To Prologue or Not to Prologue (#2) by Karen Shughart

I promise this isn’t a duplication of Paty Jager’s blog from last Monday. Paty and I frequently seem to be on the same page when choosing topics for our monthly blogs, and when I read her title, I was terrified that my extremely rough draft had somehow made it’s way into scheduling instead of her very well-written and polished one. Fortunately, my fears were allayed when I saw her name as the author. Whew! And while our titles are the same, we’ve written from our own points of view.

Each of the books in my Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mysteries has an historical backstory that’s related to the crime and provides clues to why the murder was committed. In book one, Murder in the Museum, the prologue introduced a character whose journal, written in 1845, was discovered at an archeological dig in Toronto, Canada. The prologue in book two, Murder in the Cemetery, ties the crime to a battle that occurred in Lighthouse Cove, NY during the War of 1812.

My creative juices really started flowing in book two, and I played around with writing two prologues: the first as described above; the other to introduce the setting, the month of May. You’ll have to read the book to learn why that’s important. My dilemma was which to keep and which to discard. I realized I was emotionally attached to both, so decided to get my publisher’s advice-few books are written with two prologues. Her quick response: “go for it,” and I did.

I’m heading down the home stretch with book three, Murder at Freedom Hill. Yet again, I’ve written two prologues: the first, the historical backstory – it takes place in 1859 in Lighthouse Cove during the abolition movement, when fleeing slaves boarded a schooner to transport them across Lake Ontario to Canada. The second is set in November, the month when the harvest is over, and the chill and frost of winter lurk just around the corner.  

What I love about writing this series is that I don’t have to follow all the rules. It doesn’t mean I am undisciplined; I certainly know how to craft a story from beginning to end, but I enjoy taking liberties with commonly accepted writing practices when it makes sense.

It’s up to us mystery writers to decide how our stories will be written. Some begin with the murder; others lead up to it, it can go either way. It’s the same for prologues. Sometimes a book needs no prologue, but at other times a prologue can set the scene and enhance the plot. And at times, two prologues are even better.

Guest Blogger ~ Kaye George

Where Did Enga Dancing Flower Come From?

I ask myself that sometimes! Her original name, in my mind, was Enga Yellow Flower. Her twin was Ung…some other color of flower. They were either abandoned by their own Neanderthal tribe, or the sole survivors of a catastrophe. However, as soon as I inserted Enga into the tribe who rescued them, in the very first book, DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, it became clear she was a dancer. The best dancer in the tribe. She wanted to keep the Flower in her name, hence, Enga Dancing Flower.

Maybe I should answer the larger question. Where did the Neanderthal tribe, who call themselves the Hamapa, come from? It is totally my fault that they find themselves in what is now North America. My life-long fascination with all things ancient compelled me to use that setting so I could include the wondrous mega-fauna from that time, about 35,000 years ago. I couldn’t resist the giant sloths, giant beavers, dire wolves, glyptodonts, saber tooth cats, mammoths of course, and many more. (The book, ICE AGE MAMMALS OF NORTH AMERICA: A Guide to the Big, the Hairy, and the Bizarre, helped to make them irresistible.)

Aside from residing where it’s probable that they never did (but it’s also possible, just barely!), this tribe and the others are drawn as faithfully to modern research as I can. It’s hard to keep up, though, because new discoveries are constantly being made, and new theories being posited. Just the other day, a baby wooly mammoth emerged from the permafrost in the Canadian Yukon, almost perfectly preserved!

Enga’s twin eventually became Ung Strong Arm when she turned out to be one of the best spear throwers. The Hamapa are matriarchal and the woman are the spear throwers since they are patient and accurate. The strong males are charged with hauling back the large pieces of the kills. Seems fair to me.

How about the names Enga and Ung? Believe me, everything had to be thought out for these books. I studied linguistics to learn what the easiest sounds are, the least complicated. It was thought, for some time, that Neanderthals had no speech capabilities, but that has been shot down for theories that they probably did. I took the middle ground. They can speak, but rarely do. And when they do, they use the sounds that young children and people with speech problems find easy to make.

That’s where Enga Dancing Flower came from. Where is she going? When the leader of the tribe is murdered in the first book, Enga is clever enough, with the help of a juvenile male named Jeek, to figure out who the murderer is. The tribe values her dancing as well as her problem-solving skills. You know, if you read mysteries, that more people will be murdered, and Enga and Jeek will have to uncover more clues, facts, and culprits.

The second book is DEATH ON THE TREK, and DEATH IN THE NEW LAND is the latest.

Enga Dancing Flower and her tribe have reached a place they can stay in safety. Or have they?

It’s clear the groups of other settlers in the area do not want more neighbors, and this is made even more evident when a male of Enga’s tribe is murdered, and a baby is kidnapped.

The future of the tribe is immediately put into question. Can Enga and her people find the killer and rescue the baby? Or will the security and bright future the tribe has dreamed of fall to pieces?

