Meet Paul Austin Ardoin

Paul is the first of the Brozy Authors you are going to meet. If you missed the last post, Brozy Authors write light, entertaining whodunit cozy mysteries that appeal to more traditional male interest. Either by the chief character being male or the story line taking a more masculine turn (think book store owner vs biker). If you haven’t tried a brozy, then you’re in for a whole new adventure!

Meet Paul Austin Ardoin

Why do you write “Brozy”?
I’ve loved mystery stories ever since I was a little kid—Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew. When I was in junior high, I burned through most of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels.
As an adult, I’ve absolutely loved the Kinsey Milhone and Stephanie Plum books. Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich don’t write cozies, but neither do they write blood-and-gore thrillers. Their protagonists are smart, savvy professionals who are highly competent but don’t take themselves too seriously. Their books hint at darker themes without being disturbing, and their books have a lot of humor without being silly or absurd.
I majored in creative writing in college, and spent years trying to write literary fiction. In my forties, I realized I needed to change gears to write the books like the ones I love reading… and that’s why I find myself writing in this genre. I’ve often heard it called “soft-boiled” or “traditional,” but so often “traditional” means “British,” and my mysteries are set in California.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve wanted to be a novelist ever since I can remember. I majored in creative writing in college and published a few short stories, but I was never able to finish a novel. When I turned 45, I realized that if I wanted to call myself a novelist, I actually had to finish a novel.I re-started writing The Reluctant Coroner for National Novel Writing Month in 2017, and I promised myself that no matter what, I’d finish the book—even if I thought it was horrible or unsalvageable. And about two-thirds of the way through, I realized it needed to be written in third person, not first person. Before, that would have been enough for me to abandon the book, but I remembered the promise I’d made to myself. So I finished the book. It was a painful process to rewrite the whole thing in third person, but at the end, I’d finished what eventually became my debut novel.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting?
I’ve gotten some valuable advice over the years. The most valuable thing is to finish what you start. Many writers have a few half-finished novels—some have dozens! Promising yourself you’re going to finish and then actually finishing is the most valuable thing I’ve ever learned. As Jodi Picoult says, “You can’t edit a blank page.” But editing a bad novel and making it good is possible, and usually way less painful than starting over.
One more piece of advice: write 200 words every day. NaNoWriMo was great to get my first book going, but it’s 1,600-plus words a day is daunting. 200 words, though, is usually fifteen or twenty minutes, and it’s something you can do even at the end of a busy day or at the end of your lunch break. Sometimes I find that I don’t want to write at all, but then I force myself to write those 200 words—and I get into a groove before those 200 words are up. Suddenly, three hours will have passed in an instant and I’ll have written 4,000 words.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
My wife was looking into becoming a nursing student, and she began to research careers in the field. In California where we live (and in several other U.S. states), an MD isn’t required to be a coroner. I started thinking about what would lead a nurse to become a coroner, and came up with Fenway Stevenson. A lot of the personality of Fenway and her father came from the simple idea that a father would insist on naming his daughter after his favorite team’s home stadium (for those of you who aren’t baseball fans, the Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park).
When I started writing The Reluctant Coroner, all I had was the character of Fenway, the character of her father, and the identity of the murderer. I didn’t even know who the victim was when I began the first chapter! But as I wrote, both the plot and characters began to take shape. Many times, something would happen in the plot that surprised me—not as I was writing it, but just before it took shape. Quite often, these plot threads would take the story in an entirely different direction, or would turn an extremely minor character into a strong secondary character.
What time of the day do you usually write?
Before the pandemic, I used to travel a lot for work, and would often find myself with 20 minutes waiting for my flight to board, or back in my hotel room after a business dinner, and I’d take that spare time to write. I listen to “The Bestseller Experiment” podcast, and bestselling author Shannon Mayer discussed how working authors don’t have time to “wait” for their Muse—they have to grab their Muse by the horns and wrestle it to the ground and insist that inspiration come immediately. So I don’t wait for a time of day to write or a seat at my favorite coffee place to open up. I can write anywhere at any time.
