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I don't have many boundaries on my reading material. I dislike graphic violence. I may occasionally head for a legal thriller or a procedural, but mostly I stick with my cozies. I think that you have a comfortable blend in your writing. And I think that you may be right about Dame Agatha chuckling.

Yes, I definitely have limits to what I'll read. I don't like to be in the mind of a sadistic killer. (Of course, I don't like to be bored either.)

I just finished reading a book that pushed the cozy limits with everyone's language, including the amateur sleuth's. But it had all the other attributes of a cozy plus the chapter-ending hooks of a thriller. Definitely a good read, but perhaps I'd have enjoyed it more with a bit less "language."

I don't agree that with a police procedural or other professional sleuth that the puzzle part of the mystery goes away. I think they're just two different ways of presenting a mystery, both with their own Aha! moments and the reader can still try to figure out whodunnit.

Few things annoy me more than a member of a writer's group begin a critique with "I usually don't read books like this."

As Duke Ellington said, "There are two kinds of music - good music and bad music."

Good writing is good writing. As our friend Ray Banks might say, "All the rest is fuck all, innit?"

I want to thank everyone who stops by today to comment. Everyone who does will be entered into a contest for a free autographed set of Claire Hanover gift basket designer books.

And if you comment on other stops of my blog tour, you'll be entered into the contest, too. The schedule is at:

Tomorrow I will be at Jen's Book Thoughts:

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Thanks, everyone, and I'm looking forward to the discussion here today!

I agree with Karen that police procedurals or PI novels can be a puzzle mystery, too, as long as the DNA processing takes a long time so the sleuth figures out whodunnit first and the DNA match is just used to confirm the sleuth's deduction. Other types of forensics can support the investigation, but the focus has to be on the "tiny gray cells" of the sleuth's brain, as Hercules Poirot likes to say. :)

As for David's comment, unfortunately I can't stomach reading rape, torture or child abuse scenes no matter how well-written they are. I'm willing to sample all kinds of genres and characters, but I don't want to be kept up at night with nightmares. The curse of an overactive imagination!

I read a lot of different genres: cozy and historical mysteries, science fiction, romance, and literary. I just like to know what I'm going to read, which is why I like books categorized. I know what to expect from a cozy as opposed to a thriller.

Okay, I don't read much horror for the same reason as you Beth. Too active an imagination that keeps me awake. Akk!

I am usually turned off by vampires, even in romances and mysteries, and fantasies. I feel it's a waste of time (bad me!) But I'm sure there are worthy vampire books out there. Surely they are not in cozies! Imagine a cozy vampire mystery! Anything's possible. What do you think, Beth?

I had no idea what the definition of a cozy mystery was (though I'm very familiar with the tea-cozy). This was a fascinating article.

As to what I'd read - almost anything. What I'd choose to read? Well, cozy mysteries definitely feature high in that list. My sons think I'd choose to read almost anything, but I'm really not keen on explicit plumbing, excessive swearing, gratuitous pain, bad guys that always win, or art for art's sake.

A vampire cozy. Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series started out that way, but now is more Urban Fantasy. But each story has a mystery at its core.

Like Holly Y, I am totally turned off by Vampires. AND while I like Fantasy, I prefer that it be a Fantasy, not a murder mystery.
I love a good "cozy" and for myself consider them more the paperback book with the domestic touch (needlework, crafting, minatures, cooking ETC...)so very tea and cookies in my PJ's, after that, the rest of the mysteries are more like wine and cheese to champagne and hors d'oeuvres. In other words, more like business attire to formal dress...

Interesting post and explanation of cozy mysteries.

I pretty much agree with everyone else. Don't like gratuitious violence, nor graphic plumbing descriptions. Just give me enough to make it interesting!


Well, Sheila beat me to the answer of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series as a vampire mystery series. Another amusing series with a vampire detective is the Felix Gomez series written by Mario Acevedo, starting with The Nymphos of Rocky Flats. They are definitely not cozies, though!

Vampires and the like, rape and child abuse are big turnoffs.

I agree with the comment that good writing is good writing, no matter what the genre may be.
With regards to pushing boundaries within this genre... I'd rather they weren't in general. If I'm reading a cozy that's what I want. I don't want it to be a Procedural, and I don't want too much graphic anything. I want the fun of solving the whodunnit without becoming emotionally attatched to any of the characters; and without having to worry about the graphic nature of the book. Keep Cozy's cozy!