Buy links

Paperback from Untreed Reads (discounted here)

Ebook from Untreed Reads (discounted here, too)


Barnes & Noble

Also available through Ingram

Kaye George, award-winning novelist and short-story writer, writes cozy and traditional mysteries and a prehistory series, which are both traditionally and self-published: two cozy series, Fat Cat and Vintage Sweets; two traditionals featuring Cressa Carraway and Imogene Duckworthy; and the People of the Wind prehistory Neanderthal mysteries,  Over 50 short stories have also appeared, mostly in anthologies and magazines. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and writes a column for Mysterical-E. She lives in Knoxville TN.

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Here’s where you can connect with me if you haven’t already:

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Prehistory Writers and Readers Campfire:

Cozy Town Sleuths (on the 4th of the month)

Smoking Guns E TN chapter of Sisters in Crime:

Guest Blogger ~ Joanna Fitzpatrick

When Do You Know You’re Going to Write Not Just One Mystery But a Series?

My first foray into writing mysteries was when I sat cross-legged around a Brownies’ campfire and told scary stories between bites of melting marshmellows. I held the girls’ attention with tales of monsters putting hairy arms through car windows and grabbing the bare necks of young girls cowering in the backseats. I loved adding details that made the other Brownies squirm.

Then as Virginia Woolf famously said, “life interrupted.”  My dream of being a writer was put on the back burner where it simmered for many years. The next opportunity to become a writer did not happen until, at age fifty, the record company I worked for was sold and I invested my windfall in my first love‑‑Literature.

After achieving a bachelor’s degree at SUNY, I was accepted at Sarah Lawrence College where I earned an MFA in creative writing. My thesis was a memoir on growing up as a Hollywood hippie. 

My first published book was a historical novel based on the life of the short story writer Katherine Mansfield.  My second novel The Drummer’s Widow was a contemporary novel about an older woman reinventing her life after her husband’s sudden death. I thought my third novel would be another genre. Or maybe return to that widow’s story in New York.

This was my state of mind when my husband and I moved to a mountaintop ranch in northern California for creative peace and quiet. The ranch’s tack room was converted into my writing studio. But I had severe writers’ block and I couldn’t find the nerve to begin another novel.

Then, remembering my writing teachers always telling me to write what I read, I signed up for an online mystery class at Stanford.

My great aunt Ada Belle came down from the heavens and offered her career as a painter for inspiration. In the 1920s, she’d lived in a women’s artist colony in our local town, Carmel-by-the-Sea. My research into this historical village opened a rich vein to explore as a storyteller. Characters started showing up in my studio and we worked together to plot a mystery. The Artist Colony became my third novel.

And now it’s published and I’m back to that dreaded moment when you’re between books and wondering if you really have the stamina to write another knowing how steep the metaphorical mountain is to climb before you reach the top and say “The End”. Or maybe not the end if I write a sequel, but is it too late to do that?

I’ve been told by those in the mystery-writing trade that if you’re going to write a sequel then you should know that before you start the first book. But recently I was speaking to a well-respected writing coach who said, “There are no rules other than write what you want to write as it is you who will have to devote a massive amount of time to get the job done.”

“Stop procrastinating!” added my amateur sleuth Sarah Cunningham. She is dying to step out from the written pages of The Artist Colony to solve a new mystery.

With this literary encouragement, I started making scenes in a small medieval village in southern France where I spend my summers. How marvelous to stroll on its cobblestone streets accompanied by my characters; sleuth Sarah, her Irish companion Rosie, and the ever popular dog-tective Albert. There are many unlit narrow streets where murder and mystery beckons me.

Ah yes, I can feel my heart quicken with suspenseful plots and spicy characters. I guess it’s time to get to work on that sequel.


I’d love to hear from other mystery writers as to when they decided to write a series? From the beginning or, like me, after you finished one mystery and you and your readers missed your characters so much that you brought them back to life again. And a question to mystery readers? Do you want to know before you start a mystery whether there are going to be sequels? And will it influence your decision to read the mystery if it’s a one-off rather than a series?

In Joanna FitzPatrick’s gripping new novel, set in 1924, Sarah Cunningham, a young Modernist painter, arrives in Carmel-by-the-Sea from Paris to bury her estranged older sister, Ada Belle. En route, she is horrified to learn that Ada Belle’s suspicious death is a suicide. But why kill herself? Ada Belle’s reputation was growing: her plein air paintings regularly sold out, and she was about to show her portraits for the first time, which would have catapulted her career.


Barnes & Noble


JOANNA FITZPATRICK was raised in Hollywood. She started her writing habit by applying her orange fountain pen and a wild imagination to screenplays, which led her early on to produce the film White Lilacs and Pink Champagne. Accepted at Sarah Lawrence College, she wrote her MFA thesis Sha La La: Live for Today about her life as a Hollywood hippie. Her more recent work includes two novels, Katherine Mansfield, Bronze Winner of the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in Historical Fiction, and The Drummer’s WidowThe Artist Colony, Gold Winner of the 2022 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in Mystery, is her third book. Presently, FitzPatrick divides her time between a cottage by the sea in Pacific Grove, California and a hameau in rural southern France where she begins all her book projects. 

