Monday, November 3, 2014

Cozy--In Writing and In Life

Fall seems to have taken its sweet time arriving here in southern New Mexico. The trees are still holding on to their leaves and many of them are still green. A warm sweater or jacket is welcome in the mornings and evenings, but a short-sleeved t-shirt feels just fine in the middle of the day. And a bowl of hearty stew sounds perfect for dinner, but for lunch, something much lighter feels called for.

Still, there's one word I find myself using to describe this time of year, and that's "cozy". Whatever your definition of cozy might be, here's mine:

The smell of pumpkin bread baking.

The crackle of a fire in a woodstove or fireplace.

A hand-crocheted afghan.

Marshmallows melting in a swirl of hot cocoa.

The glow of a porch light as you pull into the driveway after dark.

These are just a few things that I use to describe "cozy", but they all convey the same idea: "cozy" means something familiar, comforting, welcoming. A feeling of being home in a place you love and where you feel loved.

It was no accident that the mysteries I write are labeled "cozies". There are many genres of books and many sub-genres as well. I write mysteries, but they aren't police procedurals, or thrillers, or suspense. They are cozies. What, exactly, does that mean?

Well, for one thing, they generally take place in a location that feels very much like one's ideal of a home should be. Many times they take place in a small town, like my Black Horse Campground series does, and the mysteries involve a cast of characters that can be best (or worst) described as ordinary people. Of course, "ordinary" can be a compliment or an insult, but many "ordinary" people are actually quite extraordinary or do extraordinary things. That's what makes them so interesting.

Also, in cozies, there is usually a rather large cast of characters that the reader becomes familiar with; in fact, they become old friends, in the sense that the reader knows exactly how they're going to react in a given situation and which ones will be helpful, which ones won't, which ones are good for a laugh, and which ones make you grit your teeth in frustration. Very much like real life, right?

That, really, seems to be the defining feature of cozies--reading them seems to be like reading about your own life, your own home. Even before I began writing my stories, I looked forward to reading stories like them. When I'd see a new title in a cozy series, I'd be as excited as someone who had just booked a trip home for the holidays. It meant that soon I'd be in a place that was familiar and comfortable, with people I knew well and who knew me. That I'd soon be very much involved in the lives of those people and following the events of their day-to-day life as a problem would appear and we (myself included) would band together to solve it and restore order and peace to our little corner of the world.

Soon, I hope, I'll be booking (pun intended!) a trip back to Bonney County for my readers and I hope they are just as eager for the visit as I am.

Happy November, everyone!


  1. I didn't even know that "cozy" was a genre; but now that I do, I can tell you that cozy books are my favorite kind to read. And now that I'm going to have time to read more, I need to see what's going on with my old friends at the Black Horse Campground. Time to finally order No Lifeguard on Duty. Heading over to Amazon now!

    1. Thanks so much, Laura! I hope you enjoy it! And, psst, hey... that guy that posted a comment below? Check out his books... I think you'll like them!

  2. We share the same notion of cozy--the warmth feels good and an interesting book that grabs you and holds on makes it even cozier.

    1. Indeed, John! Your books, "The Year Without Christmas" and "Healer" are what I call "cozies" (even if they aren't mysteries) and give me that same feeling of being "at home" (and since I'm making introductions, if you get a chance, check out Laura Pearl's coming-of-age novel "Finding Grace"! I'm blessed to have you both as favorite authors and friends!)