Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Cozy Writer to Thriller Writer in a Single Penstroke

 I’m what you call a “cozy” mystery writer. That means I write mysteries that don’t contain any on-page sex, violence, or bad language. The worst “crime” a cozy writer can commit is harming an animal, especially a cat. We’re allowed to “kill” bad people, bratty teenagers, and the like, but if that cat so much as loses a whisker, our books will never be read in this town again.

Some would question “Why read a cozy at all, if there’s no sex, violence or bad language?” but the cozy mystery has many fans who prefer solving the puzzle to skimming the grit. Plus, there’s almost always a love interest, and creating that particular character fulfills any writer’s fantasy. My love interests are usually men who have the minds of poets and the bodies of construction workers. Naturally my husband thinks he’s the role model for this fantasy man, in spite of the fact that he has the mind of a construction worker and the body of a poet. Let’s not spoil it for him…

So yes, I write cozies, and while some authors who write in the genre prefer to call themselves “traditional,” the word “cozy” suits me fine. I like the idea of a reader curling up by a fire (on “burn allowable” days, of course), sipping a cup of tea (perhaps with a splash of vodka), and petting the lap cat (rescued, naturally), while reading my book.

Now imagine my surprise when I was asked to participate in the prestigious San Francisco Writers Conference next weekend. I immediately looked up the list of speakers. Oh my goodness (as they say in cozy mysteries.) Lisa See (Dreams of Joy). Ellen Sussman (French Lessons.)  Lolly Winston (Happiness Sold Separately). Michael Krasny (KQED, Spiritual Envy). 

What was a little old cozy writer doing in a literary place like this?
Being awestruck, like everyone other reader and writer, that’s what.

I looked up my assignment, skimming past the incredible lineup of workshops like,  “Putting your passion on the page,” “Crafting wickedly effective prose,” “Designing a killer online promotion plan,” and the essential “Getting paid to write your book.” Those are workshops I needed to attend!

And then I saw it: My panel. “BLOOD MONEY: Writing Thrillers and Crime Fiction.” I was to be sandwiched between bestselling thriller writers Robert Dugoni (Murder One) and Sheldon Siegel (Perfect Alibi). Wha-what? Granted it was the perfect sandwich, being right in the middle of two handsome men who could easily have played the parts of my love interests in my cozy novels. But I don’t write thrillers. I was out of my league with my terribly cozy How to Party with a Killer Vampire.    
I emailed back the people in charge. “Are you sure you don’t want me on a nice little cozy panel? Or perhaps a workshop on writing for kids, since my no-sex, no-violence, no-cursing novels are perfect for the eight-to-12-year-old set?”

“Oh, we’re putting you on the writing-for-kids panel too,” came the response. “And as for being ‘sandwiched’ between Bob and Sheldon, you’re more like the baloney in the middle.”

Ha. Apparently, I’m to be the comic relief. Still sounds cozy to me.

The San Francisco Writers Conference runs Thursday, February 16 through Sunday, February 19 at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. For more information go to



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