Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Asian-American Authors

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As the wife of a Filipino-American and mother of a biracial child, I want to be a good ally. That's part of the reason I write books with diverse characters. (Another way to be an ally is to stop AAPI hate; learn more here.) My forthcoming cozy mystery, Murder at Magic Lake, will feature a heroine with a Filipino mother and white father. However, even though I've been with my husband for over thirty years, I'm no expert on Filipino culture. So for this month's cozy mystery blog post, I'd like to feature a few cozy mysteries written by Asian Americans.
If you'd like to read a mystery that does a good job of incorporating Filipino food and culture, I recommend Mia P. Manansala's Arsenic and Adobo. Lila works in a Filipino restaurant run by her aunt and grandmother. They serve plenty of traditional dishes but also adapt their cuisine as needed (for example, the aunt creates vegetarian versions for Lila's best friend). This book just came out, and a second one, Homicide and Halo-Halo, is forthcoming. (Adobo refers to a cooking method for meat and vegetables that involves marinating them with vinegar, soy sauce, and other seasonings before browning them. Halo-halo is a Filipino dessert made of shaved ice, milk, and various fruits.)

Another cozy mystery series featuring Asian characters and written by an Asian author is the Noodle Shop Mystery series by Vivien Chien. What I particularly like about this series is that Chien has set the eponymous noodle shop in an Asian mall in Cincinnati. This gives her an intimate setting within a larger city. Seven books are currently available, from Death by Dumpling to the latest, Fatal Fried Rice, which I have on hold at my local library.

Finally, there are the Raina Sun Mysteries written by Anne R. Tan. I've only read the first book in this series, so I can't say much about it. It's set on a college campus, and the heroine, Raina Sun, has to deal with not just mysteries but her grandmother. The series is up to ten books already, so I have a lot of catching up to do.
Have you read any of these books? Do you know of any other mysteries featuring Asian American or Pacific Islander characters? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Wednesday, May 05, 2021

IWSG: Readers' Responses and Status Update

Welcome to the merry month of May! I hope it's a pleasant one. Today is not just the Revenge of the Fifth (Star Wars reference), but also blogging day for the Insecure Writers' Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

 Our hosts for this month are Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine. 

Here's our question for the month: Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

The only thing that's coming to mind happened a long time ago in response to my novella Lyon's Legacy. The reader was a co-worker who knew me in real life and was surprised by how much my characters swore in that story, since I seldom swear. That must be a sign I can write characters who are different from me.

Since I don't have much to say regarding the IWSG question, I'll provide a brief status update on my works in progress. Murder at Magic Lake is with beta readers. The sequel, Restaurants and Revenge, is well over 30,000 words. It might turn out longer than the first book. I'm focusing on that story for now and have temporarily set aside a novellette/novella called, "Jenna's Journey," showing Jenna from my Season Avatars series traveling to another country. (Most Avatars stay in their own countries, so it's a significant step for her.) I plan to publish a collection of short stories about my Season Avatars before I work on the sequel series. 

How do readers respond to your work? Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Blurb for Murder at Magic Lake

 I've finally started sending out my cozy mystery to beta readers. Here's the blurb for Murder at Magic Lake:

After losing her job, twenty-nine-year-old Abigail Ritter isn’t looking forward to returning to her hometown of Magic Lake, Wisconsin, for her grandmother’s birthday party. All she has to offer her family is her own special fruit juice and tea blend. But when Grandma suffers a fatal accident in her apartment building, The Grand, Abigail’s cousin is blamed. Abigail will have to step up and investigate with the help of her best friend, an intriguing detective, and a magical stuffed fox named Sherlock. Abigail’s got a plan for the Grand and its abandoned restaurant, but will she solve the case or drown in a sea of suspects?

 Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improving it. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Shot of Hope

 Last week, I finally got my first Covid-19 vaccine dose. Although I had some initial difficulty getting an appointment, I was able to get one at a mass vaccination site close to my house. To celebrate, I wore a "Girls in Science" mask and my t-shirt from the March for Science. Once I arrived at the site, it was a very efficient process. It took less than fifteen minutes from the time I entered the building to the moment I received the injection. While I was waiting to make sure I didn't have a reaction, the appointment for my second dose was automatically scheduled exactly three weeks from my first one.

