Writing the Cozy Mystery by @_NancyRadke

I had written what I thought was a cozy mystery in my Sisters of Spirit series, entitled Stolen Secrets. So before writing Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood, a cozy mystery for the Diehard Dames series, I reviewed what constituted a cozy mystery to see how close I came.

Cozy Mystery

Pssst… you can get STOLEN SECRETS free, Oct 8th through the 11th. Did you hear that? FREE! Now, back to the blog…

Cozy mysteries have a theme, showing a level of expertise.

In Stolen Secrets, the hero has a computer security company that the heroine, Angie, learns about. In my Lucky Dog series, the heroine, Jenna, is an expert on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, traveling around the county with Lucky, her dog, to check out artifacts, while the hero is a big city detective, transplanted to a rural county. He needs her knowledge of the people and the county to solve the mysteries.

Cozy mysteries are often set in a small community or rural setting.  

Stolen Secrets is set in a houseboat community on Lake Union in Seattle. The houseboat people include a wise old grandmother that the hero, Ryan, helps. Angie stays at the elderly woman’s home. In my Lucky Dog series, the setting is a small town in a rural county. The people in the town and county can all be suspects.

Cozy mysteries involve a middle-aged heroine.

Oops, missed this one on Stolen Secrets. Angie is twenty-two, a former Olympic gymnast left homeless by a series of happenings. Ryan gives her both a job and a place to stay, giving her back her self-respect. In Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood, both Jenna and Craig are in their thirties. Craig really likes his best friend’s wife. And he doesn’t think he find anyone for himself. Jenna has male friends, but none she wants to get serious with.

Cozy mysteries are G-rated.

That’s the only type of book I write, so both fit this criteria.

Cozy mysteries are usually part of a series.  

Stolen Secrets is linked to several other books through the characters, including Courage Dares, Tennessee Touch, and A Tennessee Christmas. Of these, Tennessee Touch is the one with the most mystery in it, as the group try to figure out who is killing pro-football players. Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood is the first of the Lucky Dog series, which is part of the brand new Authors’ Billboard Diehard Dames cozy mystery series.

Diehard Dames

The Diehard Dames first set, now available, is Murder Is to Die For. Here’s a sample of Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood, which is in that set. Jenna has found a dead body at the top of Lone Willow’s Trail and called for the sheriff.

Excerpt:

“Are you all right?” Sheriff Craig asked, bending over to check on her. “It’s hard for anyone to sit with a dead body.”

Jenna was glad that he realized it. She was still sitting on the ground where her weak legs had dumped her. “Sort of.”

He touched his hand to her shoulder. “Do you need help getting up?”

“Not really.” But it would be nice. Maybe she did need help. She hadn’t tried to stand up yet.

He must have heard her thoughts, or else from experience knew that a woman sitting on the ground near a body was there because her legs wouldn’t support her. He put his hands under her arms and lifted her up, holding her long enough that she could gain her balance and stand on her own. He left one hand on her shoulder, maintaining contact.

“Thank you,” she said, and meant it. She took hold of his arm while she kept her face averted from where the forensic team was working. He must think her pretty weak, to react in such a way. She was somewhat ashamed of herself. Farm folks were supposed to be tougher than this.

She liked holding onto his arm. He had rolled up his sleeves almost to the elbows, leaving his forearms bare. They reminded her of her father’s, who had been a strong, healthy man before he’d been killed by a falling tree. Sheriff Craig was a solid figure of a man, and his arm offered the support she needed right now.

But she had to let go so he could do his job, and she did so reluctantly, silently chiding herself for needing his support. She wasn’t a child.

But he didn’t step away, just stood there next to her, his hand still on her shoulder, and his very presence gave her strength. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Nodded as she began to feel stronger.

“Okay, now?” he asked, still not moving.

“Yes. I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

“They work fine without me.” He motioned toward the forensic team and stayed where he was, his concern clearly readable on his face. “I’ll talk to you more, get your statement, once you’re really ready.”

Wasn’t that now? But no, she was still very upset. He had gaged her feelings better than she had. She closed her eyes, struggling to gain control of her emotions.

One of the forensic men straightened up and shook his head. “Shouldn’t there be some shotgun pellets in the fence post?” he asked the team leader. “I mean, given the angle?”

The leader, Lance Newman, nodded. “This isn’t adding up, Craig,” he called out. “There should be a lot more blood here.” He turned to the other three members of his team. “That means we need to be even more careful collecting the data. Step back, re-asses the situation and assume this wasn’t an accident.” He put a lot of emphasis on the word, “wasn’t.”

 

Tea and Crumpets with a British Accent by @AngelaStevens13

Union JackI’m British. Judging by the title of this piece, I probably didn’t need to add that, but I felt compelled to justify myself. It has been sixteen years since I left England (with my British accent), and moved first to Singapore and then to America. Sixteen years is a long time. In that time, my kids went from little children to fully fledged adults, I went from being a teacher to being a full-time author, and my accent went from being British, to being… well, that is debatable.

