STEVE HOCKENSMITH – Bringing Sherlockian “Deducifyin’” to the Wild West

Steve Hockensmith’s first novel, the mystery/Western hybrid Holmes on the Range, was a finalist for the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, and Dilys Awards. His heroes — a pair of 1890s cowboy brothers who solve mysteries using the “deducifyin’” methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes — have gone on to appear in six sequel novels and more than a dozen stories. (Their latest adventure, “Enchantress,” can be found in the current issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine).

Hockensmith has also written a bestselling zombie novel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls), tarot-themed whodunnits (The White Magic Five and Dime and its sequels), and a series of middle-grade mysteries (the “Nick and Tesla” books, co-authored with frequent Jimmy Kimmel Live! guest “Science Bob” Pflugfelder). His latest book is Black List, White Death: Two Holmes on the Range Novellas.

What brought you to writing? A complete lack of talent for any other form of human endeavor. Except for making chili. I’ve gotten pretty good at that over the years, but there’s no money in it.

I’ve always had the impulse to tell stories. I remember turning in an English assignment in fourth or fifth grade — writing sentences that show I understand a list of 20 vocabulary words — and having the teacher say to me afterward, “You didn’t have to make a story out of them. I just wanted sample sentences.” And I was like, “Yeah, I know. It was more fun to connect them and have something happen.” So that’s a writer for you: giving yourself extra homework for life.

I didn’t get serious about writing until I left college and failed miserably at being a musician. (I had friends in a rock band, and they were having a lot of fun. Unfortunately for me, I have zero musical talent. I could handle playing the cowbell, but that’s about it.) I knew I wanted to do something creative, and writing had a big advantage: if you sucked at it while you learned how to do it, no one would see you. (Well, except for the editors who reject you. But they’re used to that.) So I sucked at writing for a while, then I stopped sucking and started selling. Voila! I was a writer! It’s not quite as cool as being in a rock band, but I’m proud I made it.

Do you write in more than one genre? The real question is, what genre haven’t I written in? The answer is erotica. Although, now that I think about it, my zombie novels have some pretty lovey-dovey parts.

When I first gave writing a serious try, I focused on science fiction. I’d read a lot of it as a kid, so I figured I knew the genre well enough to write it myself. I even took a writing class taught by the great Gene Wolfe, author of the classic “Book of the New Sun” series. Gene was wonderfully supportive and encouraging and never told me my science fiction blows. Though it mostly did. I sold a few stories, but I could tell it wasn’t working. Then I stumbled onto a cheap copy of The Big Sleep in a used bookstore and whammy. I knew what I should be doing.

Mysteries opened the door for me. Since then, I’ve also written Westerns, zombie romances, and books for kids. Maybe I’ll get around to real erotica one of these days. But I think most folks would prefer I didn’t.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a big, big, BIG believer in outlining. For me, anyway. I can’t write a word unless I know exactly where a scene is going. I lock up without a road map. Like, “Maybe the characters should start talking about the weather…? Maybe they should decide to get a sandwich…? Maybe one of them needs to go to the bathroom…? MY GOD — WHAT SHOULD THEY DO?!?!?!?”

My mysteries tend to be pretty intricate, with lots of clues and red herrings that fit together at the end, and I definitely couldn’t pull that off without thinking everything through first. I know some writers work by producing draft after draft after draft and fine-tuning by rewriting, but that would drive me nuts. I spend weeks brainstorming, researching, and outlining first, then I write. I also write really, really slowly, polishing as I go. Which I know would drive other writers nuts. But it works for me. When I’m done, I’m done. I’ve never had to do a major revision.

So, in a nutshell, my secret to writing is “Torture yourself by making it as slow and laborious as possible. You’ll thank yourself afterward!” For some reason, it’s advice most other writers don’t take…

Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes: Ignore what I said in my previous answer. That’s what works for me. What works for you might be completely different.

