Tag Archive for: Cozies

The Balancing Act Between Reader Expectations and Fresh Writing

by Sparkle Abbey

expectation is a powerful thing.
Especially today when readers can jump on the Internet and express with
contagious enthusiasm that what we’ve created has met their expectations. Those
reviews rock! Or they can write a scathing review on Amazon when they’re upset
with a book, promising to never, ever read that author’s work again. Ouch.
We believe every author thinks about what their readers want. And we love the fans who tell
us they really don’t have expectations. They just want to read a good book and
escape from the daily chaos of their life. Hmmm…that’s kind of an
If you’re
writing genre fiction, there are a few universal expectations to keep in mind
right off the bat.

In a romance,
readers want a heroine and hero who are worthy of each other. Readers look for
chemistry, tension and a conflict that can’t be resolved with a simple
face-to-face conversation. They want an engaging plot and an emotionally
satisfying ending.

We write cozy
mysteries. There are also basic reader expectations for our genre. The obvious
one—our readers expect a dead body. Two? Even better. Cozy readers often don’t
want to see violence or anything graphic on the page, but they do want rising
tension and a strong conflict. The savvy cozy reader also expects a great
puzzle to solve along with the sleuth.
Those are
pretty straightforward.
It’s the
expectations that come after fans have read a specific author or series that
plant themselves in the writer’s thoughts and can potentially derail or bog
down the storyline. How do you give the loyal reader what they want and still
keep the series evolving?  
Is it
possible to add new and fresh ideas and still not disappoint? An author’s
voice, tone, theme and characters are part of why a reader returns to a
favorite author or series. It’s important those elements remain consistent, but
you can still change things up. Add a twist. Perhaps a new challenge or a new
We write pet
themed cozies—no animals are harmed; only people are dead. That’s an
expectation. Could you imagine if we ever put an animal in danger? Talk about
blowing up reader expectations. We’d lose most of our audience. So we choose
not to go down that path. Is that us being swayed by our reader expectations?
Sure, it is. But we’re not really interested in writing that type of story
anyway, so it’s a win-win situation.
Our readers
of the Pampered Pets series (some anyway) also want Caro and Mel, our Texas
cousin amateur sleuths (who are currently not speaking to each other) to make
up and work together. Will we change the course of the series to meet that
expectation? Probably not. If we did, we’d lose built-in conflict and tension.
You know, those basic genre standards mentioned earlier. However we can’t let
Caro and Mel rehash the same scenarios over and over, or our readers will
quickly tire of the conflict.
To maintain
what readers want and yet keep the story new, you have to throw in some surprises.
Still it’s important to note that while surprises are good, twists that come
out of left-field are not. You want a spin that logically flows from the
characters’ journey, not a jarring bolt from the blue. A revelation, not a
bombshell.  An unexpected development, but one that feels exactly
right for these characters.
To do that a
writer must walk the line. It’s a balancing act. Sometimes a tight-rope
balancing act. You must find that intersection where the story continues to
provide the experience that made readers fall in love with it in the first
place. And yet, you must mix in something fresh and new that provokes readers
and makes them wonder just what you’re going to be up to next!
What do you
think? Authors, do you take into account readers’ expectations as you’re
writing? Have you ever been influenced by fans to alter a storyline or a
character? What methods do you use to keep a continuing storyline fresh?
Readers, what
kinds of expectations do you have? Any things you love or pet peeves about
stories in a continuing series?

We’d love to
hear your thoughts!
Mary Lee and Anita aka Sparkle Abbey

Here’s a little more news from us:
We are busy working on books nine and ten in The Pampered Pets Mysteries.

Also, if you’re missing any of our backlist this is a great time to catch up so you’re ready for book eight. Details on all the titles are available here.
And if you want to make sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by our website and sign up for updates at sparkleabbey.com

This blog first appeared on The Seekerville blog in August of 2014.

A Bit of History

By way of introduction, I am the granny of the group. I’ve been on this planet for a long, long time. I remember listening to President Roosevelt on the radio announcing that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. (Maybe my memory has been enhanced a bit by hearing that announcement so many times afterwards.)

Despite the fact I grew up during World War II, I had an absolutely wonderful childhood. In fact my imagination was enhanced by the war. Because they were sending English children to various places to be safe, I told everyone my little sister was a princess and we were caring for her until the war was over. No one really believed me except my sister, who for years thought she was adopted.

Blackouts (when the whole city of Los Angeles went dark) were great fun. You have no idea how exciting it was to ride in a car with no headlights, no lights on the street or traffic lights. (I’m sure my parents were not as thrilled as I was.) We had an inner room inside our house where we could wait until the air raid was over and a place we could have a small light. We played board games and ate snacks my mom had stashed away in the cupboards.

My secret ambition was to be a spy if and when the enemy took over our city. Who would suspect a kid? My friends and I dug secret tunnels in the empty lots and concocted poisons to take care of the enemy. None of our parents had any idea what we were up to because back in those times, as long as you were home for dinner no one worried.

On a regular basis the air raid warden held meetings at his home and everyone in the neighborhood was expected to attend. The adults learned how to grow victory gardens and do first aid, we kids had a great time playing hide’n go seek and various other games. The refreshments were always great despite the fact sugar was rationed.

I organized 4th of July parades with the kids in the neighborhood, everyone decorating their bikes and wagons.

And to bring it around to writing related matters, I wrote plays for my friends to perform, in middle school (called junior high back then) and I put out my own magazine and authored all the stories and articles.

Now, I’m the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series (Judgment Fire) as well as other books. I’d never thought of my series as being cozy, though since my characters don’t swear, not much blood is spilled on stage, there’s a laugh or two, and yes, the bad guy always gets it in the in, I guess the term cozy fits.

Years ago I wore high heels, now I stick to whatever is comfortable. Despite all this, I’m extremely pleased I was asked to join these talented young women.