick. I added two excellent beta readers to my beta crew and we’ve had more web traffic and more newsletter subscribers. And we improved the end-matter in our books, so when a reader reaches the last page of a novel they can find the next book in the series with one click. As of today, our new website is halfway complete, and it’s a significant improvement over my current one. The new site will load much faster, and P is coding in some neat features. Our new multi-store purchase buttons are simpler and easier to use, and the site looks good on all sorts of different screens.

It’s all good stuff.

Every year comes with challenges. The pandemic has been scary and distracting, and it’s hard to write good stories when you’re stressed down to the ends of your hair. On the creative side, I’ve found it challenging to manage multiple book series simultaneously. Bopping around from series to series is much harder than writing straight through! And with my multi-genre interests it’s been difficult to know where to focus my energy. Still, the struggle has been constructive. When it comes to what I’ll choose to write, I’ve basically landed on: “Write what makes me happy, finish what I start, then package and sell my work as intelligently as I can.” See? It sounds so simple when I say it out loud, but it took me a while to figure it out.

One year ago, I had four books out. Now, I’m writing my tenth. Ten books! I can hardly believe it.

Thinking about 2021

I’m still sorting it out, but here are some things I’m considering for publishing year 2021:

  • Learning how to do online advertising (We’ve never run a single AMS ad)
  • Publishing more books by: A) increasing my daily word count and B) hiring a copyeditor.
  • Building up a bit of a gap between finishing a book and releasing it.

I’m fairly confident that these are the right moves to make, but we won’t have the luxury of doing them all at once. Yes, we turned a profit this year, but our small profit wouldn’t even fund a year’s worth of editing, let alone advertising. So we won’t be able to do everything we’d like at the same time.

Again, it’s all good stuff! Mostly, I’m excited about writing my next crop of stories, but I’m also enjoying the business side of things. I’ve gone from from publishing one book per year (or less) to publishing five. In 2021 I want to repeat that trick, maybe even faster, while selling more books, improving our systems, and writing stories that excite me.

To everyone who’s been following along, reading my books, and leaving me reviews, thanks so much. It all makes a difference. And I’m grateful.

Onward to 2021!

Nano Prep #6: Begin With The End in Mind

Happy Sunday,

Today’s post is a continuation of last year’s Nanowrimo Prep series. Today, I’ll write about a technique that I’ve found helpful for preparing my story. And if you’re brand new to writing, skip this one! Today’s post is aimed at those who already have NanoPrep steps 1-5 handled.

In business, a common maxim is to “begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey may have coined that phrase, but the concept of aiming at a target is a very old one. And if you intend to write fiction for profit, it helps to have a target in mind. A sense of what you’ll be offering to readers at the end of the process. And that’s why it’s helpful to draft your back-of-the-book blurb before you ever put pen to paper.

Now, blurbs are hard to write! A blurb is a teaser. It says: “This is what my book is about. This is what the central challenge is. And here are some of the emotions you might feel.” Along with the cover art, the blurb is what will get your reader to hit the buy button.

A blurb is also a good test for you, the writer, because by the time you’re done writing it, you should feel a tingle in your body, and the tingle should say “Yeah! I’d want to read that story.” The first draft of your blurb won’t be as concise and snappy as your final version, but writing it out early is helpful. Why? if your blurb doesn’t excite you, and more importantly, if your story doesn’t excite you, you might not be ready to start writing.

In the spirit of showing my work, here’s my rough-draft blurb for Kat Voyzey #4, the book I’m prepping for November.

Kat Voyzey is chasing her dream. But is it about to become a nightmare?

When Kat left her cushy corporate job behind to start her own private investigation firm, she expected to encounter some bumps in the road. And if she’s spending her nights taking photos of philanderers at Seattle’s top ten seediest motels, well, perhaps that’s what it takes to learn the ropes. PI work might rough and tumble, but she’s determined to make a go of it. In time, she’ll find a more inspiring clientele. That is, if she doesn’t go out of business first.

When her friend Akiko tells her about a troubled college student who has gone missing, Kat agrees to track the woman down on behalf of her friends and family. And when the clues lead right back to the young woman’s Roller Derby league, Kat accepts an invitation to gear up and get her skate on. Sporting some killer spandex outfits, a feisty new persona, and too many bruises to count, Kat’s about to get a lesson in fighting hard for what she wants. And the closer to she gets to the truth, the more disturbed she is by what she finds. What started out as a simple track and trace is becoming something far more dangerous.

Worth noting: Whenever I write a blurb for the first time, I hate it. My blurb always feels overly wordy, clunky, and obvious. It doesn’t flow. (this draft isn’t too bad – I’ve been over it a few times – although the ending needs more zing) But  I can read my blurb, and I can feel the tone of it and say, Yeah, that there is the book I want to write. And it’s easier to hit something when you aim at it. 😉 So that’s my advice of the day, Nanowrimo preppers. Begin with the end in mind.

