Wrap a Scarf Around It!

Edith/Maddie here, so happy to welcome my fellow novella writers to the blog!

Christmas Scarf Murder releases tomorrow, and the three of us thought we’d share our thoughts on the difference between writing a novella and writing a full-length book. Read down for a three-book giveaway!

Carlene O’Connor: *Absolutely no scarves were harmed during the writing of CHRISTMAS SCARF MURDER.

What’s the difference between a novel and a novella? A novella is shorter. The End. Cued canned-laughter and symbol-smash. A novella is around 32,000 to 50,000 words as opposed to a novel which ranges from 75,000 words to 125,000 words. Okay, all the boring stuff is out of the way. Are novellas limited in theme, or scope? No, I don’t feel limited. Do I have less suspects? You would think I would— but looking at my work, I still have around four to six suspects, although some get cleared sooner in the novellas. I tend to “loosen up” a bit with my approach to the novellas. Employ a “let’s just have fun” attitude, which is the secret of writing anything. Since we are given the method of murder— the first thing I consider is — who was murdered with a scarf, how, and why?

For “Christmas Scarf Murder” I wanted a fun tradition that is found in Ireland. For this one I decided to go with a Christmas Tractor Parade. When I lived on a houseboat in Seattle I always loved their Christmas boat parade, lights twinkling as they motored up and down Lake Union. It’s the same with the tractor parade— tractors lit up in Christmas lights parading down the street at night— how fun. That is of course unless something nefarious occurs, say, a long ugly Christmas scarf that gets caught in a tractor wheel…

Writing something short without sacrificing quality, can be daunting. As Mark Twain put it: “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” It can be much easier to ramble on. But I like the challenge of a novella, and the change of pace. It is also fun to be given the same theme as the other writers, knowing they’ll soon come together in a fun anthology. (Shout out here to Maddie Day and Peggy Erhart). On release day it’s triple the celebration! That’s a wrap. I hope you enjoy the novellas as much as I do. And if you receive a lovely (or ugly) scarf for Christmas, do be careful whilst wearing it! Happy Christmas!

Peggy Ehrhart: The Knit & Nibble novellas I’ve written for Kensington’s holiday novella collections differ from the full-length books in ways obvious and not so obvious. Of course the novellas are shorter—each is about a third as long as a typical book in the series. Therefore I’ve given each novella only one murder, whereas the books usually have two. And the novellas have fewer suspects, because my sleuths have less time to work through and reject red herrings.

In the full-length Knit & Nibbles, the knit and nibble knitting club usually meets three times, with the first meeting very near the beginning of the book. The club members are an eccentric and opinionated group, and their discussions at the meetings offer me a chance to lay out aspects of the mystery and keep the reader posted on my sleuths’ progress or lack thereof. The third meeting usually happens at the end, and it gives my chief sleuth, Pamela Paterson, a chance to explain to her fellow knitters how she unraveled the mystery and identified the killer. Since the meetings always include coffee, tea, and dessert, the festive mood lends a celebratory feel to the last meeting, appropriate to the fact that with the killer brought to justice, order has now been restored.

The biggest difference between the novellas and the full-length books, however, is this. The Knit & Nibble series features an ongoing romantic subplot, presented in installments book by book: Will my sleuth, young widow Pamela Paterson, find love again? Individual books often include dramatic scenes in which hopes are raised—or dashed. It occurred to me when I was invited to contribute my first Knit & Nibble novella to Kensington’s 2020 Christmas collection, Christmas Card Murder, that the novella, “Death of Christmas Card Crafter,” might be a reader’s first experience with the Knit & Nibble series. So I decided to pause the romantic subplot in that one and in “Death by Christmas Scarf.” The reader might hear references to or meet current or past romantic possibilities but no progress is made in the novellas toward answering the crucial question of Pamela’s romantic destiny.

Maddie Day: Thanks, Carlene and Peggy! I can’t wait to read your contributions. I never hesitate to say Yes when my editor asks if I can write another novella, even though my schedule is always full, because … short. Mine have been about 25,000 words, and it simply doesn’t take as long to craft something that short, Mark Twain nothwithstanding. Like Carlene, I don’t find that I use fewer suspects. But similar to a short story, I need to make sure every character counts. I don’t name anyone who doesn’t play an important role in the book. Unlike Peggy, I haven’t thought about pausing a particular subplot for the novella. Maybe I should!

This novella is another in the Country Store Mysteries series, so I did have to figure out how to slide the story into book time between the published and to-be published books. This time it worked well. Batter Off Dead took place in July, and the next book, Four Leaf Cleaver (now up for preorder and on NetGalley!), is a St. Patrick’s Day story. Fitting in a Christmas novella was easy.