Most often, I’m in my home office at my desk, but I’ll take fifteen minutes at lunch, grab an hour before work, or wake up early on a weekend to write.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Unlike 85% to 90% of the population, I don’t have an internal monologue. I don’t think in complete sentences—my thoughts are more nebulous, and it’s like they unspool when they transform into words that come out of my mouth or off my fingertips onto the keyboard. As a result, my first three novels had early drafts that were littered with “filtering words” or “distancing words,” instead of the free direct narration that most readers prefer—and that give books a sense of immediacy. (These are phrases like “she saw the car drive away,” “she decided to get up,” or “she realized she needed to tell him the truth,” instead of the much more direct “the car drove away,” “she got up,” or “she told him the truth.”) I used these filtering words because it’s the way I experience the world, and the direct narration felt fake to me. My editor is the one who made me realize that I’m the odd duck—that free and direct narration is much more effective. This last novel, number six, was the first in which I didn’t overuse filtering words—and as a result, it had the least amount of red ink coming back from the editor.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Many writers I know couldn’t write anything when the pandemic first started and the world closed down. For me, writing was the only thing that took my mind off everything horrible that was happening in the world. Because I don’t have an internal monologue, I could unspool the thoughts that made me write my book instead of unspooling the thoughts that led me into anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips because my brain is weird like that.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written six novels in this series and a novella of one of the secondary characters 25 years before the start of the first book. I always feel like the last book I’ve written is my favorite. Often, it’s because I’ve challenged myself to do something I wasn’t sure I could do—for instance, Book 5, The Courtroom Coroner, is what TV people call a “bottle episode”: it all happens in a single room without people coming or going. Currently, my new release, The Watchful Coroner, is my favorite because I can see the progress my characters have made along their arcs, and it’s very satisfying to see it.
When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh for both your readers and also you?
Fenway Stevenson’s character arc is the thing that keeps me fresh. She’s at a different point in her relationship with 1) her father, 2) her main love interest, and 3) her job as coroner in every single book. It feels natural to me that she’d progress (and sometimes regress) in the way she has.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Rarely have I ever been inspired by a true-crime headline, but I have taken ideas from situations I’ve experienced in the past—with a murder overlaid. For example, I was in a Shakespeare troupe in college, very similar to the North American Shakespeare Guild in Book 4, The Upstaged Coroner. While none of the characters (except the director) were based on real people, the intensity of the rehearsals, the camaraderie of the company, and the emotions that the play brought to light are the things I hope I translated to the pages of the book.
Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?
Not many readers have noticed this, but Fenway—who has a difficult and strained relationship with her father—never calls him “Dad” except to his face. When talking about him, she always says “my father.” This changes at some point in the series… and for readers of the books, it’s probably obvious where it is and what the catalyst of the change is.
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
I’ve started on Book 7, The Accused Coroner, and it will wrap up some of the longer arcs in the series. I plan to go on to write at least two more Fenway Stevenson novels after this and maybe more.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
I have ideas for three other book series. One is about a private investigator who’s at the center of a 12-book series of interconnected crimes called Murders of Substance. One follows a secondary character from Fenway Stevenson Book 2, The Incumbent Coroner, and the investigations she spearheads. And one has another estranged father/daughter duo as the main characters, on the run from federal agents after being set up for a crime they didn’t commit. I hope to start one of those series after writing book 7 in the Fenway series.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Even in my late teens and early twenties, most of my protagonists were women, and I’ve always been told I have a good sense of narrative voice when my main character is female. I’m not sure why, but I did take one of those Marcus Buckingham “First Discover Your Strengths” tests, and I’m high in empathy. Perhaps I find it easier than most people to put myself in another person’s shoes? The one thing that DOES get me, though, is giving Fenway believable reactions in certain situations. For example, Fenway had a tough conversation with a co-worker, and walked home in the twilight from her co-worker’s apartment to hers—about two miles, with her headphones in listening to music. My critique group POUNCED on that—there’s no way, no matter how safe the neighborhood, that a woman walking by herself at night would do it with headphones in. Fenway is half-Black, too, and there were a bunch of things about basic day-to-day stuff like hair care that I had to be told to go research because I was getting it wrong.
What was your hardest scene to write?
In an early scene The Reluctant Coroner, Fenway’s assistant gets a little tipsy and then confesses that the murder victim sexually assaulted her two days before his death. The scene in which she talks about what he did was by far the hardest scene I ever had to write. Part of it was because of the disturbing subject matter (although it’s relatively tame compared to many thrillers), but part of it was also because I hadn’t ever written anything like that before. I hadn’t plotted that scene out, either—it was a complete surprise to me that she confessed it to Fenway. I couldn’t write another word in the book for three days afterward, and probably only started again because it was during NaNoWriMo and I was getting behind on my words.

