On Multi-tasking

Edith here, having co-shoveled out half a foot of snow on Saturday.shovel-with-snow

People often ask me if I work on more than one book at a time. I answer, “By preference, I don’t.” I’ve read of studies that report multi-tasking yields results like those of elderly people losing focus. While I’m not quite elderly (at least by my definition!), I do have three -well, four – series under contract, and I need focus to keep the protagonists and their settings distinct.

So I try to shovel out one series at a time. I’ll write the first draft for this one. Then put it down and incorporate copyedits on another one. Then write a blog post or work on an invited lecture for a third. Preferably not all on one day. Because the last thing readers need is me switching from first person voice (Country Store Mysteries) to third (Local Foods Mysteries). Or seeing my introverted geek farmer (Local Foods Mysteries) do something only my extroverted FireinCarriagetownCoverQuaker linguistics professor would do (Lauren Rousseau Mysteries). Or, heaven forbid, have my 1888 midwife use a phrase like “it was hard for me to get centered,” a distinctly twentieth-century usage when it pertains to something like meditation or Quaker worship.

Boyscooking

JD and Allan making my birthday dinner. And listening to music. And dancing. And being handsome. (And you just missed the yoga stretches…)

On the other hand, I’ve also seen my twenty-something sons listen to music, check fantasy sports results, cook a multi-course gourmet dinner, carry on a conversation, and do yoga stretches almost simultaneously. And nothing seems to be wrong with their brains. On the contrary, they are super productive, well adjusted, caring, and handsome to boot. (Okay, hanging around being handsome isn’t quite multi-tasking, but I’m their mom, so I can throw that in.) They have yet to be authors of multiple series, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened one day.

Back to my own multi-tasking, though: one day last week I finished going through proofs for FARMED AND FARMEDANDDANGEROUSDANGEROUS. I heard that my editor accepted FLIPPED FOR MURDER and I figured out how to implement the changes he wants. I changed the murder weapon for BISCUITS AND SLASHED BROWNS because I learned another author had recently used that exact same unusual method. And I printed out COMPOST MORTEM for final revisions. Four at one blow on one day. And that’s only two of the four series. Whew!

Not long ago when I was a technical writer in the software industry, one guiding principle was, “White space is your friend.” If you load up a page with too much information, readers can’t absorb it, and that was when we actually printed software manuals. Maybe brains are the same way. But, then as now, lists were also my friends. Making a list every morning totally helps me cope with my multiple tasks for the day. Constants are: “Write” and “Exercise.” Everything else follows, and some days the reality is that I have to work on two or three or four books.  But at least I have something to check off!

So how do you deal with multi-tasking? Readers, what do you make lists of? Everyone, how do you cope with multiple commitments? Writers, do you try not to work on more than one project at a time, or can you easily switch between books, posts, series?

Cherished Playthings

Jessie: In New Hampshire, feeling grateful for hearty soups and robust heating systems.

banbury-cross-graphicsfairy004c

We’re taking a nostalgic and light-hearted approach to our group post today. Most people had a favorite childhood plaything. A toy, a game, a stuffed animal. So Wickeds, what were the things you would have saved from a burning house when you were a kid? Which toys were the ones you used for hours on end? Do you still have any keepsakes from your childhood?

Liz: I love this! When I was in fourth grade, Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage. Anyone who remembers that fad will recall demand, lines and arguments rivaling those at the Apple store on a new iPhone launch day. My mother made many valiant efforts, to no avail. I was starting to see my dreams of my very own Cabbage Patch doll fading before my eyes.

After one particularly depressing day at school when a classmate brought her new doll in for show and tell, I went home and told my mother again how sad I was about the situation. She assured me she was trying, and I should be grateful for the things I have, and could I please go downstairs and get the potatoes from the basement? So I did, with the weight of the world on my shoulders, feeling sorry for myself. And when I reached the potato bin, there was a Cabbage Patch Kid box sitting in it. Her name was Andi Gizela, and I was over the moon. I still have Andi. Currently she’s in a keepsake chest. Whenever I have cause to take her out, I still imagine she smells like the baby powder scent all the dolls had. Still one of the best days of my childhood.

