Happy Book Birthday to The Longest Yard Sale!

Sherry’s second Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery is out today!  Hurrah and huzzah for The Longest Yard Sale! May you have many sales and even more five star reviews.longestyardsale

When Sarah Winston turns Ellington, Massachusetts, into New England’s largest garage sale for a day, it’s the small town’s biggest event since the start of the Revolutionary War—but without the bloodshed. That is, until a valuable painting goes missing…and the lifeless body of an Air Force officer is found in Carol Carson’s painting studio, his face perfectly framed with the murder weapon—a metal picture frame.

Edith: I was lucky enough to read an early copy of the book and loved it. You do a fabulous job of showing us small-town life adjacent to a base, Sherry. And telling a suspenseful story that is funny at the same time. Home run!

Liz: I was lucky enough to read it early too! I love your style, Sherry, and your characters just jump off the page and make me want to hang out with them. And the mystery kept me turning the pages. Loved!!

Jessie: I love the way this series plays with the insider vs. outsider dynamic. It isn’t easy to craft that in a fresh and unique way and Sarah’s status as former military spouse does it beautifully!

Julie: What a terrific series this is! Great series, wonderful characters, insider knowledge, and Sherry’s great writing. SO looking forward to the LONGEST YARD SALE! Happy launch day my friend!!

Barb: I was lucky enough to get an Advance Reader Copy of the first book in the series, Tagged for Death. Therefore, it’s been a whole year since I’ve read about what’s going on in Sarah Winston’s life. Too long! My copy is on its way.

Inside The Wacky Mind of a Mystery Writer

By Liz, loving every minute of summer so far and wishing I was at the beach!

I was going through some old to-do lists on my desk the other day when I came across a note on which I’d written the following:

  • Pay oil bill
  • Make appt. for car service
  • Pick up dry cleaning
  • Write about woman pushing the dead toddler in the swing

You may recall the recent news item about the dead toddler in the swing in Maryland. I apparently heard the soundbite and experienced that “ooooh” moment where I thought Hey, that would be an incredibly creepy cool opening to a book, wrote it down and went about my business. If anyone else had come across the note, they’d surely wonder what on earth was wrong with me.

The mind of a mystery writer

Fun photo courtesy of Kim Fleck/Brand Fearless!

And such is the life of a crime writer. I don’t think any of my fellow writers would take offense if I said we’re all kind of weird like this. We see or hear stories in the news that horrify normal people and, while we do register that same emotion, it’s often followed up by excitement at the thought of a new plot or scenario or character or…you get the idea.

Like last week when the story circulated about the house in New Jersey with “The Watcher” sending creepy, threatening letters to the owners. My first reaction was Wow, I’d hate to live there. My second thought was, Let’s get this book written, baby!

But it doesn’t always stop there. My fellow Wickeds can testify to all the ways my imagination runs amok. When we were on retreat a couple weeks ago, it was right after the inmates escaped from the prison in upstate New York. Julie and I were out in the bunkhouse for the weekend, and I kept her entertained with my worries about the escaped murderers showing up looking for a place to hide and finding us in our tiny corner of Old Orchard Beach.

Yeah, sometimes it’s hard being in my head.

I’m used to it, though. This has been going on ever since I was a kid and created a whole coven of witches who lived in the woods behind my house. The guy up the street with the motorcycle? Well, he was in a murderous biker gang that went out on the weekends and did dastardly deeds. I was always fascinated when my parents invited him over for dinner. (No, he wasn’t actually part of a murderous biker gang, if you were wondering.) That girl in church every Sunday with her rough-looking ‘family?’ They had to have kidnapped her and forced her to go to church to make things appear normal. (I was on to her because no one else was allowed to wear jeans to church. There had to have been something crazy going on there!)

And so it goes on, to this day. Now, at least, I have plenty of books into which I can channel my runaway thoughts. One of our mentors, Hallie Ephron, talks about devising a premise for a mystery novel using the “Suppose…what if” format in her book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. I think she trained me too well, since now I do this simply walking down the street.

But it’s a sure bet I’ll never run out of material.

Readers, ‘fess up: How many of you create mysteries wherever you go?

Wicked Dealing with Deadlines: Short-Term

Two weeks ago we discussed strategies for dealing with deadlines that are far in the

"Double-Bell Alarm Clock" by Anonymous illustrator - Eaton’s Spring and Summer Catalogue, 1917

“Double-Bell Alarm Clock” by Anonymous illustrator – Eaton’s Spring and Summer Catalogue, 1917

future. Today we’ll talk about the deadlines that suddenly are on top of us. Do you stay up all night to finish something? Go to bed at ten but set the alarm for three in the morning? Make lists? What about when short-term deadlines stack up like planes waiting to land?

