Wicked Wednesday–the Best Performance

Wickeds, what was your all-time favorite performance–play, musical, opera, ballet? Tell us all about it and especially tell us why. I think this one will be impossible for Julie–or maybe incredibly easy. Top three, Julie?

Edith: I, along with my two older sisters, studied ballet from first grade through ninth. FOnteynNureyevSomewhere in the mid-sixties, my mother splurged for four tickets for us to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance a ballet. My vague memory says the performance was of Romeo and Juliet, and I can’t find a historic record of the performance. Despite the vagaries of an older mind, I have a clear memory of these two master dancers’ beautiful and graceful bodies. Their physical art put to music. Their emotional interpretations of the story. I still love to see any artistic dance performed.

220px-Christmas_Carol_(Patrick_Stewart)_Broadway_PosterJulie: You’re right, this is impossible. Three that come to mind: Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol. I actually saw him do it twice. Amazing. (He was also fabulous in Macbeth at BAM, but I digress.) Another one is the Lyric Stage Company production of Nicholas Nickleby. (Here’s the cast warming up.) Two shows, which I saw on the same day. About seven hours between them. A really delightful show, with a stellar cast. My last choice is another long one. Gatz, by the Elevator Repair Service. I saw it at the ART in Cambridge. Another two shows, this time eight hours of theater all told. Gatz is a staged version of The Great Gatsby. When it first started, and the main actor (the narrator) picked up a copy of the book and started reading it aloud, I started to squirm. The setting was a 80’s era office, and I thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?” Then other people started to say lines, and all of a sudden there was magic. I was transported. Now, I didn’t list Hamilton, or Les Miz, or . . . Nor did I list dance or opera. I am very blessed that working in the performing arts has been part of my life for over  30 years, so there is a lot to choose from.

Jessie: I love, love, love Cirque du Soleil. I have attended performances three times and all of them have been magical. I saw them in Las Vegas, Orlando and in Boston. There is something so engrossing about the experience. There was so much to see that I couldn’t decide where to look! My very favorite part of each show was the aerial silks performance. Breathtaking!

Sherry: In the mid-eighties my sister and I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in Denver, Colorado. It was supposed to be an outdoor performance but the weather was bad so they moved it inside. His leaps were breathtaking. The emotion he put into his performance unforgettable. A couple of weeks after we saw him, he was injured and from what I remember he never did the high leaps again. Another favorite performance was seeing Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard when we lived in the LA area. She was fabulous.

Liz: I really loved seeing Wicked (and I’m not just saying that because of the name!) in New York years ago when it first came out. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz and I loved learning the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West. And the music was fab!

Michael Maloney as Prince Hal, Robert Stephens as Falstaff, Rob Edwards as Ned Poins

Barb: I struggled mightily with this one, too. Finally I decided to go with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Henry V, Part 1, which Bill and I saw in London in 1991. We both love the historicals most of all and have seen many together. I always feel when you see Shakespeare well-performed, you learn something about the contemporary world and people you know. This performance was so accessible, I felt like the actors were speaking directly to me and I was almost a part of it. Like Sherry and Edith, my second choice would be a ballet–seeing Violette Verdy with the New York City Ballet when I was a kid. She had so much charisma, you could not tear your eyes off her.

Readers: Tell us about your very favorite performance, who, what, when, where, why?

The Detective’s Daughter :The New York Trip Part 1

We are having a technical problem this morning. Earlier comments have been lost and you may get a second message announcing this post. We apologize for any inconvenience!

Kim, back in Baltimore, planning the next getaway.

Last month I visited one of my favorite cities, New York. I try to get there at least twice a year. Though I’m not fond of crowds or the Times Square hubbub, the West Village has wrapped itself around my heart. It was the Jane Hotel that first introduced me to this lovely neighborhood several years ago.

The Jane Hotel, designed by William A. Boring and opened in 1908 as a hotel for sailors, is not only a beautiful and inexpensive place to stay but is rich with history. More than 100 survivors of the Titanic stayed at the hotel during the American Inquiry into the sinking of the ocean liner in 1912. The sailors felt right at home in the cabin-like rooms.

I stay in a “Captain’s” room usually on the third floor with a view of the Hudson River. The rooms are a fair size though not overly large, but you could swim in the bathtubs! The Jane also has a restaurant and a nightclub. Even if you’re not a “clubbier” it is worth going to see the Victorian architecture.

In the late 1980’s RuPaul lived in the “penthouse” apartment which is now the rooftop bar. Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Million Dollar Club were among the bands who performed there in the 1990’s.

As much as I love New York, I believe I really go just to stay at the Jane. Everything else is a bonus.

