There are a lot of bonuses to being a writer. Take today. Without leaving my office, I got to go on an early morning car chase on Highway 92, a scenic route over the coastal mountains of California. Highway 92 leads to a lot of nifty places, such as the Pacific Ocean and a darling little town called Half Moon Bay. True, the car chase may have only been in my mind, but it was pretty exciting. And a total relief, especially with what’s going on in the world now.
Following my protagonist and her hubby, I wound up at a Christmas tree farm. There I got to watch among other things, these two charmers sabotage the getaway helicopter of the villains. They were outnumbered and it was a close call, of course, but things were set right in the end. As I tagged along with them, the sun came up on a glorious day in a glorious part of the world. I said to myself, I said, “Self, this is the joy of writing a cozy. You know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and there’s going to be a happy ending, because it’s all up to you.” Self was happy.
On top of that, I got to do research. I love doing research. I learned things, such as different fuels for a helicopter (there are two kinds, depending on the engine), if the windshield can be penetrated by a bullet (yes), and how the rotating blades taking the copter up, up, and away actually do it (too detailed to go into). Today my life was in the building, maintenance, and aerodynamics of a helicopter on a Christmas tree farm near Half Moon Bay and little else.
Of course, I would have to come back to reality now and then to feed the cat, hubby, make the bed, disinfect anything that came into the house, go for a brief walk, and make dinner. But still, parts of my day were absolutely marvelous. I may be a crazy writer, but I LOVE what I do for a living. Even when I don’t make much of a living at it. Money comes and goes. Sometimes I sail along, sometimes I’m dashed to the rocks.
But then, I never became a writer because of the moola. It’s the lure of things like car chases over Highway 92, foiling the bad guy, and winning the day at a Christmas tree farm. You just can’t get jobs like that every day, no matter what the pay.
Hi, I’m Ann Charles and I write the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, which has a spicy mixture of mystery, paranormal, humor, and romance.
One of the questions that I am asked periodically by fans of this series is how I came up with my heroine—Violet Parker. They often want to know if I based her off someone I know; or, if I am the real Violet and she’s based on me since we both have two kids, a boy and a girl.
Before I talk about the “how” in relation to Violet, let me tell you a little about her. At the start of this eleven-books-and-growing series, she is in her mid-thirties and a single mother with nine-year-old fraternal twins whose father was basically a sperm donor. She’s semi-recently moved to the small town of Deadwood, South Dakota to live with her Aunt Zoe and is trying her hand at a new career—real estate. Unfortunately, little girls are disappearing in the area and her daughter could be next, so she finds herself trying to hunt down a kidnapper while struggling to make her first sale and keep her little family alive and afloat.
Lucky for me, my experiences with motherhood are nothing like Violet’s. However, she and I do share a sense of humor, parenting exasperations, and a fondness of family and friends. We also are softies for crusty old men who make us laugh at their colorful and often unchecked ways.
Violet Parker came to me one day while I was visiting my mom, who lives in the Deadwood area. I was pregnant with my second child and driving around town when the thought came to me—what would it be like to be a single mom trying to raise two kids here. At the time, the economy was struggling a little and the big gold mine in the area had closed down, so jobs were hard to come by, especially for a thirty-something woman with a family to support. From the start, I knew Violet and I would be good friends because we kept sharing the same jokes about different characters as they came on the page, and we found ourselves wincing at our children’s antics.
I loved creating a character based on so many strong women I knew over the years who were raising kids on their own. They were my heroes, and I wanted Violet to represent them in different ways, so that we could all cheer her on whether it was for her successes in her career, crime solving, or love. Like so many of us regular women, I wanted her to be curvier than most, have wild hair (literally and figuratively), and make mistakes along the way. BUT, she would be funny and charming and full of love for her family and friends.
From this mishmash of thoughts and experiences, Violet Parker was born, and so was the Deadwood Mystery series.
Ann Charles’s books are available as ebook, print book, and audiobooks for individuals, bookstores, libraries, etc. You can find her books on all of the usual major vendor sites: Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Ingram, Audible, and Overdrive, as well as many others. You can also find links to her books on her website: http://www.anncharles.com
Book 11 in the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, DEVIL DAYS IN DEADWOOD, will be available for pre-order at the end of April with a release date near the end of May. (With this crazy virus mucking up the works both online and offline, Ann isn’t giving set dates at this time.)
USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy mysteries full of comedy, adventure, suspense, romance, and paranormal mayhem. She currently has five on-going series in the works and is often daydreaming of starting a sixth series, but she needs to master the art of cloning first. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.
I’m a romance author. Historical western, contemporary, even a little erotic; romance is my genre. So, imagine my surprise – and frankly, horror – when I awoke one morning with the idea for a mystery rolling around in my brain. At first, I wasn’t sure of the intricacies of the story. Would it be a thriller? A police procedural? Crime fiction? I sat down, opened a new Word doc, began typing, and that’s when it became clear – cozy mystery. The genre had chosen me.
