Happy Book Birthday–Julianne Holmes!

justkillingtimeThe Wickeds are all a-twitter today as a member of our happy band hits a major milestone. Writing as Julianne Holmes, our own Julie Hennrikus is celebrating her novel debut with Just Killing Time. HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, JULIE!!

Isn’t the cover great? Here’s the blurb.

Ruth Clagan may be an expert clockmaker, but she’s always had a tendency to lose track of time. And when trying to solve a murder, every minute counts…

Ruth’s beloved grandfather instilled in her a love of timepieces. Unfortunately after her grandmother died and he remarried, Ruth and Grandpa Thom became estranged. She’s wanted to reconnect after her recent divorce, but sadly they’ve run out of time. Her grandfather has been found dead after a break-in at his shop—and the police believe he was murdered.

Now Ruth has been named the heir to Grandpa Thom’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, in the small Berkshire town of Orchard, Massachusetts. As soon as she moves into the small apartment above the shop and begins tackling the heaps of unfinished work, Ruth finds herself trying to stay on the good side of Grandpa’s bossy gray cat, Bezel, while avoiding the step-grandmother she never wanted. But as old secrets and grudges start to surface, Ruth will have to kick into high gear to solve the killer case before someone else winds up dead…

What say we, Wickeds?

champagne-bottle-cork2Barb: I’m so excited about this release. I was lucky enough to score an advance copy, so I know what a treat the rest of you are in for. Congratulations, Julie!

Liz: Julie! I think I’ve been awaiting this as anxiously as you! So very happy for you, my friend. Congrats.

Edith: Julie may be the last of the Wickeds to get a book out, but she’s sure not the least. I also read an early copy and LOVED the story. Readers, run out and get your copy now. And if you’re in New England, come on out to the New England Mobile Book Fair (it’s not mobile, and it’s not a fair…) tonight (Oct 6) at 5:30 for Julie’s launch party!

Jessie: For those of you who may not know her personally, Julie is one of the world’s most generous cheerleaders. She goes above and beyond in supporting the people, organizations and causes she cares about and it is such a pleasure and a privilege to be able to do the same for her. Hip, hip, hooray Julianne Holmes! It couldn’t happen to someone more deserving.

Sherry: I’m bursting with excitement for Julie. As Jessie said Julie loves to help others. We met by chance in 2005 and that meeting has led to so many things — having Julie as a friend is at the top of the list. This book debut feels extra special to all of us. Just Killing Time is a great book and you will fall in love with Ruth and her clock shop.

Julie: Friends, I would not be on this path without you. And it sure wouldn’t be nearly this much fun. Love you all, and thank you!!


by Sheila Connolly

Readers (and some authors) may think we’re writing sparkling new original stories from our own imaginations, but in fact most of us writers borrow a lot from other people’s subconscious perceptions. That’s a good thing, because in a way it saves the writer time. Use a particular phrase or a setting, and it becomes a kind of shorthand for a lot more.

Phila postcard old This shorthand plays a role when we decide where we want to set our books. Take Philadelphia: what do you see when I say “big city”? Noise and crowds and museums? Ireland is a very different case: rainbows and green hills and cottages. These cues let the reader “see” the stage before we start adding characters.

DSCN1312 - Copy

My fictional Granford, Massachusetts, the home of the Orchard Mysteries (including the latest book, A Gala Event, to be released tomorrow!), is a typical cozy small town. Now, don’t stop to think: what do you visualize when someone says “New England town?”

Granby views 012

The quick answer is: a town green ringed with old maple trees, maybe blazing with fall colors, surrounded by a large white church with a steeple, a couple of stores, and the big old houses built a century or two earlier by the rich folk in town who wanted to show off. Drive through most New England states and you’ll see a lot of them. It’s imprinted in our collective memories.

That’s what Granford looks like. That’s also what the real town of Granby looks like—a place I know and have been visiting since before I started writing. Just about everything in the Orchard Mysteries is real—the library, the historical society, the church, the police station, the feed store, the high school, etc., etc. (Although the real town has opened both a new library and a more modern police station since I started the series—so I moved them in the books too.)

