Tag Archive | mystery writing

How My Writing Process Continues to Evolve

notebook_glassesI have written at least eight full-length novels, all of them mysteries. What may surprise you is my process of writing has never been the same. With each manuscript, I learned what worked and what didn’t. I think I picked this up through teaching. I’ve written stellar lesson plans that I was sure would inspire young minds but then found they only inspired me.  Next time around, I’d pull out the dull stuff and find something else that worked better. Same way with sewing, you can always do it just a little bit better next time.  (Yes, you Pattern Review people, I love to sew, but this darn writing gig keeps stealing my time.)  So what’s involved in writing  for me?

Outlining. Yes, I’m not a pantster. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a “pantster” is someone who writes whatever comes into their head instead of using an outline. These are the same people who can construct beautiful arguments and talk me into a corner in just a few minutes. I admire their ability to write like that, but I’ve always been a compulsive planner.  I can’t help it, and worst of all, I enjoy it. I can admit to myself that maybe my first idea is not always my best idea. I just came to the end of a full-length mystery, read back through it and changed the murderer.  I had to change all the clues and discard my efforts of putting the now defunct murderer in the right place at the right time, but darn it, I liked the character too much. I wanted that character to continue, not go to my bad guy file for the rest of eternity.  Time to re-outline…rewrite…a few more scenes… dinner is going to be late again.

Documentation. I keep a three-ring binder with sections on plots, subplots, characters, crime detail, research. Then I keep sections on Scrivener, a brand of novel-writing software. Then, I keep a computer file with more information.  One of the things I learned along the way is I have a lousy memory.  Keeping the binder came into my process about four books ago.

Audio Editing. I have an editor, but I can’t afford to have her around every day. I find many errors just by listening to each chapter read out loud.  It works. You hear things you might miss, for instance, the other night I read a chapter to my critique group and realized I said “little” four times on the same page.  By reading like this, you can better get back into the flow of the writing and the flow the reader will hear as they read your book.

Embrace Mistakes. That’s right. You are a human being and not a computer. Once you find an error, don’t waste time berating yourself. Fix it. Move on. It’s like painting a wall. See that ugly gash you made moving your husband’s oversized desk down the hall? It was a bad day. You don’t want to remember it. Spackle, sand, and paint. Voila! Rewrite, move things around, get rid of things that don’t work. Forgive your husband.

Cover Reveal for Happy Homicides: 13 Cozy Holiday Mysteries


Here is our cover for Happy Homicides.  We were so excited to be featured on the USA Today Happy Ever After blog yesterday! Not only do you get 13 amazing stories, but we also included a bonus ebook filled with crafts and recipes. I shared my chocolate covered cherry cookie recipe in the bonus file which was great but check out the finger cookies. I think I’ll make those for Halloween :0

Happy Homicides: Thirteen Cozy Holiday Mysteries will be available for pre-order on Sept. 15 on most platforms for only 99 cents. Price includes a special bonus file with recipes and craft ideas. This collection of novellas and short stories is a whopping 213,000 words long! Authors include Joanna Campbell Slan, Neil Plakcy, Lois Winston, Annie Adams, Jenna Bennett, Nancy Warren, Sara Rosett, Camille Minichino, Nancy Jill Thames, Linda Gordon Hengerer, Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Teresa Trent. Release date will be Oct. 15, 2015. Visit http://tinyurl.com/13cozyholiday

Building a New World in a Cozy Mystery

World Building Happy 2015!  I’ve been on the quiet side for the last month, but that’s actually a good thing.  I’m hard at work on my next book, which will be the first in my Piney Woods Series.  When starting a series, not only am I creating new characters, but I’m building a world for them to live, love, grow and of course, murder each other in.  When I finished with Pecan Bayou, I had folders full of pictures of almost every location in the six books, along with characters and even objects.

When creating new characters I love to go to Internet Movie Database and “cast” my character.  (I figure whenever Lifetime or Hallmark calls me to tell me they want to make one of my books into a movie, I have my casting decisions made, right?).  I may look up someone I remember from a movie or tv show, or I may toss the dice and go through the people on the “Born Today” page.  I need to see the person to get into my character’s head, movements, and even fashion sense, whatever.  I also need to see the setting.  This can be a geographical location or something small like a diner.  I can’t drive to every place I write about, but with the internet and  Google Earth, I can go for a little virtual drive.  All of this may sound like I’m playing, and to tell the truth, I’m have fun doing it, but it does lead to the world building needed to write a mystery.

I also keep tabs on crime stories around the world.  Today, I found an article about a woman who got drunk on Vanilla and received a DUI, or would it be DUIV?  What a great idea for one of my homey characters.  That goes in the “Wacky People” file.

Animal rustling is alive and well in the sleepy little town of Pecan Bayou, Texas--but with a particularly peculiar spin. Only the fake livestock seem to be at risk. First, cowboy legend Charlie Loper's  larger-than-life fiberglass horse disappears from the town square, but before the police can get any solid leads, the cow in front of the local steak house gets pinched.   Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick, local helpful hints columnist for the Pecan Bayou Gazette, is trying keep her mind off of being nine months pregnant in the blistering Texas summer heat. Troubled by haunting dreams, she pursues the odd animal thefts in a case that soon turns into murder. As Betsy closes in on the killer, a hurricane is headed straight for the Gulf Coast sending spin-off storms and tornadoes to the little town of Pecan Bayou. "Hunker down" with Betsy and the lovable characters of Pecan Bayou in the latest Betsy Livingston mystery from cozy author Teresa Trent. Recipes and helpful hints included.

