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My Books

Weird Weather

Secret of the Haunted Hotel comes out tomorrow, and you should also be able to order the paperback. It will eventually be in online stores beyond Amazon, but I don’t know if that listing has propagated yet.

I’ve realized that this is the second book in the series that involves Lexie being stranded by weather, but that really is a thing that happens in the part of the world where the series is set. In this book, it’s also part of that kind of story. There’s no story if the cops can get there right away or if people can leave. They have to be isolated in the creepy country house while knowing that one of them is a murderer.

Just as the ice storm in Interview with a Dead Editor was inspired by multiple situations I’ve experienced, the storm in this book was inspired by a specific event.

A few years ago, there was an outdoor event at a venue not too far from where I’ve set the fictional town in this series. It had been a wet fall, so all the creeks, rivers, and lakes were already high and the ground was saturated. Then a system hit us and seemed to just sit there. The rain wasn’t that heavy, but it was constant. The outdoor event wouldn’t have been all that bad, though, except that a nearby creek had overflowed, and it sent a sheet of water down a hill, so that the entire event site essentially became a flood plain, with water ankle-deep. The water was flowing to another creek down the hill from there, and the road leading to the venue crossed that creek. It was so deep under water at that point that you couldn’t even see where the bridge was. That meant there was only one road leading out of the site. Fortunately, it was the way I would have been heading, anyway, but most of the side roads were closed. I would not have wanted to be driving out there after dark because all of a sudden, the road would be a creek. There were a few spots where the water was coming down a hill and across the road. You could still see the road because it wasn’t that deep, but it was a few inches deep all over the road. At night, you wouldn’t have been able to tell where the road was.

Even though things were bad and getting worse, there was also a tornado warning, so I didn’t want to get on the road. They herded everyone into one of the indoor facilities at that place until the danger passed. Eventually, the rain eased up, but everything was still under water. Eventually, I was able to drive home, and I was totally drenched and covered in mud.

In that part of the state, there are often flash floods where they have to get people out with helicopters, and there are high-water rescue teams for when the roads flood and people get stranded in their vehicles. So, I’m not stretching things to have a couple of severe weather events in the same area within a short time frame. It’s a hilly area with a lot of creeks and a few rivers, so you get flash floods. I did restrain myself and didn’t include the tornado. I think I’ll save that for another book. I also left out the drastic weather change that followed that system. The next day, it was sunny and muggy, though the ground was still soaked and there was standing water. By the time I got home after the event, another front was coming through, and it dropped something like 20 degrees. It was just starting to get chilly when I got home, and then it got downright cold.

Basically, if you like having weather affect your plot, Texas is a good place to set your book.

My Books

New Mystery for Pre-Order

The next Lucky Lexie Mystery, Secret of the Haunted Hotel, is now available for pre-order at most of the major e-book sellers. It will be released on October 21, so it’ll be just in time for Halloween reading.

All these books have ghosts, so I guess any of them would work for seasonal reading, but this one is about a haunted house and takes place near Halloween, so it’s especially suited for reading when you want things a bit spooky. There’s a storm and the power goes out and there’s a murder in an isolated haunted house. To complicate matters even further, it’s during the haunted house’s grand-opening party for the bed-and-breakfast in the house, and the owners have invited ghost hunters from around the country, along with Lexie, as the local reporter. That means Lexie, who can really see ghosts, will be there along with people who claim they can. That may make it hard for her to keep her secret so people outside the town don’t think she’s a total crackpot.

I’ve been wanting to write a book like this for ages because I’ve always loved those British “house party” mysteries, where there are a bunch of guests at one of those remote country houses, and then someone is murdered. That means one of them is the murderer. I absolutely love that trope and have been wanting to play with it. Adding ghosts makes it even better.

My mom says I should warn people that this book will make people want Mexican food (Margarita caters the party). There’s also hot cocoa and a discussion about what kinds of chocolate make the best s’mores, so you might want to stock up before you read.

I’ve got links to the places where you can pre-order on the book’s page on my site. There will be a paperback, but they don’t let us set up pre-orders for those.

And after this book, I’m done for the year. I’m taking a little time off to refresh myself and recharge, and then I’m going to work on developing an idea I’ve been playing with for a while. You can follow along here and see something about how my process works.

My Books

Welcome the Vanishing Visitor

It’s new book day! Case of the Vanishing Visitor should be available now as an e-book and paperback (though it may take a little while for the paperback listings to show up outside Amazon).

