What does cozy mystery mean to you?

One of the groups I belong to on Facebook put the question out there recently – any recommendations for “cozy” gay mystery? The best suggestion was Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons series, which I enjoy very much – but I never thought of as cozy.

I’ve also had reviewers refer to the Jamie Brodie books as cozy – but I never thought of them as cozy either.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.”

Okay – I do downplay the sex in the Jamie books. But there is violence, especially at the end of Psyched to Death. And I’d hardly call Los Angeles or UCLA a small, socially intimate community.

“The detectives in such stories are nearly always amateurs” (yes) “and frequently women” (obviously not). 

They do list “librarian” as one of the often-held jobs of the amateur detective in the cozy mystery, and the protagonist has a contact on the police force. Jamie has Kevin, so that fits.

“The murderers in cozies are neither psychopaths nor serial killers.” Um – not to give too much away, but Stacked to Death does not meet that criterion.

“The supporting characters are broadly drawn and used as comic relief.” Not usually.

“Cat-lovers are well represented among the ranks of cozy-mystery detectives.” Jamie’s allergic. You will never see a cat in his books.

My cat Wesley. I love cats. Jamie doesn't.

My cat Wesley. I love cats. Jamie doesn’t.

“Avoidance of explicit sex and violence, emphasis on puzzle-solving over suspense, a small-town setting, and a focus on a hobby or occupation are all frequent elements of cozy mysteries.” 

Okay – I can see the reviewers’ points. And, no less an expert than Josh Lanyon himself says that the Jamie stories are cozies – so cozies they are!

I guess I had an instinctive objection to Jamie’s stories being referred to as “cozy” because, as a rule, I don’t like cozies. There are exceptions – but a little small-town eccentricity goes a very long way with me.

What do you think? 

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Stacked to Death preorder!

I’m going to try this pre-order thing and see how it works. :D Stacked to Death will be published on October 15, but you can pre-order it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MXDVXXU


Library work-study student Austin Sharp upset a lot of people. When Jamie Brodie finds Austin dead, strangled to death in the library stacks, the police have plenty of suspects. When another library work-study student is found strangled, the focus of the investigation shifts – both students were from the same hometown. Then a third student is found dead. A serial killer is on the loose, and the police send in detectives from the elite Homicide Special unit.
And their favorite suspect is Jamie. 

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The cover for Stacked to Death

The cover art is finished! Here it is:

Stacked cover 2

I intended it to convey a sense of menace – I think Stephanie (my graphic artist) achieved that!


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On location

Three weeks ago today, I left for two weeks of vacation. I spent most of it in northern England, walking the path that runs along Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman Emperor Hadrian, in 122 AD, decided to build a defensive wall at what was then the northern edge of the Roman Empire. The finished wall was about 80 miles long. Today the path that (mostly) runs along the course of the wall – or where the wall stood – is frequented by hikers. I went with a couple of friends from work, and we had a great time.

One of my intentions on the trip was to post here as I went, as the trip was also part of my research for the next book in the Jamie Brodie series, Stoned to Death. Alas, wi-fi connections in northern England are notoriously spotty, and I was lucky to be able to access email, much less to download pictures or write blog posts.

I didn’t get much writing done, either, as I took my ChromeBook – and it only works in the cloud. No wi-fi, no cloud. I learned my lesson! I actually bought a spiral notebook and wrote about ten pages by hand, I got so frustrated.

But now I’m back, and after a week of playing catch-up at work, I’m settling into my writing routine again.

Here is one of the pictures I would have posted:

Saddle quern

That is a saddle quern. It was used in Neolithic times to grind grain between the two stones.

It might – just might – have at one time or another made a pretty effective murder weapon.

Just sayin’. :D

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Good ideas??

First, a quick progress update. Stacked to Death, Jamie Brodie #7, is finished, in that the story is entirely written, but now it’s being edited. Things have been moving slowly right now because my readers and editors all work at the same place I do, and we’re all feverishly getting ready for fall semester, which begins in four weeks.

I’m getting ready to go on location, in a way – I’m going to be walking the 80-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall Path in England over the next two weeks, and while there I’m going to be using a friend’s archaeological expertise to write a big chunk of Stoned to Death, Jamie Brodie #8. 

In November I’m going to use NaNoWriMo again to write #9, Talked to Death.

#10 will be called Filmed to Death, and #11 will be Played to Death.

Beyond that…

People keep giving me ideas for Jamie Brodie mysteries. Sometimes it’s just a title and I have no idea how I’d make it work. Sometimes it’s a one-line synopsis.

Here are some of the other ideas I have. I’d love to know what you all think of these!

Rehabilitated to Death – this was actually the title of a blog post I saw, about deaths at a Chinese camp for people addicted to the internet. I don’t think that’s the scenario I would use. Maybe something to do with “pray away the gay” camps?