I did have some side effects from the first dose, mostly headaches. The first day was the worst, but I had some slight headaches the next day. I was pretty much back to normal by the second day. Of course, the side effects are supposed to be worse after the second shot, but fortunately my workplace is giving us time off to get the vaccine and recover.

I'm looking forward to being fully vaccinated in a little more than a month. My husband is an essential worker, so he's already fully vaccinated. Hopefully soon at least one of the vaccines will be approved for use in my son's age group. I'll feel more secure once we're all protected, though it will still take me a while before I resume my normal activities.

 Are you planning to get vaccinated, or have you already fully or partially protected? Are you having problems finding an appointment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Libraries

Since anyone who loves to read mysteries
probably also loves libraries, it's not surprising that there are many series that feature libraries. Here are a few series that I've started along with some more that I'd like to check out (pun intended).\
 Death Overdue is the first book in Allison Brook's Haunted Library series. The main character is a librarian who solves mysteries with the aid of a ghost that haunts the library. There are currently four books in the series.

A Murder for the Books is the first book in Victoria Gilbert's Blue Ridge Library series. I think I accidentally skipped ahead and read the fourth book in this series, which is called Bound for Murder. I need to go back and read the other books in order. This series currently has five books.

The Bodies in the Library is set in England. The library here is a private one made of first editions from a noblewoman's library. I've read the first book, but there are two more in the series by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

A new series coming out this summer starts with Murder at the Lakeside Library, by Holly Danvers. The library here is an informal one that's part of a lakeside cabin in Wisconsin. I'll have to keep this one in mind.

There are a lot of other series I could list, but I'll keep this post short for now. Have you read any of these series? Are there others that you'd recommend? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

IWSG: Taking Risks

Welcome to the month of April--and another Insecure Writer's Support Group post! You can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.  

Our hosts this month are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton.

Our question for this month is Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I don't think it's possible to grow as an artist or as a person without taking some risks. Writing short stories can be a good way to try new writing techniques. For example, the climate fiction short story I'm revising follows one person over the course of her life, with scenes at pivotal moments. I wouldn't say it's radically different from my normal style, but it's different from the other types of short stories I've written before, which are normally focused on a single problem and take place within a short amount of time. 

Another way to take risks is to try writing in new genres, such as the cozy mystery series I'm working on. My heroine is biracial, so she'll encounter causal racism and sexism at various points in the series. I'm not sure how many incidents I can include before the "cozy" feeling readers are looking for disappears, but I think it's important to show them. We'll see what the beta readers think. 

I also think it's harder to take risks as an author once you become known for a certain genre or style. Traditionally published authors sometimes get around this by writing under a pseudonym, and I know of a couple of indie authors who do the same thing with some of their work. While I considered publishing my mysteries under a pseudonym, I plan to use my real name. These will be paranormal cozy mysteries, so hopefully some of my readers will cross over to my fantasy work.

How do you feel about risk-taking? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Catalyst Chronicles Series

 After discussing all the projects I had in various stages of writing, revising, or submitting, I couldn't help thinking of one project that's been on the back burner for a long time: the science fiction Catalyst Chronicles series. Currently published are the novella Lyon's Legacy, a short story called "The Mommy Clone," the novel Twinned Universes, and a pair of short stories published under the title "Seasonal Stories from the Sagan.

I had planned to write another short story set after Twinned Universes. This short story is tentatively titled "The Unnumbered World" and would focus on a secondary character adapting to events. Coming after that story would be a novel I tentatively call Catalyst in the Crucible, which would be set a few years after "The Unnumbered World" and be a followup to Twinned Universes. 

Although I have partial drafts of both stories, I've been stuck on how to complete them (or how to get through the middle to reach the end). Also, although Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes involved time travel, Catalyst in the Crucible won't. A traditional publisher would have a fit if I switched subgenres in the middle of a series, and I'm not sure how marketing this series myself would work. I'd have to hope my readers like the characters as much as I do.

It would be a shame to abandon the Catalyst Chronicles characters completely, but it is difficult juggling multiple projects. Fortunately, I finished the rough draft of a short story last week, and I have to submit to a contest by April 12th. Once that's done, I want to focus on my Season Avatars short story collection and my new cozy mystery series for a while. However, if I get stuck on them, it might be time to revisit some older projects. Ultimately, I need to focus on spending more time on my current and past project before chasing new ones.

