Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Company of Writers


   My site at BWL Publishing


Mercies of the Fallen has just been awarded First Place in the Laramie and Chatelaine Awards!

I love the company of writers! In my office bookshelves are framed photos of treasured author friends I've met all over the world.  We sometimes meet at conferences, at writing classes or library-started critique groups. My latest writer friends are co-entrants in writing awards... we have congratulated and supported each other through long lists and short lists notifications. We've happily shared announcements of making it to finalist levels, then attended award ceremonies together.

Even when it's in the same category, we don't consider ourselves in competition with each other... no one can tell your story but you. We read, review and enjoy each others' work. When we're together, we eagerly talk shop, method and survival in a difficult profession.

I hope you'll find a community of fellow writers or readers who will become lifelong friends!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Book Covers Paint Pictures


                  Please click this link for book, author and purchase information.

I like BWL's process for designing book covers. It begins about six months before a book's release, when we authors fill out a Cover Art Form. This includes factual information, such as the book title and author name to appear on the cover, a back cover book blurb, details about the story, keywords for online searches, and -- my favourite part -- ideas for cover images. After we submit the CAF, Art Director, Michelle Lee, designs our covers from purchased stock images. She combines and manipulates the images and adds background and other elements to create covers that hint at the story inside.  

I published my first BWL novel, Ten Days in Summer, in 2017.  At that time, the CAF stated that most of the covers would feature at least one person. When I searched for people images on the stock images website, I discovered a few problems. My main character, Paula Savard, is an insurance adjuster. A keyword search for her gender and job turned up images of women meeting with clients or examining construction sites and damaged cars. In this story, Paula investigates a building fire with a suspicious death. I expanded my search to 'female detective' and got pictures of women holding guns and magnifying glasses. The women looked in their twenties, while Paula was fifty-two. My search for 'professional women in their fifties' unearthed a few possibilities, although none looked like my image of Paula.  

A basic problem with people images on novel covers is that writers and readers form their own images of fictional characters. My searches made me realize that a full picture of Paula might inhibit this reader engagement, although partial images still maintained enough mystery. This explained why rear-view images of women had become popular in novel cover art, but so common they were now considered cliché.  

For the CAF, I chose the best of the images I could find for Paula, plus female images shrouded in mystery -- a woman's legs in cowboy boots, eyes peering through a hole, and a silhouetted woman in a cowboy hat. Since the story backdrop is the Calgary Stampede and the second most prominent character is a self-styled cowboy, I added images of cowboys in silhouette, the Calgary skyline, and fire, for the incident that sets the story in motion. 

I sent the CAF to Michelle, who found images for the cowboy, fire and skyline that were different from the ones I'd suggested. She meshed them together to produce a cover better than any I could have dreamed up myself. 

Two years later, BWL reissued the first book in my Paula Savard mystery series. During this time, the trend in cover design moved away from people to symbolic images. Now the CAF stated that most BWL covers would not feature people unless we insisted. I searched for people images anyway, since I found this fun, but was glad to focus on images related to the story setting and mood. For the new cover of A Deadly Fall, I sent Michelle images of the Calgary skyline, falling leaves, fall trees, and pathways through fall woods. The murder takes place on a Calgary walking path in -- you guessed it - fall. Michelle scored another hit with a cover design of leaves framing the Calgary skyline in glorious fall colours of gold, orange and yellow, along with the red of Calgary's Peace Bridge. 

In February I completed my CAF for Winter's Rage, book # 3 of the Paula Savard mystery series. This time, Paula investigates a hit-and-run collision that resulted in a woman's death. Images of a tire on a snow-covered road, broken windshields, and car headlights in the dark would suit the story, but I wanted this cover to continue the series style. One problem. A Deadly Fall's autumn time frame and Ten Days in Summer's building fire resulted in covers with similar colours. Yellow, orange and red don't evoke winter in Alberta. On the CAF, I suggested we bend the brand and go with white, blue or black winter shades. Michelle agreed. She created a scene of snowflakes falling on the Calgary skyline draped in snow, the Bow River shining ice. Yellow letters echo the two earlier novels.  

The front cover of Winter's Rage gives the first hint of the story. The back cover blurb reveals a little more. You can read what it's all about this August.                      