Liz: Oh, boy. This happens to me all the time. I don’t usually stay up all night because I’m way too cranky the next day, but I have been known to have marathon sessions in the evenings or on weekends to get a bunch of things done. I try really hard to be a better planner, but alas, it doesn’t always work!

Jessie: I make lists. I make one at the beginning of the month for projects that require a bit of time and one each day for more immediate tasks. I like seeing what needs doing laid out in black and white. Getting things on paper gets them out of my head and makes room for me to be more creative about how to accomplish what’s on the list.

Julie: I am a big fan of the Franklin Covey system. (Would that it was an app, or a Google plug-in, but I digress.) I have big deadlines (book #2 due to my editor, book #1 proofs need to be read, a grant application for work, etc.), middle sized deadlines (birthdays and other occasions that require attention, social media updates) and small deadlines that require some attention (parking permit updates, bills that need to be paid, subscriptions that need to be updated). I have lists of them all, and am trying to get in the habit of choosing what I can do that day, and prioritizing.

Sherry: I put reminders in my phone for short term deadlines and set alarms to help remind me when something is due. My husband and I also share a calendar which helps keep track of events we are both involved in.

Barb: I have a to-do list that I update frequently, sometimes weekly, sometimes every few days, sometimes every few weeks. My to-do list has categories –MCM (Maine Clambake Mysteries), LBB (Level Best Books), WCA (Wicked Cozy Authors), MCW (Maine Crime Writers), CB (Crime Bake) and personal. All the to-dos get divided up among them. I would say it helps me keep balanced, but that’s not my nature. I usually dive deep into stuff. So mostly, it reminds me what hanging out there while I’m on one of my deep dives. The to-dos in my running chronological notes in my Levenger Junior Notebook, which also contains my calendar and is never far from my side.

Edith: I love all these different strategies! I keep a daily short-term to-do list next to my ToDoListlaptop. After Ramona DeFelice Long posted about the ten-item to-do list last week, I went back and counted up how many items I normally have on the list, and it turns out to be about ten. I have two priority items on the top every day, and I cross them off every day: Write (or Edits/Revise, depending), and Walk. The day after we got back from our Old Orchard retreat, I had twenty things on the list, but seven didn’t get done, and some were very tiny…like “shower.” Think I needed a boost of confidence that day or what?

Readers: How do you deal with things that have to get done right now, pretty soon, all at once?

It’s Too Soon To Tell

by Barbara, on her porch in Boothbay Harbor, looking at the majestic windjammers and waiting for fireworks later

I rarely, rarely write poetry, but I recently came across this poem I wrote in a writing class in 2007. The writing prompt was, “Finish the phrase, ‘It’s too soon to tell.'” I wrote it before the thought of grandchildren had even occurred to me. (Or to either of my kids, thank goodness.) Anyway, it tickled me and I decided to share it.

It’s Too Soon To Tell

It’s too soon to tell
Will he have his mother’s fine skin,
His father’s auburn hair,
His Uncle Charlie’s protuberant ears?

It’s too soon to tell
Will he have his grandmother’s gift for music,
His grandfather’s way with words,
Cousin Violet’s wonderful laugh?

Will he run races like his Uncle Pearce?
Build great cities like his Cousin Neville?
Or write software like Rita’s daughter Lil?

It’s too soon to tell
Will he have Aunt Clea’s love of the bottle,
Uncle Henry’s black depressions,
Cousin Mortimer’s passion for unsuitable women,
Or Cousin Jasper’s for unsuitable men?

Will he know great love?
Will he go to war?
Will he know want, or will his pockets always be full?

This much we do know
He smells like heaven
His smile lights up the sky
His cry breaks your heart
And he holds each of us in the palm of his hand

Because we can’t wait to discover
The oh, so many things
It’s just too soon to tell

Wicked Wednesday: Dream Summer Vacation

Summer is finally, officially here. Wickeds and readers: if you had the time and the funds, what would your dream summer vacation be? Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you bring, or not bring? Let’s dream big, here.

IMG_2227_2Sherry: I would tour the British Isles. First to Ireland, then Scotland, and back through England. I’d love to stay in a cottage in a small village for a couple of weeks in each place and take day trips from there. I’d take my husband Bob and spend quiet afternoons in pubs on the days we were tired of wandering. We’d visit the Trinity College Library, look for the Loch Ness monster, and visit the lake district of England. Clothes and lots of comfortable shoes is all I’d need to take. I’d wrap up the trip in London and go to a couple of plays.