For sure, my British accent has mellowed. As a kid, I grew up sounding like Cilla Black, and Paul McCartney. I didn’t actually come from Liverpool, but across the River Mersey from there… what they called a ‘wooly back’. My soft Scouse accent was not considered Liverpudlian enough, by those born in Liverpool, but was made fun of for being full-on ‘Scouser’ thirty miles down the road, in Manchester.  One of my earliest memories at college there, was asking for directions at the train station, and the guy on the platform saying, “Bloody hell, you can tell you got off the Liverpool train!” (Except he said it with a Mancunian accent.)

It took me by surprise, as the only time I ever thought I sounded like I was from Liverpool was when I heard myself recorded. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that was a quirk of the tape recorder, butchering my voice. I liked to think, I had a more neutral, ‘posher’ accent than that. You see, in England, northern accents–of which there are many–are not regarded in high esteem.

I should probably put a disclaimer in here somewhere, *by those with southern accents.

Britain Is Regional

Britain is actually full of accents. They are very regional, so regional that twenty or thirty miles down the road there is a completely different one. No kidding. And it’s not just the accents either, it’s words we use for common everyday things that change. For instance, in Norfolk, they call ladybirds (ladybugs to Americans) bishy barnabees. How cute is that? Cute and totally indecipherable if you aren’t from Norfolk, right?

Seriously, if you are born in the UK, you have to be multilingual.

If you go into a store and ask for a barm/ barm cake roll, stottie, cob, bin-lid, teacake, oggie, lardy cake, breadcake, rowie, bap, muffin, or batch you will essentially be given the same thing, a bread roll. However, the way you ask for it says something about you. It gives away exactly where you were born and what social class you put yourself into.

Now technically, if you lined all these ‘bread rolls’ up, you would see subtle differences. If you gave me a barm or batch instead of a cob, I’d be unhappy. I like my bread very ‘crusty’, preferably with a nice big air bubble in it. I’m happy when it shatters when you bite into it and then fights you when you try to rip it off.

That’s a cob roll.

Not a batch or a barm.

That’s not to say, that I don’t like a batch now and then. Certain stuff, bacon for instance, requires white bread, doughy, with extra flour sprinkled on top. I do not want crusty bread with my bacon butty!

Bacon Butty

The thing is, all over England, when you walk into a sandwich shop and place an order, you inadvertently proudly claim your heritage by the term you use. But no one blinks, no one looks at you blankly, they all translate automatically, and hand you a sandwich on a bread roll.

When I moved to America, it was the first time that I became aware that I not only had an accent, but that apparently, I spoke a completely different language altogether. In fact, it was so different that often I couldn’t even be remotely understood.

My British Accent

In Pot Belly’s, I asked for ‘Chewna on wheat’–which, I’d proudly learned was how to order a sandwich in America. You have to name the type of bread they use, not the style of roll they put it on.

The assistant serving me, stared back.

Them: “Cheese?”

Me: “No, Chewna.”

Them: “Ham?”

I was losing my patience by now, but with typical British politeness, I smiled and repeated my request again, showing no annoyance to the person who was obviously going out of their way to misunderstand me. But to no avail.  Exhausting all the usual sandwich fillings, except for the one I actually wanted, they looked at me apologetically…

Them: “Could you point to it?”

After I eventually got my Tooooona sandwich, I should have quit while I was ahead. But no. I was thirsty.

Me: “Could I have, a wot-toah.”

Them: “Iced tea?’

Me: “Actually, I changed my mind, just the sandwich.”

Similar scenes have played out across America. For the most part, I have managed to get by, pretending I speak the language by putting on an American accent for certain words. However, there are some words, I find it impossible to say with an American accent, or are so drilled into my psyche that I can’t make myself butcher it; ga-rij, parm-a-san, baas-sil, mum, for instance. But these days, thankfully, I have a little 5-year-old translator in my grandson who helps me out in times of difficulty. We are very proud of him, he is bilingual in American and British English.

All this, I can perfectly understand. Even though I no longer sound like Paul McCartney, and despite everyone in England being convinced that I speak like a Yank, I realize that to all Americans, I still have what they mainly describe as a ‘cute British accent’.

Although I have enough grounding in American to translate most words that are completely different– boot to trunk, bonnet to hood, pavement to sidewalk–every now and then, I have a mental block. Like recently, during a kitchen installation, when I said hob and then had to look up a picture of my cooktop because I just could not think of the translated word (thank God for Google.)

However, it appears that my accent is not confined to the spoken word, but the written one too, and unfortunately, having a British accent in writing is not so ‘cute’.