The first book in the Fenway Stevenson Mystery series, The Reluctant Coroner, is free (at least until October 1) on all major e-book retailers: www.books2read.com/fenway1

Book 6 in the series, The Watchful Coroner, is available September 22: www.books2read.com/fenway6

The easiest place to find Paul’s books: www.books2read.com/rl/fenway
You can also locate all of them at www.paulaustinardoin.com


A Word about Brozy Mysteries

Before I continue with the next round of author interviews, I’d like to introduce you to a new genre of cozy mystery. I’m really excited about this new group of books and authors and think you will too. 

618wJ54PwWL._US230_Meet Kent Halloway…

Kent Holloway started a Facebook group to get the word out about Brozy Mysteries, and that is how I found him and the genre. You’d be surprised at the authors who are getting on board with this movement.  So, without further ado, here is Kent’s introduction to the Brozy Mystery Movement.

Brozies! Brozies! Brozies! Why Won’t This Guy Shut Up About Brozies?

By J. Kent Holloway

Short answer to the blog post title: Probably not. At least for quite a while anyway. In fact, you’re probably going to see me talking more and more on the topic of brozy mystery. The beautiful thing is, you’re probably going to start seeing a lot more people talking about it in the blogosphere as well. The reason? It’s catching on. It’s becoming a thing. It’s building momentum. More and more authors are jumping on board. And it’s beautiful.

On a personal level, I’m not likely to stop talking about brozies for another reason. You see, after nearly ten years of writing across all spectrums of genres (thrillers, pulp, adventure, horror, and fantasy), I finally found my niche. The problem was, my niche didn’t have a clearly defined genre. It was mystery, sure. It was clean. No foul language. No sex (barely any romance at all). I was too clean for straight up mysteries. But my books were too masculine-centric to find a comfortable place among the frills and cupcakes of the cozy genre too (heck, when I mentioned wanting to write cozy mysteries, my own mother had the audacity to ask, “Aren’t they a little girly for you?” She was actually embarrassed by the prospect, and rightly so, I think. I don’t do cats or tea parties. I don’t do book clubs and baking. I don’t do florists or caterers.

​I do mystery and adventure. I do mystery and jungles. I do mystery and voodoo. I do mystery and lost treasures. I do…well, you get the point.

So, I ventured forth to build a genre that best suited my own particular brand of cozy mystery…the brozy mystery. It was a female fan and reader who came up with the name, by the way. And, as you’d expect, it isn’t without its controversies. I’ve been labeled a misogynist and sexist for even suggesting such a thing. The reason is easy to understand. The word ‘bro’ carries with it a certain derogatory connotation by many. To these people, it harbors visions of frat guys and douchebags who womanize and cheat and lie to get what they want. To me, the word ‘bro’ carries with it another ideal. That of ‘brotherhood’. Brotherhood conjures up concepts such as bravery, loyalty, being steadfast. I think of rugged exceptionalism (another bad word to some in this day and age). Of heroic deeds. It conjures images of knights in shining armor, Buck Rogers, and Indiana Jones. Good guys (whether male or female) wearing white hats and villains wearing black.

Brozies to me appeal to interests that are traditionally more masculine in nature. Spies, race car drivers, stunt men, adventurers, archaeologists, space cadets. Guys are more interested in Star Wars than they are the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. They’re more interested in football than in crafts. They want stories that excite and pump up the adrenaline. I know a lot of women who want this too, by the way. I can’t tell you the number of messages I’ve received recently from female readers who’ve thanked me for spearing-heading this. Women who just can’t take another cupcake recipe in the back of a mystery (their words, not mine).