Readers, Join me next month to learn about all the fabulous places I visited when I was able to drag myself from the hotel. In the meantime, please share your favorite hotel experience.

Bridging a Knowledge Gap

News Flash: Ginny JC is the winner of Nancy Herriman’s book! Please check your inbox.

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the snow is finally getting to me. 

playing-cards-1252374_1920I love writing historical mysteries and I think some of that love might be because I have always loved reading books written during the golden age of mysteries. With their sprawling English manors, tidy cottage gardens and house parties in the country, their charms never seem to fade for me.

I envsion the afternoon teas, croquet on the lawn, flamboyant hats and the sound of motorcar tires crunching on the gravel drives all in vivid detail. I smell the scent of roses wafting through the French doors on a warm afternoon. I feel a silk scarf flutter out behind me as I steer down a country lane in an antique automobile. These sorts of book have always transported me to places and times with ease except for one thing. Bridge.

I can see a table with four players seated round it. I can see cards on the table. And that is where things get fuzzy. I know score is kept and I believe it is written on paper but I am not sure if any old pad will do or if there are special bridge score sheets. I am fairly certain it is played in pairs and that the teammates sit opposite each other.

I’ve read enough Agatha Chrisite mysteries and E.F. Benson novels to know that someone plays “dummy” and that the game is somehow divided into rubbers. I realise betting on games makes things more exciting and that there are tricks and there are trumps. Beyond that, I am at a loss.

I feel like this is a gap in my knowledge and I am wondering if I need to correct it. I must confess, I am not an eager gamer in any way. I don’t generally play board games or card games or even sports. I feel a bit daunted about trying to learn the game from lessons on Youtube or the internet but I don’t know that I know anyone who plays.

Despite my lack of experience with Bridge my latestest characters, Beryl and Edwina have expressed an enthusiasm for it. They play for low stakes and without a cut throat attitude but they seem determined to do so in each book. I am not sure how it keeps happening but they insist on inviting friends and acquaintances over for an evening of bridge and cocktails. They have gotten me in over my head.

So readers, I am wondering if any of you play Bridge and if so, would you be willing to give me a few pointers about what I need to include in my books in order to write convincingly without needing to spend countless hours online? Beryl and Edwina would be very grateful!

Guest: Nancy Herriman

Edith here, on vacation in DC but delighted to welcome my fellow historical novelist Nancy Herriman to the blog. Nancy has several mysteries in her A Mystery of Old San Francisco series, which I love, but this is a new book in a new era – seventeenth century – in a new series, and I can’t wait to read it (it arrived on my Kindle three days ago…)! Take it away, Nancy.

Thanks to the Wickeds for having me on their blog again. It’s always an honor. And I’ll be giving away a copy of Searcher of the Dead to one of the commenters on this post.

CLB_searcherforthedead_final_3 copyFirst off, here’s a bit about Book 1 in my newest series:

Herbalist Bess Ellyott flees London after her husband is murdered, but the peace she has found in the quiet Wiltshire countryside is short-lived. Her brother-in-law, a prosperous merchant, is himself found dead—dangling from a tree, a rope about his neck. A supposed suicide. Clues suggest otherwise to Bess. Was he the victim of a rival wool merchant, jealous of her brother-in-law’s success? Or worse, had he become entangled in traitorous schemes to undermine the Church of England? 

Bess is uncertain that she can trust the town constable to help her find the truth. Christopher Harwoode will cross members of his own family to uncover the killer…whose next target may very well be Queen Elizabeth I herself.

In my writing, I have two passions. One is setting my books in historical times. I have tried numerous times to write a contemporary novel and, so far, failed. I vow to keep trying, though! The other is an interest in how medicine is practiced, especially in the past. This is no surprise to anyone who has ever read one of my books. My heroines, my sleuths are always healers of some sort. In my San Francisco series, Celia Davies is a nurse. In my new Bess Ellyott books, which are set in Tudor England, my sleuth is an herbalist.

I’m far from alone in combining these two interests in a mystery novel. In the Father Cadfael books, which are set in Medieval England, the clever monk is also an herbalist. Ruth Downie’s Medicus series employs a doctor as sleuth in ancient Roman-occupied Britain. And, of course, we have Edith Maxwell’s wonderful Quaker Midwife mysteries! Just to name a few.

Medical professionals make good sleuths, in my opinion. I suppose I’d better have that opinion, as I make such regular use of them! Trained to observe symptoms of disease, they’re also well-equipped to identify when a death might be suspicious. Furthermore, my historical heroines exist in times and places that limited what they, as women, could do. Being an herbalist or a midwife or a nurse provides more opportunities than what other women of their worlds might possess.