Julie: I love Liz’s story. I had a rock and roll Barbie and walking Ken. My grandmother made Barbie clothes (one AMAZING knit dress I would love to have, but got worn out).I loved my Barbie, and would put her in her case, put the whole thing in the basket on the back of my bike, and haul it across town to Julie D’Antono’s house. Julie had all the Barbie stuff–camper, house, etc. I had none of that, but made beds out of kleenex boxes, and could do amazing things with paper towels. Ken was limited in his mobility, but was the nice guy next door. My youngest sister thought Ken lacked, and got Kung Fu grip G.I. Joe as a partner for her Barbie.

One other very treasured toy was a dollhouse my grandfather made for us, including the furniture. We spent hours playing with it, and I still love looking at it.

Barb: I still have my Barbie doll, and the elegant evening gown my grandmother knit for her on little tiny needles. There was always a shortage of Kens, so I remember life in Barbie-land was a soap opera of constantly changing partners. I also still have my Tiny Tears, and Tiki, a stuffed dog with a huge patch on his back that I took everywhere when I was small. I was told my father gave him to me before he left for Korea.

But the toy I would save, should such an occasion arise, is my daughter’s Cabbage Patch preemie, Derick. Derick has been everywhere–camp, vacations, sleepovers, France, Italy, Australia, college. He’s what my niece who studied developmental psychology calls a personified object, very close apparently to an imaginary friend. I guess what I am saying is, Derick is part of the family, so he’d be the one to be rescued from the flames. And Derick’s head still smells like baby powder, too.

Edith: I love Liz’s story, too, and the image of a Cabbage Patch preemie. I still have my stuffed dog, Topsy, who is nearly as old as I am. The inside of his ear was silky and I’d stroke it EdithDollTopsyfor comfort (probably sucking my thumb, while I was at it). He was originally a Dalmation – well, at least he used to have spots. I did a lot of surgery stitching him up when his stuffing tried to come out. And I still have my Edith doll (yes, I used to have dark hair). She had an unfortunate haircut somewhere along the line, and her wrap-around dress is because I have no idea where her original clothes went.

I have one remaining Barbie doll, for which my grandmother sewed some amazing clothes, a feat which would defeat me as a seamstress – do you even know how freaking tiny those sleeves are?!. But I also have books galore from my childhood. Original Oz books. The Laura books, much read. My mother’s Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. The Little Engine That Could. The Story of Babar. And on and on. And on. What a fun trip down memory lane.

Jessie: I wasn’t really one for Barbies but I absolutely loved the Fisher Price Little People. My sister and I had the suburban house with a doorbell that rang and the hospital with a working elevator. I played with those for hours on end. The house opened to allow access to four rooms: a kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. There was even an attached garage. I remember being baffled and annoyed by the lack of a bathroom. Its absence plagued me. Then I realized  it had a set of freestanding stairs with a little closet built underneath. I decided to turn that into the bathroom. I consider it to be my first home renovation project!

IMG_2505Sherry: I loved dolls. Any kind of dolls from baby dolls to Barbie dolls. I spent hours with them. I have a couple left. One is a bride doll. My mom spent countless hours sewing clothes for her after we’d gone to bed. I’m not sure if you can tell in the picture but she also had shoes, skates, nylons and a purse. One of my other favorite dolls was my Shirley Temple. Somehow even with all of the moves I still have her, a purse and her IMG_2508rain outfit which included a purse, coat and scarf to protect her hair. I still have one Barbie doll too but it was originally my sister’s. It’s a blonde bubble head that I always thought was so beautiful.

Readers: What toy did you love when you were little? Do you still have it?

The Invidious Comparison

by Barb, still in Key West

Our readers get to see the blog posts, but as we’ve told you before, there’s a lot the goes on behind the scenes here at Wicked Cozy Authors, Inc. The Wickeds cheer each other on as we struggle through first drafts, race toward deadlines, wait anxiously for word from our editors that a manuscript has been accepted, or from our agent that a series has been sold. I can’t tell you how much that moral support has meant to me.

But, as a result, I’ve learned a lot about my fellow Wickeds work habits.

InvidiousJulie can plot a whole book before she writes it. I can’t do that. Jessie can write more than 5000 first draft words in a sitting. I’ve never done that. Sherry can write the beginning, then write the end, then swoop back and do some of the middle. I did that once with a short story, but I’ve never achieved it with a novel. Liz can balance writing two series with a full-time, serious job. I couldn’t do that when I was her age, and I certainly can’t do it now. And Edith can complete her entire daily word count before I am even out of bed.