Sexist or not, men are less inclined to read books that appear catered to the female reader (I know there are some exceptions because I’m one of them). It’s also true that die-hard readers of cozies (in the form they are now in) aren’t open to more masculine interests (i.e. a futuristic space cozy).

I know this because I’ve recently come across a male writer, Richard Dee, who created a fantastic cozy mystery series called the Andorra Pett series which is set on Saturn. All sorts of fun sci-fi tropes, many which are retro. It originally featured a female sleuth with cute traditionally cozy covers, but yet, according to the author, it’s been difficult to find traction. (He’s recently revamped the covers for a more brozy vibe.) Traditional cozy readers are slow to accept new concepts, especially those that are set in the future in space. So Richard was most pleased to find out little group of Brozy enthusiasts who are looking to change the literary (or at least, cozy) world.

There are other mystery authors out there who are a little more grounded in our world. Recently, I’ve discovered Colin Conway and his Brody Steele series. I’m currently reading book one, Cozy Up to Death, and it’s so much fun. The book (series) takes the cozy mystery and turns it up on its ears. The protagonist is an ex-biker enforcer. But he’s currently in witness protection. And he’s forced to own and run a bookstore (check off one cozy trope). The bookstore has a cat (check another cozy trope), and of course, our hero is not a cat person. But a biker-sleuth? Unheard of! And awesome! And funny. And clean as a whistle (although I’ve never known why whistles are supposed to be clean).

And if you subscribe to my newsletter, you already read my interview with John Gaspard and learned about his fantastic Eli Marks Mysteries. In them, Eli Marks, a typical guy with all the problems guys have, is a professional stage magician. He’s not the best. He’s not the worst. But he makes a good living at it, as well as the magic shop he and his uncle run. But of course, Eli stumbles on bodies quite frequently and uses his skills to help solve murders and other crimes. There’s not a crotchet stick or recipe anywhere to be found. But guys love magic. So it’s awesome, and I consider it a brozy. I’m just not sure it appeals to the classic cozy reader.

That’s why this brozy genre is so important. So people can find these books easier. The dream is to have you, the reader, simply type ‘brozy mystery’ into Amazon’s database and be presented with all the amazing mysteries that guys (and ladies who like more manly tropes in their books) will love all in the one place. By the way, try it. Try searching for ‘brozy mysteries’ in Amazon. Once you bypass Amazon’s spellcheck procedure trying to switch things to ‘cozy’, you’ll already be presented with several books whose authors believe to be perfect for the brozy mystery genre.

This is an exciting time to be a writer! An exciting time to be a fan of clean mysteries with more manly appeals. I hope you’ll embrace the dream, and join us on this journey! Oh, by the way, if you’re interested in learning more, go to Facebook and join our Brozy Mysteries R Us group. We’d love to have you!

whats a brozy

Meet Rachel Rivers

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m watching the birds and squirrels from my window trying to outsmart each other in their attempts to get to the peanuts I put out on the table for them. So far, the Blue Jays are winning. I’m excited for you to meet our next author, so let’s get right to it!

Rachel Rivers Meet Rachel Rivers…

Rachel writes light-hearted cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist. Her books are on Kindle and in Kindle Unlimited. You can find out all about her series, Hex Falls Paranormal Cozy Mysteries on her Amazon Author Page.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
Life, friends, family, my father.

Plotter or Pantser?
Plotter for sure.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write what you love… but make sure it has an audience if you expect to make any money. If you don’t care about money…write what you love and be happy.

How long have you been writing?
Seriously, for about 12 years. But I’ve actually been writing since I was eight, hoping to get serious.

How do you handle writer’s block?
People are going to hate this, but I don’t get writer’s block. I always have ideas. I’m always able to write. Living long enough to write all of my ideas is my biggest concern.

How do you come up with the titles to your books?
A lot of brainstorming! LOL And help from my nineteen-year-old.