I have to admit that I almost forgot my own release date because I set it all up a couple of weeks ago, and then I got busy writing the fifth book and sidetracked with some other stuff. And then I suddenly realized it was upon me. Yikes! Now I have to try to remember what’s actually in that book as opposed to in the one I’m currently writing. When I write books back-to-back, sometimes they blur, even if the events in the books don’t take place back-to-back.

And that’s not even getting into scenes I imagined that didn’t go into the book, so they’re still in my head even if I never wrote them, or scenes I wrote and then deleted or changed. Sometimes readers have a better sense of what’s actually in the finished books than the writers do!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this book, and I’m currently having a blast writing the next one. It’s about a haunted hotel in a thunderstorm, so it’ll be perfect Halloween reading.

And now I need to go write more of it because I want to see what happens next. I generally leave off at a cliffhanger at the end of each day’s writing session to make me more eager to start writing again.

My Books

New Mystery Ready to Pre-order

I know it seems I only put out a new book a week or so ago, but the next one is already available to pre-order. You can order Lucky Lexie book 4 now from the major online stores, and it will be released on August 20. The paperback will be available around the release date. I’m adding links as I get them to the page on my site.

This is a twisty little tale that was fun to write. I took a familiar old plot and added the wrinkle of my heroine’s ability to see ghosts. Earlier this year, I found a recent BBC production of The Lady Vanishes on a streaming service. This is a mystery/thriller about a young woman traveling by train across Europe. She strikes up a conversation with a woman seated in her compartment, has tea with her in the dining car, then falls asleep upon returning to their compartment. When she wakes, the woman isn’t there, and when she asks about her, nobody else in the compartment remembers ever seeing her. No one in the dining car seems to have seen her. But the young woman is sure she was talking to someone, and now she’s worried that something happened to her. While watching that movie, I couldn’t help but think about how much more complicated it would be if the heroine could see and talk to ghosts. How would she know if she’d imagined the whole thing, if she’d been talking to a ghost, or if everyone was lying to her?

And that kicked off the story idea. I couldn’t resist doing something like that, with Lexie meeting someone whom no one else recalls seeing. Add some of the interesting local talents and the world’s most observant (and nosy) neighborhood watch, as well as another twist or two, and I had a story.

Meanwhile, I started writing the next Lexie book this morning. This is a story idea that’s been in my head for a long time, but I didn’t have the right characters or situation to use it. It’s absolutely perfect for this series, so I’m going to have fun writing it. This one gets the characters out of their usual setting, so I got to create a new cast of supporting characters. Don’t worry, some of the regulars will be there, but there are also some new guest stars. My goal is to have this one out in time for Halloween, since it’s a nice spooky story.

My Books

Finding My Niche

In the virtual conference I’ve been attending, there were some sessions where that “find your lane and stay in it” concept came up, and then there was a Zoom roundtable discussion for the authors who, like me, completely freaked out at the very idea.

One idea that came out of the discussion was that there are different ways to find a lane. There is the narrow subgenre idea, where you’re known for something like writing sweet contemporary western romances with wounded cowboy heroes, but then there’s also more of a personal brand concept, where an author is known for delivering a particular mood or feeling that carries over through multiple subgenres.

When you look at it that way, that’s more or less what I’ve been doing all along. I made a decision when Enchanted, Inc. got a lot of YA crossover readership and was recommended as an adult book for teen readers that everything I wrote would fit into that category. Even if I’m not writing about teen characters and am not writing books that would be shelved in YA, I want my books to be teen-safe (which means they’re things parents of teens would be okay with teens reading — I know teens certainly don’t limit their reading to things their parents would want them to read). That’s within reason, since my adult books are adult books. I once got an e-mail from a reader angry that she couldn’t read one of my books with her 8-year-old daughter because the language was so bad (I think the word “bitch” came up), and I replied that I was sorry she felt that way, but the book was published for adults and wasn’t meant for 8-year-olds. Still, what I aim for is something that a teen, her cool aunt, her mom, and her grandmother could all read together in a family book club. It’s something you could put on broadcast TV with no editing.

The other thing I think is part of my brand is that my books are mostly fun. Some are more humorous than others, but even the books I don’t write as comedy should make you smile sometimes. I’m not going to drag my characters through horrible torture and lots of angst. You’ll feel good when you’re done reading one of my books.