This is all fascinating, and believe me, I am happy for the skills and achievements of my friends, but sometimes, when I compare myself to them, I feel a little…envious. It’s the Invidious Comparison.

I was lucky to have a lot of mentors when I was coming up in the corporate world, and it was one of them who explained to me, when I was quite a young manager, the Invidious Comparison.

ComparisonInvidious actually means likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others, but the way she used Invidious Comparison, it meant that situation when we are jealous of something we don’t even particularly want. The classic example is your brilliant sales person. She’s a lone wolf, she loves killing what she eats, creating her own rewards by living on commission. She hates paperwork and managing others, and the thought of tying her success to that of subordinates gives her hives. She’s happy in her job, and you’re thrilled to have her. But then time goes by. People who were hired after her, people who might not even have been as good at sales as she is, get promoted into management. They have other talents. They are good mentors and bosses. They love the minutiae of paperwork, the discipline of the sales pipeline, the feeling of having a team. And the brilliant sales person, in spite of herself, even though she would rather die than be a manager, starts to get jealous. Sooner or later, one of these promoted people ends up being her boss. And it drives her crazy. Even though she doesn’t want the job.

The Invidious Comparison.

So every morning, when I tumble out of bed and see that Edith has posted that she’s already made her word count and is off to have fun adventures on the day, I’m a little jealous.

Or I might plan a long weekend and think I am going to write 15,000 words in three days, like Jessie. But I will inevitably fail. And send myself through a whole guilt, grief cycle which will waste even more time.

The Invidious Comparison.

It’s ridiculous, I know. If I got up and got my word count done like Edith does, I’d be obliterating my absolutely favorite thing about not having a corporate job–sleeping in and staying in my pjs until after my second cup of coffee. I love it. It makes me so happy.

And if I were capable of binge-writing, first of all, it would make me an even worse procrastinator than I am. And secondly, it would take me back to the way I wrote when I had kids and a full-time job, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as I enjoy my writing schedule now.

I can’t do what they can do.

So I have to play to my strengths–to wit, a certain relentlessness, and a great fear of shame in the public square if I turn in a really awful book. Or no book at all.

It works for me.

Each of the Wickeds has different strengths, different weaknesses and different ways of working. When I’m seeing clearly, I know that’s part of what makes it all work. It’s part of what goads each of us to be better and try new things. But if we try them, and they aren’t helpful, it’s fine to set those new things down and move on.

People love to tell you that if you don’t do such and such, you can’t write a book.

“If you don’t get up at 5:00 every morning and have your word count done by 10:00 am, you can’t write a book.”

“If you don’t write everyday, you can’t write a book.”

Poppycock. The disempowering message from these morons is, “You can’t write a book.”

But you can. You can produce one book every ten years if you want to. You can write only when the moon is full. You can self-publish a 400 page tome every three months. Do whatever you want.

Because if you’re not doing what you want, why are you doing it at all? There are plenty of easier ways to pass the time.

But when you choose one path, you can’t be jealous of the other people who go down a different path, and do it a different way, and find success.

Because that’s the Invidious Comparison.

Wicked Wednesday- Character Sketches

Jessie: Enjoying the contrast between the snow outside my window and the amaryllis blooming on the windowsill.

This month we’ve decided to all chime in on the process of writing proposals for book series. Mystery series are often sold this way, in fact all of us have sold series in this manner, some of us more than once. The format for doing this is fairly standardized in the publishing industry and each Wednesday this month we will dive into one aspect of the process. This week we are talking about writing character sketches for your proposal. Wickeds, how did you introduce your characters in something as short as a sketch?

Edith: Now that you mention it, a big part of the series description portion of my Country Store Mysteries proposal was the character sketch of Robbie Jordan. I had to make her different from Cam, the tall geeky farmer in the Local Foods Mysteries, and from Lauren, my Quaker linguistics prof in the Lauren Rousseau mysteries.

PossibleRobbie

The woman in this photograph could almost be my protagonist.

