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1974 Flashback

The setting for the first book in the Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery Series, Write Place, Wrong Time, is a small Midwestern town in 1974. I figured getting the details about the time period would be easy, right? After all, I was a college student in the Midwest in the 70s. All I had to do was Flashback and voilà.

But wait…

Flash Forward—the past and the present are all tangled. Did we have waterproof mascara back then (I ask as if I am talking about the dark ages)? And yes, we did-whew! It was invented in 1938 and improved in the 1960s.

Or when Michelle, the main character, goes to the vending machine to buy a diet soft drink—did she get a Diet Coke? (No, my memory failed me. Diet Coke wasn’t introduced until 1982. I had to make a change in the manuscript to Tab, which was the best-selling diet cola in the 70s and 80s.)

Other tidbits:

  • Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough” was released on May 10, 1974.
  • In 1974, the academic year at Bowling Green State University (the University of Petersburg is loosely based on BGSU) was divided into three quarters of approximately 11 weeks each.
  • The Viet Nam war was nearing its end.
  • All the President’s Men was published on June 15, 1974.
  • President Richard Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974.
  • A reference to “Sister Golden Hair” by America had to be deleted—it wasn’t released until 1975.
  • Cassette players were first added to car dashboards in 1968 and remained popular through the 80s. By 2010, they were a thing of the past.
  • The movie referenced by Michelle’s mother on October 14, 1974, was Yours, Mine, and Ours starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. And, yes, it really was on NBC that night at nine o’clock.
  • Rotary phones and typewriters were a thing.
  • Pop-Tarts were introduced in 1964 in four flavors: Apple Currant Jelly, Strawberry, Blueberry, and Brown Sugar-Cinnamon. In 1967, the line-up added four flavors of frosted Pop-Tarts: Dutch-Apple, Concord Grape, Raspberry, and Brown Sugar-Cinnamon.

(Tentative release date for Write Place, Wrong Time is late summer 2023)

cozy mystery, featured, cozy mystery, The Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery series

CoVid Encounters

After two years of evading the dreadful CoVid virus, it finally caught up with me, and for the last two weeks, we have been inseparable—not the best of friends, but constant companions nonetheless.

For the first ten days, I must admit, I could not have cared less if The Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery Series ever saw the light of day. She and her friends from the commuter lounge were on their own to solve the mysteries around them as whatever energy I had to guide them along was gone. I mentally placed Michelle and the Commuter Lounge Gang on the back shelf and wondered if we would ever meet again.

And then it happened. A spark. An idea. The promise of a better tomorrow. Suddenly, it became imperative that the mystery series became more than words on my laptop, but words to be shared with those who love a good, cozy mystery because life is too short not to be entertained with a story that you can read and won’t make you jump at the shadows you see during the night or worry that the world will end before you wake. A story that can make you smile or laugh or forget about the 24-hour news cycle is a story worth writing and a story worth sharing.

With the virus almost behind me, I am excited to look ahead to the future and announce the tentative release dates for the first three books in the Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery Series.

  • Write Place, Wrong Time (Book One)— July 2023

An entertaining academic cozy mystery set in 1974 as a group of friends from the university’s commuter lounge band together to find a professor’s murderer.

The year is 1974, and University of Petersburg’s sophomore Michelle Kilpatrick’s world is turned upside down. After receiving a low grade on her writing assignment and learning she has been paired with the arrogant author-turned-grad student, Craig Miller, for the final project, Michelle decides she must confront her journalism professor Anne Ladd.

Things go from bad to worse when Michelle finds her professor’s dead body. After Detective Douglas names Michelle as a person of interest in the murder, her friends at the Commuter Lounge pull their resources together to help Michelle clear her name. Digging in, Michelle discovers a plethora of family secrets that connect a mysterious death 20 years ago to the professor’s murder, the only problem is can she trust the people who know the truth, to be honest with her?

  • Fit to Die (Book Two) — mid-July 2023

December 1974. The joy of the holidays abruptly ends when an employee at the fitness center owned by Rick’s mother dies during the Open House. Michelle suspects the girl’s death was more than an accident, and she and her friends uncover a plethora of hidden motives to justify her suspicions — a jilted lover, a jealous business competitor, an angry beauty queen, and a questionable friendship.

