I think one of the things that holds new writers back is the idea that a first draft is supposed to be perfect. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-editing or giving up partway through a manuscript, but first drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect or pretty. They’re supposed to be messy.
I really enjoyed the creative aspect of crafting the magical elements. They often came to me unbidden, whether it was the village backstory of the Jin ancestors or the supernatural talent of Whiskers, the magical bunny (with a nod to Chinese mythology) in the Jin family.
I was impressed by Graff’s attention to detail during the police procedural scenes. The technicalities of crime scene investigation and forensics are well described, without delving into gruesome details, as fits the cozy genre.
The funny thing about history is that for all the reports of the standard mores of behavior, there were always outliers, women who explored Africa, who went on hunger strikes, who spied for the government.
Short stories are challenging because you always have to think up a new beginning, a new character, a new plot. Novels are slightly easier as you have something that you settle in with -- something larger to explore and study.