So Robbie (Roberta) Jordan, originally a Californian, has fallen for the rolling hills of southern Indiana and also fell in love with all the vintage cookware available. Robbie, 27, is 5’3″, has curly dark hair from the father she never met, and struggles with her weight because of her love of cooking and eating what she cooks, although she’s fit from a bicycling habit and strong because of the carpentry she learned from her mom. She was also a puzzle champion in high school and still does difficult puzzles every day to relax, which helps her solve mysteries, too! I also love some of the secondary characters, including her tough old aunt Adele, who raises sheep and can also handle a gun. And when I realized how much work running a restaurant was, Danna popped onto the page full blown, a nineteen-year-old tall local daughter of the mayor with gold-red dreadlocks. She wants to cook instead of going to college and turned out to be a great sidekick. Robbie’s African-American friend Phil popped in, too. A singer and an artist, he also bakes all the desserts for the restaurants and is a loyal friend.

Barb: Thanks for this trip down Memory Lane, Wickeds! Unfortunately, I think I’m the Wicked with the least recent proposal and my memory isn’t all that good. It’s hard to remember where the characters in the Maine Clambake Mystery series came from. I do know it was a conscious choice to make Julia Snowden thirty years old. The protagonist in my first book was my age when I started writing it, married with two kids, like me. I wanted something different for this book. I thought making her an age where hard decisions about the future press in would make for an interesting series.

I knew I wanted an antagonist for the series, and that’s where Julia’s brother-in-law Sonny comes from. He’s a traditionalist, so he fights every change she wants to make to the clambake. I don’t know where Julia’s sister Livvie came from, but all of the female protagonists in my novels have sisters. I do not have a sister. Paging Dr. Freud! Chris Durand and Gus Farnham are to some degree modeled on real people. With Chris, not so much the hunky, sexy part, but the having three jobs and scrambling to make a living in a resort economy. We do have a friend in Boothbay who works as a bouncer and drives a cab, and I’ve always found the idea of taking away some tourist’s keys and then loading him into a cab you own and charging him for the ride to be the ultimate small town situation. Gus’s I’ve described pretty much as it was. Julia’s mother Jacqueline, niece Page, and cop friend Jamie round out the cast. The state cops, Binder and Flynn, weren’t in the original proposal. They came later.

Liz: When I wrote my original character sketch for Stan Connor in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, I had a pretty good picture of her already. Aside from being blond and tall (think Blake Lively) I wanted her to be someone with a lot of contradictions, like the fact that she’d thrived in corporate America but really didn’t have a lot of the cutthroat traits that people in those positions usually possessed. I wanted her to be financially independent, not poor and struggling. And I knew, just from exploring her upbringing and comparing that with the person I’d created, that she’d have a lot of relationship baggage. I also wanted her to find some really great people when she moved to Frog Ledge – unique but loyal friends like Char and Ray Mackey and her love interest Jake McGee. Her best friend Nikki, a dog transporter and animal activist, is my “say anything” character – the person I can assign all those lines that Stan would never say. I love her.

In my upcoming series, I knew immediately that Maddie James would be very different from Stan. Where Stan is polished and tends to live on the quieter side, Maddie is more in-your-face. She’s a born leader and entrepreneur, and has very strong opinions. And, she’s a brunette. Her sidekick is her Grandpa Leo, who’s the former police chief on Daybreak Island, her hometown and where the series takes place. I’m having a lot of fun in her head.

Jessie: For me the character sketches are easiest to write after I’ve done the first 50 pages of the manuscript. I write in scenes and I generally know what bit of business I am trying to accomplish at any point in the work but I don’t necessarily consciously know what the characters are like until I start writing them. Like Barb, with her realization that she wanted to provide a strong antagonist, I usually have a clear sense of the roles I want and need to fill to tell the story. What I don’t know is the voice they will use or the attitude they will have about any of it. I find that I end up blocking out action and goals and then I sit down and start writing. Mercifully and magically the people seem to show up, mostly full-blown on the page like they are talking right into my ear.

In my Sugar Grove mysteries I knew my main character, Dani Greene, was the youngest in her family and that she lived on her family’s farm with a lot of relatives. By the end of the first 50 pages I knew everyone in her immediate orbit and I could backtrack and write a synopsis of each of them. When it came to crafting the character sketches themselves I tried to adhere to the advice I heard somewhere once that such things should create impressions rather than conduct inventories. I try to succinctly convey the emotional temperature of the characters and their goals and fears rather than their physical descriptions etc…

Barb, my books always have sisters too! But I have sisters of my own so I wonder if we would get the same diagnosis?

Barb: Jessie, interesting you wrote the pages first, then the proposal. I did it the other way around. How did others do it?