Another tricky part is the theme we share, Christmas Scarf. Hmm. At first I wanted to write a tale of someone meeting their end because they ate too fast. Scarfed down their food, so to speak. Editor says, “No, no, it has to be death by an actual scarf.” Back to the drawing board! But I figured it out, even though my contribution to the collection stayed titled “Scarfed Down.”

We hope you love our stories, and if you do, a short positive review is always a big help to the author.

Readers: What’s your favorite holiday garment, scarf or otherwise? Kensington will send a book each to three of you!

Carlene O’Connor is the USA Today bestselling author of The Irish Village Mysteries, and the acclaimed Home to Ireland Series, and soon the County Kerry Mysteries. Her mysteries have also been published in the UK, Germany, and Estonia. The Irish Village Mysteries have been optioned for television. She can be reached at https://carleneoconnor.net or https://www.facebook.com/CarleneOConnormysteries/.

Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor who currently writes the Knit & Nibble mystery series for Kensington. The eighth book in the series, Death of a Knit Wit, appeared in March and her Christmas novella, Death by Christmas Scarf, is included in Kensington’s just-released Christmas Scarf Murder. Her amateur sleuth, Pamela Paterson, is the founder of the Knit & Nibble knitting club, and Peggy herself is a devoted crafter. Visit her at www.PeggyEhrhart.com

70 Thoughts

  1. I love hearing how your stories come together. My favorite holiday garment is a hat, which will keep me body warm.

  2. I like novellas! Seems to be less “fluff” to them, more cutting to the chase. My favorite Christmas garment is a big warm holiday-themed sweater (not ugly though lol), got some sparkle going on!

  3. Thank you for the post sharing your thoughts and processes on writing Christmas novellas. It’s never too early to think Christmas! My favorite part isn’t an article of clothing, it’s the trimming of the Christmas tree 🎄 with the family ornaments (some now antiques) that have been collected over many years. The music 🎶 plays on, the twinkling lights are strung, each ornament is carefully hung, then the cocoa and cookies 🍪 are served. The magic of the season begins!
    Best wishes to the authors on their latest anthology!

  4. Having read an advance copy of the anthology, I can say that I did quite enjoy it overall. Plus more adventures featuring Robbie Jordan and Siobhan O’Sullivan are always good. I had not prior experience with Peggy Ehrhart’s Knit & Knibble series but ended up liking that one as well.

  5. The previous Cocoa novella’s is how i discovered Carlene and Maddie’s books and have read every one since. My favorite Holiday garment is a pair of snow flake gloves and matching hat scarf my daughter knitted for me 3 years ago

  6. I’m looking forward to reading this holiday novella with such a great theme. My favorite holiday accessory is my red cowboy boots! Love wearing them during holiday gatherings.

  7. My favorite Christmas knit is a scarf. If your neck is covered you will be warmer. Plus they are fun to knit fast but rewarding.

  8. For it, it’s all about the fun sweaters. I’m an in between gal where I don’t want just a plain holiday sweater, but I don’t necessarily want one that would win the ugly sweater contest either. It’s a time when you can be a bit more playful and colorful and get away with it. They are just fun to wear. They make both the person that happens to see you in it and you as the wearer both smile. And hey can’t we all us more smiles in our day!

    Congratulations on the release of “Christmas Scarf Murder”! Can’t wait for the opportunity to read this fabulous book that’s been on my TBR list since it was first discussed. Thank you for the chance to win a copy. Shared, but hoping to be one of the fortunate ones selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  9. I have a beautiful very dark blue sweatshirt that a friend embroidered with an elaborate silver tree. It’s gorgeous and very comfy.

  10. Great hearing about your approaches and congrats on the new collection! My favorite holiday garmet would have to be either a warm sweater or a soft and fuzzy sweatshirt. Gotta stay warm while it snow swirls outside!

  11. My favorite holiday garment is a holiday jumper made out of a poinsettia printed material I bought at a Kristkindle Mkt years and years ago. It has nice big pockets and looks great with a green, red, blue or white mock turtleneck. Being poinsettia print, I can wear it from Thanksgiving through new years. It feels festive and it’s so pretty, it makes me feel happy. I’m currently reading the Christmas Cocoa Murder novellas. I’d sure love to get this new one! Congratulations to all three of you!

  12. The new novella collection sounds wonderful, I look forward to reading it! My favorite winter garments are scarves and gloves, but specifically for the holidays my favorites are sweaters and tee shirts with holiday motifs.

  13. Somehow I seem to have acquired a few cute winter hats, plus I have two holiday shirts with cats that I like. And I’m working on a sweater at the moment so it’ll hopefully be ready for winter- I think I’ll end up with at least one knit one and one crocheted one since I have a few different patterns I want to try.

