“If there is a list of perfect books for Christmas, then I am pretty sure Slay Bells is on that list.” – GOODREADS review
‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys.
The air was alive with pine and with holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!
Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept,
Where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring—
Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.
Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Plum Cottage Inn is plum-full with lodgers in for the Christmas Festival. There are no vacancies…until one by one the lodgers start dying in inexplicable ways.
Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel Claus loves a good puzzle. Can Mrs. Claus solve the mystery and save Christmas?
If you enjoy the classic Golden Age small village and English country house mysteries as well as lighthearted cozies of our present day, you will fall in love with the Christmas Village Mysteries. And your love affair starts right here with Slay Bells.
Slay Bells includes diagrams of the murder scenes and a one-of-a-kind BOOK GROUP CHALLENGE.
Guest Post from T.C. Wescott
How to Write & Publish Your Own Cozy Mystery! – by T.C. Wescott
All writers are readers. It can be no other way. If you’re thinking or have thought about writing your own mystery story, then surely, you’re a reader of them, right? Me, too. And if you’re looking at trying your hand at writing, you’re living in the right era! Gone are the days when you need an agent and a publisher to get your work to the people who want it. Amazon and Kindle have made it possible to reach tens of thousands of potential readers on your own. There are other outlets, but if you want maximum impact, Amazon is the only game in town.
What’s the first step in your journey? The idea, of course! Think of the world in which you want your story to take place. I came up with the idea of my Running Store Mystery series because I knew some runners and noticed there wasn’t already a running-related mystery series. So, I created one. The first book in that series, Running from Scissors, came out in July and the follow-up, Running from Arrows, is due in January just in time for Valentine’s Day! My other series, Christmas Village Mysteries came out of my love for..well…Christmas villages. They’re so cozy and magical and I always wanted to disappear into them. Now I can. And so can readers. The first book in that series, Slay Bells, is available now. So, think of a town, a store, a business, or even a character that excites you and that you think would interest a lot of readers. Then do some Amazon searches to make sure the idea hasn’t already been done to death.
Now that you have your idea, what’s next? Just brainstorm and make notes. How’s the murder committed? Who’s the victim? The main characters? There’s no rush. You’re your own boss here. You set the deadlines. And you do not need to know everything about your story to start writing it. I’d say you need to know 15% to 20%. That’s all. The rest you’ll discover as you write it.
How long should your book be? If you want a full-length book, you’re looking at between 65,000 and 75,000 words. You’ll sell these for between $2.99 and $5.99 on Kindle. Mystery readers also love shorter stories that can be read fast and purchased for only $0.99. I’m considering exploring this method in a new series some time in the future. If writing a short story is less intimidating, then do that. My first Christmas Village story was only 10,000 words. That allowed me to explore the world, the characters, how they spoke, etc. It made writing the full-length book far less intimidating.
You need to buy a lot of ‘How To’ books on writing, right? Wrong. Every moment spent reading those is time you’re not writing. I’d advise picking up one or two on style if you’d like. They’re good at offering encouragement. But if you buy 100 books you’ll find 100 different ways of writing a book described. It can be confusing and even discouraging. The good news is that there is no wrong way to write a book. So, just write! Believe it or not you’ve been researching storytelling your whole life without knowing it. Each time you’ve read a book, a story, or watched a movie, you’ve been learning the three-act structure, pacing, plotting, suspense building, etc. It’s in your DNA. Trust your instincts. Be prepared to make mistakes (including egregious typos you can’t believe you’re responsible for!). Try for writing 1,000 words per day and if that comes easy bump it up to 2,000 per day. There will be days when you write more than that, and that’s great, but don’t try to force more than that out of you on a daily basis. You’ll burn out and your writing will suffer. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but not a lot of them.
Once you have your story written, or it’s in the process of being written, you’ll want to hire a professional cover artist or at the very least purchase premade professional quality Kindle covers. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE COVER! You might be a great photographer, but nobody wants to see a pic from your phone with garish red or green letters printed over it, trying to pass for a book cover. You’ll sink. Search around and look at all the various sites that offer covers. There’s a bunch of them. This will be your biggest if not only upfront investment, but it is what will draw readers to your page, make them read the description, and get them to buy. In short, you’ll get that investment back and then some. Remember, once your book is out there, it’s permanent. It’s an income stream FOREVER.
Once you’ve written your story, set it aside and forget about it for a while. Days, weeks even. Then, reread it. You’ll find a bunch of mistakes you can’t BELIEVE you made. We all do. Fix ‘em. Read it again. Fix the mistakes you can’t believe you missed on the last read through. Now, get a professional to proofread and copy edit it. Sorry, it’s a must. Maybe a friend who’s an English professor? Or, if you can afford to, hire someone. At the very least invest in proofreading software such as AutoCrit. You will not regret it! You will regret the bad reviews you get from readers because of avoidable typos. A couple of them will always slip through (you see at least one typo in every book you read), but savvy readers expect that. Too many are distracting and your readers will tune out.
It costs nothing to put your book on Kindle, and if you’re exclusive to Amazon, you’ll get roughly 70% of the money from each sale. And you have full control! You can then set up little ads through Amazon, BookBub, etc. to let the world know you exist. And, of course, you must go on a blog tour! Blog readers are the best because they’re what I call ‘true readers.’ These readers genuinely appreciate literature and the people who create it, almost as much as we authors appreciate them. But you’ve got to give them your best, because they know the difference.
To recap, if you’d like to try your hand at writing a cozy mystery, nothing is stopping you! Just pick a world that’s fun to you, devise a murder, figure out your heroes, suspects, and red herrings, then write up a story from 10k to 75k words, get professional cover art and proofreading/copy editing, and you’re good to go. If you need help maneuvering Kindle there’s no shortage of people willing to help you. As you’ll find out, it couldn’t be simpler!
Oh, and the most important rule of mystery writing: HAVE FUN.
T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life. Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars). His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.
The Christmas Village Mystery series will launch in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple - mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.
Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as a slew of essays and articles.
You can find T.C. Wescott on:
Book Review by Bree Herron
One the coziest mysteries you can read for the holiday season. I loved every single moment and chapter in this book. I like this Christmas village and the group of characters that gathered for a festive time in this book. And let’s be real, Mrs. Claus rocks as the sleuth in this book!
Mrs. Claus is a sleuth! Who would have guessed she would be solving a mystery and making a delightful story. But really all the characters were quirky and wonderful. I couldn’t help but like them and find them to be refreshing to the cozy world.
A Christmas Villiage may not seem unique to the cozy world, but this one is certainly different from others I have visited in a book. It was perfectly Christmas that is the best way to describe it. It is perfectly warm and magical, a place where we can all go to have fun and meet new friends.
I am going to wish you all the best gift here. I wish that you all get a chance to read this book. It will become an instant favorite and one that has you ready for the next adventure in the series. I could read this book over and over throughout the year and not just for the holidays!
Please join the conversation and comment below. Have you read… If so what did you think/like?
**DISCLAIMER: I was provided an opportunity to read this book as an Advanced Reader Copy in return for a fair and honest review.
Rafflecopter Giveaway: (2) Kindle Copy of Slay Bells by T.C. Wescott.
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