There IS a true vampire cozy...they're set in a little village in England, and the sleuth/vampire writes best selling romance novels under a name not hsi own. But I can't remember the author's name. They definitely fall on the lighter side of cozies.

In general, though, I'm a genre slut. I'll read anything from cereal boxes to Gray's Anatomy (the textbook, not the tv show).
I'll read stuff that's a little bit graphic or gory, depending on how it's done, but absolutely nothing involving violence against children.


The only limit I have on my reading list is the Bad Writing genre. I don't care if the story or characters are interesting in concept, if there's too much passive language, over the top descriptions, bad dialogue, etc. I can't read it. Which is why I still haven't read any of the Twilight books.

-oops, did I say that out loud?

Gayle Carline

I'm inclined to agree with the person who said 'good writing' is the main attraction.
I happen to like the fact traditional/cozy writers are stretching the boundaries. Many cozies are just too mild and far-removed from reality to hold my attention. There are exceptions, like Beth and Caroline Graham and some others. But they happen to stretch those boundaries.
I don't mean to imply we have to have blood and guts and sex on every page. But I want to smell them enough to realize 'this could actually happen.'

I like that, J.R.! May my mysteries always smell... ;)

Dean James writes the English vampire cozies about Simon Kirby-Jones. He also writes for Berkley Prime Crime under a couple of different pseudonyms: the Trailer Park series as Jimmie Ruth Evans, and the Bridge series as, I think, Honor Hartman. Unless it's Honor Harrington. One of those is a character in David Weber's sci-fi series, and I can't keep them straight.

For what it's worth, I don't enjoy vampires much either, but both Nancy Haddock's 'La Vida Vampire' and Molly Harper's 'Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs' are sort of cozy mysteries with vampire sleuths, and quite a lot of fun, for their genre.

Hi Beth!
I have never placed limits on what I read--I read everything and anything that comes to my hand, and I spend a lot of time at it.
But it took years for me to take the limits off my writing. While I don't write cozies (my crime fiction tends toward hardboiled, noir, and horror) the same questions about character, profanity, sex and violence apply.
My choices are mostly story driven, but some are personal prejudice. I don't care for profanity, so I don't use it unless the character insists- I try to keep the dialogue natural. Besides, my word choices get under the reader's skin without it.
I use explicit sex in my stories- usually much more horrific than prurient. But why show it if it's not important to the story in some way? I don't talk about how my character drives a car unless there is a reason to do so.
I have a hard time writing a character that is all good or all bad. My most evil characters tear at the heartstrings. My best characters can be weak and selfish.
I don't like to use violence to manipulate the reader. You can tear the reader apart by killing a dog, or a baby, but it's a cheap shot and no way to build a following.
---Yours, William M. Brock

Graphic violence and horror are two things that will almost always make me drop a book - and never pick it up again. But that's more my taste than any sense of censoring out 'objectionable' content, just that I don't like or enjoy reading that kind of stuff!

All success
Think, Write & Retire

William Brock does indeed write some genuinely creepy, excellent, excellent dark stuff. If you're into that, I highly recommend his short stories!

And genre categories are not meant to censor, just to help readers identify the type of fiction they enjoy, so they can enjoy more of the same. There's all types of people in the world and all types of fiction, but I'm cozy with my cozies! Off to bed with one now...
- Beth

I think if you don't inject a little reality into your cozy, that after awhile, it can become a little surreal. (How is it possible that everyone that Miss Marbles comes in contact with in her very small bucolic town ends up dead? Maybe she's the murderer!) I am a huge fan of Carolyn Hart, especially the Death on Demand mysteries, which are very classically cozy. However, I was also thrilled when the recent series entry, Dead Days of Summer, I was happy to have some of that grittiness added into the cozy equation...I read everything really, but I love mysteries and teen books best. I enjoy books that stretch their boundaries and also those that refuse to be classified or pigeonholed, although I think sometimes this lack of being able to place them in a certain shelf in a bookstore or library can hurt their ability to find an audience.

Thanks so much for guest blogging, Beth. You raised a lot of great points, and a healthy discussion is good for all writers and readers - be they cozy, hard boiled or somewhere in between.

Good luck with the release of To Hell In a Handbasket!

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