  • A Princely Encounter (Book Three) — August 2023
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Christmas in May ?

The beginnings of a playlist

While Book One in the Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery Series, Write Place, Wrong Time is going through the final stages of editing, I have started Book Two — Fit to Die. Set in December 1974, I am listening to Christmas music for the book’s playlist. It does feel a bit strange to be listening to Christmas music just as the weather in the midwest is beginning to feel like summer. With birds chirping outside my window, I am listening to Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, lolz. I love Christmas, so it’s really rather fun to enjoy the best of both worlds — the holiday spirit and warm weather. I’ll just grab a sweater, sit near the air vent for the chill of the AC, and pretend like I’m in a secluded cabin in the woods. Sounds like a perfect day for writing!

cozy mystery, Developmental Editor, Michelle Kilpatrik mystery series

The Edit

It was with great fear and trepidation that I opened the long-awaited email from Shannon Cave, the developmental editor I had hired through reedsy.com. My biggest fear was that she would tell me, “Nice try, but have you thought about doing something else?”

I was beyond delighted that she liked my manuscript! And while she sent me pages and pages (I definitely got my money’s worth) of suggestions for tweaking characters and ramping up the tension, she stressed that my manuscript would be ready to submit by making these changes. Made my day!

Today I have started organizing her notes so I can start the rewriting process. My hope, fingers crossed, is to have this revision done by the end of April. Only time will tell if that is a realistic goal or not, but I’m pumped and ready to find out.

After this rewrite, I plan to have some Beta readers give it a once-over, make corrections, and then send the manuscript to either agents or publishers. That decision is next on my list.

With each passing day, Michelle Kilpatrick, the college student, is getting closer and closer to becoming a full-fledged cozy mystery crime-solving sleuth!

cozy mystery, Developmental Editor, Michelle Kilpatrik mystery series

Off and Reading

Sunday, I emailed my manuscript for WRITE PLACE, WRONG TIME (working title) to my developmental editor. Here’s crossing my fingers she doesn’t tell me not to quit my day job as I don’t have one, lolz. I will hear back from her in about four weeks.

While I’m waiting, I’ve started outlining Book Two but plan on taking a break for the next few weeks from murders and plot holes and zany characters, although there may be a few at my family gatherings – zany characters, that is, not murders.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and know that I wish each of you a happy new year!

cozy mystery, Developmental Editor, Michelle Kilpatrik mystery series

Yeah! I Hired An Editor

I finished my manuscript and am working on the sixth full edit. I know it still needs more work, but it is time for someone else to give it a thorough once over. So, I took a big step hired a professional editor for a developmental/copy edit. I looked on Reedsy and found an editor who had two things I was looking for: she has edited cozy mysteries and has a track record of her edited works being published. It cost me more than I wanted, but if she can help me take my book to the next level, it will be worth it!

When she completes the edit, I will receive:

  1. My manuscript with Track Changes in Microsoft Word, with in-line edits, comments, and suggestions.
  2. A Style Sheet, which includes a chart that tracks character appearance, timeline, location notes, spelling and hyphenation choices, etc., which I use to check for continuity as I edit.
  3. An Editorial Letter discussing story structure; goals, motivation, and conflict; writing clarity and mechanics; and characterizatioon.

My next goal is to finish with my current edit and submit it to her before Christmas. I should receive her edit and note by January 24th. Fingers crossed she doesn’t say, “Have you considered doing something else?” lolz

cozy mystery, Developmental Editor, Michelle Kilpatrik mystery series

Almost Ready (for the next step, that is)

I started my first cozy mystery in April 2021 and am now working on the final edit before taking the next step and sending it to a developmental editor. Writing the book was easy compared to navigating my way through the world of editors. 