Friday, June 11, 2021

Writing 300 Words a day Will Give you a Novel in a Year, by Karla Stover

                                                                                                                                    I am a slow writer. Once upon a time, I would have been in good company: Margaret Mitchell spent ten years writing Gone With the wind; J.R.R. Tolkien spent seven years working on The Hobbit,  and Maya Angelou took fifteen years to write the final book of her autobiography. But when I read about others ( should there be an apostrophe?) writing habits, I realize I can't do the same. Of course, most of them were men where cooking, cleaning, yard work, dog walking--chores in general don't get in the way. However, I am always thinking. Does that count?  Right now, I am seven thousand words into Parlor Girls, my next book for BWL. Since it's a historical novel based on fact, there is always research to do. Here's an example: my protagonists have just arrived at a boarding house circa 1885. First I found one which fit what I wanted. I looked at the street and the neighbors. Then I went inside (virtually )and looked at the reception area. Up the stairs to a bedroom and once again, I had to research until I found one meeting my requirements. Another time, it took me a whole afternoon to find an appropriate toilet and then what to call it. Of course, I could have made it all up but I'm not comfortable with that; one reason is that I hate it when I'm reading something and a setting doesn't feel real to me. 

I decided to research the "slow writing" issue and found two comments, the first:

 “Not presently ready to begin writing” means you haven't done enough pre-writing to enable you to write under the framework “the words that I am writing are the words the reader will be reading.” ... Many writers who write painfully slow do not do the necessary pre-writing. It's not part of their process."

Well, that isn't nice. I moved onto the second:

"To write slowly is to write deliberately, and often the best way to write 1,000 words in an hour is to sit down with the intention of giving yourself more time and writing 300. Slow writing also has greater clarity, because your thoughts have time to form. Writing fast works when you know exactly what you want to say,

Much better.

The says, "It is the fast writer who uses language in a utilitarian manner. The slow writer prizes the texture of language, and all the richness that creates language." 

Now, we're talking.

I have had two dental procedures recently, and after the shots (why hasn't someone invented a way to make them less painful?) I just zoned out and mentally worked on what was next in my book. Then, I came home and wrote my thoughts. Another thing I've discovered is to work on what I want to say when I can't sleep or when I am super depressed from missing my parents and my brother. It keeps the pain of their loss pushed away.

Here's what two of the best writers had to say:

"Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall." William Shakespeare. Hah! So said the man wrote wrote at least 38 plays and 150 poems.

And to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, "I don't want to empty the well of my writing." Since he wrote 9 short story collections, 9 non-fiction books, 10 novels / novellas, among many other things, his well must have been deeper and fuller than mine is.

At least I'm doing better than Anna Sewell (one book, Black Beauty) Edgar Allen Poe (one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket ) and Emily Bronte ( just the one book, Wuthering Heights.) She did have a good excuse, though; she died.

That's it. That's all I have to say. It's time to fold the laundry, sweep the floor and move the hose. Then I'll get back to my book.

Thursday, June 10, 2021



My books available at Baldwin, Barbara - Digital and Print EBooks (

James Otis, Jr. (1725-1783)
                …Blow to head “unhinged his reason” (in 1769)
                …”got in a mad freak”
                …killed by bolt of lightning
Poor James encountered a number of difficulties even before he met with a tragic end, according to his tombstone at the Granary Burial Grounds in Boston, MA.

            However, he managed to live longer than Thomas Webb, who “died very suddenly, much lamented, on 8th July 1769 – aged 33 years”.

            In one small section of the cemetery you find James and Thomas, along with others on whose tombstones are carved weighted words:
                “Sacred to the memory of…”
                “Here lies buried the body of…”
                “Here lies deposited the remains of…”
            Tombstones from the past tend to give us more history of the person than more modern ones, which often only have a name along with birth, death and possibly marriage.  I like to visit cemeteries in my travels. They are peaceful paths through a city’s history. Sometimes there are keys to what happened to the people but often we are only reminded of the finality of death.
                John MCluer esqr, who departed this life May 21, 1785, aged 40 years.
                “In the cold mansion of the silent tomb,
                How still the solitude, how deep the gloom.”

