Wednesday 13 December 2017

Why Writing a Cozy Murder May Kill Me

For most of my author life, I have written mob capers.  (Okay, there was that trilogy of ribald sexy fantasy that started my career, but surely that’s in my past. At least, that’s what I tell the priest.)

There have been seven of them. (Not priests.  Mob capers.)  An eighth will be coming, but in the meantime, my publisher wants me to write a cozy.  “You’re already writing comedy,” she said.  “This is merely a different sub-genre.  And cozies have a HUGE audience in the States.”

More than capers, she not so subtly pointed out. 

Thing is, if I was going to write cozies, I was going to have to clean up my language.  It may come as a surprise, but mob caper characters don’t actually say, “Golly” and “Goodness me” when they get hit with a chunk of lead.

So as I embarked upon project clean-up, I pulled from my past, aka my dad’s side, which is firmly British.  Most cursing in our house was Brit.  I grew up on a steady diet of colourful West Country language.

However, this was a cozy, so I played it light.  Even that didn’t work with my publisher.

The first word to go was Pits.  “Pits!” Penelope yelled. 

Publisher:  “What is Pits?  Nobody in the States will know what you mean.  Use Rats.”

“Rats,” Penelope yelled, while closing the car bonnet.

That didn’t work.  I tried again.  It got worst.

Soon, 'bloody' and ‘bugger’ were off the table.

Me: “Really?”

Publisher:  “You need to kill all the Britishisms.”

Me:  “I’m Canadian.”

“But they don’t know that,” she said, as if that were some sort of naughty secret we had to keep.

I retreated to Rats and Holy Cannoli.

But problems resurfaced quickly. “You’re a cow!” said Peter.

Publisher:  “You can’t use cow.  It sounds…”

Me: “Too trashy?” 

Publisher:  “Bestial.  And with respect to the current scandals in Hollywood and DC…“

Me:  “Gotcha.  Not suitable for a cozy.”

It didn’t end there.  Other phrases came under the knife.  My whole vocabulary was at stake. Thing is, every non-naughty British expression seems to be…well…so much more expressive than the American equivalent.

“You filthy swine!” is much cooler than “You dirty pig!”
“Damn and blast!”  Rocks it. “Darn and boom!” eh...not so much.

It’s taken a long time and a lot of soul searching, but I may have come up with a solution to this whole cozy language problem.  Something my publisher should be happy with, that isn’t a four letter word, and that shouldn’t offend the clergy.  Not only that, it pretty well tells the tale.

“Curses!” said Penelope.

Melodie Campbell does her cursing south of Toronto.  She wasn’t really ever a mob goddaughter, but close enough.  You can buy The Goddaughter and the rest of the series on and all the usual suspects.


  1. Haha! True Story: I got a one-star review for one of my comic mysteries because a Brit character used the word "bloody," which the reviewer said made the book "filthy and full of foul language."

    1. Great Poopiness, Batman! Anne, that beats my "Smut" story. (The review that actually increased my sales...)

  2. Bloody hell! That's why I'm sticking with police procedurals. ;)

  3. Grin - no sex, no swearing...I'm doomed, Marilyn.