My Latest Book: #6 in the Pecan Bayou Series/Murder for a Rainy Day available on Amazon. Good News- Murder for a Rainy Day will be available on Nook, Sony, Apple and Smashwords in February.  Reviews are always welcomed and appreciated!

Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick, local helpful hints columnist for the Pecan Bayou Gazette, is trying keep her mind off of being nine months pregnant in the blistering Texas summer heat. Troubled by haunting dreams, she pursues the odd animal thefts in a case that soon turns into murder. As Betsy closes in on the killer, a hurricane is headed straight for the Gulf Coast sending spin-off storms and tornadoes to the little town of Pecan Bayou. 

Giveaway! Bewitching Boots Authors Talk About Writing As A Team

Once again, Jim and Joyce Lavene have a hit on their hands. Bewitching Boots is #7 in the Renaissance Faire series. I know that Jim and Joyce are big fans of Renaissance Faires and I imagine that they do a lot of their research there. The characters in the series have grown so much since the 1st book came out. It's almost hard to believe that Lady Jessie has finally married. With the addition of new characters, this is a series that I will never tire of. HUZZAH~ Amazon Reviewer Gram Tess

Once again, Jim and Joyce Lavene have a hit on their hands. Bewitching Boots is #7 in the Renaissance Faire series. I know that Jim and Joyce are big fans of Renaissance Faires and I imagine that they do a lot of their research there. The characters in the series have grown so much since the 1st book came out. It’s almost hard to believe that Lady Jessie has finally married. With the addition of new characters, this is a series that I will never tire of.
HUZZAH~ Amazon Reviewer Gram Tess

I’m so excited to be visited by a writing team today!  This is a husband and wife team and although my husband has known to come up with some good ideas now and again, the idea of writing a book with him?    They write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.
First of all my mother was from North Carolina so I already know they’re good people!  They also write about Renaissance Fairs of which I be-ith a big fan.




Click here to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway:A Bewitching Boots Tote with a paperback copy of Jim and Joyce’s latest mystery, Bewitching Boots , along with a $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Get Your Copy of Bewitching Boots At Amazon!

Tell us a little about yourselves.
A little about ourselves. Hmm.
Well, Jim is a computer crazy person – which was what he did before he quit his day jobs two years ago.
Joyce worked as a newspaper reporter for a small metropolitan newspaper before she quit her day job.
We have both loved to read and write since we were kids. Joyce more than Jim on the writing. Her mother said she came out of the womb with a pen, asking for a piece of paper. Jim kept his nose in a book until he walked into Joyce one day in Washington, DC.
They started writing together because they have tried to do as much together as they could since that day in DC. They have three kids and five grandkids, two cats and a dog.
Now that they are both home, full-time, writing, they spend a lot of time on it five days a week, when they aren’t going to book events on the weekends. They tend to write rough draft in the morning before noon and do promotion and edits in the afternoon.
They write by telling the story to each other across their computer monitors and typing it in until they are done. After that, they revise and edit until it goes to someone else to edit. They only divide work on promotion and web work, etc. all the writing they do together.

What inspired the idea behind your book?
Years ago, a friend gave us free tickets to a local Ren Faire. We were hooked. This was a world we had only read about until then. Bewitching Boots is the seventh book in the Ren Faire Mysteries. Writing them is almost as satisfying as going to the real thing.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Purely imagination. And in the case of the castle and pirate ship – wishful thinking!
Who is your favorite character to create scenes for in the book?
This is a split answer because Joyce loves writing Jessie best. She is every woman. She loves the crazy life at the Ren Faire but is unsure if it’s good to always live in a make believe world.
Jim loves Chase Manhattan – now Jessie’s husband – and a giant named Bart in the book. He likes Chase because he is kind and friendly. He likes Bart because he is HUGE!
How can readers find your books and are there more coming in this series?
Our books are available online as ebooks and print in bricks and mortar stores across the US and in some places around the world. There are more Renaissance Faire Mysteries coming as long as people keep reading them. Huzzah!






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All NaNo’s Eve

It’s NaNoWriMo Eve!  Am I ready for a month of writing abandon (as in my family and work obligations?)

Let’s see-

I voted early

I bought my husband’s November birthday gifts

I dressed my dog in a humiliating bee costume

Martin the Mystery Dog
“Do these stripes make me look fat?”

…and for my work in progress?

Characters have been sketched out-inner and outer conflicts, pictures, mannerisms

Killer/Victim Profiles completed

Settings sketched out

Plots and subplots mostly ready and broken into scenes to write
…and yet I’m not sure if I’m ready.

Interview Time at MK McClintock’s Blog

I’m over at MK McClintock’s blog today being interviewed.  Here is an excerpt from the interview about future Pecan Bayou books.