PS: If you want some step-by-step guidance on how to write your end matter (or blurb) I found this book helpful.

More posts about Nano Prep 2019

How the “Seattle Freeze” Inspired my Spy Series

The Book cover for The Assistant next to a black fedora, a black revolver, and a candle.

The first book in my Emerald City Spies series begins with a short prologue written from the perspective of the city itself.

Let’s get one thing straight: Seattle doesn’t care about you.

Oh, we’ve got a reputation for being nice. A lie so old even the locals believe it. But our history speaks a sweeter truth. Seattle’s spirit was forged during the Klondike gold rush. We grew wealthy selling tents and food and sex to starry-eyed prospectors. And today? Different century, same game. Seattle’s always been a company town. We take someone with a vision —  the profitable kind — and line up enough idealists to do the heavy lifting. They work cheap, and we’ve always had a knack for attracting them. Our city thrived on that system, and we’ll always thrive. We pushed gold, then wood, then airplanes, then software, then coffee, then websites that everyone laughed at. But who’s laughing now? Not us! Retail is dead, and houses here start at half a mil.

Progress is what we care about. Growth. Disruption. Change. A hundred years ago, when our hills dared be too tall, our businessmen ground the entire city into rubble, creating a platform upon which bigger and better things could grow. And if certain worthy individuals profit from a city’s transformation, from those cycles of destruction and re-creation, isn’t that only fair? After all, when we push out the old in favor of the new, and our smartest people grow richer, we honor a legacy that goes back to our very founding.

So tell us: What has your city done lately? Are you still waiting for your steel mill to rise from the dead? Or do you reminisce about the good old days while waiting for some smooth-talking politician to save you? Take some advice from the city that knows. Waiting is what kills you. Because winners don’t wait; they take.

The Origins of Emerald City Spies

When I wrote The Assistant I was thinking about:

  • Young people entering the workforce and being stuck in dead-end jobs while laboring under massive debts.
  • Seattle’s history as a ruthless capitalist paradise.
  • Our unearned reputation as a “nice” city.
  • The ways businesses use psychological manipulation to motivate and shape behavior.
  • What power can look like (both for good and evil) as seen through a lens of female agency.
  • My desire to tell a fun, suspenseful, gadget-filled spy story.
  • The imperfect ways we try to protect the people we love.

It’s been fun to write dark and suspenseful fiction! My academic background is in organizational psychology and this series has given me an excuse to consider how how the tools of my trade could be used in a devious fashion. Also, it’s been fun to explore a noir-ish version of Seattle. And as I prepare to turn my attention back to the sweeter and sunnier world of Ellie Tappet, I wanted to share some of the inspiration for this series, particularly the setting, as it has a different tone than my other books.

“Seattle Nice” and the Seattle Freeze

I love Seattle, but my city isn’t perfect. When I walk the streets, talk to people, attend events, and engage in commerce, I feel an energy and a vitality that I rarely experience elsewhere. We’re a city where art and technology smash together. And my city is full of creative, hard-working, and technically adept people. The closest analog for me is New York but Seattle’s energy is of a different flavor. We’re a small city, known for our commerce, natural beauty, and progressive nature. And we’ve enjoyed a positive reputation. But we’re also a city of hustlers. If you dig one inch beneath our shiny steel and glass veneer you’ll find a particularly ruthless form of capitalism here. And I won’t lie; as a businesswoman there’s ambition in my heart, and there’s a certain joy I take in winning, and it’s not always nice.

In Seattle we like to paper over our history to make it sound sweeter and kinder than it actually was. One tiny example: we’re located in King County, a county named for William R. King, a slave owner and US Vice President, and in 2005 the county was “renamed” for Martin Luther King Jr. and a new logo was put into place: MLK’s face is literally our logo. On the surface this seems like a positive change, right? Yet the notion of leaving everything the same and using speeches and a rebranding to make ourselves look good is such a Seattle thing to do. King county became… King county. And we patted ourselves on the back and built our cultural pedestal a little bit higher.

If you’ve ever attended a business event or a potluck in Seattle, you probably found yourself surrounded by warm and friendly people. The business community is so supportive! The emphasis is on collaboration and lifting one another up. But later on when the gathering has dispersed and no one is looking you in the eye any longer, chances are that no one will give you the time of day. Emails are ignored. Calls go unanswered. High-minded intentions dissolve like the foam on your morning latte. This cultural phenomenon, known as “The Seattle Freeze” is often dismissed as an exaggeration, yet it remains a stubborn reality. We have a fiercely individualistic culture here, a what’s-in-it-for-me culture and yet we tend not to view ourselves in that light. And this two-facedness is something that’s long fascinated me about my hometown.