Describe a typical writing day.
I’m up at 6:15, let the dogs out, shower, typically make tea, and sit down at my desk by no later than 6:45. I then write non-stop until about 11:30, when I usually break to eat, talk to a writing friend, then head back into my second session of writing from around 1:00 to 3:30ish pm. Then it’s dinner and marketing, marketing, marketing from 7:00 to 9:30 pm as I watch TV, and that’s it! Writing-wise. Phew! Enough, right?

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
Full-time. As you can tell by my schedule above.

What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part of the writing journey?
My favorite part is hearing from fans. People who have enjoyed or being moved, in some positive way, by my stories. That’s what makes me happiest. My least favorite part is composing Chapter Ones. Chapter One is always the hardest for me to get right. It always feels like it’s being dragged out of me.

810LLPcjXuL._AC_US218_.Hopeless Pocus

51twjIANYPLBedknobs & Broom Hilda Sticks

rachel rivers2   Be sure to visit Rachel’s website!

 

Have you ever heard of a Brozy Mystery? Be sure to watch for my next post, and you can find out all about them!

Victoria LK Williams

Want to connect?  Click on this link to find your favorite social site…
https://linktr.ee/VictoriaLKWilliams

Meet LeAnna Shields

As I write this post, I can look out my window and see the clouds racing by, getting darker with each hour. We are under a hurricane warning and the storm is supposed to skim the Florida coastline. It’s not a powerful storm, but only the first of the season for us. A foretaste of the rest of the season. If you are also in the storm’s path, I wish you safety.

713P-ym5n2L._US230_Meet LeAnna…

LeAnna writes Fantasy or genres and is now beginning to write Cosy Mysteries.  You can find her books on Amazon, in the Kindle Unlimited program. Check out her Amazon Author Page. 

106168126_282987426382532_5712767051706947355_nThe Art of the Facts

83426156_589746001947698_960977683472909502_nSparx of Suspicion 

 

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for 10+ years. Well, that’s how long I’ve been published, I think I’ve been writing for 20+ years. I started writing in Highschool during my homeschool free time. I started with Star Wars Fan Fiction, but when a friend of mine saw my writing her critique pushed me to create my own characters. That eventually lead to my current mystery books. One is called the Art of Facts and the other is called Sparx of Suspicion. The Art of Facts is a 1920’s steampunk-themed cozy that features an African American Archaeology Professor. Sparx is a contemporary mythic themed cozy that features a Native American elf named Sabiya Feathercroft.

How do you handle writer’s block?
Sometimes music helps. When I was writing my Mystic Ranch Mysteries, I was struggling to get a feel for Sabiya’s (my MC) personality until I came across a song featuring Lindsey Sterling called Something Wild. Really, it’s one that focuses more on Sabiya’s love interest Bridger Kane, but through his eyes, I was able to get a lens on Sabiya. With Art of Facts, I had a playlist of techno swing music. Bands like Caravan Palace.

How do you come up with the titles to your books?
Sparx of Suspicion came to me because Sabiya’s best friend in the book runs a coffee shop called Sparx. The Art of Facts came to me from the fact that the MC Maxine deals with out of place artifacts in the book.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
Oh, that’s tough, Sabiya would have to be played by a Native American Actress. Bridger… well, Josh Gates could probably do it.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
For Mystic Ranch, I draw my inspiration from mythology and folklore. Sabiya is a Canoti (Sioux elf), Bridger is a male Sprite, Lexiana (Sabiya’s best friend) is a centaur, and so is Cyrus (who raised Sabiya like his own daughter after hers died when she was thirteen). My world is full of mythics just leading ordinary lives. That is, until murder strikes. A lot of the inspiration for The Art of Facts came from watching old movies.

LeAnna’s Closing Comments
As you can see, I write a little of everything, but I love the mystery genre right now. And My closing words for you are don’t limit your creativity by what might or might not sell. If you can write it somewhere out there is someone who will read it and love it. You might be the starting point for a future writer. Have a great day, stay safe, and as I say on my podcast Keep Cozy.

I have to add how much I love LeAnna’s covers! I look forward to reading her books.

Victoria LK Williams

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