Day 6: The 30-Day Book Launch Challenge

Would the real killer step forward please?

This week is all about story development and getting new words onto the page.

W/c Monday 27th November. What has to be done by the end of this week?


1 Work on a pro-forma template 4-Act structure for a cozy mystery story.
2 Develop the list of 5 suspects and their motives, means and opportunities.

Select one suspect who is going to be the main antagonist and an equal match for my heroine sleuth. Build up their backstory.

4 Recreate how the first murder was committed and then create the clues that will lead the sleuth to the killer. Add in possible fake clues and distractions from other suspects.
5 Start filling in the outline text with expanded scenes and dialogue.
5 Track the wordcount for each scene sequence every day.


And the suspect I have selected to be the real killer is….Suspect 5 – HIDDEN SUSPECT

Rachel Ellis. Office manager for the Kingsmede Wine Growers Association

Motive: Retribution and passion.


Rachel Ellis has been Simon Fraser’s mistress for the last 8 years and he kept promising her that they would marry one day. Simon went back to his wife Margot when his business collapsed but he kept seeing Rachel in secret. Simon told her that they would get back together when things were settled but she would have to be patient.

Rachel was an executive PA in the city. Met Simon at a charity corporate event that she had organised.

When Simon moved back to Kingsmede, Rachel followed him and took a job working for the Kingsmede Wine Growers Association.

What is her backstory?

Simon arranged to meet Rachel in a hotel in London and asked her to help him.  It is his burning ambition for his wine to be on supermarket shelves but he needs to win the best wine of the year award before he can negotiate a big order.

Simon asked Rachel to invite Marcel Dubois to be the guest judge at the Kingsmede Wine Festival that year. Marcel owes him a favour and has already agreed that he will make sure that Simon wins the award.

Rachel is not happy with cheating, but Simon convinces her that this is what they have been waiting for. Their chance to be together. So she agreed and set the whole thing up. The other two judges are very experienced and in awe of this famous French champagne expert.

Why now?

On the morning of the Wine Festival, Simon dumped her.

Simon has not been at the winery for months and not contacted her once.

Rachel cannot believe it and argues with him, but it is no good. He plans to divorce his wife and marry his super-rich American girlfriend.

Tells her that he is bored and needs new excitement in his life.

Rachel is in shock and has to go outside to try and recover.

Rachel realises in that moment that she had been used and conned like his other girlfriends. Everything Rachel had sacrificed and worked so hard to achieve is wiped away.

It is too late to stop the Wine Festival but she can do something to make Simon regret treating her like dirt.


She goes back into the kitchen and adds smooth peanut butter to 2 special plates of gluten-free canapes in the kitchen, wraps and labels them very well and leaves them in the kitchen for Lottie to collect. Only Simon has ordered gluten-free food that day.


Rachel was responsible for organising the Wine Festival so she is a familiar face.

She offers to help clear the tables when the awards are just to be announced. Simon has already eaten most of the peanut canapes but she casually slips the few left-overs into a napkin and takes them out to the kitchen and crushes them into the bin.

Then she puts on her smart black suit jacket in the kitchen and goes back into the room to join the organising committee.


She had already left the room with a tray of glasses and plates and was in the kitchen when Simon collapsed.

How is she caught?

Link to the Second Victim: Marcel DuBois

Rachel attacks Marcel at Roger Fitzpatricks’s vineyard.

Her plan is to frame Roger for killing wine judge Marcel out of revenge for losing out on the wine award.

Her Motive for trying to kill Marcel?

Marcel wants to confess and go to the authorities.

Marcel feels totally guilty about what has happened and tells Rachel that he has decided to go and see Roger at his vineyard that evening and confess that Simon did pay him to get the award. Then they can go to the Wine Association together.

Rachel cycles to the vineyard and meets Marcel. Tries to persuade him to change his mind. Nobody knows. They can keep this their secret. But he refuses. He likes Roger and his daughter Amy. They deserve to know the truth.

In that moment Rachel decides to silence him, and as Marcel walks away from her down between the vines, she smashes a full champagne bottle over his head, knocking him to the soil.

But before she can hit Marcel again, she is interrupted by Amy coming back to the vineyard early with Lottie.

Rachel escapes through the woods at the back of the vineyard on her cycle and rides quickly back to Kingsmede as though nothing had happened – making sure that she is seen by several people who can act as her alibi.

The problem is – Marcel was only knocked out. He can identify her. What does she do now? The stakes have suddenly become a lot higher!

Now the fun can begin. Plotting out ideas for how my sleuth, Lottie Brannigan can work out that Rachel is our killer!

Back tomorrow. Nina.

PS.  CLICK HERE to find out more about How to Write a Cozy Mystery.