On the whole, after sixteen years, I have managed to lose most Briticisms from my work, along with the spellings of ‘ou’, and double ‘ss’. To catch the stuff that I don’t see–because, well, it is my native language, so it does look right to me–I use an American editor and an American proof reader, and it always seems like they catch a new British phrase. I got my manuscript back from my editor a couple of days ago. She likes to provide me with an American alternative to switch out the offending British one. This time the phrase was “Damn cheek!”

Her note to me had me in stitches. “Angela, I had to look this up because I was confused—British term. I think in USA it is similar to “damn bum” or “damn fool” in case you want to change it.” (She’s always so polite.)

British Accent

‘Damn Cheek’, does not translate as any of those things! But I do admire her for trying. So, just for fun, anyone who is a ‘native American speaker’ want to hazard a guess at a good translation? Go on, have a go, I like a good giggle.  *Answer at bottom of page.

Tea and Crumpets

By now, you have probably been wondering what my blog title has to do with any of my blog post. Well, as an expat, there are things I really miss from back home. Tea, is number 1, of course. Sorry, America, but when you threw the tea in Boston harbor, you should have asked for the recipe first. Sixteen years, is a long time to go without one decent cup of tea, and as I drink around six a day, sometimes more, one of the first things I had to do was find a source of British tea bags, at a reasonable price. Thank you, Amazon! I now buy PG Tips in boxes of 2000, on repeat order, because I’d have a mental breakdown if I actually ran out!

For some unfathomable reason, I have been craving crumpets, recently. That is not to be mistaken for wanting crumpet. That means two VERY different things in England!!!

Crumpet

Now, in their essence, crumpets are yet another type of bread, but they would NEVER be used in a sandwich. Crumpets are primarily a breakfast food, or served in an archetypal English cream tea. Circular, and made from a dough that is sticky and loose, it has rows of vertical holes. It is cooked in a frying pan–a bit like pancakes (American versions, not British ones) or drop scones. They are great served hot, with butter that fills up those holes. I prefer mine rounded off with marmalade.

This week, I learned to make them from scratch. It’s something I would never have considered doing in the UK because they are available so cheaply in every grocery store. But due to my craving, and the, um, distinct lack of crumpet (actually, this means something else entirely, too), I made them myself. And, pardon my English, they were bloody delicious.

I’m making more tomorrow, so anyone who wants to, pop around for tea and crumpets, we will be serving them around 4pm.

For those of you who enjoy dual-language books, I have an extensive list on Amazon. Many are hiding out in lots of Authors’ Billboard boxed sets.

Learn more about me and what I write at my website.

The manuscript I spoke of earlier, the one with the now corrected ‘Damn Cheek’ will be available in the up and coming boxed set, Cute but Crazy: Unique and Unpredictable. I’m excited to release this book, my first rom-com, exclusively to this boxed set, first!

British Accent

Glossary of “British Accent” terms:

  • Wooly back- person born in Birkenhead, or south of the River Mersey but still in Merseyside
  • Scouse/ scouser, Liverpudlian- dialect spoken in Liverpool or coming from Liverpool
  • Mancunian – accent/ dialect of people from Manchester
  • ga-rij, parm-a-san, baas-sil, chew-na: garage, Parmesan cheese, basil (herb), Tuna
  • wot-toah – water
  • Hob – cooktop
  • wanting crumpet – desiring sex
  • lack of crumpet – a distinct absence of good looking girls present
  • bloody delicious – really tasty
  • Damn cheek! – What a nerve!/ The nerve of it!

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A Year Later

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine Day.

While we celebrated Valentine Day in our special way with loved ones, family or friends, the teenagers of Parkland held a day of remembrance to pray for their lost friends and promise they will never forget them. My grandchildren live in Parkland and were a mile away in their own school when the shooting took place.

One of the survivors, a lovely young woman only 17 last year, was interviewed in the Parkland Lifestyle magazine and explained how she overcame the trauma and her fears. She needed to show the world that this drama could not be repeated again. I was so impressed by the article I’d like to share some of its thoughts with you.

The day after, this MSD senior talked to her congresswoman and organized a march. “This happened at my high school. I had to do something. I’d wake up at 6 a.m. and slept at 2 a.m. I made so many phone calls. I contacted the bus companies, the parents, chaperones, reached out to the Civic Center in Tallahassee, organized cots from the Red Cross… “

Many more marches followed in the “Road to Change”. Those young people, not even 18 yet, explained they didn’t want to take guns away. They had conversations about extreme risk protection orders or universal background check or disarming domestic abusers. People would say, “Oh I can get behind that.”

People were receptive and the students felt America was behind them to protect the children in school. It’s amazing how fear can create courage.

This is not a political post, but a salute to my grandchildren, their classmates, friends and team members from various sports and activities.

You are still very young but you can make our world a better place.

Here are two new boxes of romance and a free one to enjoy:

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Unforgettable Valentine

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