Do you have stories that you don't want to trunk but you don't know how to finish? Feel free to discuss them in the comments.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Project Updates

It's been a while since I discussed the projects I'm working on, so I thought I'd give a brief status update on them today. At the very least, it'll make me more accountable to myself. So here's a list of my various writing projects in no particular order:

Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction) Story: I mentioned previously that I'm working on a story for a cli-fi contest. The title is currently "The Trees of Carson Tower," but I may change it. I'm still working on the first draft, as I took a wrong turn with the plot and got stuck. I think I've figured out how to proceed and hope I can finish the draft by the end of the week--or month, at latest. The deadline for submitting the story is April 12th. If I don't make that deadline, or if the story is rejected, I may save it for a cli-fi collection of my own. This story is my top priority at the moment.

Jenna's Journey: This story is intended for a short story collection that will be set after Summon The Seasons and act as a bridge between my Season Avatars series and a spin-off series. This particular story will follow Jenna as she travels to the heart of the Fip Empire. The Season Avatars normally don't leave their country, so there will be plenty of opportunities for world-building and character development, as well as foreshadowing the short story Rob's Choice. I'm still partway through the first draft. This is the story I work on when I'm stuck with my other projects.

Murder at Magic Lake: I finally managed to finish the second draft; revising this story took longer than writing it, which isn't surprising since cozy mysteries are a new genre for me. I'm going to read through it again and decide if I'm ready for beta readers. I can draft a blurb when I pitch this story on a Facebook group for cozy mystery readers and writers. This story is my second priority.

Restaurants and Revenge: This is the second book in my cozy mystery series. I'm around halfway through the first draft, but I've already had to go back and revise it as I get new ideas. This story has been put on hold for a while, but once I finish the cli-fi story, I plan to return to it.

Silents for Swans: This is a pandemic version of a fairy tale I wrote last summer. I've submitted it to three different markets without success. There's a potential market for this story, but the submission period won't open until November. I'm holding the story for now, but if I find a market that sounds like a good fit before November, I'll send it there.

Thoth's Wager: This is a short story written for a themed anthology, but it was rejected. I revised it, but I need to send it to different markets. The subgenre is godpunk, so I need to find a place that's looking for that genre.

What are you working on? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Irish Cozies

Whether or not you're Irish (I used to think I was, but DNA tests show I'm not), March is a good month to focus on mysteries set in Ireland. I've found two sites that already have lists of Irish cozies (check here and here), so today I'll discuss two Irish series that I've personally read.

Alexia Gordon has created a compelling character in Gethsemane Brown, an African-American classical musician who get stranded in an Irish village. Fortunately, she's asked to house-sit a cottage, and she soon develops a friendship with the ghost of the former owner. Gethsemane is a strong-minded woman who's more than a match for the most complicated mystery. The first book in this series, Murder in G Major, won several awards. There are five total books in this series, with the last one, Execution in E, being published last year. Hopefully we'll get another book in this series soon.

The Vampire Book Club also features an American woman, Quinn Calahan, living in a cozy Irish village. This series by best-selling author Nancy Warren has ties to her Vampire Knitting Club series (characters from the latter series appeared in the first book of the former.) Quinn is a middle-aged witch who's been banished to Ireland for misusing her magic. I enjoy her interactions with the local witches, but I can't provide too many details for fear of spoilers. There are currently three books in this series, and I'm looking forward to more.

What's your favorite book set in Ireland? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Seasons and Reading/Writing

After a long, wintry, February, we're finally getting a stretch of decent weather in the Chicago suburbs. It's uplifting to be able to go for a walk in the neighborhood. Of course, by the time this blog post goes live, we'll return to more seasonable weather. Still, the equinox is coming soon, and by the end of April or early May we'll have true spring. 

I've never been much of an outdoors person, but when the weather is nice, I do enjoy spending more time outside. The tradeoff is I spend less time reading and writing. (I usually start off my annual reading challenge several books ahead, only to fall behind in summer and catch up in the fall and winter.) Here are a few things I try to do to keep indoor and outdoor activities in balance:

1. Go out early. During the summer, I get my exercise by walking in a nearby park. I usually go shortly after I get up. There are fewer people around, so it's easier to enjoy nature. It's also not hot, and I don't have to worry about sun exposure. (When the weather is bad, I normally exercise on a treadmill and read.)