Obviously not everyone who lives here falls into the Seattle stereotypes. You live here long enough and you’ll find your tribe, just as you would anywhere else. But as I said, my city isn’t perfect. 😉

To me, Seattle is energetic, creative, smart, beautiful, and inspiring. It is absolutely my home! But it’s not nice. So when I started my spy series I took my odd little observations about my hometown, sharpened them, darkened them, and formed them into a fictional version of Seattle that still feels real to me: The Dark Emerald City

And I’ve enjoyed my recent time there. __😈 __

Jessica’s Warne’s story will continue in Power Play, coming September 12th! If you’re curious about the series, The Assistant is currently on sale for $2.99 at the following stores:

Amazon

Apple Books

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

Who Solved It? Puzzling out the Mystery Subgenres

Cash in a suitcase on a dimly lit desk.'

One of the pitfalls of being a mystery writer is that you absorb all the narrative tricks writers use to cover their tracks. This makes it harder for a mystery to stump you! Perhaps that’s why I love Agatha Christie’s mysteries so much. She’s very good at stumping her readers. But there’s more to choosing a mystery than how easy or hard it is to figure out whodunit. Mystery is a category, or genre, of fiction, and you can divide the mystery genre further into subgenres. And by understanding the subgenres, you have a better shot at picking a book that you’ll enjoy.

Today, I’ll break down some of your options.

Mystery Subgenres

Traditional/PI – For traditional mysteries, think about Agatha Christie’s famous investigator, Hercule Poirot, or for a more modern take, Sue Grafton’s beloved private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. In these mysteries, the sleuth has skills, often as part of their job, and the narrative is straightforward crime solving. The protagonist, an expert, but not a cop, is called in to unravel a mystery, and via a combination of fact finding and insights about the human condition they come to a solution and present it in a big dramatic scene at the end, what Futurama once amusingly called “The Accusing Parlor.”  To me, what makes a mystery traditional is some combination of the following:

  • An expert sleuth, called in to help.
  • A suspicious cast of characters, who are often brought together by circumstance, such as a train ride, dinner party, or family gathering. (This is true for traditional mysteries but less true for modern PI mysteries.)
  • A non-obvious solution, which can be determined via a combination of fact-finding and insight into the human condition.
  • A dramatic reveal at the end.
  • The lack of a romantic subplot or secondary story for the sleuth. The protagonist has personal relationships, but they’re mostly window dressing. Traditional mysteries start and end with the crime. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

I adore traditional and PI mysteries. To me, they’re relaxing and engaging. They make you think! An editor I know once jokingly referred to this subgenre as competence porn. It’s nice to see someone smart do their job well, isn’t it? Especially when the puzzle is hard.

By using the traditional mystery as a base, we can tweak the elements to reveal additional subgenres.

Amateur Sleuth – Just like it sounds, the crime solver is an amateur. What makes this fun is that we can relate to the hero or heroine quite well. We imagine ourselves in their shoes! Most amateur sleuth stories have a slant based on the setting and/or profession of the protagonist. The sleuth has a particular role in their community, and we relate to them on that basis. And it’s common for the sleuth to have a friend or a romantic partner in law enforcement. Someone has to bust out the cuffs, right?

Cozy – Cozy mysteries are G or PG rated. No gore, scares, or profanities are allowed in a true cozy. Often times there’s a big focus on the character’s personal relationships, family life, and positive social values. Most sleuths here are amateurs, thus there’s overlap between the Amateur Sleuth and Cozy genres. Cozies have some additional sub-subgenres within them like my cruise ship cozies, or cozies featuring pets, hobbies, or women who bake or quilt. Cozy mystery plots tend to be less suspenseful and less complicated than the other mystery genres. They’re comforting and always have a positive resolution. They’re as warm and fuzzy as a cup of tea and fluffy slippers by the fire. Cozy mysteries can also have a silliness factor. Character flaws and quirks are often exaggerated for comic effect. A good cozy series can make you feel like you’re spending time with old friends; it’s the personalities that bring you back.

Police Procedural – Here, we diverge. In a police procedural, the sleuths are members of law enforcement, and we follow them as they investigate the crime. Typically, a procedural relies less on insight, relationships, and cognitive leaps than a traditional mystery. As the story progresses, the police learn more and so do you. Standard police tropes may be included, such as jurisdictional pissing matches, gun play, and witness interviews. What makes a police procedural fun is that you’re following a process of investigation from A to Z. These are process-driven stories. If you’ve ever imagined yourself as a cop, or if you enjoy the dogged work of chasing down leads, interviewing witnesses, and getting ever closer to the truth, police procedurals may be your jam.

Hardboiled/Noir – In this subgenre you’ll find gritty settings, gruff investigators, political corruption, and possibly a cop or investigator with a drinking problem. There’s a 75% chance of rain and the crime may get ugly.  Protagonists are morally wonky, and there’s a bleakness to the setting that creates a kind of “film noir” feel to the story.