Those two things are mostly just me being me. But to narrow it down further, I’ve decided to stick with things that have some kind of fantasy element to them. I occasionally come up with ideas that aren’t fantasy, but I think that would risk going too far afield. The people who would read, say, a non-fantasy romantic comedy are much less likely to want to read the rest of my work, while a lot of the fantasy readers wouldn’t cross over to read a non-fantasy book. I’m trying to write things I could imagine most of my readers being interested. There may be some series that some readers are less interested in, since you can’t please everyone all the time, but the idea is to keep things so that the bulk of my readers would at least be willing to give everything I write a try.

So, basically, my lane is fun fantasy books you wouldn’t mind sharing with your daughter or your mom. (I do have male readers, but my readership is so predominantly female that this is where I’m focusing.) I could narrow it further to adorkable wizards and spunky heroines, but that might be limiting myself too much. I may not be narrowed to a subgenre, but that just means people can find me from multiple angles, and if they like what they read, they’ll start searching for me rather than looking in genre categories.

How does this ring to you, my readers? Does this fit with why you look for books like mine, or were you drawn by something more specific?

My Books

New Book News

I’ve mentioned that I was working on this, but it’s finally here — the e-book and paperback versions of the audiobook Make Mine Magic will be coming next week, released on July 29. You can pre-order at the major retailers.

Amazon

Apple

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

And for all others, here’s the Universal Book Link

This is a contemporary fantasy similar in style to Enchanted, Inc., but probably less funny, since I wasn’t aiming for outright comedy, and in a different fictional universe. I’ve been asked if this will be a series, but I really have no idea. I wrote it for Audible as an Audible Original, but they changed that program, so they aren’t doing more original novels. It’s mostly shorter pieces or tie-ins to existing series. So, they haven’t asked for more books. Whether I write more will depend on how well the print book sells. I left it open for a possibility of more books, but I don’t actually have a story idea for another book right now. It’s a fun little magical romp, and I wanted to release this version because I know there are people (like me) who don’t do audiobooks.

There’s more info on the book’s page on my website.

Then the next Lucky Lexie mystery will be coming in late August. I’m editing it right now, and I already have a cover done. More details later as we get closer to that time.

My Books, writing life

Finding my Niche

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m trying to deal with the business aspects of publishing so I can keep actually making a living at this. As part of that, I’ve been trying to level up on the business side of things, doing a lot of reading, attending workshops, etc. I went to a webinar this week that offered some good advice, but that also made me worry that I may not be suited to independent publishing.

One of the main pieces of advice was to find your niche and stick with it. Being consistent and delivering something tried and true is the best way to build, sustain, and grow a readership. A niche is a specific kind of book within a subgenre, such as, say, romantic comedy set in small towns with heroes who are ex-military. When you do this, you can build a steady readership who knows what they’re going to get when they read one of your books, and when they’re in the mood for the sort of thing you write, you’re the author they’ll turn to. Each book you write will have a built-in customer base.

I know this works because I know people who’ve been wildly successful doing this. But just thinking about everything I write being in the same niche gives me a panic attack. I don’t even know what my niche would be. If we go with what I’ve been most successful with, it would be light humorous contemporary fantasy with a hint of romance set in New York with adorkable wizards. You could fit most of what I’ve published so far into that niche. Take away the “New York” part and you could maybe even squeeze the mysteries in there. The YA books would be the outliers, though Rebel Mechanics fits if you remove “contemporary,” since it’s got New York and an adorkable wizard.

But I don’t really have any new ideas in that contemporary fantasy niche now. I’ve got plots for two more mysteries beyond what I’ve written. I sort of have an idea for another Fairy Tale book outlined, but am not really driven yet to write it. Right now, I’m not even reading contemporary-set books, fantasy or otherwise. I’ve tried to pick up a couple but have put them aside after a chapter because I just can’t get into that mindset. I don’t know if it’s everything going on in the world and wanting to escape right now or if it’s something else. I just don’t want to read about the “real” world in anything that looks like today, even if one of the characters is an adorkable wizard.

If I went by what I’m reading now and where my story ideas are, it would be “traditional” fantasy — secondary world, quasi-European (I’ve read some outside those lines, but I don’t know that I could write it), and set in a somewhat medieval-like past. That’s what I’m gravitating toward as a reader right now. I want castles and sailing ships and horses and forests, quests and swashbuckling. I have ideas for a couple of different series along those lines. Just about any new idea I come up with is in that realm. But I’ve never published anything like that. It would be entirely new, and the only thing in common with my previous books would be the adorkable wizards (they keep finding their way into my books), the snarky heroines, and probably the overall vibe. The settings would be entirely different from my other books, but I suspect it will still feel like me.