My greatest joy, though, is what I learn while I’m researching my novels. For instance, medieval practitioners attempted more surgeries than I’d ever imagined (and without anesthesia, of course). I pity their desperate patients. Also, the ancient belief in the four humors—blood, yellow bile, black bile, phlegm—dictated what cures to use, and that balancing ‘hot/cold’ and ‘dry/wet’ was the solution to every problem. It’s an idea reflected in the saying, which dates to the 1570s, that people should ‘feed a cold, starve a fever.’

Frau mit Kind in einem Garten bei der Anisernte.

Woman and child harvesting anise. Photo credit to Austrian National Library

For my latest series, I’ve been studying old herbals so I can write accurately about the sorts of cures Bess Ellyott would have made. Some, such as those that used honey, might have actually worked (pure honey is a natural antiseptic). A much better recommendation than to slap cow or sheep dung on a wound. Well into the late 19th-century it was still easy to buy quack remedies, and nearly every one sold by the corner apothecary contained opiates. You might not get better, but you might be so sedated you wouldn’t notice.

As for the grossest research I’ve done, well, that involved reading up on the process of decay in corpses. Not something that should be done while eating. There was also the time I reviewed articles and photographs to be able to describe what happens to a body after a fall from a great height. The stuff you can find on the internet. Amazing. And icky.

In the end, I’m grateful to be able to tell the stories of healers, especially the women who worked (and sometimes continue to work) in the shadows of their male counterparts. Brave and intriguing women. Who also make excellent sleuths.

NancyHerrimanPhotoReaders: it’s your turn. Please share something that interests or fascinates you.

Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. Her work has won the RWA Daphne du Maurier award, and Publishers Weekly calls the first in her Bess Ellyott mysteries, Searcher of the Dead, “satisfying” and “fascinating,” and says “readers who relish details of daily life in a Tudor town…will enjoy this story.” When not writing, she enjoys singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. She currently lives in Central Ohio. You can learn more at www.nancyherriman.com

Talking to You

By Julie, grateful someone else shovels the snow here in Somerville, because we got a lot on Tuesday

WHICH ONE_Dear Readers,

Do you have any idea how much your support of this blog means to all of us? A lot. That’s the answer. We love that you respond to our posts, we love that when we meet you in person we feel as if we know you already, we love the support you give our guests, and we love that you celebrate each new book with us. This year we will hit the fifty book mark (and go past it) on the blog, so there’s been a lot to celebrate!

Today I’d like to ask your opinion on a few things. There are so many paths to communicate with folks these days, but I wonder which are the most effective? Do you mind if I ask some questions, and you can let me know what you think in the comments?

First of all, do you like newsletters? What kind of content do you enjoy in the newsletter? Most of the other Wickeds do them, but I haven’t done one yet. Thinking I should, so I’d appreciate your thoughts. I’m thinking about a quarterly newsletter, BTW.

How would you feel about the occasional video post rather than a written one? I’ll admit, I had never been a video fan, but lately I’m rethinking that. I’m taking a class online right now, and like the video format. It makes me feel more engaged with the instructor. For my work at StageSource one of our interns has been doing videos for us, and they are getting great responses. Also, I needed to fix something so I did a search on YouTube. What a great resource for walking you through projects. Anyway, it’s made me wonder about doing short videos once in a while for all of you.

For the past few months I’ve been using Instagram more and more, though I’m not great at it. I’ve also started a Instagram for my writing life (@JHAuthors) which is separate from my personal life (@JAHenn). I am not a visual thinker, so it’s been a little tough, but I am trying. I am also on Facebook and Twitter. While I love these platforms for connecting with folks, I wonder if there is a preference for all of you? I am on Pinterest, but unlike some of the other Wickeds I don’t use it well.

Final question for all of you–I wonder if the Wickeds should try to Facebook live sometime we’re all together. Would that be fun to try? We’re all going to be at Malice–maybe we could pull something together there. Again, until recently I didn’t understand how compelling these could be, but now I see how much fun it can be to interact with folks.

Let me end this blog post the way I started. Thank you all for being part of the Wicked Cozy Authors community. I love blogging with the others, and interacting with you.

Thank you for indulging my curiosity. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments!

Wicked Wednesday–the Best Concert

Continuing with our March theme, “the best,” Wickeds tell us about your best concert or other live music event. Give us the who, the where, and the why.

Liz: I’m so predictable in this area – Stevie Nicks and the Goo Goo Dolls, both of whom I’ve seen numerous times! I have to say the show I’ll always remember is when I used to live in New Hampshire and the Goos played at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. It’s a really cool, smaller venue and the band came outside after and met everyone who waited around for them (of course I was one of them!) It will always be one of my favorite nights.

