Welcome Alexis Morgan: When artwork goes bad

By Liz, excited to welcome Alexis Morgan! She’s talking about how she gets her ideas to keep the murders fresh in her Abby McCree Murders. Take it away, Alexis!

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing a cozy mystery is bringing something fresh to the party. Sometimes it’s an unusual location. At other times, it’s coming up with an unexpected twist in the plot, or choosing a murder weapon that hasn’t been done to death (pun sort of intended.) Across the first five books in my Abby McCree Murders series, I’ve done a little of all three of those things. 

I have worked hard to vary the locations. In the first book, Abby founds a body buried in her own backyard. In another, the victim dies during a 5K run. In another, the victim is murdered during a movie-in-the-park night in Snowberry Creek, the town where Abby and her friends live.

It’s always fun when it comes to choosing possible suspects for Abby to investigate. Despite her desire to avoid getting embroiled in police business, she can’t simply stand by and watch someone she cares about be accused of murder. Abby will go to extreme lengths to protect her friends and relatives.

When it comes to the weapon used, it has to be something that multiple characters would have been capable using, thereby making them all believable suspects. Having said that, the murder weapon in DEATH BY ARTS AND CRAFTS, the newest book in the series, is my absolute favorite—a fancy garden stake made of twisted wrought iron with a finial at the top encasing a blown glass ball.

I got the idea sitting in a friend’s backyard on a lovely summer day. I was admiring her landscaping and happened to notice several decorative yard stakes on display in and among the plants and bushes. I was immediately struck with the idea that you could really kill someone with one of those! Probably not the reaction most people would have had, but that’s how a writer’s mind sometimes works. ☺

That one thought quickly gave rise to the central premise of the plot: an artist is found murdered with a piece of his own work at a busy art fair. That meant multiple people would have to have reasons to be mad at the man, and each of them would have to be strong enough to skewer the guy in a fit of temper. After that, Abby would need a reason to get involved, so one of her best friends became one of the suspects. 

Once I had my victim, the murder weapon, and the cast of characters all lined up, then it was just a matter of deciding whodunit! And yes, that means sometimes I don’t know that answer until after I’m well into writing the book. 

As a mystery reader myself, I’m always trying to figure out who the guilty party is as I read the book. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes the writer manages to really surprise me.

That has me curious—how is your track record for guessing correctly before the author does the big reveal in the story? Readers, let me know in the comments! I’ll pick three random commenters for signed copies of DEATH BY ARTS AND CRAFTS (open to USA only).

Blurb:

When a killer’s handiwork threatens the Snowberry Creek arts community, Abby McCree starts looking for clues in her own murder investigation . . .

As the newest member of the Snowberry Creek City Council, Abby is picked to liaise between the council and the new planning committee for the town’s first ever arts and crafts fair. As far as gigs go, it’s a fun one—Abby’s spending the weekend tooling around Washington State, checking out similar fairs with her two besties, Bridey Roker, and Dayna Fisk.

As Abby spreads the word about Snowberry Creek’s fair, the trip feels like a glittering success. But then, someone is found murdered at one of the events and vendors begin disappearing amid suspicious circumstances. Abby resists getting drawn in until Dayna finds herself at the top of the suspect list. Now, Abby must weave the clues together and clear her friend’s name before the killer claims another victim—maybe even Abby herself . .

Bio:

USA Today bestselling author Alexis Morgan has always loved reading and now spends her days creating worlds filled with strong heroes and gutsy heroines. She is the author of over fifty novels, novellas, and short stories that span a wide variety of genres: American West historicals; paranormal and fantasy romances; cozy mysteries; and contemporary romances. More information about her books can be found on her website.   

40 Thoughts

  1. Welcome Alexis. I do try to guess and I’m more than 60% correct on my guess, although when I’m wrong, it’s something I missed that was staring right at me.

  2. I’m not so good at figuring out the culprit! Then, at the end, I’m usually thinking “Ohhhh yeah!” That’s the fun of mysteries for me. And I appreciate writer’s efforts to find unusual methods of murder.