Framed to Death – a student or young professor kills someone, and uses social media to frame her ex-boyfriend, a much older man, either a professor or retired.

Surveyed to Death – this idea was born when several of us at work were talking about the number of dumb surveys we get in our email that the administration wants us to complete. This could tie back into Elliott Conklin’s research on survey design.

Promoted to Death – intrigue and murder related to academic promotion. I’m the chair of our college’s faculty promotion committee this year, so this one should be easy.

Accounted to Death – something involving shady business practices that can involve the business librarians at UCLA.

Launched to Death – Jamie, Pete and Steve go to Florida for a rocket launch and get involved with a body found on site.

Forgiven to Death – the man who caused the auto accident that killed Jamie’s mother is released from prison, then found murdered.

Other potential ideas for which I do not have titles:

  • A story involving Jamie’s old boyfriend Eric, the paramedic – something medical.
  • A story involving Jamie’s brother Jeff and either animals or farming

What do you think? Any suggestions out there?


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Points of view

I am fortunate to work in the same building as several other fiction writers. We have a discussion group that meets once a week, where we critique each other’s work. I’m presenting a section of Stacked to Death to them this afternoon.

One of the other members is the director of our college writing center. She writes urban fantasy – her first book was about vampires; now she’s writing about dragons, with a few vampires thrown in. She asked me a question the other day that got me thinking – do I know things about my story that my main character doesn’t? Her reason for asking was her concern about plot holes. If there is information that the reader needs, but the main character doesn’t know it, how do you tell the reader, if you write in first person POV (like I do) or third person limited POV (like she does)?

My answer to her: if it’s information that the reader needs to know, otherwise there will be a plot hole, then a character that does know the information has to tell the main character, or she has to discover it somehow. It may be awkward to create a conversation with another character to get that information to the reader, but it has to be done.

Our talk made me think about what my protagonist, Jamie, knows. Jamie isn’t omniscient. He only knows what he learns or sees himself, or what others tell him. This is especially true of off-page characters. An example – a character that was mentioned briefly at the end of Psyched to Death, Robbie Harrison’s wife. Jamie doesn’t know her, never met her. The only source of information he has about her is Robbie, who at the moment is very angry with her for having him followed – he calls her a bitch. Jamie tells him that’s not nice – but he doesn’t know the woman. For all he knows, maybe she is a bitch.

But she’s not. I know her – I created her, right? Ashley Harrison, a beautiful blonde, stay-at-home mom to her two girls. I based her on someone I used to know, a woman married to an insurance company executive – a great mom, loved to entertain, was very generous, but was hell on wheels when she was angry. Ashley is a great mom, but she’s not perfect. Her marriage hasn’t been good for a while, but she hasn’t done anything about it, because she likes not having to work and she likes the well-to-do friends she’s made as a result of Robbie’s profession. She likes her big house in a wealthy neighborhood and she likes spending Robbie’s money. She thought Robbie was having an affair with a woman, and the discovery that he’s been seeing a man has sent her temporarily off the deep end.

But there is no way for Jamie to know any of that, because Robbie doesn’t tell him. Ashley’s character is not germane to the plot, and I’m not going to put the brakes on what is the climax of the story for Jamie to ask Robbie to please tell him all of Ashley’s good points.

I got accused of misogyny by a reviewer because Robbie called Ashley a bitch. The reviewer even said that it was Jamie that called her a bitch, which of course it wasn’t. Jamie was raised better than that. :D

I guess there are two morals to this story. First – as a reader, remember that first person POV means that Jamie doesn’t know anything more than you do. Because you only see things from his point of view, you only have what he sees and hears.

Second, if you want to accuse a writer of a particularly egregious trait, don’t base your accusation on such a minor character. Take a look at the characters that are fully drawn. The characters that Jamie knows well and interacts with himself. In this case, Liz, Ali, Mel, Dr. Bibbins, Dr. Loomis, Valerie, Abby, Barb, Connie…etc.

And remember – if Jamie’s getting misled, so are you. :D


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Authors: There’s a Thief in Your House, and Here’s How To Narc on Them.


Please read, and don’t buy books from these sites!

Originally posted on The Amazon Iowan:

Huge, mammoth hat tip to Bree and Donna for teaching me the magic that is Whois. And for translating it because I still don’t understand. Now, let me tell you a scary story, then hand you a machete.

This site is selling works without permission. So is this one, but Devin on twitter says they have similar stuff in the guts or something computer-ish that I don’t understand, which boils down to they’re probably the same joint. Except they seem to have different hosts, so maybe they’re twin assholes.

If you’re a reader and you’re going HEY CHEAP BOOKS, please know this is worse than piracy. This is someone illegally selling works they have no rights to. For that measly $1.90, I will receive nothing, ever, nor will my publisher, and thieving jerks will receive everything. These people will also have all your contact information, and your credit card…

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