I outline meticulously and write slowly. Maybe you’re the type (and there are a lot of them, I think) who just jumps in and writes fast. Whatever! You can figure out your best approach with just two or three or, a dozen, or thirty years of trial and error.

The main thing is to try. By which I mean write. Type a word, then type more, and then type even more, and don’t stop!

Or do stop if you need to. Everybody’s writing journey is different. Maybe yours involves a three-year pit stop. Don’t let that discourage you. If you’ve written before, you can write again. Writers write. I would tell folks, “Just do it,” but I don’t want to hear from any corporate lawyers.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing?

Absolutely! I’ve been a member of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) for more than 20 years. I let my membership lapse once when I was at a low ebb and thought my writing career was toast — I got dropped by my first agent and contracted an acute case of Imposter Syndrome — but I got over it and rejoined before long. This nutty business has a lot of ups and downs, so it’s nice connecting with the other folks on the rollercoaster.

I recently joined Western Writers of America, too. I haven’t been able to get to any of their events yet, but I’m looking forward to it. They seem like nice, welcoming people. They have a magazine, Roundup, that’s really impressive — jam-packed with tidbits about the state of the genre—Ditto for The Third Degree, MWA’s newsletter. Anyone trying to break into either field can learn a lot from reading those.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Writing! Rough Edges Press is going to publish a pair of spin-offs from the “Holmes on the Range” series in 2024, and the little hitch to that is that I’ve only finished one of them. So I’ve got some work to do. After that, I’ll write another “Holmes on the Range” story for Ellery Queen and then another “Holmes on the Range” novel. Given my writing pace, that means I’m booked up through…oh, probably June of 2025.

After that, who knows? I’ll be writing, but I don’t know what. Maybe it’ll finally be time to get serious about erotica…

How do our readers contact you?

Website: stevehockensmith.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SteveHockensmithAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrhockensmith

X: twitter.com/MrHockensmith

Email: reelcrime@yahoo.com

BUY THE BOOK:
Amazon:
Barnes & Noble:
Poisoned Pen Bookstore:
Indie Bound:

 

4 Comments

  1. Kathleen Kaska

    Hi Michael,

    I’m the founder of The Dogs in the Nighttime Sherlock Holmes Society. We meet once a month to discuss a Holmes story, usually one from the Canon but occasionally one written by another author. I will share this post with the members. Best of luck.

    Reply
  2. Steve Hockensmith

    Thanks, Pamela and Michael! Best of luck with all your writing, as well!

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Great interview. I enjoyed hearing the story behind Holmes on the Range, which I bought a few years ago. I enjoyed it and passed it on to a professor friend of mine who thought it was hilarious. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Thanks for this, Steve and George. I’m one of those not-yet-published writers who could sure use your encouragement. It’s fun to learn about how many different genres Steve writes.
    PS: Thanks for including the Facebook and Instagram links–I liked and followed them.
    Best of luck with all future ‘deducifying.’

    Reply

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D.M. ROWELL – Writes from Viewpoint of Kiowa Storyteller

D. M. Rowell (Koyh Mi O Boy Dah), like her protagonist, Mud, comes from a long line of Kiowa storytellers. After a thirty-two-year career spinning stories for Silicon Valley start-ups and corporations, with a few escapes creating award-winning independent documentaries, Rowell started a new chapter, writing mysteries that also share information about her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas. She enjoys life in California with her partner of thirty-eight years, their son, and a feral gray cat.

Never Name the Dead: No one called her Mud in Silicon Valley. There, Mae was a respected professional who had left her Kiowa roots far behind. But when her grandfather called, she had to go back and face her childhood rejection by the tribe. She owed him that. What she didn’t expect was that this visit was only the start of a traditional four-day vision quest that would take her into dark places involving theft, betrayal, murder—and a charging buffalo. And that was only Day One.

What brought you to writing? A life-long passion for reading, specifically mystery novels, fueled my desire to write a mystery series. As a reader, I enjoy series with reoccurring characters and ongoing story arcs. Reading a series allows me to visit old friends year after year.

