Who Do We Think We Are?

Four queens playing cards with vintage vibe.

The Red Reines is a critique group gone rogue. Four authors who met in a local writers’ group and agreed to grind each other’s work into publishable material. (We make good sausage.)

It began with emails and red pens because there are 320 miles separating us. We saw each other in person monthly. We met for quarterly weekends all over the Land of Enchantment plotting our world domination. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. We were plotting our books, planning our workshops, and editing our blog posts.

Then Covid hit.

Like everyone else, we added Zoom to our bag of tricks. We embraced new challenges, like self-publishing, submitting to anthologies, and writing in completely new formats and genres.

Before I tell you any more, you have to understand…we’re four alpha females. All of us know best. All of us will fight for our position. And all of us push the others to take the leap.

This particular project started simply enough with Jordyn getting the bright idea to write a cozy mystery with an erotic romance woven in. No big deal. Lots of authors write romantic suspense. But she insisted it had to be a true cozy. And a true erotic romance. All in one story.

Nobody does that.

It’ll be a thing. How hard could it be?

Every one of the Reines was completely familiar with the beats of a romance. And Jordyn assumed there would be a book for mystery writers similar to the Romancing the Beat book by Gwen Hayes for romance writers. A basic “here’s how you structure your mystery” book.

Hungry for resources, Jordyn asked Carol—THE MYSTERY WRITER in the group—for a reference book. Carol sent a two-page word doc and a bulky book that talked about developing characters. But what about the beats? WHERE WERE THE BEATS?

Next thing you know, the instigator had convinced the scientist, the editor, and the historian to write a book. Together.

We found out we were surprisingly well qualified. All of us are avid mystery readers and watchers. Carol, the scientist, had written several mysteries already and even won the Tony Hillerman award. She had examples of how the beats were successfully used in other works stacked in her head like books on a library shelf.

Jordyn, the instigator, drove the project, pushing the draft to completion as she successfully crafted that Franken-genre novel. She provided many of the typos and inappropriate comments throughout the draft—several were cut in the interest of keeping the work G-rated.

Ryley, the editor, kept us in line while adding a whole ‘nother unique set of examples based on her love of modern culture, fan fiction, and comic book heroes. (She will also fix this blog post before it goes live. And Jordyn will likely miss one or two corrections.)

Erin, the historian, lover of all things literary and watcher of hours of British television, provided the English accent to our examples, along with an oddly charming appreciation for Psych episodes. She is also our resident musical mistress and curated the majority of our Spotify playlists.

As we work toward publishing this pithy guide to writing a working mystery, we already have ideas for other works. So, while we saturate you with all things mystery, be prepared for the next surprise from these four talented queens.

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