When I first started this project, I wrongly assumed when I finished my book edits, I would either query an agent or a publisher who accepted manuscripts without an agent. I. Was. Wrong. Perhaps it is because agents and publishers are overwhelmed with queries and submissions and have smaller staff sizes than previously, but, regardless, they are not looking for a manuscript that needs a lot of attention no matter how great the storyline. They want one that is ready to hit the presses. Hence, the need for a set or several sets of professional eyes to look over a manuscript before submitting it. 

Now, the fun part. Determining what type of editor I need and then finding the best one to work with on my book. There are four types of editors who are used in the following order:

  • Editorial Assessment Editors
  • Developmental Editors
  • Copy Editors
  • Proofreading Editors

An Editorial Assessment is great when you are starting your book. The editor can help with the plot, characters, and general direction of the story. Since my manuscript is finished, I am moving to the step: Developmental Editing. 

A Developmental Editor provides feedback on the structure and style of the story, pacing, plot holes, characterization, inconsistencies, etc. They will offer suggestions about how to fix any problems. That is where I will begin.

My first thought was to submit my first 60 pages to a Developmental Editor to ensure I was on the right track. However, one editor gave me some valuable advice. She explained that the goal of a developmental edit is to take a look at the book as a whole and determine if there are issues with the plot, characterization, etc. Only looking at the first five chapters does not let them know if the book develops problems later on.

And she’s right! Although my original intent was to finish rewriting the rest of my manuscript while an editor looked over the beginning, that is not going to work. So, the new plan: Finish the revision of the entire manuscript while looking for a Developmental Editor. 

Whether shopping for new clothes or buying a new house, it is always helpful to know what you want. Besides wanting a Developmental Editor, what else do I want them to bring to our partnership?

My Developmental Editor Wish List:

  • Previous work within the last three years with my genre – cozy mysteries
  • Clients whose books were published with major publishing houses in the last three years
  • Clients whose books have ratings of 4 stars or more on Amazon
  • Good reviews from clients
  • A fee that fits my budget

Like all wish lists, there may be things I add along the way, but at least, I have a starting point. And now the search begins. I will keep you posted. 

cozy mystery

Discovering 1974 One Bite at a Time

Note: The first book in The Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery Series (working title) occurs at a mid-sized midwestern college and surrounding communities in 1974.

1974. President Nixon resigned. The UPC Bar Code was introduced. Flares were in, and polyester reigned supreme. The Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine” and Barbara Streisand’s “The Way We Were” were in the top five singles of 1974, while sit-coms All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Chico and The Man claimed the top three spots for the 74-75 season.

It was also the time when, in the midwest, pizza became mainstream. Yogurt was marketed as the new option for healthy eating and, I might add, for those who needed to lose a few pounds after eating all the pizza and McDonald’s new Egg McMuffin. A Jell-O Salad and a Tuna Casserole were standard-fare at family reunions, and no church function was complete without its version of a punch made with a quart of melted ice cream.

Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or simply want to step back in time, here are some recipes to help you capture 1974 one bite at a time.

Wacky Cake

Fondue

Watergate Salad

Jell-O Salad

Poke Cake

Banana Breeze No-Bake Pie

Cherry Breeze Cheesecake Pie

Punch with Vanilla Ice Cream

featured, cozy mystery, The Michelle Kilpatrick Mystery series

New Work in Progress

Yeah, the first draft of my debut cozy mystery novel is completed. I have sent it off to a few readers for their input and then the first of many revisions will begin. I am going to take a couple of weeks off from writing to reinvigorate my inner being. The biggest problem facing me is what to do first. Yikes! Design my dream house? Make my own sourdough bread? Study black and white photography techniques? My list goes on and on.

With the internet at our fingertips, I think the world of learning new things becomes daunting. There is just so much to learn and to explore. A lifetime hardly seems long enough and I think that is where life gets even more confusing. It is easy to become paralyzed and not make a decision when there are so many options in front of us and we fear making the wrong one, so we don’t make any at all.

Thank goodness for what I like to call the low-consequence decisions in life – those decisions that even if we make the wrong ones are not going to impact our lives negatively. Sometimes we just have to go with the decision that brings us the most joy at that moment in time. Maybe today I dig out my photography book and tomorrow I start my bread. The main thing is not what I decide to do, but rather is to decide to do something.