I may fall in love with something else a year from now, though, and want to write that. The thought of writing the same kind of book over and over again makes me queasy.

And not just the same kind of book, but the same series. That’s the other advice. And, again, I know it works. But I could only manage nine books in a series I loved before I started getting tired of it, and I even wrote a couple of other series in the meantime. The thought of writing 20 or more books in the same series, as some authors have, makes me twitchy. Now, most of these aren’t the kind of series where you have the same main characters and follow the same story arc. They’re more along the lines of the best friend from book 1 being the heroine of book 2, where heroine 1 is still a secondary character and heroine 3 is introduced. Or it’s a family, where each of the brothers gets his own book. There’s some variety there when you aren’t having to mine the same people for drama over and over again.

One of the fantasy ideas I have works kind of like that. I’m setting up a world where a lot of things can happen. There’s a throughline, but the main characters in each book will be different and there may be subseries within the series about different places in that world. I think I could have fun with that, though I don’t know if I could get to 20 books.

Really, I think I’m best suited for traditional publishing, where I don’t have to make the business decisions and where just being more or less within the same genre is good. They don’t want really massive series (unless they’re hugely successful, and then they’ll want to milk it as long as possible). Unfortunately, the kind of thing I like to write isn’t what publishers want. I keep coming up with ideas, and my agent tells me she can’t sell that. They’re backlogged thanks to the pandemic and the way that messed with publishing schedules and releases. My experiences there haven’t been all that great. I’ve never really felt like I’ve been in a situation where the people I was dealing with believed in me and backed me. I’ve never had a publisher let a series finish before they dropped me. Maybe I haven’t found the right editor with the right idea at the right time. Which means I want to keep doing this instead of getting a real job, I’ll need to suck it up and figure out a way to make it work. I think that fantasy series idea might work for me. At the very least, I could use it to establish myself in that field, and then if it does well, a traditional publisher might be interested in me. So far, what I’ve heard from publishers is that they want something like Enchanted, Inc. They don’t want to buy the Enchanted, Inc. series, but they don’t want anything that’s too different. That means I need to make my own name in something different for them to consider it.

My Books

FAQ Update

I figure it’s time for another Frequently Asked Questions post (and I probably need up update that page on my website) because I’ve been getting some similar questions lately.

When is the next Rebels book coming?
That’s a complicated situation. I do have plans to write another one and I’ve even done some of the research. I’ve got a general idea of what the plot will be (the second and third books went far from my original series outline, so my original plans for this book were blown up and I’m having to figure out something new). The problem with this series is that the original publisher still controls the first book. They’re doing nothing at all to promote it and have it priced outside the range that might make people try it, and since they don’t get anything out of the other books in the series, they have no reason to want to promote this book to encourage people to get into the series. Although that book was loved by teachers and librarians and made it onto several states’ lists of recommended reading, it didn’t sell well enough for the publisher to continue the series (there was also the weird thing that the editor apparently bought it with the idea that it was a standalone book, even though I submitted a series outline with it). I published the next two books myself, but they haven’t sold all that well, and since I don’t control the first book, there’s little I can do to promote the series and get new people hooked on it. Foreign markets aren’t interested in steampunk, so I haven’t managed to sell it elsewhere, and in audio, I’ve got that same problem of the original audio publisher not wanting more books, and no one else will take on the rest. That means I’m not making any additional money from these books. I calculated the time it takes me to write them, the cost of publishing them, and how much money I’ve made, and it came to less than minimum wage. So, I can’t really afford to write another book right now when there are other things that earn more for me.

However, sales of the first book are getting close to the threshold where the rights will revert to me. Then I could publish my own edition and do things to promote it to hook new readers, and then it would be worthwhile to write more books. This is yet another reason I’m not doing another book right now. If I put out a new book in the series, that would raise awareness of the series and it tends to raise the sales of all the books, which would then delay me getting the rights back.

So, the short answer is that I’ll do another book either when the sales of that series get to a point where doing more books would be worth my time or when I get the rights to the first book back.

Will there be a sequel to Make Mine Magic?
This is yet another case of a publisher buying a book from me and then not wanting to continue the series. This book was an Audible Original, so it came out exclusively in audio. But they’re discontinuing that program, not doing new novels anymore (mostly they’re doing novellas that are in conjunction with other major series, from bestselling authors, which I am not). I’m getting ready to put out a “print” (e-book and paperback) version, and we’ll see how that sells. If it sells really well, then it may be worthwhile for me to write another book and then see if Audible will buy the audio rights to it while I also put out the e-book and paperback. I wouldn’t be writing the second book under a contract where I know I’ll be paid, so I’d need to feel confident that I’ll earn something from writing it.