That doesn’t mean the messages on tombstones aren’t sometimes irreverent and we should take them with a bit of humor. Apparently not everyone in Dodge City liked McGill’s pastime, as this wooden marker in Boot Hill Cemetery implies. (“A buffalo hunter named McGill who amused himself by shooting into every house he passed. He won’t pass this way again. Died March, 1873.”) You have to wonder if one of the town residents didn’t “help” McGill find his final resting place.

                Original markers at the Granary Burial Grounds were slate and fairly similar in structure. I found quite a difference at the cemetery in Paris, where there was everything from flat individual markers to family mausoleums, some quite ornate.



You have to wonder what they were thinking with this one, right in the middle of the lane, which wasn’t very wide or exactly straight.

                Many people die as they lived, with humor and a touch of sarcasm. Some simply want to have the last word. When I decided to write about tombstones, an article happened to pop up on my Facebook page with humorous sayings people actually put on their markers. is the link.

                My visits to cemeteries wouldn’t be complete without a picture of standing stones we found in Scotland. This group was very small and out on a country road. There were no markers or information; we had found it from a tourist map, back before Google GPS. Is it a religious ceremonial site, directional markers for long ago travelers, or a burial site?

Writers and cemeteries appear to be equal targets for columnists and cartoonists!

“Live your life so your children will say you stood for something wonderful.” – on the headstone of a woman close to me who truly did make the world a better place for all who knew her.

Barb Baldwin

– When once asked why I write, I said, among other things, that I wanted to leave my name on something other than a tombstone. I have been fortunate to be able to do that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Why Writing Erotica is... Weird


I wanted to call this blog post: Neurotic Erotica, but I didn't think it quite got the point across. Now I am an avid fan of assonance. Chaotic Erotica, Psychotic Erotica, and Hypnotic Erotica were all valid choices, but the fact of the matter is erotica... and writing it... 

is weird. 

Now I'm not bashing the genre! I have greedily offered many hours of my life to the pursuit of reading words that might offer the slightest tingle or giddy laugh in the middle of a rainy day... or on a bus ride, or at work... or during... I dunno, a family reunion or somethi--


Not that kind of butt! Get your head outta the gutter.

...There is a world of difference between reading something spicy and writing your own. I am quickly learning this the hard way. 

Hur hur! No pun intended...

READING sexually explicit material is... well, discreet. It feels okay to do on a crowded bus or in lieu of your biology class, because the only thing giving us away is perhaps the front cover. But even cover pages are becoming less obvious! Unlike flipping the centerfold of an old playboy magazine during your daily Americano at that high traffic Starbucks downtown, we are free to wallow in our lewd literature because at the end of the day, it is head and shoulders classier, even if it isn't!

Even if it isn't... 😒😒😒

But personal taste aside, WRITING erotica--at least for me--is entirely different. Writing erotica is like tossing yourself off a cliff and hoping that someone catches you at the bottom and likes what you've happened to wear that day. It's being that weird woman at the typewriter, living out her own lecherous fantasies while she takes you along for the ride. It's... weird... 

...but only because we're inviting you. In fact... we hope you tag along and recommend us to all your friends!

"Captain Pedro's buff trouser soldier was in full salute at the sight
of Madame Avery's ankles on display..." This is sure to get five star reviews!

 On top of that, there is always the awkward time of completion where you sit and wonder if you really want to let everyone read your guilty pleasures. I'm talking #authorproblems. 

Like I've said before, I've read erotica. I'm not ashamed to say it! I READ SMUT! However, now that I am writing something that I want to eventually publish, but also has the potential to be terribly embarrassing/controversial/etcetera... there is the issue of whether I want to attach my real name to said piece of scandalous pron. 

I know you're proud of me for becoming a 
published author, Mom... but my new book has tentacles... and people
who sit on cakes for fun...

On one hand, doing so will ensure that I receive sales from my usual group of fans. It means I can do book launches, online video giveaways, signings, you name it! But... it also means that people will know I wrote it. It means other weirdos may see me as their own personal sexy safe space. It means people might think I'm into all the weird stuff I write... it means...




that my family may read it. 


So what do I do!? Narcotic Erotica! That's what I should have named this post, because if I ever finish my next work in progress, I am going to need narcotics to get through the marketing phase!--which, by the way, is the devil.