Writing a cozy mystery is worlds apart from penning a romance, but I dove in, repeatedly reminding myself that the focus of the story was not the romantic interaction between my main character and her love interest, but rather the clues and intrigue leading the pair to solve the mystery. And that’s where the fun began. As a new-to-me genre, I harbored no preconceived notions about how to write the story; instead, I allowed the words to tumble onto the page at will, each one building on the next to thicken the plot and guide the characters to discover not only the who, but the why, how, and where.
On the subject of characters, their development in my cozy mystery – it’s titled Finn-agled, by the way – came about differently than how I usually create them. I’d explain it if I could, but even as an author, I don’t know exactly how to put into words the process. They simply originated in my brain in their own unique way and demanded that I bring them alive on the page. They’re pesky, that way.
If interrogated, and under threat of never again being allowed access to my Netflix password, I’d admit that certain aspects of Finn Bartusiak’s personality (she’s the main character and star of the show) mirror my own. She lives in a seaside town (I grew up three miles from the ocean), she’s quirky, fiercely loyal to those she loves, her hair frizzes in humid weather, and she has more than her share of ‘squirrel’ moments.
What was I saying?
Oh, right; our similarities. Like Finn, I adore a great pierogi – though I’m only half-Polish and she’s full-blooded – and we both own Basset Hounds who are follicly-challenged. And, while the most complex mystery I’ve ever solved was locating my keys, I like to think that should one present itself, I’d be up to the challenge. How hard can it be?
To my faithful readers who love romance, not to worry. My romantic streak is firmly intact (I have several ideas for future romance stories floating around in my gray matter), but now that cozies have taken hold, it’s safe to say they’re not going anywhere either.
After all, the genre did choose me. 😊
A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school. There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.
Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters. But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message. There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.
It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first book. Sixteen books in multiple genres later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.
When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order), reads, or binge-watches Netflix.
The mystery? Why is it, then, that the leading lady of the cozy
mystery today is a baby-faced, early career, 30-something, rather than a
mature, perhaps somewhat disgruntled, widowed or divorced, half-retired woman
of 50+ years?
I turned 60 this year, and I read like a demon, devouring
novels like M&M’s. Why, I wondered, was my feisty generation—all prime
readers for Pete’s sake—so invisible in women’s mystery fiction today?
OK, so the term “baby boomer lit” has gotten a bad rap. Much
of that is justified. The indie market is awash with badly written “boomer” novels
that feature highly forgettable “senior sleuths,” seeking second chances in the
confines of gated retirement villages.
Too much of this lit pounds home a “sundowner” theme – think
cancer, moving into assisted living, fighting over men with competing ladies in
Leisure Village – OR a “second chance” theme. Think “widower dares to date
again” or “the search for the one that got away.”
Problem. I don’t see my life as in need of “second chances.”
I see it as more of what it always has been: a bit of a hair-raising adventure.
Why not, I thought, write about cantankerous, every day women who are aging,
but who are also busy having a go at life, every morning, pretty much as they
Oldsters are as varied as youngsters (really, they are). Being
of the mind that if there’s a problem it’s my responsibility to engineer a solution
– a great notion from the 70’s when I first hit the road out of high school —
I began to create a new crime comedy series loaded with oldsters of all
In my new amateur detective series, The Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, the protagonists are lifelong
gal pals, ages 67 and 71, living in small town Indiana. They share a house, a
1960 Chevy, and reluctant custody of grown children who still reside in their
One in particular (Veenie) has been a lifelong snoop. The
other (Ruby Jane) has great computer skills. For them, the decision to punch a
time clock post-retirement as sleuths with the Harry Shades Detective Agency is
as much a way to exercise their curiosity as it is a path to supplementing their
Back in the 90’s the TV drama “Golden Girls,” about older widowed
and divorced women sharing a home and laughter, broke through ageism to show
that the closing chapters of life can be as varied and exciting as the
beginning and middle. I believe that there remains pent up demand for older,
feisty women characters in the cozy mystery niche.
My goal in creating the Shady
Hoosier Detective Agency, with Book 3, The Chickenlandia Mystery, coming out as this is posted, is to update
the cozy to better serve publishing’s core reading demographic by creating
books that mirror the more diverse evolving lives of Boomer women like me.
Like all publishing undertakings, it is up to the cosmos to
decide if the series will find a readership, but a few stars do seem to be
aligning. The Shady Hoosiers’ debut
book, Ghost Busting Mystery, has
thus far won three Best Indie Humor Book Awards and two Best Indie Cozy Mystery
In the end, I write what I want to read. There has never
been a more active, curious, diverse, witty, kick-ass generation of women. Why
not gift ourselves leisure reading that reflects this?
Daisy Pettles was born in southern Indiana, in a tiny river
town. As a child, she was fed a steady diet of books, pies, and Bible stories.
Her debut cozy series, the Shady Hoosier
Detective Agency, crime comedies set in fictional Pawpaw County, Indiana,
won the 2019 Gold Medal as Best Humor Book from the Indie Reader, The Next
Generation Indie Book Awards, and the American Fiction Awards. Visit her
anytime at https://www.daisypettles.com