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We’ve certainly had our share of rainy days this month, perfect weather to curl up with tea and a book. Lately that tea has been Barry’s Gold Blend—which I think must be the official tea of Ireland. They had it everywhere we went on our visit, and I came home hooked. Even my kids love it. Luckily, it’s available on Amazon and at World Market, so I’ve been able to keep it on hand. And with it being March and all, Irish tea seems appropriate for chasing away the chill and damp.

This month, I’ve been mostly reading writing craft books. Specifically, the How to Outline a Cozy Mystery: Workbook by Sara Rosett and Super Structure by James Scott Bell.

The cozy mystery workbook is designed to go along with Sara’s cozy mystery course, which I’m not taking (at least not yet), but it’s useful on its own as well. It’s a small workbook, so there’s plenty of white space, but I’ve found the questions helpful in straightening out some kinks in my story. Writing down answers to the questions she asks helped me solidify some points that I hadn’t thought to put in writing before. For example, what the suspects’ reactions to the sleuth’s questions will reveal about their character.

If you’re interested in writing a cozy mystery, this workbook is a handy tool to have. Since I want to use the questions for future books, I didn’t fill out the workbook. Instead, I made a template page of the questions in my Scrivener project. Now the questions will be there when I’m plotting the next book and my answers will be handy for me to consult while I’m writing.

I came across Super Structure thanks to this article on the DIY MFA blog. It’s only $3.99, and since plot is something I’m struggling with at the moment, I bought it and read it in one sitting. I love Bell’s Plot & Structure, and Super Structure is a really nice companion to that book. It’s short and goes over what he calls the 14 “signposts” of plot structure. I’ve read lots of books on plot structure, but he added some elements that I haven’t come across anywhere else and that really got me thinking. If you’re fighting with your plot, I definitely recommend it.

Deadly Doses

I also found a fun book at the library—Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart. I’m a sucker for a good book of poisons, and I’m particularly interested in poison plants that can be found growing in my area. (If anyone around me dies under suspicious circumstances, my internet search history may cause me some trouble. It’s for my next book, I swear.)

Stewart’s book has details and anecdotes about poison plants ranging from Deadly Nightshade (atropa belladonna) to chrysanthemums, and includes deadly plants as well as some that only cause minor allergic reactions. It’s interesting and useful enough that I may have to buy a copy to go on my shelf with A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.

And just for fun, here’s a picture from the Blarney Castle Poison garden. This is Bittersweet Nightshade. Not quite as potent as Deadly Nightshade, but I wouldn’t recommend putting it in your tea.

Now it’s back to rewrites for me as I work through the next draft of the first Fox Sinclair mystery.

How about you? Have you read any good books lately? 


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