  3. I’m not so good at figuring out the culprit! Then, at the end, I’m usually thinking “Ohhhh yeah!” That’s the fun of mysteries for me. And I appreciate writer’s efforts to find unusual methods of murder.

  4. Sometimes I am right but most of the time I am surprised by who did it. Those are the books that I love the most. I like being wrong. Thank you so much for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

  5. I’m definitely one of those that tries to get ahead of the author’s reveal on whodunit. I’d say I’m about 40% successful. It’s the biggest thrill when I find out I’m wrong and the author’s ending not only makes perfect sense, but I have this aha moment by the author’s wrap up at the end making one think “How did I miss that?”.

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review “DEATH BY ARTS AND CRAFTS”, which most definitely is already on my TBR list. Thank you for the chance to win a copy!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thanks for having back for another visit! It took me a while to tell my friend that her lovely yard art inspired a whole murder mystery. At least she thought it was funny.

  6. This is a really fun series, Alexis. Sometimes I don’t even try to guess because for me character is most important, even more than mystery. Many times I can tell however, that the author himself/herself didn’t know whodunnit either until near the end. LOL

    1. Hi, Judy! Sometimes I do know who I want the guilty party to be from the outset. But occasionally as the story evolves, that changes. It’s so frustrating when one of my characters absolutely refuses to commit a crime!

  7. I love figuring things out just a little bit ahead of the reveal, too early isn’t quite as much fun. I also love being completely surprised and checking for the clues I should have noticed. So many potential weapons and hazards! A friend wouldn’t have pointed scissors in her classroom, and my boss at Prudential got rid of the paper cutter because people kept leaving it up.

  8. I have a fairly good track record of guessing the culprit, but love it when an author surprises me.

  9. Congratulations on the new book! It sounds really good. I am terrible at guessing the culprit. I usually suspect every character mentioned. So my guesses are only correct because I guess everyone. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. The authors must be doing a great job if they make every possible character a believable culprit! As a reader, I always want to blame the most unlikeable person in the cast. =o)

  10. I rarely figure out whodunnit. And that’s good because it means the author is really good. I love being totally fooled.

  11. Sometimes the culprit just comes to me but most often I have to wait for the end. My record is not splendid.

  12. I’m fairly bad. I’ll often guess a few pages before, but just because of the page count left. I’d say less than 20% of the time do I figure it out correctly early. That’s because I can talk myself into and out of everyone. The red herrings still work on me.

    I always appreciate unique weapons and locations, so I appreciate the time you take with those.

    (Yes, please enter me in the giveaway.)

  13. Oh, what a wonderful weapon! When it comes to knowing who dun it, I’ve got a fairly good track record, but I won’t tell you my secret for figuring it out!

    1. Yeah, I was pretty happy when I came up with the idea of the garden stake! I do a lot of brainstorming with another author when it’s time to plot a book. I think this one was a particular favorite for her because it was a bit different.

  14. I am terrible at guessing. If I do guess, it is usually during the last quarter of the book. Even then, I might have a 40% success rate.

  15. From reading through the comments so far, it would seem that anywhere from a 20 to 50 percent success rate is actually pretty good! I suspect most mystery readers are amateur sleuths at heart!

  16. I do try to figure out the perp before the ending of the book. Most times I’m wrong, usually there’s a twist in the story and I’m OK with that.

  17. I enjoying trying to figure out who the culprit is. Most of the time I guess wrong! LOL. Love the book cover! Would be so happy to read and review! Thanks for the chance

  18. I’m terrible at guessing whodunit, but love trying! Your new book sounds wonderful, I love going to arts & crafts fairs so will feel right at home – except there’s never been a murder at any of the fairs I’ve attended!

    1. Hi, Judith! I’m glad to hear that the fairs you’ve attended didn’t turn out like the one that Abby visited! I love art fairs, too, and we have a lot of really good ones here in the Pacific Northwest.

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