On Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

• Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


In Praise of Series Bibles

I never intended to write a series.

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine anything beyond a novella, possibly a novel, about the following What-If scenario that had invaded my daily thoughts:

What if a teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes? Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

I even had a title—A Season for Killing Blondes—for what I thought would be my one and only foray into the world of publishing.

All that changed once the book was accepted and published by The Wild Rose Press. My editor, writer friends, and readers asked about the next book in the series.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


Celebrating National Cozy Mystery Day

Concerned about the lack of attention paid by libraries and bookshops, author Sarah Weldon took matters into her own hands and created National Cozy Mystery Day. Observed annually on Agatha Christie’s birthday (September 15th), this is a day set aside to celebrate cozy mystery books, movies, and television series worldwide.

In her research, Sarah discovered that cozy mysteries are the second most popular genre (after romance) on Amazon. Unfortunately, she has not been able to easily find cozy mysteries in UK libraries and book stores. In fact, she often has to describe the books to sales associates. Sarah’s ultimate goal: Dedicated bookshelves of cozy mysteries in each literary establishment.

A long-time fan of the genre and author of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room, A Different Kind of Reunion—I also have to describe the genre to interested friends and potential readers.

Here’s my description…

A cozy is a mystery that includes a bloodless crime and contains little violence, sex, or coarse language. The crime takes place “off-stage,” and very few graphic details are provided. Sex, if there is any, is often behind closed doors. It is not unusual to read about a couple enjoying a romantic dinner and then turn the page to find them waking up to breakfast.

The sleuth is usually female and not a medical examiner, detective, or police officer. A bright and intuitive woman, the sleuth gravitates toward such “people” professions as a librarian, florist, teacher, homemaker, caterer, and nun. Some examples of amateur sleuths include Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.

While the local police force doesn’t take sleuths too seriously, these women manage to find connections (relatives, friends, love interests) to classified information. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a career development practitioner, and the chief detective on the case is her former high school crush.

The cozy takes place in a small town or village. While I’ve stretched it a bit and based the novel in the mid-size Ontario city of Sudbury, I have introduced characters who grew up in Gatchell, the Italian section of town.

A cozy is a “fun read” that engages the reader. By the end of the story, the criminal is punished, and order is restored to the community.

Book 1 in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series

Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.

Excerpt

I noticed a man making his way through the crowd that had gathered outside the front window. Tall and lean with salt and pepper hair, the man sported a black leather coat and a light gray suit. When he stopped to talk with Uncle Paolo, he flashed a badge. As I approached the two men, my heart started beating faster. Carlo Fantin. How could I have forgotten my old high school crush? If anything, he looked even better now than he did back then. He hadn’t bulked up or lost his hair. He was still hunk material.

He stared, his blue eyes widening in surprise and something else I couldn’t quite define. Amusement. Anticipation. Maybe even lust. Whatever it was, he had stopped talking to Uncle Paolo and was now giving me his full attention.

He flashed the beautiful smile that had once captivated me and every other female student at Sudbury Secondary. “Hello, Gilda. It’s good to see you again. Uh, in spite of these circumstances.”

“Hi Carlo, I’m–”

“Detective Fantin.” My uncle shouted.

Before I could say anything, Aunt Amelia piped up, “We’re so glad you came, Detective. We’ll sleep better tonight knowing that you’re in charge.”

My mother and Sofia appeared at my side. All those years ago when I had fantasized about connecting with Carlo, I had envisioned many wonderful scenarios where we would bump into each other and fall in love—on the beach, dance floor, even at a bar. Never in a million years, did I think we would reconnect in these circumstances with my family in tow.

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To Prologue or Not to Prologue

Whenever I’ve asked a writing instructor or workshop facilitator about prologues, I’ve encountered a variety of negative facial expressions—everything from a wince to a frown to a quick shake of the head. And the following responses:

Prologues = Information Dumps.

Agents hate prologues.

Readers will skip to the first chapter.

One instructor offered a ray of hope: Use only if the prologue adds an interesting and integral layer to the narrative.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.