Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Launching a New Series - The Missing Novel

Why Cozy Mysteries...

Yesterday, I wrote about the dawning realization that if I wanted to have a successful (paying) writing career, I’d need to drill down into a genre, find my niche and audience, produce a few related series of six or so novels each; also makes sure the blurb and cover are professional, branded, and genre appropriate; market effectively; and et cetera. Sure. All that.

But heh, indie writers are their own business, so I get it and am gearing up for ‘all that.’ For now, I’m building my backlist, my oeuvre. My goal is to write about 3,000 words a day and so produce a short to medium sized novel every month for the next 18 months. I’ll have over 20 books at that point, mostly in related series.

There’s a movement among independent writers in recent years called 20 Books to 50k. I think the slogan is trademarked. At any rate, the general rule of thumb is that if you have about 20 well written novels in a popular genre with professional covers and blurb and you do your homework with regard to advertising and such, your sales will be about $50,000 a year.

That’s a pretty good income, especially for a semi-retired writer like me. So that’s the general target I’m shooting at. All that to say, I decided I needed to focus on one genre right now and produce product. Stories. Books. Novels.

So a very brief history. Back in 2014 I wrote my first book, an episodic short novel (about 40k words) called Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut. It’s a magical cat cozy mystery very much influenced by Koko, the intuitive feline in “The Cat Who” series by Lilian Jackson Braun. But it’s a bit fantasy-adjacent. I like it, but not everyone is into magical cozies. 

Still, I envisioned a series of books with Ma Tutt and her mysterious feline companion, Mack. I’d written about 18,000 words of book 2, Ma Tutt’s Secret Spice. But I abandoned it for whatever reason back in 2014. Well, when we moved to Puerto Rico and I started back up my writing career, I knew finishing Secret Spice was a given. And I did! Just a few weeks ago. It goes live on Amazon on Sept 1, 2022.

Very excited. I’m now on my way to developing an actual series of books – in the cozy mystery genre because it’s where I already have some momentum going and I enjoy reading these kinds of books. I’ll get back to my epic fantasy, I’m sure. Just not right away.

Decision made, the next Ma and Mack novel was now on the drawing board. Ma Tutt’s Christmas Cookies. A good writing friend of mine (who happens to be my niece and has published over 45 books in six or seven related series of contemporary Christian romance), mentioned that people also like to read holiday novels.

Again, I’m ambivalent about seasonal stories. But I learned my lesson a little quicker this time and decided I’d write a Christmas story in time for the holidays. Thus was born the idea of Christmas Cookies. I asked Beth: So publish it in December? Oh no! she said. People start reading holiday novels starting in October. What?? Yikes.

This meant I needed to get started on Christmas Cookies right away. No problem. It’s the end of July. Write it in August. Get it ready in September. Boom. October 1st it goes live.

So I started thinking through the potential plotline for this third book in the series. It would involve Ma baking a special cookie that would instill hope in her friends who were devastated because of…hmm, because of a fire, yes, a fire that damaged…oooh, damaged their bookstore and candle shop. That’s it. That would serve as the backbone of the story.

You see, in Secret Spice, I’d already introduced Kelli & Jo, two friends who’d told Ma that they were going to open their own business, like she did. But not a bakery, of course. A book and candle shop. Cool. A spinoff concept for a new series of bookstore cozy mysteries I’d write one day.

One day. Like next year after I got Ma & Mack established.

But wait a minute. How did Kelly & Jo get their bookstore and candle shop up and running? What’s the mystery surrounding the fire that will occur in Christmas Cookies – who set it? Why? What happens next? I had some great ideas for my outline, but I also had a lot of unanswered questions.

Questions that could only be answered by writing a missing novel. 

A story needed to be told between Secret Spice and Christmas Cookies. But this transition tale didn’t feel like a Ma Tutt story. It needed to be told from Kelli & Jo’s perspective. How they renovated an old building in downtown Sugar Pine Station and found some mysterious notes (that will serve as a plot device throughout the upcoming series) and how they made it through their first crisis.

The next crisis would be the fire. And yes, it would be related to one of the mysterious notes. But this tale would be a Ma Tutt story – who saves the day with her Christmas Cookies of hope, because hope is what the Christmas season is all about. (Well, not all about, but you get the idea.)

Great. Wonderful. But wait a gosh darn minute. What this means is that I have to write a brand new novel from scratch before I can start writing Ma Tutt #3. And if I wanted to keep my holiday deadline for Christmas Cookies, then this new Kelli & Jo Candle Shop Mystery had to get started ASAP.

So here we are. Writing about writing Secrets & Scents – A Kelly & Jo Candle Shop Cozy Mystery. The novel is outlined, the characters are telling me they’re ready to go. And so tomorrow we begin. A 60,000 word novel in 20 days. Let’s do this thing.

(Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay. Used by permission.)

Secrets & Scents Progress...

Introduction - Part 1
Introduction - Part 2

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Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)