Cold Spring Orchard 10-07 014

There was one other critical element, though: apples. I always knew I wanted to set the series in the town, in a colonial house built by an ancestor of mine (also real), but the publisher wanted a “hook.” I thought about it, and rejected some ideas such as organic farming (I’ll leave that to Edith, since I know nothing about organic farming!), but then I hit upon apples. Everybody knows and loves apples—so there’s an instant identification with the idea. I’m sure you all can call up a mental picture immediately when I say “apple orchard.” And then suddenly you’re plugged into Johnny Appleseed and the “apple a day keeps the doctor away” idea of healthy eating and wholesome gifts for first-grade teachers and “Mom and apple pie,” and so on.

See? I don’t have to put all this on the page, but I’ve connected with a lot of readers who already know about all this, consciously or unconsciously. Just mention “apple” and suddenly you’ve tapped into a whole backstory for your book.

What particular bit of shorthand on the cover or in a review makes you pick up a book in a bookstore (or click online) when you see it? Which ones one would make you avoid a book?

A Gala Event

A Gala Event

And one small bit of promotion: A Gala Event, to be released tomorrow. Available everywhere in most formats you can think of. Yes, there really are alpacas in Granby, er, Granford.

Thanks, sister Wickeds, for featuring it last week!

Where are the Wickeds?

It’s time for our monthly post about our appearances this month.


6 October 5:30-7 PM. Book launch party for JUST KILLING TIME. New England Mobile Book Fair, Newton Highlands, MA.


9 October 1 PM. On “Crime in the Metropolis” panel, Bouchercon, Raleigh, NC.

27 October 8-10 AM. At SINC-NE table at New England Library Association meeting, Manchester, NH.

30 Oct – Nov 1. Magna Cum Murder conference, Indianapolis, IN.


8 October 8-10 AM. Author Speed Dating, Bouchercon, Raleigh, NC.

10 October 7 AM. New Authors Breakfast, Bouchercon, Raleigh, NC.


24 October 2-3 pm. Sisters in Crime New England Booth at the Boston Book Festival.

26 October 12:30- 2:30 pm Sisters in Crime New England booth at the New England Library Association Annual Conference.


8 October 10 AM Meredith Public Library, Meredith, NH

20 October 7PM, Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME

26 October 10:00-12:30 PM Sisters in Crime New England booth at the New England Library Association Annual Conference.

A Gala Event Book Birthday

Today, due to an embarrassment of riches, we’re celebrating a Wicked Book Birthday a few days early. Congratulations to Wicked Cozy Accomplice Sheila Connolly whose gala-event-200ninth Orchard mystery, A Gala Event, releases on Tuesday! Can’t wait to read this installment. Here’s the blurb from her web site:

“The fall harvest may be just about over, but orchard owner Meg Corey is busier than ever planning her wedding to Seth Chapin. Who knew picking apples would be less work than picking out rings and a dress? And even though the happy couple has invited most of Granford, Massachusetts, to the ceremony, they might have to make room for one more guest…

Ex-con Aaron Eastman has unexpectedly reappeared in his hometown, searching for answers to the tragic fire in his family’s past that put him behind bars twenty-five years ago. Moved by his sincerity, Meg vows to do everything she can to help him solve the cold case. As she cobbles together the clues, it becomes increasingly clear that Aaron may have been considered the bad seed of the family, but someone else was one bad apple…”

Liz: Congrats, Sheila! Sounds fun as usual! Thanks for keeping my TBR pile large and looming…

Sherry: Wow! Ninth in the series! What an accomplishment and boy do I love weddings so I can’t wait to read this. I’m not sure how you do it — I just finished the fabulous Privy to the Dead — but keep them coming.

Barb: Ninth! How did this happen? I’ve fallen behind. Off to order A Gala Event right now. Congratulations, Sheila!

Julie: I hear it is going to be a bumper crop for apples this year. May the same be said for book sales about apple orchards! Congratulations Sheila!!

Edith: So exciting. And a wedding, to boot! I’ve loved this series since the start.

Jessie: I’ll bet this title is the pick of the crop, Sheila! Congratulations, once again!

Congratulations, Sheila! You inspire all of us.

Readers: Any questions for Sheila about apples, long-running series, or how it’s going to be having a married sleuth?