Edith:  This, of course, dates me, but in August 1966 my sisters and I each took a friend to see the Beatles in Dodger Stadium. Our sainted father drove us and then sat in the car EmmyLouand read for the duration. But frankly, the concert was so long ago and there was so much screaming going on, I barely remember it. A couple of years ago I heard the great Emmy Lou Harris in Portsmouth, NH. I’ve loved her for years, and she’s going strong, five years older than I am. She played every song on her guitar. She did some energetic performing with the back-up band. She still has that beautiful, haunting voice and lyrics, and is putting out new records. It was the show of a lifetime for me.

Barb: Edith, I’m laughing because a friend of mine saw Emmy Lou Harris so many times, we used to tease him that her security people must have his photo as a known stalker. Liz, I would love to see Stevie Nicks!

Jessie: I saw Rod Stewart play in Old Orchard not long after I got my driver’s license. I went with a friend from school and had an amazing time. It is one of my many cherished memories of Old Orchard! Every time I hear his distinctive voice come over the radio I think of that evening!

Sherry: Two of my favorite concerts were at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, Ohio. It’s an outdoor amphitheater that seats about 4,000 people. We were stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during the mid-nineties. The Boston Pops were there and it was the second year that Keith Lockhart was their conductor. His energy — he jumped up and down the entire time — the lovely summer evening, and having my sweet mother-in-law with us made it a very special evening. We also saw Kathy Mattea there. She has a beautiful voice and her song Where’ve You Been makes me cry every time I hear it. I also love her album Good News.

Edith: I love Kathy Mattea, Sherry!

Barb: My best concert memory is at Tanglewood, on the lawn with my parents, Bill, my kids, friends, assorted sister and brother-in-laws and the kid’s cousins. It poured beforehand, but the skies cleared just in time and the stars came out. I have no idea what we heard. It was about family, friends, great food and wine.

Julie: Edith, so jealous you saw the Beatles! Wow. My absolute favorite band to see in concert is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I first saw them on December 15, 1990 (and again on the 16th) at the (now gone) Boston Garden. I’ve probably seen them a dozen times (maybe more) over the years. My favorite time seeing them was when they played Fenway Park. Honestly, my favorite band in one of my favorite places on earth? What’s not to love?

Readers: What is your best concert memory–tell us who, where and why.

Kensington Cozies on Sale in March at Barnes and Noble

From March 3 to April 8, Barnes & Noble and Kensington have teamed up to offer a special  promotion–Buy 3 Kensington cozy mysteries and get 1 free!

You can scroll down this page to see the covers of all the offered books. http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/

But wait, there’s more!

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display between 3/6/18 – 4/8/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will automatically be entered for a chance to win:

  • 1 Grand Prize: Two copies of a new cozy mystery each month for an entire year so you can share the book with a friend.
  • 5 Runners-Up: One surprise cozy mystery ARC.

Note: The same sale is going on at B&N online, though purchases there do not make you eligible for the contest. Here’s the link for the sale. https://www2.barnesandnoble.com/b/select-mystery-novels-buy-3-get-the-4th-free/_/N-2q0o

But wait, there’s even more!

There’s a special end-of-the-aisle display featuring 30 Kensington cozies at every B&N. Wickeds Sherry Harris, Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell), and Barbara Ross all have their latest mysteries on the shelf, along with lots of other great books, including mysteries by Friends of the Wickeds, Carol Perry and Lea Wait.

We thought it would be fun for some of the Wickeds to get their photos taken with this special display or with their displayed book.

Sherry: Here I am at my local Barnes and Noble in Fairfax, Virginia! It’s always a thrill to see my books in a bookstore. My husband took the pictures and we only got a few strange looks from the many customers in the store.

Edith: I found the Wickeds’ books (and New England friend of the Wickeds Lea Waits’s, too) top and center at the Barnes & Noble in Peabody, Massachusetts, and convinced a fan browsing the mystery shelves to take my (goofy expression) picture.


Here’s Friend of the Wickeds Carol Perry with the display. Carol has three books on the endcap: Grave Errors, It Takes a Coven, and Caught Dead Handed.

Barb: There’s only one B&N in Maine, in Augusta, not in Portland where I was last week. Now I’m back in Key West and there are no B&Ns anywhere on the Keys, so I’m posing below in our backyard with Stowed Away, which is on the display.

We’d also like to give a shout out to our friend, Lea Wait. As Edith said, her book Twisted Threads is on the display. Lea was going to participate in this post with us, but her husband is ill. Anyway, you should buy her book, because it’s terrific. In fact, you should buy 3 and get 1 free!

Readers: Tell us if you spied this end cap in your local B&N, and where it is. We’d love to see a pic of you with the array, too!