Will there be another Fairy Tale book?
I do want to do more books in this series because I love it, but I’m going to have to repackage it. I absolutely love the art I commissioned for this series, but that artist became a big deal in the meantime, so I can’t get her to do more covers, and that means to keep them consistent, I’d need to rebrand the series with all new covers. It would be expensive to do all new covers, and I haven’t been making a lot of money lately, so that’s a lower priority right now. I need to earn more before I have the money to spend.

What about the Enchanted, Inc. books?
I think that series is concluded. I haven’t come up with more ideas. But I have been playing with some shorter side stories, either focusing on backstory or secondary characters. We’ll see what happens with those.

I know, I sound terribly mercenary here, but I’m running a business, and I need to make a living. I don’t want to spend the hundred or so hours it takes to write and publish a book (at least), only to realize I could have made more money by spending that time working at McDonald’s. I have a bit more flexibility as a publisher than one of the major publishers might, since I don’t have full-time staff (other than myself) to pay and am not maintaining office space in New York. On the other hand, I just have the one author and can only do a few books a year, at most, so I can’t count on other authors or books to pick up the slack if one book or series fails to perform. I may not be as quick as a publisher to pull the plug on a series that isn’t selling well, but I can’t afford to devote a lot of time to a series that isn’t picking up readers. When I decide what to write, it’s a mix of how much fun it is, how much work it is/how much time that kind of book takes, how well it sells, and how likely it is to get subsidiary deals, like foreign sales or audio rights. If I could get a series to take off so that I was making decent money on it, that would give me a little freedom to work on some of these other projects that are fun, though maybe a little less profitable, but right now, I don’t have that luxury.

I’m working on the fourth Lucky Lexie book and have the fifth one planned. So far, that series is selling so-so. With more books, I can afford to maybe do a bit of promotion to try to get new readers. I’ll re-evaluate the future of that series after book 5 and some promo.

My Books

Timelines

I’ve joked that I’m some kind of weird Time Lord because I have a bit of an obsession with time, even though I don’t really feel its passing. I need to wear a watch or have a clock in view to have any idea what time it is, but I’m also obsessively punctual. I hate being late, and I like having at least a general schedule. I like to observe anniversaries of even small things, noting how long ago it was when things happened, but I think that’s mostly so I’ll be aware of the passage of time. If I don’t pay attention to that sort of thing, I can lose years in my head.

I tend to apply this to my writing, as well. I keep calendars so I’ll know what’s happening when within a book, but then timelines can get complicated because it takes a lot longer to write and publish a book than it usually takes for the events in the book to happen, and that means a series will end up taking place further and further into the past, even if it started in the present.

Take the Enchanted, Inc. books. I wrote the first one in the fall of 2003, with the idea that if it sold it was likely to be published in 2005 (and I was right), so I plotted it with that in mind. I wrote book 2 in 2004, and its events immediately followed those of the first book, so it was still set in 2005, but it came out in 2006, so we were starting to fall behind, and it got worse from there. For the most part, it doesn’t make a huge difference when the books were set, since I don’t put in any obvious timestamps, until I got to where I was about 10 years ahead of the books and people started asking why Katie didn’t have a cell phone and why people didn’t just look things up on their iPhones. In 2005, it wouldn’t have been so odd for someone not to have a cell phone. At that time, I just had a tiny flip phone, and I seldom used it. It was mostly for travel, in case I had car trouble. With Katie’s life, I might not have bothered with one. They didn’t introduce iPhones until 2007. You could get some Internet on phones before then, but it wasn’t nearly as common. Cameras on phones were available, but they weren’t very good and most of them didn’t do video. The shift toward readily available digital cameras and video cameras you could put in your pocket did end up becoming part of the plot for the last book, and by that time we were well over a decade past the events of the book.

The only real way to avoid the books getting so far behind reality is to skip the events ahead to when the book is getting published, but that means missing a year or so in the life of the characters, unless you publish a lot of books a year. And then there’s the fact that people don’t necessarily read them when they’re being published. There are still people just discovering the Enchanted, Inc. books, so they’re reading about 2005 in 2021, but since I don’t put any date stamps in the books, it’s not clear that it’s meant to be 2005. The copyright date might be a hint, but that only works for the first book. You’d have to be obsessive enough to try to work out a timeline based on the copyright of the first book and hints given about when events are taking place to know when the books are set.