  14. Congratulations to all three of you! Looks like a fun book. I’ve always loved a good holiday sweater but my favorite holiday “garment” is actually jewelry. Love my collection of snowflake jewelry – it reminds me of growing up in Massachusetts. Best of luck with the book – I look forward to checking it out.

  15. Congratulations on the release Maddie, Carlene, and Peggy! I love writing these novellas, which I usually structure more like a short story than a mystery novel-i.e. not so much a whodunnit, but a what-is-going-on-here and how-will-she-figure-it-out. I got a Ross hunting plaid scarf when we were in Scotland this summer, which I suspect will become an important Christmas accessory this year.

  16. My favorite holiday garment is a sweater or a new Christmas pin. Or, maybe the sweater with the pin. Love Christmas jewelry.

  17. As a reader, I am not a fan of novellas. I wait for and look forward to each new book in the series I enjoy but always feel cheated of time with my friends/characters when it is a novella. I rarely purchase one for that reason.

  18. My favorite holiday accessory is my felted slippers. My Sister makes them and they are so warm and comfy. I make sure I always have an extra pair on hand.

  19. My favorite Christmas garment is a felt vest my father made and wore. With a red felt front and a red sateen back,, he decorated it with Christmas and winter symbols cut our of various colors of felt – a decorated Christmas tree, a snowman, an ornament, a snow flake, and a candy cane. He was an elementary school art supervisor and always wore the vest into classrooms in December. When he retired, I inherited it!

  20. I live in Florida so my favorite holiday garment is usually a Christmas themed T-shirt but during a cold front I will break out one of my holiday sweaters.

  21. I have Christmas pins that I try to make sure I wear during the season, also listen to all my Christmas albums. I love all your series so looking forward to the book.

  22. As a desert dweller. we don’t usually get too cold here, so my favorite Christmas “attire” is my handmade crystal Christmas tree earrings. Love them and love the idea of these novellas. I find the idea of novellas perfect for the holiday season. Easier to read in three sittings! Thanks for the insight into your processes.

  23. My Ugg boots with the fleece lining are my favorite winter items to wear along with vintage Christmas brooches on a festive vest and light up earrings. When they let me out of the nursing home. And that all depends.

  24. I guess my favorite Christmas wear are tops, dressier than t-shirs, but not necessarily blouses. I have several, and it’s hard to pick my favorite. But I can, and do, wear these with jeans, nicer slacks, skirts. I don’t have any Christmas sweaters but think I would certainly enjoy wearing them.

    I don’t mind reading novellas, and sometimes I choose one for the reading time factor. But full-length cozies are not hard or time-consuming reading. I just really enjoy cozies, both for the mysteries and the characters, and the ‘clean,’ usually light-hearted, situations.

    I’ve read all three of these authors, and enjoy my time reading their stories.

  25. I would have to say my gloves. My hands are always cold. Thank you so much for the opportunity. God bless you.

  26. Actually, I use to wear a Blue Sweatshirt with Is It Christmas Yet with a Green Cat and a stocking on one of his ears. And my one thing with the cold season is definitely a warm jacket and gloves.

  27. My favorite Christmas garment would have to be the cap that I wear. It’s the one that is supposed to be worn by Santa’s elves. I am sure you know the kind that I am talking about because it’s very common.

  28. My favorite Christmas garment would be a sweater, and not even any particular one! Just being cool enough to wear a sweater is a reason to celebrate in Phoenix! Congratulations on your newest novellas!

  29. The book sounds like fun. Mostly I like full sized books, but I like novellas sometimes, particularly if it’s by an author I’m not familiar with. I have a couple of Christmas sweatshirts I’m fond of. They both have horses on them.

  30. This is a much-anticipated book in our household! The Christmas theme is always fascinating when selecting cozy mysteries, and if they are by beloved writers…well, there are no second thoughts!!! I have a large plastic bin full of Christmas attire I have collected…for me there are no “ugly” Christmas sweaters…who thought of that? My favorite sweater is one with Christmas trees with blinking lights, and my favorite hat is a Santa hat that has coils on tip and a white pompon at the end, so when you walk, it bounces 🙂 I have such fun…and my adult son has the same hat, so we sing and dance and monkey around to amuse the grandkids…Oh joy! Thank you for the opportunity to enter this contest. You are all brilliant!!!!! Luis at ole dot travel

  31. I enjoy novella collections in part because they often lead me to authors I hadn’t read whose work is put in front of me right beside that of a familiar author.
    My favorite holiday attire is a knit shirt decorated with prints of bright red cardinals.

  32. An heavy cotton Christmas sweater that has birdhouses with Christmas stockings knitted into it. I really CAN’T wear it anytime except December.

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