Momentum: Cozy Mysteries, Writing, and Java

So yes, I’m still working on my Python development skills, but as an added bonus, I will be starting an online learning course through Syracuse University’s Onward2Opportunity program. It’s a program for military service members who will soon beyseparating from active duty service, all military veterans, and the spouses of both these groups. It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to take advantage of an educational opportunity because of my husband’s veteran status. Unfortunately, they don’t offer coursework in Python, but they are offering a course in Java certification, so I’ll be learning that. I am really looking forward to this opportunity. I think any software development language learning opportunity can only make me a better software developer. The whole thing is free, includes unlimited opportunities to take the practice certification exam, and they even pay the outrageous price of Oracle’s Java certification exam. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m really grateful that my hubby’s military service makes this possible for both of us (Michael is taking the Java course too). More news to come on this endeavor as things progress.

On another note, I’ve begun work on a cozy mystery novel. I had to do some homework to start things off because up to now I’ve only written personal essays, flash fiction, and feature articles. I have had the idea for my cozy mystery for quite a few years. I think I actually first thought about writing a mystery back in high school when I fell in love with the works of Agatha Christie. At that time I don’t think the term ‘cozy mystery’ had been coined, but I fell hard for Dame Christie’s books and I’m still in the process of reading all of her books (I’m compiling a comprehensive list of her work that I can use to check off as I read). As comfortable and entertaining as I found the Christie novels, the thought of writing a mystery novel intimidated me back then and it still does now. From high school until 2008, the non-Christie books I read were police procedurals and thrillers. I have always found these mystery subgenres quite exciting and riveting. I especially love reading serial killer stories.

In 2008, however, I discovered the work of Diane Mott Davidson and her Goldy Schultz (the caterer) series. I actually read the second book in the series first, Dying for Chocolate. When I saw Dying for Chocolate on the library shelf I was elated. Chocolate and murder mysteries, I had found reading nirvana. had never before read a culinary mystery, did not know they existed, and I was wowed as I read the book. Of course, when I realized it was a series, I had to start it from the beginning and I read Catering to Nobody. I finished the last book in the Goldy Schultz series in 2016 when I got laid off from Rackspace and had more reading time on my hands. I love the way Mott Davidson wrapped up the story of Goldy, her family (nice surprises), and her catering business. It was a charming and cozy read, though I will say that the last few books became a bit too overly formulaic. Poor Goldy repeated the same sequence of events in each book with variations. I wonder if Mott Davidson was getting tired of the series because, in the end, it seems like it was more going through the motions. By this time, however, I was too invested in Goldy and her adventures and I willingly saw the series through to the end.

It when I finished reading the last book in Mott Davidson’s series, The Whole Enchilada (the 17th Goldy Schultz mystery), that I started thinking about writing my own cozy mystery. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. As I always do, I have talked my husband’s ear off with ideas for my cozy mystery. I do my best thinking when I think aloud to Michael. He is always incredibly supportive. I’m a big proponent of education, and I’m the first to admit that I know nothing about how to write a mystery. I really know nothing about writing fiction (except flash fiction, and I need to improve on that too).

I’ve begun doing extensive research on the crafting of mystery novels. There’s excellent information out there. In hopes of getting support and advice, I have joined Sisters in Crime, a group made up of mystery writers of all genres and skill levels (published and unpublished). I also joined the chapter closest to my location, the Heart of Texas chapter based out of Austin. I’m reading and learning a lot, and I feel a bit less intimidated with each day that I continue my research.

I found out about a mystery writer’s conference that I am planning to attend. I’ve already booked our hotel room (Michael says he’ll keep himself busy while I attend the conference). It’s located in a town just outside of Boston. I’m looking forward to it. As far as conferences go, there are several really important writers (mystery and otherwise) conferences in Scotland and England. How I would LOVE to attend some of those. How much MORE I would love being able to participate in any writing conference as a published author. I need to dream big, even if it kind of feels silly right now.