Sherry: Writing character sketches is a great time to show not tell what your story is about. How is your character different from other authors characters? How do they add conflict to the story? I wanted to have a protagonist who had some connection to the military because I loved being an Air Force wife. I also wanted to make sure Sarah couldn’t run to someone on the police force for help. So Sarah is newly divorced from a husband who was in the Air Force. Her ex is now the police chief of the small town they live in. It was one way to create conflict in the series. I might have mentioned this before but about a month before I wrote the proposal I’d edited Clammed Up for Barb. I loved her character Gus — he was funny, gruff, and wise all at once. I created Angelo. I borrowed heavily from the personality of a neighbor of ours in Bedford, Massachusetts but amped him up from the original. Angelo has a lot of opinions but they usually have a point. He’s one of my favorite characters. I wrote the chapters first and then the sketches from there.

Julie: Again, different perspective since I was hired to write according to a bible. I had a list of characters, and a couple of sentences about each. For a proposal, you don’t need much more than that. But, in order for me to write my sample chapters, I needed to really understand each of them a bit more. So I visualized them. “Handsome guy next door” became Robert Redford in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, for example. Just remember, you need a victim, a protaganist/sleuth, a sidekick, a foil for the protaganist (maybe someone who seems guiltly, or creates tension in a subplot.) Casting your cozy is important. It helps people understand that you understand the form. And it lets them know that you are creating a world they all want to visit over and over.

Edith: For the Local Foods proposal, Barb, I had a draft of the pages from fifteen years earlier, and I’d already created the world, so that helped. For the Country Store series, I kind of went back and forth. I sketched out the characters, wrote some, and then went back and made sure my character sketches matched who had emerged on the page.

Readers–do you have questions or comments about character sketches in proposals?

The Detective’s Daughter — The Spirit of the Story

kimspolicehatKim Gray in Baltimore trying to avoid the ice and rain.

Aunt Eveyln is seated in the front row in the black jacket. My Dad is the young boy in the middle.

Aunt Evelyn is seated in the front row in the black jacket. My Dad is the young boy in the middle.

I never thought of story telling as an art. It was just something my family did when we sat around the table drinking coffee and eating the sandwiches my grandmother had made. My grandmother’s kitchen table was the command center of our family. Nana, as we called her, conducted her business here much like Michael Corleone did at his desk. If you needed a loan, a shoulder to cry on, a bit of advice or a hot meal, my grandmother’s kitchen was the place to come. Whether you were family, neighbor or friend, Nana was waiting to dish out what you needed.

Big and Little Madeliaines

Big and Little Madeleines

On Saturday afternoons nearly every member of my extended family gathered for coffee, sandwiches and Utz potato chips we had bought that morning at the market. All of my favorite aunts, Betty, Evelyn, and both little and big Madeleines were always there, as well as my uncles Charles, Roy and Abe. It wasn’t long after the food was cleared before my grandfather and Uncle Roy broke out their guitars to play. In between verses of Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey, they would share stories of their days on radio. I enjoyed hearing them tell of my

My famous Uncle Al, Uncle Roy and my grandfather

My famous Uncle Al, Uncle Roy and my grandfather

Uncle Al who had been a band leader and night club owner in Washington D. C. in the 1940’s. He had passed away long before I was born. The three of them along with my grandfather’s brother Joe, had played on a radio program on Sunday nights. I wished I could have heard them, but their stories made me feel as if I were there.

The best story teller was my Aunt Evelyn. I attribute my love of ghost stories and all things haunted to her. She was a slender woman with the blondest hair I have ever seen and the more scary KimAtTableher story became the pinker her skin appeared. She would tell of the ghostly pirates who haunted her house still searching for treasure the had buried in the basement. There was also a woman who seemed to follow my uncle around in their kitchen. My aunt believed this woman to be the long deceased owner of her home. Aunt Evelyn told me the woman had rented rooms to the sailors whose ships had docked in Locust Point. Sometimes the story changed and the sailors became the pirates, but whichever version was told, she believed every word and I did, too. That’s what made her stories so interesting and memorable, she believed them, she was a part of them. The other aunts told stories, repeating what had happened or what they had been told, but never with her passion. Passion is what makes a story compelling.

My great grandmother, my grandmother and Aunt Evelyn.

My great grandmother, my grandmother and Aunt Evelyn.