I started writing the Lucky Lexie books in the fall of 2019, with the idea of them being set in 2020. Then 2020 happened, and setting the books then would have totally changed everything. Since I didn’t want to deal with the pandemic, I decided to keep them in a vague, eternal quasi-present. I’m still treating them like they’re happening around now when it comes to technology levels and gauging what would have been going on for the characters in their backstories. It makes me feel kind of old to realize that most of the main characters in those books would have been in high school with the early Enchanted, Inc. books were first being published. Everything would have been online for them already and cell phones were pretty common, but they probably wouldn’t have had smart phones while they were in high school and would have been in high school in the age of blogs, before social media got big.

Because of the time lag, if I were to look at when the Enchanted, Inc. characters were in high school or college, it would be in the early 90s. Rod is about four years older than Owen, but Owen skipped some grades in school, so they were in college together for a couple of years. The way I’ve calculated it, Rod is in the college class of 1994, and that means he’s not much younger than I am, so his and Owen’s college experience wouldn’t have been too different from mine. Cell phones wouldn’t have been common, and the Internet was still in its infancy. They might have been able to get e-mail on the school network and would have subscribed to mailing lists, maybe been on Usenet, but the Web as we know it wouldn’t have been there. They might have had desktop computers in their dorm rooms, but laptops were still rare and were pretty clunky. Katie’s a few years younger than Owen, so things would have been a bit different for her by the time she got to college.

There was a huge shift around 1995 so that the world before was very different from the world after, and there was another big shift around 2007-2008. As a writer, if you’re writing contemporary (ish) fiction set in the “real” world, you need to keep in mind when your characters came of age and how their lives fit around these shifts, especially if the backstory is part of the plot or if you’re doing a backstory story. A story about Rod and Owen in college wouldn’t take cell phones into consideration. It would be a lot easier to have someone be totally out of touch. I couldn’t do that for a story about Lexie’s friends in high school or college (or for events in those characters’ pasts that affect the current storylines).

That’s what makes secondary world fantasy so much fun to write. There’s less worry about how the passage of time between books affects the story. Readers aren’t going to wonder why your characters don’t have smart phones in a book you wrote in 2003 that they’re reading in 2021.

Maybe I should put a timeline for the Enchanted, Inc. books on my website. Some authors revise books to update them when they get the rights back, but I don’t have the rights to those early books since they’re still selling, and I don’t think I want to rewrite them, anyway, since the technological shifts end up tying into the plots. If I give everyone in the early books iPhones, the “everyone has cameras now and can record magic” issue can’t just come up in the last book.

My Books

New Book Tomorrow!

Mystery of the Drowned Driver Book CoverTomorrow is new book day! This month kind of got away from me. I had planned all kinds of promo stuff, and then suddenly Mystery of the Drowned Driver is coming out tomorrow and I haven’t done anything.

At any rate, you can pre-order now and get it first thing tomorrow, and the paperback is available to order from Amazon. It will eventually be available in other places, but it takes a while to propagate through those systems. You can find the various links to order here on the book’s page.

I had a lot of fun writing this one. It includes one of my favorite ghosts, someone I kind of wish I’d used as a character before I killed her and made her a ghost, but then I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been able to kill her. I’m learning that’s one of the tricky things about mysteries. If you make the victims sympathetic and interesting enough for readers to want their murders solved, then you feel sad for having killed them. I still get weepy about the valedictorian who was killed in the backstory of the first book in this series. I’ll actually tear up thinking about her wasted potential, and then I remember that she never existed. I made her up, and she was already dead when I made her up.

I wonder if I really have the temperament to write mysteries. Until these books, I hadn’t killed a character in a novel. I generally don’t even kill villains in my fantasies. They got punished, but they lived. I’d actually planned for Mimi to get eaten by a dragon in No Quest for the Wicked, but when I got there, I couldn’t do it to her. Not so much because I liked her too much to kill her, but because I felt it would change the tone of the book too much. It was funnier for her to come out alive with no idea what had really happened.

I think having victims for murder mysteries is a little different, since their purpose in the story is to be dead. It’s not like killing off an existing character who’s been in multiple books. I don’t think I’ll be drawing upon my ongoing cast of characters to come up with new victims. I might set up future villains that way, and maybe victims for lesser crimes, but I don’t think that any of the gang of regulars is going to get murdered.

And now I really need to come up with a crime for the next book. I’ve got the character story stuff figured out. I just don’t know what the main plot will be.