As I wrote NEVER NAME THE DEAD, I planned it to be a series starting with four books spanning four sequential days emulating a four-day Kiowa vison quest (with a few murders thrown in). The first book is the first day of the vision quest of self-discovery for my main character, Mud. The novel takes place in less than 24 hours, and the second book starts fifteen minutes after the first ends, taking Mud into her second day of the quest with another murder to solve. At the end of her fourth day and fourth book, Mud’s vision quest ends with Mud finding the way to unite her worlds—and solve another murder.

Tell us about your writing process: I try to write for 3 to 4 hours every day. While I’ll start the morning with the intent to write first thing, I let myself be distracted by daily tasks before feeling comfortable enough to sink into my story. I’m not a planner. I write as the story unfolds for me. I’ll start the story once I know the murderer, the victim, and why. After a few chapters, I’ll see the reveal. That gives me my endpoint. Everything in-between comes about as I write it.

The first draft captures the story. At the end of my first draft, I go back through the story to paint a deeper picture and get it in shape to hand off to my editor. I have an excellent editor at Crooked Lanes Book, Sara J. Henry. She knows just where and how to direct the critical trimming needed to make my story shine.

What kind of research do you do? In NEVER NAME THE DEAD, I share a lot of information and insights into the Kiowa tribe, culture, and history—all from the Kiowa perspective.

My research comes from a lifetime of learning from Kiowa elders in my family and tribe. The history and traditions shared in the novel come directly from our oral traditions, originally told by tribal elders.

I was fortunate to grow up with my Kiowa grandfather, C. E. Rowell. He was a master storyteller, artist, and recognized Tribal Historian. My grandfather taught me about our Kiowa history and introduced me to other elders, including a 101 years-old!

I spent over a decade collecting memories, songs, and stories from tribe elders to preserve for future generations. Much of the footage can be seen in my documentary, Vanishing Link, and in a series of Kiowa language lesson videos posted here, www.thekiowapeople.com.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Ten months.

I wrote my first draft of NEVER NAME THE DEAD while taking courses for the UCSDX Creative Writing program. I followed teacher extraordinaire Carolyn Wheat through Novel I, II, and III. At the end of the Novel courses, I had my first draft completed. It took two more drafts before I had the book ready for readers. From start to first draft, it took six months, then four more months to complete drafts two and three.

How long did it take to get it published? I was extremely lucky! I had an agent and a book deal with Crooked Lane Books nine months after finishing the novel.

How do you come up with character names? My main character has three names. LOL!

She is known as Mae in Silicon Valley, where she has built a digital marketing agency on the cusp of national attention. In Oklahoma’s Kiowa country, she’s called Mud, a childhood nickname that stuck.

The main character’s first two names were the easiest for me to come up with. Much in my writing honors my Kiowa culture. I wanted to add a bit of my mom’s side of the family into my novel by using my mom’s name, Mae, and her mother’s childhood nickname, Mud, for the main character’s names. It delighted me as a child to hear one of my great-aunts call my grandmother “Mud.” Even now, it makes me smile.

The hard part was finding how to explain the two names of the main character, especially “Mud.” That was resolved by adding a third name and a Kiowa Naming Ceremony. I won’t reveal any more about the names other than to say that Mud’s Kiowa name speaks to the journey Mae/Mud is on through the first four novels as she finds a way to blend her two worlds; traditional Kiowa spirituality and Silicon Valley tech savvy.

What are you currently working on? I’m working with my editor, Sara J. Henry, on edits for the second novel, SILENT ARE THE DEAD. The title has just recently been finalized.

Who’s your favorite author? I stretch favorite authors to include oral storytellers; that makes the question very easy to answer. My all-time favorite storyteller is my grandfather, the late C. E. Rowell. Grandpa excelled at bringing stories to life. He was an artist, master storyteller, and a man of distinction within the Kiowa tribe. He was a Tribal Elder recognized as the Tribe Historian and Reader of the Dohason and Onko pictoglyph calendars called Sai-Guat, or Winter Marks.