KimFamily_2Today, sitting at my own kitchen table listening to the rain pound against the window, I am drinking my coffee from the same cup I did as a child and reading one of my favorite ghost stories. From the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a very blonde woman who has become the star of her story and mine.

Readers: Did your family tell stories?

Launch Parties — To Party or Not to Party

By Sherry —  I’m happy it’s warmer than last week!

Launch Parties. I wasn’t sure if I should throw one or not. I googled Launch Parties and panic set in. I saw discussions about bartenders, DJs, swag, decorations, themes. That was not for me.

Tagged for Death mech.inddFor a extroverted person I have this introverted part of me around promoting Tagged for Death. Standing up on my own, talking about my book scared the heck out of me. But that’s when I saw Ray Daniel’s post on Facebook talking about his launch party for Terminated. He had Hank Phillippi Ryan interview him. I thought that was a brilliant idea and something that would work well for me. Friends who attended Ray’s launch said it was fabulous.

Barb&Me_2

 

 

 

I asked friend, author, and independent editor Barb Goffman if she would interview me for the launch. Barb is also a journalist, funny, and enthusiastic. She said yes and a weight fell off my shoulders. I could do this. The next step was figuring out the venue. Have it at home? Rent a community center? Or have it at a bookstore? I sought the advice of friends. Some of their answers surprised me: make sure there’s lots of parking, bonus points for free parking, don’t make me drive through rush hour (Washington DC traffic can be a nightmare). Do you want this to be a marketing event or a celebration with family and friends? If you have it at your house or a community center who will handle book sales?

IMG_2400It was a lot to ponder. Fortunately for me my friend Mary Titone pushed me and called venues for me. Barnes and Noble at Fair Lakes Promenade in Fairfax, Virginia said they’d love to host my launch. Having it there fulfilled the lots of free parking and who would sell books suggestion. We set it up for 1:00 pm on a Sunday which avoided rush hour. Having it at the bookstore allowed for both a celebration and a marketing event.

launchFood

 

The staff at Barnes and Noble couldn’t have been nicer. Store manager Sarah Emmett arranged for Mary and I to meet with Ann, who’s in charge of the cafe, and John their events guru. Ann provided samples of baked goods and made sure I stayed within my budget. The day of the launch she even made sure we had our own private “butler” Alex to serve. John and Sarah made lots of great suggestions and showed us the space where the party would be. They all seemed so happy about the event and I couldn’t have worked with a nicer team.

IMG_2461The night before the big day my friend Jill Ribler sent me a picture she’d found on Pinterest. An author had taken her own book and had people attending the launch sign it instead of having a guest book. It was a great idea which I incorporated into the launch. Two friends and fellow writers, Susan O’Brien and Robin Templeton, volunteered to take pictures.

The launch itself was perfect. I choked up a bit during the thank you’s when I mentioned my husband and daughter. Barb Goffman was funny and asked great questions. Having her by my side kept me calm (well, calmer). I didn’t do a reading — it’s another thing I’m not crazy about doing.

I was delighted to have people from so many aspects of my life present. Friends we’d met at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts — Tagged for Death is set in a fictional version of the base and the small town of Bedford, Massachusetts, Chessie Chapter Sisters in Crime members, even one friend from the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, one Wicked Cozy Author, along with friends and neighbors. It surpassed the celebration I hoped for.

Thanks to all of you for making my launch party such a special day!

Book launchCrowd

 

Welcome Back, Author Lea Wait

by Barb, in sunny, warm Key West (don’t hate me)

Lea_Wait.jpgRegular readers of the blog will remember my friend author Lea Wait was here in September. Then she talked about the latest book in her Shadows Antique Print series, Shadows on a Maine Christmas. At the time, she mentioned her new Mainely Needlepoint mystery series was coming soon. Well now the first book in the series, Twisted Threads, is here and we’ve asked Lea back to answer some questions about it.

About Twisted Threads: Angie Curtis had a rough Maine childhood, which only got worse when she was ten and her mother disappeared. At eighteen, Angie took off for any place other than Maine and ended up working for a private investigator in Arizona. Now she’s 28, her mother’s body has been found, and Angie returns to Haven Harbor vowing to find her mother’s killer. When she finds her grandmother’s needlepoint business is in trouble, she also agrees to help out there. She doesn’t know “helping out” will mean solving another murder, and confronting some of her childhood fears.