Historical – Just as it sounds, a historical mystery is set in a different time. There are mysteries set in World War II, Victorian-era mysteries, and so on. Agatha Christie once wrote a mystery set in ancient Egypt! Death Comes as the End was written in 1944 and it’s a fun read. Here, you get two stories in one: The mystery, plus a chance to experience a different place in time.

You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned the mystery-adjacent genres of Thriller and Suspense. Those genres overlap with the mystery genre, as they all involve crimes, but they aren’t quite the same thing. Chances are, if your book has a serial killer in it and your protagonist is in physical danger, you’re looking at a thriller, not a mystery. Mysteries revolve around the question: Who committed the crime, how, and why? Thrillers usually involve a protagonist in peril, with the question: How will they escape from danger? I’m simplifying matters, but that’s the gist.

After reading about the mystery subgenres you might already be getting a sense for where your preferences lie. Personally, I enjoy traditional mysteries best, and I have a lot of love for amateur sleuths too. That’s why you’ll see me sliding back and forth between those genres in my own novels. The Case of the Floating Funeral is a cozy, but it has elements of a traditional mystery too, with the “cast of characters thrown together” at the funeral, and the big reveal in the parlor at the end.

And wow, we haven’t even talked about the flavorings an author can sprinkle atop these subgenres, have we? A mystery can be historical or current, silly or serious, emotional or as dry as a bone. Some include elements of the paranormal, while others are purely rational and contain painstakingly detailed depictions of proper police procedure and forensics. Your sleuths can be American, British, or of any nationality. They can come from any culture and have widely different values. The crimes can be simple crimes of passion in a village or grand conspiracies with a global reach. We can dig down deep into the psyche of a murderer with a psychological profiler at the police department or enjoy a pleasant problem-solving romp with a traditional mystery, maybe one set in a spooky mansion just for kicks.

Now that you know the basics, you can take most of these mystery subgenres and add them to any number of modifiers to seek out a more specific variant. Paranormal Amateur Sleuth Mysteries. Historical Cozy Mysteries. British Traditional Mysteries. Scandinavian Noir. There’s so much good stuff out there!

And if you’re lucky, eventually you’ll run across unique type of mystery known as an unreliable narrator mystery. That’s when the person narrating the story turns out to be the murderer! When it’s done well, these stories are incredibly fun. Unfortunately, I can’t name any of them as it will spoil the surprise. Agatha Christie wrote a few and if you read her novels you’ll run across them.

Why We Love Mysteries

In a big picture sense, the mystery genre appeals to me because it’s satisfying to seeing all the threads tied up at the end. Romance readers want their “happily ever after” and most of us mystery readers want “justice served.” It’s a good feeling to know that you can close the book knowing that all will be right with the world. There’s a comfort to the completion of a good mystery, a sensation that wrongs have been righted. The good guys (and gals) may have struggled, but they’ve won. The real world doesn’t always give us that, does it? But a good mystery novel can.

A Mini-Decision Tree

If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s one way to narrow your choices down:

Do you want an expert sleuth?

IF YES:
– Traditional/PI Subgenre  (Solved by clever sleuths with insights into the human condition.)
– Police Procedural  (Solved by robust police work.)

IF NO:
Amateur Sleuth (A relatable protagonist with a particular role in the community)
Cozy (Warm and fuzzy stories without swears or big scares)

If you want international flavor: Depending upon where you live, try British, American, African, or Scandinavian variants. Note: Scandinavian mysteries lean noir. Perhaps it’s the lack of sunlight?

If you want a different era: Try a historical mystery from your favorite time period and place.

If you want mysteries mixed with steamy romance: Try romantic suspense. That’s a specific genre that mixes romance with either a thriller or a police procedural.

Lastly, there’s nothing wrong with not caring for a particular type of mystery. Follow your bliss! For example, I don’t enjoy romantic suspense. To me, reading romantic suspense makes my brain go: crime-yay-crime-yay-crime-NIPPLES and I want to scream and throw the book across the room like it’s a spider crawling over my hand. Which is admittedly odd, given that I have no problem with sex scenes generally. But when it comes to my mysteries I want my sleuths to leave it in their pants. BOUNDARIES, PEOPLE. WE’RE WORKING HERE.  Lol.

The more you read, the more you’ll discover your own preferences. They might even vary depending upon what’s going on in your life! I read cozy mysteries primarily over the holiday season (when I’m feeling cozy), and I like a scary thriller when I’m on an airplane (remember airplanes?), probably because they help me forget that I’m trapped in a pressurized tube soaring through the sky. Police procedurals are great for coping with life’s more chaotic moments. Procedurals are orderly, dammit, and sometimes we need that! Really, picking the right mystery novel can be like picking the mood you’re looking for that day.

I hope this post was helpful. Happy reading!

Pagination