Journey of The Map Quilt
Posted by Lisa Lickel on April 18, 2012
The journey of The Map Quilt started when I was in fifth grade, learning about the Underground Railroad, watching my grandmother sew quilts, and discovering the astonishing fact that not all black people in the United States came here on slave ships.
I grew up on the east side of Wisconsin, but as I gradually learned more about the side closer to the Mississippi River, the rich culture wove its way into my psyche long before I considered writing a novel. To the county north of our farm a colony of free black farmers settled in community, where a few of the round barns created by a master caprenter, Alga Shivers, still stand. To the west of our farm a few farmers still grow tobacco and dry the leaves in long sheds.
Back on the eastern side of the state, while on a ramble one nice day, a historian of my town points out a dilapidated tavern and, kitty-corner, a blank-eyed house on a rural crossroad. “They say there’s a tunnel under the road,” he says. “For the underground railroad.” It no longer exists, perhaps filled in, bordered up, or only a fanciful notion.
But that’s where fiction comes from – a veritable “what if” of fanciful notions. The whisper of a rumor, the wish of being part of history, the wonder of why we are the people we’ve come to be. I started my professional writing career in 2004 when I started selling magazine articles and features. I’d written two novels and eventually contracted with Barbour for a “cozy” mystery, which I had to look up. What was published as The Gold Standard, the first book in the Buried Treasure series, released in 2009. Although I’d also contracted The Map Quilt in 2007, we hit major road construction. MAJOR. It happens. In the meantime I’ve been privileged to continue to grow my craft, and although I am delighted with the editing done, know this book could be tighter and better. It was still an “early” manuscript in my career. I sought a new publisher for three years and was blessed to find one. This book releases in electronic format first at the end of the month, and oddly enough, was set three years later in time when I wrote it.
So, what is a “cozy” mystery and how hard is it to set up a sequel? Let’s chat.
Very basically a cozy mystery:
- Is between 45-65,000 words
- Has a crime has takes place off stage, often before the book begins
- Shows little violence or gore
- Contains no graphic language or vulgarity
- Uses a non-professional investigator to solve crimes
- Most often set in small communities
- And is not always inspirational
For demonstration, I’ll analyze The Gold Standard without giving the secrets away, next time.
How do I set up the plot for sequels?
Yes, you got it—seat of the pants writers do not often do well in this type of genre. It’s not just sequels, but the mystery itself that must be laid out well, but not so tidily that you take the fun away from the reader or that the story feels contrived. In my Buried Treasure series, the sequels set up well when Judy Wingate, the teacher/sleuth, moves to the home of her previously little-familiar family and sets out to learn about her family. She finds a lot of memorabilia in the attic; specifically in an old trunk. And, yes, again…that makes sequels forever.
This book releases in another week, so I don’t have purchase information yet.
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