Leslie here, pleased to welcome to the coop the fab Liz Boeger, author of the Moccasin Cove Mystery series, whose newest book, APPLEJACKED, was released just last month. Take it away, Liz!
Coloring Outside the Cozy Lines with a Non-Traditional Amateur Sleuth
When I was first invited to visit with the Chicks, I’ll admit I was preening a bit at the thought of hanging out at the cool kids’ table. Then I started stressing about what I’d say when I got here. So, I fell back on what I knew, public education, which is pretty much what I did when I had the idea for my Moccasin Cove Mystery series. As much as I love bakeries, books, and coffee, ideally simultaneously, my life experience could not help me conjure up a barista, bakery or bookstore centered story.
All I had to do was figure out how to include those cozy must-haves in my series, which features an elementary school principal as the amateur sleuth. Easy-peasy, right? In truth it felt a lot like coloring outside the lines.
How I made my non-traditional sleuth, setting, and situation fit inside the lines of a traditional/cozy mystery:
STRONG-WILLED, BUT FLAWED MAIN CHARACTER. Ana Callahan is a school turnaround specialist. In short, she fixes failing schools. She self-identifies as a skeptical optimist and survives on snarky self-talk, loads of coffee, too little sleep, and weekend trailbike rides through the island’s mangroves.
LOVABLE SUPPORTING CAST. BFF Mallory is an accomplished journalist and Ana’s co-snarky sidekick. Miss Etha is the cranky but soft-hearted neighborhood snoop. Bella is a twenty-something woman with autism whose talents and kind heart make her a friend to all in the Cove.
ADORABLE PETS! Muffin, a spaniel mix, is a comfort animal who serves the student PTSD group at Ana’s school. This is a photo of my own Muffin. I also added Gibson, a feral kitten who was rescued from the beach during a tornado in book 1, ChainLinked.
LOVE INTEREST. Mac is the chief of school security in book one. He and Ana witness a murder on their first date and survive a tornado on the second date. Don’t ask about their third date, except for their romantic dance, it was a total disaster.
UNIQUE SMALL TOWN. The Cove is an economically depressed island town off Florida’s Gulf coast. The foodie element I enjoy in other cozies is satisfied at the Orange Blossom Café—OBC to the locals. Besides southern diner comfort food like tuna melts and coleslaw, the proprietors, Paige and Ruby, have put the eatery on the culinary map with their Citrus Blossoms, kumquat pie, and Caribbean Soul-food mashups. Plus, both women are self-professed Silicon Valley refugees and can provide a little tech espionage in a pinch.
“COZY” MURDER. Considering the tragic instances of school shootings in real life, I must tread carefully when depicting the violence in the series. As a former school administrator, I’ve experienced the tragic, unsavory underbelly of the elementary school microcosm, including my real life run in with the US Secret Service, which will make it into a plot one day. This is where most of the outside the lines of a cozy mystery coloring takes place in the series.
Readers: What do you think? Did I make the grade? Which elements of a cozy are non-negotiables for you?
BIO: Tampa native, Liz Boeger, writes the award-winning Moccasin Cove Mystery Series about an elementary school principal who has a lot to learn about murder. If you like your traditional mysteries with a cozy edge, a hint of Southern snark, a beachy vibe, and always a happy ending, this series is for you. Don’t worry, she promises the suspicious search history on her laptop, the crime scene tape on her bookshelf, and her real-life run-in with the US Secret Service all have perfectly reasonable explanations.
APPLEJACKED, A Moccasin Cove Mystery, Book 2: Elementary principal Ana Callahan knows a thing or two about flipping failing schools, but she’s discovered the learning curve on solving murders is steep.
Now in the second year of her school rescue, in Moccasin Cove on Florida’s Gulf coast, Ana is on the verge of winning a pivotal grant award. But her grand plan hits a snag after a teacher is murdered and the crime is pinned on a runaway teenager Ana mentored. The story goes viral. Ana’s campus is besieged by the media, angry parents, and complex questions about the dead teacher’s past. Worse, the myopic rookie detective assigned to the case has her sights set on all the wrong suspects.
While grieving the teacher’s death, Ana starts her own investigation, but her discovery of a body on the beach pins a bullseye on Ana’s back. In her quest to solve two murders, locate the missing teen, and salvage the grant win, Ana unwittingly unleashes a riptide of childhood secrets that force her to learn a hard lesson…
It takes a village to raise a child, but it may also take your life.
2021 Finalist: Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense
2015 Finalist: Royal Palm Literary Award, Florida Writers Association