2. Sit outside with a book. 

3. If we're traveling somewhere, my husband normally does most of the driving, so I use the time to read, crochet, or even write.

Are you feeling spring fever too? Do you feel that you do less reading or writing during the warm months? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

IWSG: Reading Genres

Welcome to March! Let's hope this month isn't quite as mad as last year. The first post of the month is always for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are Sarah--The Faux Fountain Pen, Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose.

Here's our question for this month: Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

 The main genres I write are fantasy, cozy mystery, and science fiction. Those are also the genres I prefer to read. Occasionally I'll venture out of those genres into classics, an historical novel, or a popular contemporary work. About twenty to twenty-five percent of my reading is nonfiction; I tend to read science, history, research topics for writing (for example, I'm currently reading Rewilding North America for a climate-fiction short story I'm working on), or anything I want to learn more about. I read more widely when I was younger, but these days I'm more focused on the genres I enjoy. As for what draws me to these genres, I would say that science fiction and fantasy help me escape my everyday life. I still crave stories that evoke a sense of wonder, but the older and more experienced/cynical one gets, the harder it is to find wonder. Cozy mysteries not only offer a way to right a wrong and find justice, but, as the name implies, they can offer a cozy atmosphere and possibly an ensemble of characters that feel like friends.

What types of books do you like to read, and why? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Selling Short Stories

Over the past few years, I've become more interested in writing short stories. However, figuring out what to do with them when they're done isn't always easy. Some of them I've written as part of the Catalyst Chronicles or Season Avatars series, so I've published them independently. Other stories have been published independently because I wanted to put them out. However, I've also been writing stories for specific anthologies. Some of them were accepted by the targeted anthology, but not all of them were. I also wrote a fairty-tale-takeoff last year because I needed to write it in response to the pandemic. I've submitted it to a few professional markets without takers so far. However, I just learned of a potential market for fairy tale stories that will open in November, so I'll hold this short story until then. Another short story I'm trying to sell has Egyptian/godpunk/urban fantasy elements. I'm still deciding if I want to submit it to pro and semipro markets now or wait until I learn of a market looking for this specific type of story.

Some short stories I'm working on have the potential for future collections whether or not I sell them elsewhere. The cli-fi story I mentioned last week is set in the same world as "A Shawl for Janice," and I have another story that could be revised to fit there as well. If I write a few more stories in that setting (I mentioned a couple of ideas last week), I would have enough for a themed collection. 

Although I've already published one collection of stories in the Season Avatars world, I'm currently working on another set of stories that would take place after Summon the Seasons. My long-term plans include a (potentially) seven-book sequel series in that world, and this collection would bridge the gap between the two series. 

Writing a short story isn't necessarily quick for me; it can take months for me to revise it to my satisfaction. Juggling multiple projects at different stages requires as much work as a full novel. However, short stories help me improve my craft and allow me to tell stories that wouldn't work at longer length. It can be difficult deciding where to market some stories, but knowing that I can always put them out as eBooks makes me feel that the effort of writing short stories won't be wasted.

Do you write or read short stories? If you write them, do you publish them yourself or submit them to markets? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cli-Fi and Conflict

One of the short story projects I'm working on is for a contest about climate fiction, or, as it's more commonly known, cli-fi. You can learn more about cli-fi and the contest here. (Of course, having even mentioned this project publically, I've now jinxed it. I'm sure I face long odds anyway, given the number of people who will probably enter.) Cli-fi is closely related to solarpunk in that they both imagine positive futures for humanity. I actually learned about this contest from the editor of the solarpunk anthology that my short story "A Shawl for Janice" appeared in last year.

Ironically, one problem with imagining optimistic futures is that fiction thrives on conflict. If everything is good, what is there to write about? In "A Shawl for Janice," I focused on the internal conflict my heroine felt when confronting her family's history. Some of the ideas I considered for the current story involved a Native American rewilding expert moving to a new location and experiencing interpersonal conflict with one of her coworkers or two groups with different values clashing over resources. I'm currently trying a montage approach about a woman's view of trees changing over her life, as she grows from a young girl charged with planting an acorn to someone managing trees for her community. Although the story will focus on character development, there will be a parallel story of how her community uses trees to cope with environmental issues.