How do other authors cope?! How do they continue on writing salacious material without an alias and without having awkward dinner conversations at Christmastime with grandma?! What in the heck do I do?? How do I respond to the question of... hey there, Vanessa! Heard you were coming out with a new book! What's it called? 

It's called...Lord of the Flings, Middle Girth...
thanks for asking Auntie Anne 

So I am at a loss. I suppose I should just write the darn thing first, figure out what to do later. But still... it's eating at me... I need to figure it out! Any advice? I know what George's response would be at least... 

Just don't finish it!

But what about yours? What would you do? 


Nom de Plume or Pen Name by J. S. Marlo



A ‘pen name’ (also called a ‘nom de plume’ or ‘literary double’) is a pseudonym adopted by an author. The term ‘pen name’ comes from the 1800s and is a translation of ‘nom de plume’. The French word ‘nom’ means ‘name’ and ‘plume’ refers to a quill—a feather used as a ‘pen’.



It is believed that the first recorded pen name was ‘Clarinda’. It was used by an anonymous Peruvian poet, generally assumed to be a woman, who wrote in the early 17th Century.


Many different reasons prompt an author to write under a different name than his/her birth name.


To conceal the author’s gender:

-       It was common in the 18th & 19th centuries for female authors to adopt male or neutral names in order to be taken seriously by readers. Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë published under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.


To avoid confusion:

-       An author may use a pen name if his/her real name is likely to be confused with that of another author or other significant individual. British politician Winston Churchill wrote under the name Winston S. Churchill to distinguish his writings from those of the American novelist Winston Churchill.

To conceal the author’s real identity:

-       An author may want to hide his/her writings from his family & friends if he/she thinks they might disapprove or feel ashamed. Eric Arthur Blair used the pen name George Orwell so his family wouldn’t be embarrassed by his time in poverty.

-       An author may also use a pen name to avoid retribution. David John Moore Cornwell was a MI6 spy who couldn’t write about his work, so he wrote spy novels under a pen name John Le Carré.


To appeal to readers:

-       An author may use different pen names if he/she writes different genres of novels to target specific readers. Eleanor Robertson write ‘romance’ novels under the name Nora Roberts and ‘romantic suspense’ novels under the name J. D. Robb.

-       An author whose name is too common, too difficult to spell, too foreign, etc...may want to choose a pen name that is more appealing or easily recognizable to readers.


To gain marketing advantage:

-       An author with a last name starting with Z may not want his/her books to be placed at the bottom end of the last shelf in a bookstore. He/she may want a last name that places his/her books on the same row as a best-selling author.

-       A prolific author may also decide to use different pen names in order not to flood the market with too many books under the same name.


To change name for reasons unrelated to their real names:

-       An author may use his/her nickname, the name of a departed loved one, a name made up of his children’s names, or any other names, to get a fresh start—or just because he/she feels like it.


When I signed a contract for my first published novel, I had to decide if I wanted to use my birth name or a pen name. At the time, I was writing free novels online under the pen name ‘Marlo’. A part of me wanted to use my birth name even though my last name is French and could easily be mistaken for ‘Grant’, but then I also feared I might lose followers if I gave up Marlo.



‘Marlo’ was a nickname based on my first name Marlene and given to me by my husband many decades ago. It looked weird with my real last name, so I tried combining Marlo with my kids’ names, which didn’t work either. In the end, I used the first initial of the main characters in my online stories, J & S, and kept Marlo as my last name.


For better or for worse, this is how I became J. S. Marlo 

Happy Reading & Stay Safe




Monday, June 7, 2021

Going Away for a Virtual Writing Retreat by Eileen O'Finlan


One of the few positive things about being shut down by the pandemic is the plethora of events that have been offered virtually. So often there are things I'd love to go to, but due to travel and expense it just isn't possible. So I was thrilled to be able to register for two conferences I would not have otherwise been able to attend. The first was a writer's retreat hosted by Career Authors held on May 7-8, 2021. The second is the upcoming Historical Novel Society Conference June 21-27, 2021.

The Career Authors retreat is normally held in the Endicott House at MIT. While travel time would not have been a problem, expense would have been. But that was considerably reduced by the fact that it was offered virtually making it affordable for me to attend.