Do you have plans for a new book?
Yes!  A Dash of Murder was my first book and I am promoting it during October because it takes place on Halloween.  Since then, I have written Overdue for Murder , a story that centers around writers doing a book talk and features lots and lots of cupcakes.  At this time I am working on my third book that will take place over the Fourth of July.  I can’t say much about it yet, but Betsy and all the characters come back and take a “slice” out of the incredibly high crime rate in this tiny town. 
To update about the third book, it is presently in rewrites!  I had so much fun researching this book, eating watermelon, watching beauty pageants and remembering my own mother and her love for old cowboy movies.  Happy trails to you…..

Portraying Mood With Your Setting

Can you portray a mood in your setting?  You bet!  Take a look at this picture.  It is intriguing to me because it is built in a rough, old fashioned way.  The structure is very small and the little walkway and handmade bench are made with such care.  What is this little house used for?  Is it someone’s home or is it a workshop of some sort?  Is it the world’s worst mother-in-law suite?  This will be a short visit.

To set up a scene with this picture follow these steps:

1.  Decide what this house is used for-be creative.  Storing lawn equipment is not creative.

2.  Define a mood that surrounds this structure.  Is it a happy place?  Is it an ominous place?  Does it raise curiosity in your story?

3.  Use the elements around the house to create your story.  Who sits on that bench?  Why is the little house right next to the woods?  What’s up with the dirt yard?  Who put in the walkway?

4.  Finally create the character that uses this little house and let your mood established in #2 reflect in this person.

5.  Do this exercise one more time and switch your mood and character to something opposite of what you wrote about the first time.

Photo used with permission from MorgueFile

I’m Being Interviewed Today at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

I am over at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews today being interviewed about my book A Dash of Murder.  Here is an excerpt from the interview.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Not until I had  Bride’s Magazine call me and tell me they actually wanted something I had written. They really just used my article as research, but there I was writing about the fascinating world of…tuxedos. After that I continued to write and submit, but mostly scored rejection slips. I started writing fiction during that time and decided it was a whole lot more fun.
Lisa is also giving a free ebook of A Dash of Murder, so head on over an enter by leaving a comment with your email address below the interview.  Click Here To Go to Reviews and Interviews.

Photo used with permission from Morguefile

Coming Up With a Title For Your Book

I’ve been working on many fronts lately.  I continue to pound away at book number three, now tentatively titled A SLICE OF MURDER.  It’s funny how I go through two or three working titles before I get the one I decide to stick with for a book.  My last book OVERDUE FOR MURDER was titled The Quiet Please Murder on my computer for the longest time.  I just couldn’t get the image of the librarian, Martha, shushing all the rest of the characters.  She was just one of those characters that once created started bossing everyone else around, even me.   Still I ended up changing the book title at the last minute.

Here are a few ways to go about creating a title.

1.  Are there any other books with the same title?   Google your title and also check for it on major sites like Amazon.

2.  Does the title reflect something in the book?  You can’t have it give away anything about the mystery and yet it must be about the mystery.

3.  Is the title easy to remember?  Keep it fairly short. although I still remember “The Effect of Gamma-Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”.

4.  Think about your title in relation to the cover art for your book.


I am working on my guest blogs for my upcoming blog tour in October to promote my Halloween mystery, A DASH OF MURDER.  I will be posting here so that you can follow me to free book giveaways, interviews, reviews and articles.   You can also follow me on Twitter  @ttrent_cozymys.

Creative Writing Prompt-Goodbye to Mayberry

Where’s Andy?

This week we heard the sad news that one of the world’s favorite character actors, Andy Griffith passed away.  It surprised me how many people mourned the passing of this man and made me think of the setting we most remember him in, Mayberry, North Carolina.  Writer’s of cozy mysteries can look at Mayberry and see so many elements of hominess, quirky characters and family values that are infused into our own stories.  Whenever I’m writing about my fictional town of Pecan Bayou, Texas, I find myself imagining a Floyd the barber, or Howard, or Goober.  Mayberry is a world that no one really lives in but that we all love to visit.  We love to imagine sitting on the porch on a pleasant evening and playing guitar after a good meal of fried chicken and apple pie.

As writers, we can create our own versions of this world, carefully placing all the elements that make a reader feel at home.  In our creative writing prompt this week, I want you to create your own Mayberry.  It doesn’t need to be in North Carolina; it doesn’t even need to be in the United States.  Just make it where you would envision a quiet, peaceful, lovely place to live.

1.  What is the name of your town?  Where is it located?  How big is it?

2.  What is your town famous for?  (watermelons, Washington slept here, biggest population of mosquitoes in one place)

3.  Put five characters in your town. Here are some ideas:

mayor, pastor, grocer, teacher, policeman, a child, a senior citizen, a dog or cat, a barber named Floyd

4. Write a short paragraph about an unsolved mystery in your town.  It can be a murder or something simple like whatever ever happened to Mrs. William’s cat?

5.  Create an opening scene that gives you the essence of your town in the same way Andy and Opey did as they walked down the road to go fishing.

Photo submitted by diggerdanno at Morgue File