My grandfather brought the people and stories to life for me. No storyteller has captured my imagination as deeply. Grandpa inspired me to follow our traditions and be a storyteller.

C. E. Rowell sharing a story from one of the Kiowa Calendars with tribe members (1999)

Do you have any advice for new writers? Believe in yourself and write your stories! I didn’t write until late in life because I did not believe I could do it or do it well enough. Finally, I started writing for myself, and the story flowed. My happiest moment as a writer came when I finished the first draft. I wrote the book I always dreamed of doing!

How do our readers contact you?
Visit my website at www.dmrowell.com.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100041233668050
Twitter: @DMRowellAuthor

Be sure to say hello if you see me at Left Coast Crime or Bouchercon.

9 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    The last phrase of your book’s logline got a chuckle-out-loud from me and your inspirational words warmed me right along with my morning coffee. I love how you describe the intertwining of your own life with the words and stories you put on the page. Also, your website and Facebook page are both lovely. Congratulations from a new fan in the Bronx.

    Reply
    • D. M. Rowell

      Pamela,

      Thank you so much for all your positive words and energy. Love hearing them! And absolutely love having a fan in the Bronx!

      Reply
  2. D. M. Rowell

    Thank you! The cover was designed by the very talented Kara Klontz.

    So glad you’re writing! I’m having so much fun finally letting my stories out. I cannot thank the the Creative Writing Program at UCSD Extension and their very talented staff enough for helping me improve as a storyteller.

    Reply
  3. D. M. Rowell

    Thank you! It’s kinda fun making the story happen so quickly. So glad you are writing. Enjoy it!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    It’s great that you’re continuing the family tradition of story telling with your writing, Ms. Rowell. Best of luck to you and “Mud.”

    Reply
    • D. M. Rowell

      Thank you Michael! I hope you enjoy Never Name the Dead.I feel very fortunate to share our Kiowa stories in this way.

      Reply
  5. Bruce Lewis

    I agree with Karen. You ability to write four novels, each based on a day in a vision quest, is a remarkable achievement.

    Reply
    • D. M. Rowell

      Well book 2 is showing me my folly. LOL! In my mind in works so well.

      Reply
  6. Karen A Phillips

    Fascinating post. Writing a novel that takes place in less than 24 hours sounds like a challenge! I started writing late in life, too. Absolutely love the cover!

    Reply

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VICKI WEISFELD – Help Authors and Books You Love!

Not long ago, Vicki published the tips below in the Public Safety Writers Association’s newsletter. She previously posted the tips on her blog (https://vweisfeld.com). The purpose is to help all of us in “reader relations.” I can’t think of a better way to start the new than by sharing her words.

 

Readers may be quite willing to help an author but may not know how or may need to be reminded (possibly more than once). You can use these tips in your own promotion—take copies to readings, put them in your own blog or newsletter, etc., etc.—or, if you’re a reader who wants to give a boost to your favorites.

I developed this list around the time my mystery/thriller, Architect of Courage (reviews are great, btw) was published. But I saw it could be a generic product others could use—just a small Thank You for all the support the writing community has given me.

I hope you find it useful—reprint it freely! And customize it with a picture of you or your book (instead of the blue box), and links to your content in #s 8, 9, and 10.

Friends and family members can be incredibly patient when they ask an author solicitous and innocent-sounding questions—like “How’s the book coming?”—and are met with blank looks, or, worse, groans and sighs.

Most authors today—OK, James Patterson’s an exception, and so’s JK Rowling—find that reaching “The End” is just the beginning of their work. Now they have to let the world know about it.

If you have a sense of how much time and effort authors invest in their books, maybe you’ve wondered “What can I do? How can I help?” Yes, indeed, there are things you can do that will help! And, whatever you find time to do, you can be sure it will be greatly appreciated!