From Somewhere Further Down The Road — Guest Art Taylor

First and foremost, I want to thank Sherry Harris for inviting me to blog here at Wicked Cozy Authors—and by “foremost,” I mean that the various elements of this sentence are ultimately the only things I’m going to write about here.

“Art Taylor”

Sherry and I now live in the same small Northern Virginia town. It’s a suburb of Washington, DC, so part of a larger cosmopolitan community, but it’s an area that also has a small town feel. Sherry and I have run into each other at the grocery store parking lot, for example (I think that’s where she first asked me about the guest post here), and we’ve talked about trying to gather friends together more often for coffee or for trips to the park to ride the miniature train that my son so dearly loves. It’s a nice place to live in so many ways, and much of it has a hominess about it, and yet… and yet I couldn’t help but notice that the bio on Sherry’s own website notes that she and her husband “are living in northern Virginia until they figure out where they want to move to next,” and I know how often my wife Tara and I have mused about where we might like to live someday as well, as if our real homes are ultimately one of two places:  where we once grew up or, specifically in our case, where we’d like our son to grow up. Maybe here, but (who knows?) maybe not.

I started thinking about these notions of where we’re from and where we are and where we’re going because of the subheading on the Wicked Cozy Authors page: “Mysteries with a New England Accent”—a tagline that has me doubly appreciating Sherry’s invitation for me to guest post here (and appreciating again Edith Maxwell and Barbara Ross hosting the Agatha finalists earlier this year) because, as anyone who’s ever heard me speak knows, I do not have a New England accent—and, important to my point here, neither does my fiction.

All of us who identify as mystery writers must surely find our works informed by the various traditions and rules of crime fiction; that term provides a large umbrella for  various styles and approaches, of course, but suffice it to say that a person writing a traditional mystery must surely remain aware of the rules of a fair play mystery, of the weight of all the works in our genre that have preceded us. In a similar vein, it’s likely true that we may be defined by place—not only in terms of the settings we’ve chosen for our stories and novels but also by the places we’re from, the places we’ve lived, and maybe even (more on this in a minute) by previous literary works about those places.

Sherry’s Garage Sale Mysteries, for example, expressly draw on her years in Massachusetts as much as on her love of garage sales, and reading her work,  I’m struck by how often place finds itself not just a character of sorts but also a guiding force in her writing. Early in Tagged for Death, at the first mention of the term “garage sale,” Sherry stops to add a parenthetical clarification: “tag sale, for those in the Northeast.” And it’s not long before we’ve also gotten a quick discussion of “Roast Beef and Pizza places… a New England thing,” and a short lesson clarifying that the Sleepy Hollow of Washington Irving’s Ichabod Crane isn’t related to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery of Concord, Massachusetts, whose Authors Ridge has held the graves of Alcott, Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau (a spot which also plays a role in the closing pages of the book).

ON THE ROAD front under 2mbMy own work is more likely to be grounded somehow in my native state of North Carolina. (My wife too is a writer, from Pennsylvania originally, and those PA roots often run deep in her own fiction.) The adventures in my recent book On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories take those title characters—a small-time crook and his lover—across the country: Del’s supposed “last” heist takes place in Taos, New Mexico, before he begins a legit job with his sister in Victorville, California, and from there this unpredictable pair travel to Napa Valley, to Las Vegas, and to Williston, North Dakota. But along the way, it’s Louise’s voice, grounded in her own North Carolina upbringing, that drives the story, and its those various memories of the past—of her mother, of North Carolina’s sweet muscadine wines, of sucking the nectar from honeysuckles, of small town Southern life—that punctuate the tales and that gradually draw them back to Louise’s home state for the final story.

These observations—how Sherry’s novels and my stories and my wife’s stories too are all informed by place—might simply prove how some details of a story are byproducts of the more central roles that character and setting play in any work of fiction. But I’m curious beyond that.

The Southern literary tradition is a real one—it’s been endlessly studied, even if there are disagreements still about exactly how narrowly to define it—and I’m certain that other regions of the country might be able to trace themes and elements that have dominated and defined the literature of their areas, the mappable landscapes of their literature. But when we writers put pen to paper, how conscious are we of those geographical literary traditions? To circle back to the subheading on the Wicked Cozy Authors page, what does it mean for a mystery to have a “New England Accent” or a Southern accent or whatever? (New York patter? Chicago twang? California surfer speak? …by which I’m not just talking about dialogue, of course.)