Author website:

It’s All in the Details by Karen Shughart

Even in fiction, it’s important that some details are correct, especially in a murder mystery when describing an investigation and its resolution when the killer is captured. While the plot, setting, and characters can be a complete figment of the imagination, there’s got to be some accuracy when describing the measures taken to solve the crime.

Our communities offer many resources to those of us who write mysteries, among them sheriffs and police personnel, district attorneys, public defenders, prosecutors, and judges. Having access to these experts and being willing to learn from them adds a level of authenticity to our stories, and hopefully results in more reader satisfaction.  I’m fortunate that these professionals have been available to me when I’ve had questions.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

There’s wiggle room, of course, but when investigators on TV are trying to solve a crime and get DNA results in an hour, that’s not how it really works. Although technology has evolved, and today it’s possible for a speedier turnaround time- sometimes in as little as six hours-I try and stick as much to the facts as possible.

I’m working on Murder at Freedom Hill right now, the third is the series of Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mysteries.  In the last two books, the crimes were solved without my needing to provide precise details of what followed after the murderer was apprehended. This time around it’s a bit more complicated.

I’ve realized as I’ve been writing this book that my knowledge of some those procedures is a bit rusty, and I wanted to clarify the steps that must occur from arrest to sentencing, the difference between probation and parole, and the circumstances that permit the defense attorney to make a deal. A few weeks ago, I met with our county’s district attorney.  We spent about an hour together, and after, I went home and revised some sections of the book for clarity, although I must admit that I fudged a few of the details to mesh better with the story.

 The women and men who work at various levels of law enforcement and in criminal justice professions are a valuable resource to those of us who write mysteries. They help provide a framework that allows us to create a book that weaves fantasy and reality into a believable plot.

Guest Blogger ~ Dominique Daoust

Why I write cozy mysteries

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I felt like I had to prove I was a dedicated reader by opening the pages of the classics.  But regardless of how many times I forced myself, I simply couldn’t connect with them, they weren’t for me.  And why bother reading something during your free time if you didn’t enjoy it?

After some trial and error, I finally zoned in on what I liked.  I’m a big fan of mysteries and thrillers, historical fiction, true crime and other non-fiction like biographies.  They all bring something to the table that resonates with how my brain works.  I love the twists and turns of a good thriller, the time travelling in historical fiction, the stark realness of true crime, and the revelations of biographies.  My Goodreads TBR list exclusively contains those genres, but there’s one more I recently added.

I think it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone when I say the past few years have been rough.  Other than cuddling my pets and watching reality television (big shout out to RuPaul’s Drag Race!), the only other thing that kept me mentally afloat was my newfound discovery of cozy mysteries.  The laid-back, small-town settings, the quirky characters and pets, the element of mystery that still pulled me in even though it was lighthearted.  It opened my world to a whole subgenre of mystery I could enjoy without it feeling so harsh and heavy.  And who knew there were so many categories!  Cafes, bookstores, gardening, vineyards?  Cozies basically cover every hobby and profession in existence and it’s perfect (cheers to London Lovett and Vivien Chien!).

When I finally decided to start writing, choosing the genre was a no-brainer.  I could include elements I like from all the other genres I’ve been reading for years and wrap them up in a cozy little package.  My goal wasn’t to create a new classic but rather write some fun mysteries that people can enjoy.  Not only did it relieve the pressure and expectations of the end result, but they were a blast to write! 

With The Deadly Exclusives Trilogy, I’ve incorporated a setting and job I’m familiar with, all wrapped up in a historical period I’ve been obsessed with for years.  I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, my first job was as a maid and I studied journalism.  And I’ve watched so many 1930s movies on the Turner Classic Movies channel that I can’t keep count.  I doubt any genre other than a cozy mystery could quite capture the tone I wanted. 

Many cozies have brightened my days and I sure hope my trilogy can do the same for others.   

Secret sources have a whole new meaning.

Newbie reporter Rita Larose is tired of getting assigned boring stories at one of Montreal’s most popular newspapers. It’s 1930 after all, women don’t need to only write about household chores anymore! But when a high hat socialite gossips about the New Year’s Eve party at the Bonne Nuit Hotel, a riveting mystery falls right into Rita’s lap. This is her chance to prove to herself and her underestimating colleagues that she has what it takes to write the hard-hitting articles.

While going undercover as a maid to get the scoop, Rita will soon discover unexpected friendships and an unusual gift of her own to contend with. Will she be able to juggle this newfound ability while not blowing her cover and jeopardizing her career-making article?

Purchase here:

Dominique Daoust is the author of The Deadly Exclusives Trilogy. She is a journalism graduate from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. When not reading or writing, she likes to do yoga, drink margaritas, incessantly quote Friends and listen to rap while doing mundane household chores.

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