Have you read any cli-fi or solarpunk stories? If so, what do you think of the genre? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Chocolate

Whether you consider chocolate "the food of the gods," its own food group, a reward at the end of the day, or something else, chocolate is a favorite flavor for many people, myself included. It's not surprising that many cozy mysteries include this treat. However, so many mysteries feature baked goods that I feel they should be the subject of a separate post (or posts, if I want to break it down by cakes, scones, cupcakes, or something else.) For this post, I want to focus on cozy mysteries that feature chocolates that you might find at a specialty shop. (My favorite chocolate shop is Anna Shea Chocolates and Lounge. They make so many wonderful treats, including cupcakes, fondue, hot chocolate, and more. Their lounge is a great place to meet friends, have a date night with my husband, or even just hang out for a change of scenery.)

When I think of chocolate-themed cozy mysteries, the series I'm most familiar with is H. Y. Hanna's Bewitched by Chocolate series. It's set in a small English town, where a witch creates enchanted chocolates. The heroine is the witch's granddaughter and also has chocolate magic. Here's a link to the first book, Dark, Witch, and Creamy. There are currently seven books in the series, but it looks like I haven't finished it. Time to catch up! I also neglected to mention Hanna's Oxford Tearoom series last month in my post on tea, so here's a link to the first book in that series as well, A Scone to Die For.
I've found three other series featuring chocolate shops or chocolate factories, but I haven't read any of these books yet. Rest assured they'll be going on my gigantic To-Read list. Here are links to the first book in each series:

Cream of Sweet by Wendy Meadows

Sadly, there's no special mention of chocolate or a chocolate shop in the mystery I'm currently editing, but the heroine does live close to a bookstores that sells baked treats. 

Cozy mysteries featuring bookstores will probably be my next theme for this series. Please return in March to read more!

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Blogging Buddies


Welcome to another month with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where we share our writing struggles and triumphs. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

Our "hosts with the posts" this month are Louise-Fundy Blue, Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins, and Nancy Gideon.

Our question this month relates to blogging: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It's often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

I started blogging to stay in touch with my college friends, but it's helped me make more friends. I've been fortunate to be part of at least three blogging groups besides the IWSG. They include a "blog chain" of writers who would take turns discussing a subject and link to other bloggers in the chain; a "blog ring of power" (BRoP) that interviewed writers (with each blogger posting a different part of the interview); and a group of independent writers who put out a magazine on Amazon called Indie Writers Monthly. I don't think I've met any of these bloggers in person, but I still connect with some of them through Facebook. (Ironically, I just realized I haven't checked any of their blogs in ages, but I spend much less time blogging than I used to myself.) I might also attend a virtual birthday party for one of my blogging buddies from the Blog Ring of Power this week. The Atlantic posted an article this week about the importance of casual friends in our lives. Hopefully we will remember that long after the pandemic is over. (And yes, I should make more of an effort to visit other IWSG members' blogs, but between being all day in the office at work and spending time playing board games with my husband in the evenings, I tend not to have a lot of free time on Wednesday. I should still make it a goal to read more blogs, though.)

How much do you interact with other bloggers? Are you friends with any of them? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The End is Always Near (Book Review)

 As a writer, I consider any non-fiction book I read potential research for stories. One book I recently borrowed from the library for research is The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses. The author is Dan Carlin, who hosts a podcast called Hardcore History. I wasn't familiar with the podcast before reading this book; I prefer to take in information visibly instead of audibly. This book consists of several chapters that apparently are revised versions of some of Carlin's podcasts. (A Goodreads reviewer pointed this out.)

As I write this blog on Sunday, I'm only partway through this book. Some of the early chapters don't seem to meet the theme of this book, such as the one on parenting. While it's an interesting read, it wasn't what I expected. Another early chapter discusses how tough people are today versus those from previous areas. Carlin seems to think earlier people were tougher, ignoring the health and education benefits we have today.