Fellow author and friend, Jane Willan, was also registered so we decided that rather than spending the whole retreat sitting home alone at our computers, we should make it feel more like the "real thing" by booking a room at a local hotel. Both of us are fully vaccinated and since we'd be ensconsced in the room most of the time, we figured it was safe. 

The night before the retreat began we met for dinner at a local restuarant. It was the first time either of us had eaten at a restaurant in over a year. We worried whether we would forget what to do! Fortunately, that was not a problem. After a delicious dinner, we headed over to the hotel and settled in.

The next morning, after a breakfast where we were almost the only guests in the hotel's restaurant, we returned to our room and logged on. There was a moment (well, longer than a moment) of frustration when Jane couldn't get her laptop to cooperate. All 50+ attendees were taking turns introducing ourselves and her laptop refused to unmute. Frustration turned to desparation when pondering an entire conference in which she could not join the conversation. A quick call to her tech-savvy husband brought him right to the hotel. He had her set up in no time and we were good to go!

It was an intense weekend - the first day going from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. with only a few short breaks and the second day from 9:00 a.m. until the workshop ended at 1:00 p.m. I never felt so exhausted after a day of sitting at my computer as I did at the end of the first day. But it was worth it. With the Career Authors founders, best-selling, award-winning authors Hank Phillipi Ryan, Jessica Strawser, Paula Munier (also a literary agent), Brian Andrews, and editor Dana Issacson as presenters the weekend was filled with amazing content that could not help but improve our writing and our understanding of the publishing process. Best of all, we each got some one-on-one time with one of the presenters. Jessica Strawser became my mentor for a brief period and what a joy it was to have this amazing author and former Editor in Chief of Writer's Digest Magazine offering me her advice and guidance.

I'm truly looking forward to the Historical Novel Society Conference later this month. As that is of a longer duration, I'll be staying home. Nonetheless, I am grateful that I will be able to partake of what promises to be a stellar conference.

My advice to writers is to make the most of the opportunity to attend virtual conferences, workshops, and retreats while you can, especially those you would not be able to attend in person.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Have you checked out June's free novel, it's a mystery by BWL Author Dean L. Hovey





Doug Fletcher, a retired Minnesota detective, relocates to Arizona and a quiet life as a part-time National Park Service ranger.

His plans change abruptly when a suspicious fall at a national monument plunges him into the world of stolen antiquities, ruthless drug smugglers, and shady antiques dealers.

Working with Jamie Ballard of the Navajo Nation Police, Doug finds their investigation complicated by the demands of his visiting family, a new boss, an overly friendly neighbor, the FBI, and his new environment.

 Review Snippets 

“Hovey’s greatest strength is his artful use of suspense.”

 “Hovey writes a well-researched story with realistic characters who aren’t just cardboard cutouts like so many writers that crank out potboilers.”


 Click the book covers for details and purchase information 

Dean L. Hovey's BWL Publishing Author Page



Saturday, June 5, 2021

Women’s Fashion in the First Half of the 14th Century Part One by Rosemary Morris


To learn more about Rosemary's work please click on the cover above. 

In my novels Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, Volume One of The Lovages of Cassio, and in Grace, Lady of Cassio, Volume Two, which begins in 1331, (to be published in August 2021) I describe the characters clothes to help readers visualise them. As I write, I imagine wealthy ladies’ sumptuous garments. For example, “Powdered (sprinkled) with designs,” Rich fabrics powdered (patterned) or embroidered and enhanced with pearls.

Fashions changed. By 1330 garments were shaped to reveal instead of concealing women’s figures. Necklines became lower, long sleeves fitted tightly and were either stitched up or fastened with buttons from the elbow to the wrist. To render her vesture more perfect a silver needle was filled with thread of gold, and both her sleeves were closely sewed. Roman de la Rose.

I like this contemporary description. “These tournaments are attended by many ladies of the first rank and greatest beauty, but not always of the most untainted reputation. They are dressed in part-coloured tunics, one half being of one colour and the other half of another, with short hoods and liripipes which are wrapped around their heads like cords; their girdles are handsomely decorated with gold and silver and they wear short swords or daggers before them in pouchesa little below the navel; and thus habited they are mounted on the finest horses that can be procured and ornamented with the richest furniture.” Henry Knighton, 1348.