TWISTED THREADSBarb: While you’ve always written more than one thing, because you write for children and adults, Twisted Threads is the first book in your second mystery series for adults. How did you think about creating a second series? Was it a very different experience than creating the world of the Shadows mysteries?

Lea: When I started the Shadows series I hadn’t been published. Truthfully, I wrote the first in the series (Shadows at the Fair) to prove to myself that I could sustain a book-length manuscript. I was focused on writing one book at a time. For fun, I made each Shadows Antique Print mystery reflect a different classic mystery tradition, from the Gothic house mystery (Shadows on the Coast of Maine) to the academic mystery (Shadows on the Ivy) to the wedding mystery (Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding) and the Christmas mystery (Shadows on a Maine Christmas).

shadows on a maine christmatI was a beginner: I didn’t think through my decision to set different books in the series in different places. (Maggie Summer is an antique print dealer who travels to do antique shows and visit friends.) Some readers who grew attached to various characters, like Maggie’s best friend, Gussie, wanted their favorites to appear in every book in the series. I’d consciously hoped to avoid the “Cabot Cove” syndrome in which eventually everyone in the village seems destined to die. But, instead, I set up a different challenge.

I know a lot more about writing mysteries now than I did when I set up the Shadows series!

Barb: Angie Curtis in the Mainely Needlepoint series is a very different protagonist than Maggie Summers in the Shadows mysteries. They’re different ages and have vastly different backgrounds. Because of this, the challenges they deal with and their goals are very different as well. How did you create Angie Curtis? Was it a conscious goal to keep her so far away from Maggie?

threadsofevidenceLea: Yes! Angie is a high school graduate who grew up in Maine. She’s single and street-smart and 28. She’s worked for a private investigator, she knows how to shoot, she’s been known to drink too much, and there have been more men in her life than she’s willing to admit to anyone but herself.

Maggie, on the other hand, grew up in suburban New Jersey, has a doctorate and is both a professor and an antique print dealer. She’s a widow in her late 30s who is hearing her time clock tick … she wants to be a mother. She has issues, too: she’s sometimes too focused on her jobs or on solving a crime to think of other people. And after a poor marriage, she has trouble trusting men.

Maggie can be brave; Angie can be reckless. Maggie wants to settle down; Angie needs to resolve issues left over from her childhood.

The Shadows books are from Maggie’s point of view, but written in the third person. The Mainely Needlepoint series is written in first person, so we see the world through Angie’s eyes.

As a writer, I wanted to challenge myself by choosing a heroine who was very different from Maggie. And I’m having a lot of fun learning to know Angie!

Uncertain Glory, Lea's 2014 book for young people

Uncertain Glory, Lea’s 2014 book for young people

Barb: Twisted Threads takes place in a harbor town in Maine, a setting I know you know a little something about. How did you create Harbor Haven and how is it both different than and similar to your real Maine town?

Lea: Hmmm. Yes. You do have a bit of knowledge about Maine harbor towns. I love both your home in Boothbay Harbor … and your books set in Busman’s Harbor!

The Shadow series does include a Maine community. Weymouth, a fictional village, is on a tidal river, very similar to real Maine towns like Bath and Wiscasset and Damariscotta. Again, in setting up a new series I wanted a new setting. Haven Harbor, Angie’s home town, looks out to sea. It has a working waterfront, a few tourist areas, and its own lighthouse and islands. (But no clam bakes!) It is more similar to your Boothbay Harbor, and to Belfast, and other towns in Down East Maine.

Barb: What are you working on now?

Lea: Kensington, the publisher we share, wanted a new Mainely Needlepoint book every six months (!) So this month I’m celebrating the publication of Twisted Threads, doing copy edits on Threads of Evidence, which will be published next August, and writing Thread and Gone, the third in the series. When I hit a rough spot or really need a break I work on the next Shadows book … Shadows on a Maine Morning. So – not bored in Maine this winter!

Readers–do you have a question or comment for Lea?

Biography: Maine author Lea Wait writes the 7-book Shadows Antique Print Mystery series and historical novels for young readers set in 19th century Maine. She adopted her four daughters as a single parent; now she’s the grandmother of eight, and married to artist Bob Thomas. For more information about Lea and her books, see her website www.leawait.com, and friend her on FB and Goodreads.