Ten ways you can help promote an author or book you admire:
1. Buy your friends’ books. They may have written it with readers like you in mind.
2. Don’t be too quick to pass around a book; instead, encourage others to buy it. Amazon (or book stores), and the author’s publisher keep most of the price of the book. If a book sells for $16, the author receives $2 to $4.
3. Remember, books make great gifts! Maybe a friend or family member needs a thank-you or has a special day coming up.
4. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of book marketing. So, tell people about a book you’ve loved. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Marketers say it takes 13 to 15 repetitions before a message “sticks.”
5. What you say about the book in an Amazon or Barnes & Noble review will influence other would-be purchasers. No need for cringy flashbacks to high school book reports. Just say the two or three things you’d tell a good friend who asked, “Read any good books lately?” Reviews are vital to a book’s success.
6. Share a few words about what you’re reading on social media—GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
7. If you enjoyed a book, your book club might too! Many authors are willing to participate in book club discussions in person or by Zoom, etc. People who’ve read my book have invited me to their book clubs, and it’s a fun change-of-pace for me.
8. You can “follow” your favorite authors on Amazon. Search for one of their books, click on the author’s name, and if they have an author page, it will come up with a big “follow” button.
9. If your author has a newsletter, sign up! Author newsletters often include interviews, reviews, and favorites.
10. An author’s blog and website are other ways to keep track of new releases and to learn more about the authors you like to read. Remember, they create them for you.

Many thanks, and happy reading!

Vicki blogs at www.vweisfeld.com

 

2 Comments

  1. Peg (M. E.) Roche

    Great ideas. I’ve saved and will pass on. Thanks, Vicki.!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Vicki is a talented writer and has her own fabulous blog as well. I recall her list of helpful suggestions from the PSWA Newsletter and I agree with Big George that it’s very helpful. Her book, Architect of Courage is also a great read. This lady can write.

    Reply

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BARBARA NICKLESS – Wall Street Journal and Amazon Bestselling Author

Barbara Nickless is a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author. Her newest series features forensic semiotician Dr. Evan Wilding—a man whose gift for interpreting the signs left by killers has led him to consult on some of the world’s grisliest cases.

 

“Dr. Evan Wilding is absolutely my new favorite fictional human.” (Danielle Girard, USA Today & Amazon #1 Bestselling Author of The Ex)

Dark of Night: When an historian is found dead from a cobra bite, only Dr. Evan Wilding can read the signs around her strange death—and follow the path to the priceless treasure behind her murder.

Groups: Mystery Writers of America (including the Colorado chapter—RMMWA) and Sisters in Crime (including Sisters in Crime – Colorado).

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I’m fortunate to have a room of my own, filled with books and decorated with items that inspire me—Egyptian paintings on papyrus, black and white photos taken in Africa, globes, and maps. I wish I could say I don’t allow any distractions, but I’m not that disciplined. My phone and internet access are right there in the room with me. But I always start my day with the phone in a drawer, and I don’t allow myself to log on to the internet until lunch unless I know there’s something I have to take care of.

Tell us about your writing process: I wish I could go straight from my bed to my desk—Dennis Lehane says he prefers to write first thing in the morning when he’s still in a dream state. But I have to start my day with breakfast, or I’d pass out at my computer after the first hour. So, breakfast while I read the news, then I make coffee and head upstairs to my study. I spend the morning writing new material and the afternoon editing and doing research, taking an early afternoon break for exercise. The late afternoon and evening hours are for items related to the business of writing or social media. Maybe a glass of wine and some reflection on the day’s work. Almost always a walk. I try to preserve my weekends as much as possible to spend with family and friends.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The fact of a deadline. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’m so very grateful to have a deadline because it means my book will go out into the world after my publisher has worked their magic. But I never feel I can give the book everything it deserves. It’s a bit reminiscent of a time in college when I was taking a trig test, and the professor gave us a twenty-minute warning. After that, all my brain could process was “twenty minutes.”