The kirtle (gown) was laced at the back or front to the waist, or a little lower, and worn with a girdle around the hips.

Over Garments

The long cote-hardie worn over the kirtle fitted closely. It was buttoned to below the waist or had a low neck and was pulled down over the head.


Surcoats with or without sleeves were worn over the kirtle. Unlike the cote-hardie they did not fit close to the body. They were either knee-length or ankle length, sometimes had slits up the sides and were worn without a girdle.

                                                                                    Outer Garments

 Short Pelissons lined with fur. Cloaks lined with fur had hoods and were worn to keep warm when travelling. Mantles Worn on ceremonial occasions were lined with expensive material, tied loosely with tasselled cords passed through jewelled attachments. Garde-Corps Women sometimes wrapped one around themselves over their inner garments.

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Mummy of Mammoth Cave by Katherine Pym
Buy Here:




Not long ago, I found a book in my bookshelves I didn't know I had. It's a guidebook of sorts of the great mammoth cave in Kentucky, a massive structure with more than 400 miles of surveyed passageways. There is little information out there about the mummy so my newly found book will have to suffice as the extant knowledge of the mummy's description. 

Apparently, there was no time frame of when the cave was discovered. It's been available to countless peoples over the vast period of history. 

The mummy is considered female, and found in the early 1800's by miners who were part of saltpeter operation during the 1812-1814 war with Great Britain. Because of the British blockade, weaponry and ammunition were hard commodities to find. 

No one knows her origin, but some say the body is similar to burial rites in pre-Columbian era. Her hair was a dark red and she was considered tall for the times, 5' 10". When discovered she was in a fetal position, much like the Inca mummies, with wrists bound over her chest and lower legs crossed. Since this finding, her body has disappeared, or so this book says, and to be realistic, there is little printed on the mummy of Mammoth Cave.

No one knows if she was murdered or sacrificed, for someone stabbed her in the ribs. 

They gave her the appellation of "Fawn-Hoof" because of the red fawn hooves found with her body. Along with the hooves, supposedly things to carry her into the otherworld were : an eagle's claw, deer skins, rattlesnake skins, caps of knitted bark, a bag of the same material, seven feather headdresses, one for each day of the week, bird quills not sharpened, and several necklaces, the seeds smaller than hemp seed, all strung together. In the stash were horn and bone needles, sinew used as thread. 

Her red hair had been shorn to the scalp, with an inch left at the nape of her neck. It was surmised at the time (early 1800's), those who cut off her hair considered it such an unusual color, they used it for sacred rites.

She was wrapped in deer skins, their unknown origin designs of vines and leaves which had been stretched in a stark white substance. She lay on knitted or woven bark in the appearance of South Sea mats. Her skin was dark but not African American. 

And so it goes. With the mummy lost who some say museums or stored in a private archive, what was originally described as "Fawn-Hoof" will remain the only technical observations, and that was approx 1813. A great mystery which will probably never be unearthed. 


Many thanks to: Mammoth Cave and the Cave Region of Kentucky by Helen F. Randolph, The Standard Printing Company Inc., Louisville, 1924

Wikicommon, Public domain

For more about my books visit my BWL author page:

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Killing Them Softly by Diane Bator


Click on the cover to see more! 

The week of May 10 to 13, I had the pleasure of being on a mystery writer panel courtesy of the Crime Writers of Canada and the Ontario Association of Library Technicians. In fact, there were several panels running over four days and great opportunities to virtually meet other authors and hear their stories.

My own schedule didn’t allow me to watch the first four panels, but it was fun to be a part of the Killing Them Softly: Cozy Mysteries panel. 

As a moderator, Lynn McPherson was right on top of everything. The questions, the time, and any questions and comments from the audience of about 40 members. We each answered not only prepared questions, but a few extras, which worked out well since we were missing one of the panelists. Those who were featured were: Lynn McPherson (Izzy Walsh Mystery series), Diane Bator (Glitter Bay Mysteries, Gilda Wright Mysteries, etc), Ginger Bolton (Deputy Donut Mystery series), Winona Kent (Jason Davey Mysteries), Peter Kingsmill (our missing author of Awan Lake series).