To answer that question, I’ve…

Whoops! Sherry just pointed out that I’ve hit my word count here! Oh, well.

Anyone else want to chime in with their own thoughts on this in the comments section? I’d love to chat more, clearly—whatever accent you’re bringing to the conversation.

A native of Richlands, NC, Art Taylor is the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, recently published by Henery Press, and the editor of Murder Under the Oaks, the 2015 Bouchercon Anthology. His short fiction has won two Agatha Awards, a Macavity Award, and three consecutive Derringer Awards. His story “The Odds Are Against Us” is currently a finalist for this year’s Anthony and Macavity Awards. Art teaches at George Mason University and writes frequently on crime fiction for both the Washington Post and Mystery Scene. www.arttaylorwriter.com.

Readers: What is the answer to Art’s question — “When we writers put pen to paper, how conscious are we of those geographical literary traditions?” Writers, how much do you put into this? Readers, are you drawn to books set in a particular region? Which region?

Wicked Wednesday: Memories of an Elder

Wicked Wednesday once again, where we all contribute to the same topic. This has been a wicked kind of month – five Wednesdays! Continuing on our theme of memories, Wickeds, who is an elder you remember strongly? A grandparent, great-aunt, neighbor, teacher – tell us who she or he was and why you remember that person so well. Bonus points if the relationship had an effect on your career as an author.

Liz: My grandpa, hands down. He was a detective who loved to tell stories about his IMG_0428adventures, so I guess you can see the correlation with my career! He loved to tell this one story about a guy named Nick Maluff, who had this dog who allegedly bit everyone he met. It was like that game of telephone. Every time he told the story the dog was more vicious and had attacked more people, until you would’ve thought he was out terrorizing the city on a daily basis. Turns out, the dog was just a sweet little pup who had maybe nipped at one person. Most likely my Gramp, who probably poked him with his cane or something! I always wished I’d gotten to hear more stories from his police adventures before he died.

ManpopBarb: This is my great-grandfather, Walter P. Taylor, Sr. He lived until I was in seventh grade, so I knew him quite well. He lived with my dad’s family during the thirties, forties and fifties, so my dad grew up with him in the house and they were particularly close. But by the time I remember him, he lived in Myrtle Beach with my great aunt and uncle. Every year, on the last day of school in June, my grandmother would pick up my brother and me and take us, along with my great-grandfather (whom we called ManPop for reasons to complicated to explain here), out to her summer house in Water Mill, Long Island. We spent two weeks, a lovely time, of beaching, going out to lunch, and to the penny candy store. In this photo, he is doing the thing I remember best, painting beautiful tiles. With his help, my brother and I painted them, too and then we took them to be glazed. I still have many of his tiles at my house, as well as some with my brother’s and my own childish drawings.

Edith: I was always particularly fond of my San Francisco aunt Jo Reinhardt, and was close to Joher. She was my father’s baby sister, and ended up the tallest of the three siblings. I know she was grateful and surprised to live into her eighties, since both her parents, as well as her sister and brother, died in their sixties. Jo was a fabulous cook, a generous smart sweet woman, both elegant and practical, a mother of three boys (when I became mother of two sons, we had an extra link), and a memoirist in her later years. She loved having fun – our families had a reunion when she was in her seventies and she was dancing as much as any of us in the living room one night. She and my uncle Dick were very close and always seemed to model the perfect relationship to me. Her laugh was a rill of bells and her eyes always seemed to be smiling. Miss you, Jo!

IMG_3553Sherry: My Aunt Pat isn’t a blood relative but my mom’s sorority sister. She was beautiful, interesting, funny, and oh, so full of life. She married her college sweetheart — Uncle John — on radio show and won a honeymoon in Carmel, California! They lived in Arizona, very far from me in Iowa so each visit was extra special. Everyone should have an Aunt Pat in their lives. Aunt Pat always told the story of one of their visits when I was in high school. I was supposed to clear the table and do the dishes but told my mom that I needed to talk to Aunt Pat. The picture of us is the last time I saw her — she died unexpectedly six months later. But it’s a perfect example of how fun it was to be around her — the cigars are cookies.

