Monday, July 31, 2017

Are Cozies "Real" Mysteries?

Well, of course they are! However, in the mystery/thriller world cozies are the equivalent of “the little lady”, nice enough but somewhat insubstantial, easily dismissed as a lightweight with little to offer.

Is my bias showing? Absolutely! Why is there always a pecking order? Pecking Order Syndrome shows up in all sorts of places, and ultimately, racial discrimination can be traced to it. As a kid growing up in a family of West Virginia hillbillies living in Ohio, I remember the prejudice my parents exhibited and believed.

Did my term “West Virginia hillbillies living in Ohio” send you a signal? It should have. Hill people from Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia who had moved to Ohio for jobs, were looked down on. Hillbillies were denigrated by the dominant and native white group. So, hillbillies had to make a group lower than they were on the social scale. The hillbillies of my acquaintance uniformly disliked Blacks. It was their way of feeling better about themselves.

Translating the Pecking Order Syndrome to novels, in the mystery/thriller world, thrillers are more highly regarded than mystery. International thrillers top domestic thrillers for sophistication and cross-country plotting and travel. But both are viewed as superior to mysteries.

Among mysteries, the traditional mystery is still Queen of the Hill. These classic mysteries are revered. For the rest of the subgenres, there is also a pecking order. Police procedurals and medical mysteries with all the technical detail and knowledge required are superior (in many eyes) to other mysteries.

And the lowly cozies—aren’t they cute little things—are at the bottom of the heap.

Oh, yeah? Well, listen up, Bud. Plotting any mystery, laying out the clues, pacing the action, finding relevant subplots, and creating compelling characters is identical in every mystery/thriller written.

You don’t have to have blood and gore on the page for the essential mystery. That’s just the value-added that police procedurals and thrillers bring to the party. The value-added for cozies is learning about a hobby or special interest of the author.

I am a pretty good cooker and know a lot about food. A retired police detective knows a lot about how crooks are caught and treated. Both of us are experts in our fields. Expertise is the commodity that both cozies and thrillers and other mystery subgenres share. Should we value one kind of expertise more than another?

I don’t believe so. What I prefer to read is merely that, a preference. Given great writing, expertise should be valued in any subgenre. 

If you think others would be interested in this post, please share on social media. I’ve prepared a couple of posts you can cut and paste or create your own.

Facebook: “I don’t get no respect,” might be what the cozy mystery genre might say were it able to talk. Do you agree that many regard cozies as an “also ran” kind of mystery?

Twitter: Are cozy mysteries equivalent to traditional mysteries or are they just fluff? @good2tweat offers her viewpoint at

Monday, July 24, 2017


As you know, I write culinary mysteries. I am shopping around book two in my “Dinner is Served” series, Prime Rib and Punishment. I call them “murders with taste.”

My protagonist, Alli Wesson, is a screw-up. Or she was until she and her childhood friend, Gina Smithson, started their personal chef business. With a regular income and being her own boss, it appears early-30s Alli is finally getting it together. Well, unless there’s a murder that impinges on her life. Following trails of clues means that she sometimes makes impulsive and erratic choices. Police officer boyfriend, Evan, worries about that. A lot. And so does everyone around her.

Prime Rib and Punishment finds Alli and Gina teaching at the new Culinary Arts School-Glendale (Arizona) even though the Executive Chef hates “amateur cooks.” Add in a diet scam operation and a guy with a mafia connection, and things become . . . complicated. Murder is part of the complication.

Nevertheless, Alli and Gina are gifted cooks and they’d like to share a few recipes from this book with you. When the book is published, get your two-fer—mystery plus cookbook. Enjoy these for now!

Roast Beef Roll-ups (makes one roll-up)
Makes a great lunch when traveling. Alli uses a whole block of cream cheese to make 4 roll-ups in an assembly line.

2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 whole wheat flour tortilla
3 extra-thin slices of roast beef
1 string cheese stick
10 pieces of baby spinach

Mix together cream cheese and horseradish. Spread evenly over tortilla. Press meat slices onto tortilla, covering as much of the tortilla as possible, overlapping the meat where necessary. Add spinach the same way. Lay a cheese stick along one edge then roll into a cylinder. Seal the cylinder with a small bit of cream cheese mixture to hold it together. Roll up in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.

Orange Marmalade Pork Tenderloin (serves 8-10)
This is a special dinner for company. The leftover pork makes great sliders for lunch with a dollop of the marinade and Dijon mustard.

pork tenderloin package (two slender ones, not the whole tenderloin)
jar orange marmalade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
4 green onions, diced
4 tablespoons white wine, divided

Put orange marmalade, all of the garlic, green onions, and 2 T wine in a zipper bag and mush around to mix.

Add the two pork tenderloin pieces. Let marinate for at least three hours, turning a few times to distribute the marinade.

Take pork out of bag and put on grill.

Drain marinade into saucepan, reserving 2 tablespoons to brush on meat as it cooks.

Grill for 1-20 minutes, turning once. Let meat rest before slicing into medallions.

Heat remaining marinade to a boil. Add reserved 2 tablespoons wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Put in gravy boat to serve alongside meat.

Cinnamon-Nutella Brownie Bites (makes 12 mini brownies)
Here is another of Gina’s calorie-controlled desserts without sacrificing taste. Small portions mean you can enjoy big flavor. The cinnamon adds an interesting flavor layer.

½ cup Nutella                                   ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
1 large egg                                       ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon oil                                   ½ cup chopped nuts
5 tablespoons flour

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup mini-muffin pan with paper or foil liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Put the Nutella, egg, and oil in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Add chocolate chips and cinnamon.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin (about 3/4 full) and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Bake until a toothpick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes (longer for a chewier brownie).

Set on a rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Sometimes Alli sprinkles on powdered sugar to make them prettier.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why I Go to Conferences--And Why You Should, Too

I’m kind of a conference junkie.

Given unlimited time (oh, and money), I’d be hopping planes and checking into hotels all over the world. Why? I mean, I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for all this time change/jet lag/bag hauling stuff, so why even bother?

Read books on the same topics, you might counter. There’s a ton of info on the Internet. Oh, yes.

Well, I do those things, too. Because like Kipling’s “The Elephant’s Child”, I am full of “ ‘satiable curiosity” and Must. Keep. Learning.

I’ve written before about my extensive library, but a conference does more than provide information.

At my most recent conference this past weekend, I attended sessions on topics I didn’t even know existed. How am I supposed to look that up? The session on CPTED introduced me to a topic I was unaware existed. And it gave me a subplot/career change for one of my characters that I wouldn’t have known about.

I attended sessions describing panelists’ personal experiences. How does one look those up on-line? These were people I could look in the eye and know they were there. One can write anything on-line. There is no vetting.

And the contacts one can make! At the Public Safety Writers Association Conference, I sat with a wide-range of public safety workers who generously answered questions and offered to be future contacts for more questions. Contacts are one huge reason I attend as many conferences as I can.

So, look for me, at your next conference. I might be sitting next to you. I’d be the one with a lot of questions about what you do.