What are you currently working on? I’m writing the third book in the Evan Wilding series, tentatively titled Play of Shadows. It’s about sibling rivalry, domineering fathers, and the question of how early in life humans show a penchant for evil. It’s also about mazes and the minotaur and the undeciphered hieroglyphic script of Crete.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Yes, in the most wonderful ways. The combination of moral support, shared stories, and practical craft lessons is invaluable. Writing can be lonely, and even though I’m a profound introvert, I’ve learned that having a writing community is priceless.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? For me, it’s describing men and women from the POV of a man. As a writer, I have to portray a woman the way a man (in particular, my protagonist) would see her—the details he would notice, the things about her he’d find most important. And I have to be equally careful to describe a male character the way another man would see him.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? It’s more the other way around. If I’m not bringing everything to the table, I’ll disappoint my characters—and I’ll be disappointed in the results.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Separate your goals into two categories: Those you have control over (improving your craft, reading a lot of other authors, how much time you spend at the desk) and those you don’t (whether or not a particular story or novel sells, how it will be received by the reading public, what the reviewers will say). Focus all of your energy on the things you can control and do your best to forget the rest.

Readers can reach me through my website: https://www.barbaranickless.com

And they can buy my books on Amazon (or at any other bookseller): Amazon Barbara Nickless

 

4 Comments

  1. Sonja Dewing

    I’m the same way about breakfast! I’ve tried to write before breakfast but my stomach won’t have it. Thank you for the inspirational words.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Nickless

    Thank you, Michael and Elizabeth! I do love to stretch myself with each book, even if only in a small way.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    I found it interesting that you opted for a male protagonist rather than a female one, but it sounds as if your confidence has allowed you to pull it off. I found you advice very inspirational. Good luck with your new one.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Varadan

    I really enjoyed Barbara’s advice re: the two categories for goals, what you can contro and what you can’t. I also was struck by her advice for writing in the p.o.v. of the opposite gender. I haven’t tried it, as I don’t have the confidence that I would get it right. On the other hand, I just finished reading Magpie Murders, where much of the narrative is by a remale narrator, and I felt she rang very true. I had to wonder, how did he get it so right? Still, I think it’s a challenge, and hats off to Nickless. I love any mystery dealing with foreign lands, so I’m interested in her books, for sure!

    Reply

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NANCY J. COHEN -Look Out for Bad Hair Days

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have been named Best Cozy Mystery by Suspense Magazine, won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal and a RONE Award, placed first in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and third in the Arizona Literary Awards.

 

 

Her nonfiction titles, Writing the Cozy Mystery and A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, have won the FAPA President’s Book Award and the Royal Palm Literary Award. Active in the writing community, Nancy is a past president of Florida Romance Writers and the Florida Chapter of MWA. When not busy writing, she enjoys reading, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World.

STYLED FOR MURDER – Hairstylist Marla Vail realizes the dead body in the bathroom wasn’t part of her mother’s home renovation plans. To flush out the culprit, she must tap into a pipeline of suspects. Can she demolish their alibis and assemble the clues to nail a killer?

Get Your Copy Here – https://books2read.com/StyledforMurder

Do you write in more than one genre? Not at present. Years ago, I started out writing SciFi/fantasy romances and later switched to mysteries. Currently, I write the Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairstylist and salon owner Marla Vail. This series has 17 full-length titles, a novella, a short story, and a cookbook. Permed to Death is book number one, but readers can jump into any installment to get started. The first four books are also in audiobook format, and I have box sets as well.

What brought you to writing? I’m an avid reader but can’t always find the stories I want. Sometimes you have to write the book of your heart that you can’t find anywhere else. I learned how to write a novel from a book called Structuring Your Novel and also by outlining stories I liked for the structure and pacing.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I work in my home office with a view out the front window. I don’t play music and prefer silence in the background.

Tell us about your writing process: I write a first draft straight through with few corrections. Then I’ll begin revisions. This may take two to three rounds and often more until the book is done to my satisfaction. I write early in the morning and spend afternoons on marketing and other author tasks.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Starting a new book is the hardest part for me. Until the characters come alive on the page, it’s slow-going at first. The story may not take off until the second half, when it begins to write itself. I have to trust the process because I always feel I’ll never make my word count. And yet, I do. Somehow the pages get filled in.