Julie: My maternal grandparents were/are very special to me. Though I loved my grandfather fiercely, and still miss him. 35 years after his death, I think my grandmother had the most influence on me. She used to say that grandchildren were the applause of life, and she treated us accordingly. That said, she was very human to me, foibles and all, and I loved her very, very much. She taught me how to knit, the secret to a great apple pie, to love shows like Dallas and Dynasty, and that love could be complicated. Today, as I put on the red lipstick and put a couple of bobby pins in my hair to keep it from fluffing up beyond belief, I think of her, and smile.

Readers: Which older person do you miss the most, or learned the most from?

The Lure of Small Towns — Guest Mollie Cox Bryan

Scrapbook of the Dead-1Please join us in welcoming Mollie Cox Bryan. It is so exciting to have Mollie with us here today because we get to celebrate the release of Scrapbook of the Dead the fifth book in her Cumberland Creek Mystery series. So happy book birthday, Mollie!

“Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on,” is a Jane Austen quote that many writers take inspiration form, including myself. But I like the second part of that quote,  as well. “And I hope you will do a great deal more, and make full use of the while they are favourably arranged.” And if a mysterious element is added, like a murder or a theft, the plot gets even more “favourably arranged.” (Okay, I added that last little bit.)

Small towns are enticing for writers for many reasons. Plot-wise, they can act as a microcosm of society, for example. If you are so inclined. But for me, I’ve always found my attraction to small towns to be fed by my observation of small towns and my admittedly somewhat odd imagination. Picket fences and cobblestones streets, along with beautiful historical buildings, are often the façade for something deep and dark in my mind. If it looks too perfect, it raises suspicions to me. Maybe it’s just me, but I want to know: What’s going on behind those pretty closed doors?

MollieheadshotMy curiosity is often ignited by what I see around me in my own small town. The sometimes twisted curiosity of my own neighbors when it comes to personal matters like religion, politics, and who knows what else. When I first moved to my small town after living in the Washington, DC area for many years, I was asked at least five times what church I attend. Um. None of your business. (Nobody in DC ever asked me this question. Funny, that.)

Another time, an elderly neighbor of mine nearly accosted me at my front door about the last presidential election. Imagine. I had just wanted to take out the trash, opened my door, and the tirade against a certain politician began.

Beyond my personal experiences living in a small town, are the national statistics about small towns. Many are fighting serious drug problems, dealing with new immigrant populations, and failing local economies. After 16 years of living in a small town, many the locals still consider me an outsider. Imagine if I were from the Philippines, Mexico, or even England. How much of an outsider would I be then? In SCRAPBOOK OF THE DEAD, my characters confront their own ignorance as they get to know local immigrants. Attitudes shift and change.

Almost all cozy mysteries are set in small towns. It seems to be one of the “rules” of cozy mysteries, along with using amateur sleuths in our stories and not using graphic sex or violence. I love to play with the ideas readers might have about small towns and give them a twist or two to think about.

The big cities have a different kind of appeal—but we are not often surprised to learn of a murder in a huge city, the way we are with small towns. We think we are safer in small towns, but are we? The answer is not really. A recent report, the Annals of Emergency Medicine, claimed cities are actually safer to live in than small towns. Now, it is true that you are more likely to be murdered in cities. But “The risk of injury death — which counts both violent crime and accidents — is more than 20% higher in the countryside than it is in large urban areas.”

Much to ponder here, heh?

In any case,  cozy mystery writers work with that “surprised it happened in such a lovely community” factor and are adept at exploring it in their writing, along with the characters and the stories about their small town lives, hobbies, families, and jobs. We don’t give you the graphic details of the murder—that is not what we are interested in. I don’t speak for all cozy mystery writers, of course, but I think what we are interested in is the three or four families in that country village: what becomes of them when one of their own is killed? Or turns out to be a murderer?

Mollie Cox Bryan writes the Cumberland Creek Scrapbooking Mysteries. Scrapbook of Secrets, the first in the series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2012 and was selected by B & N as a mystery to watch.  The latest book in the series is Scrapbook of the Dead. She is launching a new series next year, a craft retreat series, Cora Crafts Mysteries. She lives in Waynesboro, Va. with her husband and two daughters. Visit her website: http://www.molliecoxbryan.com

Readers: Which do you prefer small town or city?