Jessie: I’d love to go on a knitting vacation with one of my beloved sisters. There are any number of places to visit, from Iceland to the Baltic and all sorts of places in between.There’s even a schooner offering knitting cruises off the coast of Maine. Most of these trips offer beautiful sights as well as behind the scenes peeks at some part of the knitting process like sheep shearing or wool dyeing.  And of course they offer a chance to improve your craft through classes and seminars taught by experts. For an avid knitter, it sounds like a perfect blend of fun and relaxation.

Edith: I think I’ll go to Italy. I’ll go a week early by myself and check into a Tuscany cooking school. Mmmm… Then Hugh will arrive and we’ll go north to Lake Como where Liviewe’ll visit Livie, the Italian exchange student at my California high school whom I became good friends with (and haven’t seen since), as well as two of the sisters in my Brazilian exchange family who ended up in Italy. We’ll go back to Tuscany for more

Photo by Markus Bernet, 07/13/2004

Piazza Venezia. Photo by Markus Bernet, 07/13/2004

good food and wine. Then we’ll visit Rome for a week, and end up in a village on the Mediterranean in the south. Could do worse, right?

Julie: I am actually going on one of my dream vacations this summer–a trip down the Danube. Italy is definitely on my list, as are Greece and Spain. Summer vacation dreams are so much more mobile than winter vacation dreams. In the winter, all I want is warmth and water. In the summer, I like to explore, to learn, to visit. And to rest.

Barb: So many places, so little time. Bill and I have a big anniversary next year and we’ve been talking about a trip to Scotland. I love Edinburgh, so we’ll definitely spend time there, and then maybe a second week driving. Up to the ancestral home in the Highlands? Don’t know yet. Half the fun is in the planning.

Readers: What’s your dream vacation? Staying home and reading? Trekking in Nepal? Finally hitting that beach in Fuji? Or spending quality AND quantity time with the grandkids?

The Detective’s Daughter – A Baltimore Starr

kimspolicehatBy Kim in Baltimore enjoying the summer weather.

imageA little more of the old Baltimore I knew faded away last week with the death of burlesque queen Blaze Starr. I met her once in Atlantic City when I was about six years old. Pop-Pop brought me to a restaurant that had a cabaret nearly every afternoon and we would watch the acts as I drank my soda and ate peanuts or pretzels. He knew many of the performers in the show from his days on the radio when he had played in a quartet with his brother and brothers -in -law.

I didn’t pay much attention to the woman who sat down to talk to him. She smiled at me when Pop-Pop introduced her, but I turned back towards the show never giving her another glance. They chatted for a few minutes then she patted me on the head before leaving. The lady was a very famous dancer, Pop-Pop told me on our walk back to where we were staying. He said she had a nightclub not far from our house. I wanted very much to see her dance when our vacation was over, but I was told she only danced for adults. It seemed to me everything was for adults.

Al and a few band members.

Al and a few band members.

I longed to be older and able to go out in the evening like my grandparents. Nana belonged to a club with some other women she had known nearly all her life. They called themselves The Glamour Girls. I wanted to ask Nana if the famous dancer was one of her “glamour girls”, but Pop-Pop said I shouldn’t. He told me they knew Blaze Starr because of her connection with a singer named Marian Dawn. The story was that Nana’s brother Al, who was a bandleader, fell in love with a young woman who sang with his band. This woman was Marian. They had an affair, of course Pop-Pop said they dated. Things did not work out between them and Marian left the band and went on to perform with Blaze Starr. Al, broken-hearted, died a short time later. Nana held this Marian woman responsible for Al’s death and it was not until many years later I realized that Uncle Al had taken his life over his broken engagement to Marian.

Blaze Starr owned and performed in The Two O’Clock Club on Baltimore Street, or The Block as it’s called around here. We would drive by every night on our way to pick up Dad from work. Headquarters was around the corner, a prime spot for the police. In the winter imagewhen darkness fell early, I loved to see all the flashing neon lights as we drove past. My mother would instruct us to keep our eyes down. Each time we went by I hoped I would see the dancer but I never did.

After Pop-Pop died, Nana didn’t go out at night much. She traded in the glamour girls for the golden -agers and spent her time going on bus trips with new friends. I never met or saw Blaze Starr again, but learning of her death brought back to me all things I missed about my grandparents and an age that has long passed.

Where Are They Now?

By Sherry from Hotsville aka Northern Virginia

IMG_3472In March 2014 I was on my first panel as an author, Deadly New Voices, at Left Coast Crime with four fabulous debut authors: Martha (M.P. Cooley), Carlene O’Neil, Lori Rader-Day, and Holly West. At the time only Holly had a book out so I thought it would be fun to catch up with everyone and see what had happened since the panel. Each of us (except for Carlene whose book just came out May 2015) have been nominated for a best first novel award and some for multiple awards!