Here’s my plan for now:

  1. Meet other mystery writers and ask a lot of questions (as politely as I can)
  2. Continue researching and practicing the Snowflake method of writing
  3. Start creating my cozy mystery world and map it out
  4. Flesh out my protagonist (I’ve already started this)
  5. Start identifying my protagonist’s internal conflict
  6. Identify more writing tasks to complete
  7. Blog more about my experience as I move forward right here at Life in My Pockets
  8. Take some time out to perform my day job and earn my Java developer certification
  9. Take all the time I need to accomplish my goals so that I don’t rush and do anything too badly

What’s my cozy mystery about? Nope. I’m not letting that cat out of the bag yet. It’ll be a while because I’m still very much in the raw planning stages. However, I’m really excited about my idea and I look forward to learning something new.

For anybody out there who is interested in learning how to craft a cozy mystery novel or who just wants to learn more about writing, here are some resources that I’m using (yes, I read all of them):

I’ve read LOTS of mystery novels, cozy, culinary, thrillers, suspense, etc. If you’ve never read any of these genres, try reading a few of these because you may just fall in love!

ROSIE’S MYSTERY APPETIZERS LIST

A list of some of my favorite books to get you started on loving the craft of writing and the mystery genre:

 

Python update

I haven’t posted about my Python learning curve lately. I’m giving it 8 hours a day (except the last 2 days I skipped because I was in so much pain from my pulled leg muscle). Learning something on your own is HARD. Learning Python on my own is hard. However, I am encouraged by surfing the internet and finding the blogs and pages of people who have taught themselves Python from scratch, so I know it’s doable. I’m moving along at a good pace for a self-starter. I thought if I could find one or two good Python curriculums to follow online that my work would be half done, but as it turns out, one curriculum that worked for someone else may not work for me. I tried “The great Python Mashup lesson plan – Elizabeth Wickes” but I really don’t like Codecademy or the book Python for Informatics, so I have cobbled together my own curriculum.

Basically, I’m using Pycharm Edu with its intro coursework and other lessons that are downloadable to my laptop. I’m also using w3schools.com/Python/, because I’ve learned HTML and CSS and some javascript from the W3schools site and I like how it works.

In addition to Pycharm Edu and w3schools.com/Python/, I’m also doing the Python3 Bootcamp: “Go from Zero to Hero in Python 3.”

It’s also important to read the Python PEP8 and the documentation that comes with the program when you install the software onto your computer.

So it’s a mish-mash of resources that I’m working from. Where I once felt so lost in learning this programming language, I now see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been so important to NOT SKIP A SINGLE DAY OF CODING. It really messes me up to skip even one day of Python practice. I have to reread the last few lessons. I remember talking to a medical student years ago about whether or not medical school is hard. The young guy was a 3rd-year medical student doing some work at University Hospital. He told me, “It’s not that it’s hard. It’s that there is such a high volume of stuff to learn in a short period of time.”

That’s true for learning Python. It’s not hard at all when you understand all the functions and syntax and the libraries that have so many built-in features that save you work. It’s the sheer volume of information that throws me off. I can’t yet say I’ve mastered any particular piece of information that I’ve been learning and practicing. However, I CAN say that it makes sense, and I have gotten over the strange feeling of being on another planet that I used to have when I first began learning Python. It is another planet, but I’m comfortable on that planet and have no trouble exploring the details and getting the lay of the land. Can I write big programs yet? No, but I can create functions to do small things like taking a string and turning every nth letter into a capital letter, etc. There are so many games to play that teach as you go along.

If you take nothing else away from this post it’s that you have to discover how you learn best and then find the tools and resources that you can use to tailor your learning experience. These are my resources right now:

– Pycharm Edu
– Udemy Python 3 Bootcamp: Go from Zero to Hero in Python 3
– w3schools.com/Python

Have a terrific day!