One of the first questions was: What is a cozy mystery? According to author Ginger Bolton:

·       Cozy mystery readers are intelligent people looking for a “fun read” that engages the mind, as well as provides entertainment.

·       The crime-solver in a cozy mystery is usually a woman who is an amateur sleuth.

·       The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village. The small size of the setting makes it believable that all the suspects know each other.

·       Although the cozy mystery sleuth is usually not a medical examiner, detective, or police officer, a lot of times her best friend, husband, or significant other is.

·       The local police force doesn’t take the amateur sleuth very seriously.

·       More and more, cozy mystery books are being written as parts of a series. The reader becomes emotionally involved and connected with the reoccurring characters.

·       The characters are likeable.

·       Cozy mysteries are considered “gentle” books… no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex. Most often, the crime takes place “off stage” and death is usually very quick.

·       Sex (if there is any) is always behind closed doors. It is implied…. at most!

·       Cozy mysteries tend to be fast-paced, with several twists and turns throughout each book.

·       The cozy mystery puts an emphasis on plots and character development.

One of the other things we established during the panel was that many cozies have pets, usually cats and dogs, who sometimes help the amateur sleuth to solve the case. (for examples, Audra Clemmings has her dog Drake in my book Drop Dead Cowboy.)

As well, most cozies involve bed and breakfasts; anything to do with food; crafts such as quilting, knitting, and sewing; fashion and small shops (like Vintage Sage in my Glitter Bay Mysteries); and libraries or bookstores. A few, like my Gilda Wright mysteries that feature a martial arts school, have main characters who have jobs in the community such as carpenters, hairdressers, baristas, event planners, real estate agents, and more!

Secondary characters in a cozy are fun to write. They can serve not only as a second set of eyes and ears for the sleuth, but as comic relief when the going gets tense. Sometimes, they can also the one who keeps the amateur sleuth going when they may be ready to give up and have a hand in solving the crime. Or at least be the lookout while the sleuth wraps things up.

The number one thing a good amateur sleuth needs, however, is a solid reason for wanting to solve the crime. Whether it be because the victim was someone they knew, they want to be a police office and figure a little practice is a good thing, or someone they know is suspected of the crime and they are driven to prove their innocence.

We had some very interesting panels that offered an amazing lineup of authors:

Clearly Canadian: All Canadian settings, eh? with Ann Shortell, Dave Butler, Susan Calder, Rosemary McCracken, David Poulsen, Iona Whishaw.

Nuances of Crime: Suspense, Thriller and Noir with Del Chatterson, S.M. Freedman, Hannah Mary McKinnon, C.S. O'Cinneide, Joanna Vander Vlugt.

The Long and the Short of It: Writing short stories and novellas with Judy Penz Sheluk, M.H. Callway, Barbara Joyce-Hawryluk, Merrilee Robson, Melissa Yi.

Law and Order: Police Procedurals with Desmond Ryan, Jen. J. Danna, Ardelle Holden, Jim Napier, Garry Ryan.

Killing Them Softly: Cozy Mysteries with Lynn McPherson (Izzy Walsh Mystery series), Diane Bator (Glitter Bay Mysteries, Gilda Wright Mysteries, etc), Ginger Bolton (Deputy Donut Mystery series), Winona Kent (Jason Davey Mysteries), Peter Kingsmill (our missing author of Awan Lake series).

Whodunnit: The Mystery Panel with Cathy Ace, J.J. Dupuis, Ann Lambert, Ross Pennie, Robert Rotenberg.

Make 'Em Laugh: Comic Relief to Comic Caper with Melodie Campbell, Alexis Koetting, Michael Michaud, Caro Soles, Gabrielle St. George.

True Crime…can be stranger than Fiction with Nate Hendley, Norm Boucher, Dean Jobb, Lorna Poplak.

Evening Panel with Gail Bowan, Brenda Chapman, Vicki Delany, Barbara Fradkin, and moderator Melodie Campbell.

Watch for my newest book coming in August 2021...

Gilda Wright is back! This time she needs to catch a killer who nearly murders the man she loves!

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