Martha_Cooley-31-retouched_web_(2)Martha Cooley: Our debut panel at Left Coast kicked off what was an amazing year!  Well, not quite a year–Ice Shear came out last July.  Everything between May and September  was a hazy blur of promotion, but when I emerged on the other side I found myself with a BEAUTIFUL book in my hand and part of a fantastic community of writers. Ice Shear had a nice reception when it came out–Oprah had it on her list of best thrillers of summer 2014, it received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and was named one of the best books of FlameOut0x420the year by the Sun Sentinel.  The book has picked up some awards nominations, including the Barry Award, The Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award, the Anthony, and the Strand Magazine Critics Award.

In the last few months, I’ve published a prequel and sequel to Ice Shear. FAINT TRACE is an e-book novella that shows what June lost before Ice Shear began–a home, her husband, a career, California.  FLAME OUT is a sequel that investigates past crimes. June is working to solve an attempted murder in abandoned factory that had been set on fire and digs up secrets that hit close to home for June and her family.  Currently, I’m hard at work on Savage Gods, my next book with William Morrow.

Carlene O’Neil: Thank you Sherry for inviting us to spend time with the Wickeds. All of you are such fantastic writers and I feel like an honorary Wicked; I was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, so, although I grew up in California, I come from “good Yankee stock,” as my grandmother was fond of saying.

It’s been such an amazing year since Left Coast Crime. My first book, One Foot in the Grape, was published by Berkley and came out on May 5th. This was the culmination of a life-long dream, and I’ve been having a lot of fun, even when standing in the middle of a Barnes and Noble crying my eyes out.  It’s there (sob), on the shelves (hiccup.) Since Left Coast Crime, I’ve also been on panels at Bouchercon and the San Diego Writers Conference. I’m kind of a ham. Who knew.

OneFoot2_s260x420In addition to writing and the Dreaded Day Job, I’ve managed to clear some free time to devote to research. I need to make sure the wine tasting, growing, tasting, bottling, and tasting details in the book are accurate. In fact, I’m so excited to be in Paris as you read this, getting a combined vacation/research trip in. Also, last month I had a chance to spend the weekend in Temecula, California, a wine growing region a short drive from San Diego, and I’m hoping to revisit Monterey and Carmel, a beautiful part of the state. If you are familiar with the town of Carmel, my fictional town of Cypress Cove may sound familiar.  Just saying.

What’s next? I just got word from my editor that the next book in the series, Ripe for Murder, will be out March 2016. This time my protagonist, Penny Lively, gets to travel to the Napa Valley where she manages to get involved in a murder on the Wine Train.

Rader_Day_Lori_2Lori Rader-Day:
What l remember from our panel was laughing. We had so much fun — so much has happened since that day! The Black Hour launched on July 8, 2014, and I spent the rest of the year going wherever my Google Calendar said to go. I had a launch party in Chicago with about 80 of my nearest and dearest friends, and then another launch party in my hometown, at the library where I first learned to be a voracious reader. In all, I did about 30 events.

The Black Hour had an embarrassingly good year, getting some good reviews and earning nominations for the Mary Higgins Clark Award (I got LittlePretty2_s260x420to go to the Edgars! Stephen King was there!), the Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original, and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. The Black Hour even managed a couple of wins: the Lovey Award for Best First Novel and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association Mate E. Palmer Award in Communications for Fiction.

The biggest news is that The Black Hour has a little sister! Little Pretty Things will be released on July 7. I’ve also already sold my third book, still in progress, for next July. So here we go. I’m just really glad to have had that deadly first panel with you ladies. We had so much fun—and we’re just getting started.

Holly West: It’s been a great year and a half since our panel at Left Coast Crime in 2014. The second book in my Mistress of Fortune series, Mistress of Lies, came out in September 2014 and in 2015, the first in the series, Mistress of Fortune, was nominated for a Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best First Novel. Now, after a whirlwind debut year, I’m back at my writing desk, working on a new Mistressv8_s260x420book set in modern day Venice, California, featuring amateur sleuth Mia Bartlett, a bartender who works at the oldest bar in Los Angeles. It turns out that walls can talk when a renovation turns up a mysterious case of champagne set aside by the bar’s gangster owner during Prohibition. It’s a discovery someone will die for. In the meantime, look for short stories from me in a few upcoming anthologies–publishing dates to TBD.

longestyardsaleSherry: Thanks for stopping by ladies. It was so great to hear about all of your achievements. I think you all must be good luck! My first book Tagged for Death came out in December 2014 and was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The Longest Yard Sale comes out June 30th. And I’ve turned in All Murders Final which comes out in May 2016.

Readers: I hope you add these books to your summer reading piles! What else are you looking forward to reading this summer?