What are you currently working on? I’m working on Star Tangled Murder which is book #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Marla and her husband, Dalton, attend a battle reenactment over July 4th weekend where a fake skirmish turns up a real dead body. Currently, I’m in the revision phase.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I rely on my critique partners to steer me on a straight path. Otherwise, I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Novelists Inc., Florida Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, and Florida Authors & Publishers Association.

How long did it take you to write your first book? It took me a couple of years to write my very first book. That’s not the one that sold, however. I wrote six books before a critique partner inspired me to write a futuristic romance. Circle of Light was my first published title. It won the HOLT Medallion Award and began a trilogy for Dorchester Publishing. Aside from my mysteries and two nonfiction titles, I’ve written eight romances and a romantic mystery novella.

How long to get it published? Circle of Light sold within six months of submission. It was an agented query. That was the seventh novel I’d written. I still have rejection slips for those early manuscripts.

How do you come up with character names? I create names that are appropriate to the character. I keep a spreadsheet now, so I don’t duplicate them. If you’re planning a series, do this from the start to make things easier.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? Marla is independent and won’t let anyone slow her down once her mind is made up. She’s a dependable, caring friend and definitely not on the wild side. While she can be impulsive, she has a practical nature and focuses on getting things done.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Subplots involve what is going on in a sleuth’s life with her friends and family. For example, Marla meets Detective Dalton Vail in book one. They both have conflicts to overcome before they can be together. These play into the next few stories until they’re engaged. Then there’s more conflict before their nuptials. It’s a push/pull situation. When they’re finally married, they work together as a team to solve crimes. Meanwhile, Marla’s mother has a role, as do Dalton’s parents and his teenage daughter from a previous marriage. There’s plenty of fodder for subplots among their relationships.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? When Marla starts getting too close to the truth, the killer will do what they must to stop her or warn her off. One caveat with a cozy is that nobody gets terribly hurt, at least not the sleuth. And definitely not her pets, either.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I used to write a synopsis before beginning the story, but for Star Tangled Murder, I mostly winged it. However, I already knew my suspects and the victim. It helps me to plan as much as I can ahead of time, so I have a direction to follow.

What kind of research do you do? This depends on what I set out to learn. I like to discover something new with each story. That’s what makes it exciting for me and keeps things fresh for my fans. For example, Easter Hair Hunt was fun to research. The setting was based on Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C. Topics that interested me for this story included beekeeping, Fabergé eggs, honey production, love bugs, postage stamp collecting, and Russian nesting dolls. Now for Star Tangled Banner, I’m into tea growing, fire starter kits, buttons, and battle reenactments, as well as the Seminole wars and historic Florida circa early 1900s. Styled for Murder involved Marla’s mother, who found a dead body in her shower during a bathroom remodel. For that story, I learned about copper thefts, among other topics. I like to share these topics with my readers in a fun manner.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Mostly I use fictional locations, although these may be based on real ones like above. Sometimes I’ll mention real places depending on what happens in the story.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’d like to put more of my mysteries into audiobook format and my revised earlier romances into trade paperbacks. Then we’ll see.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Join a professional writing organization, attend workshops and conferences, expand your contacts, and follow other authors. This is the best way to learn the business of writing. Meanwhile, keep the faith and keep writing.

Where to Find Nancy:

Website: https://nancyjcohen.com
Blog: https://nancyjcohen.com/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nancyjcohen
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyjcohen
Instagram: https://instagram.com/nancyjcohen
Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/njcohen/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/nancyjcohen
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/nancy-j-cohen

 

3 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your upbeat attitude and obvious sens of humor seems to be working well for you. Congratulations on your book series. I love the titles and laughed out loud at the description of the dead body in the shower. Good luck with your series. You’re an inspiration.

    Reply

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