Later chapters deal with historical events that fit the theme, like the fall of the Roman Empire and pandemics. These chapters not only describe what happened but also discuss the ramifications (such as the Black Death giving peasants opportunity to claim farmland). One thing I don't like about Carlin's writing style is his putting so many asides in footnotes. This disrupts the flow of the main text.

Despite its flaws, the book is worth reading. I'm not sure yet if I'll listen to the podcasts.

Do you enjoy reading about history? If so, do you have favorite eras? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Bird Watching

 One thing I love to do in the winter is feed the birds. A side benefit of working more from home this year is being able to watch them at lunch. For a suburban area, we get a pretty good variety. Our visitors include cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves, juncos, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and unidentified sparrows. This year, I'm also getting some birds I haven't noticed before, like these two:

This is a junco, but not the slate-colored variety I normally see. I posted this picture in a Facebook birding group, and the consensus seems to be that it's a pink-sided junco normally found out west. I wonder if it could be a hybrid between different varieties.

The bird below is also new to me this year. I thought at first it was a pine siskin, but someone else thought it could be a song sparrow. I really need to work on identifying my sparrows!

Do you like watching or feeding birds? Do you have a favorite? If so, feel free to share it in the comments.



Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Tea

What can be cozier in the middle of winter than cradling a cup of your favorite warm beverage in your cold hands? For me, that beverage is tea, particularly green tea. My favorite type is jasmine pearl green tea, but I also enjoy other types like sencha and gyokuro. On the left is my teapot, also known as PorgPot. He's been my most valuable coworker at home.

There are several cozy mystery series out there featuring tea or tea shops, but many of the ones I've read feature not just the beverage, but the ritual of afternoon tea. I particularly enjoyed the Chintz 'n China series by Yasmine Galenorn. You can find the first book, Ghost of a Chance, here. It's been a while since I read that series, but I think the main character sells a lot of teapots in addition to tea. Another author who writes about tea shops is Laura Childs in her Tea Shop Mysteries (see link for the series list). I just finished the first book in the series, Death by Darjeeling. While her descriptions of tea are the best I've read in cozy mysteries, other parts of the book didn't work so well for me. However, I'm particularly looking forward to Erin Johnson's Spelling the Tea, which will be published later this month and is the first book in a vampire tea room mystery series. I enjoyed Johnson's Spells and Caramels series. Other tea cozy mystery books I've found on Goodreads but haven't read include Steeped in Murder and Pushing Up Daisies

Tea can feature in a mystery by being a vehicle for poison. The poison can either be added to the tea, or the tea can also be brewed with toxic plants. Hot water can also be used as a defensive weapon.

Abigail Ritter, the heroine of my upcoming Magic Lake Mysteries series, will be running a tea shop, but her focus will be on fruit teas and bubble teas. 

What's your favorite type of tea? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

IWSG: Writer Turnoffs

Welcome to the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post of 2021! We're here to share our concerns and encourage other writers. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter.

Our hosts this month are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner, Sandra Cox, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

Here's our question for the month: As a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

Writers are probably much more critical readers than pure readers. For example, last month, I read the first book in a cozy mystery series by a bestselling author. (Title and author name withheld.) The first chapter contained a mistake about the main character's profession (she had a degree that didn't exist). The second chapter was a breakup scene, but the structure of it didn't make sense to me. The unemployed boyfriend first worried about his girlfriend was going to pay the bills, then announced he had just landed a new acting job in a new city (rendering his first complaint moot), and then finally came out as gay after three years of being together. I found out later this author is supposed to be funny, so maybe what I thought were bugs were actually examples of her humor. However, I also found many of the side characters to be stereotypes, and the murderer turned out to be someone who hadn't been part of the story before then. These were elements that didn't work for me, but many of the reviewers on Goodreads seemed to enjoy the story. I think the readers were reacting to other, emotional aspects of the story that didn't work for me. I finished the book mainly for my annual Goodreads reading challenge. This year, I'm backing off on my reading goal slightly so I have more freedom to quit books I don't care for.

Perhaps this the best way to sum up my frustrations with other people's books: my personality type is INTJ, which is the rarest type among women. Many books that appeal to other people don't appeal to me, and I worry about making my works emotionally appealing to others. I'm hoping as I continue to write and try new genres to find more common ground with my readers.

What frustrates you about other people's works? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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