Wicked Wednesday — I’m A Fool for this Place I’d Love to Live

Sherry here. My husband and I are always trying to figure out where we want to live. We like it in Northern Virginia, but we don’t plan to live here forever. Sometimes we dream big — London, Paris, Monterey. But sometimes it’s some place smaller and a little off the beaten path. Wickeds, where would you love to live? Is it a specific place or more vague like a cottage with a lake view?

Edith: How about coming back to New England, Sherry! For me, I love it here in my northeast corner of Massachusetts. But as a native Californian, I long to find a small town away from the big cities. Somewhere within a half hour drive to the coast, maybe near Santa Barbara. A town with a bookstore and a move theater. I’d find an adobe house nestled in an orange grove and plant a garden. I’d sit on the veranda and write my heart out, inhaling sweet scents, eating ripe strawberries in March, never shoveling snow, wearing a fleece sweatshirt at the most to keep warm. Thanks for allowing me the fantasy, Sherry. (I feel like posting a picture of the house… but it only exists in my mind.)

Liz: I’ve struggled with this question for a long time. I’m a New Englander at heart, but I’m not a fan of winter anymore. I’ve always wanted to be a California girl – I think I could fit in nicely out in San Francisco! – but I haven’t made the leap yet. I want to be warm year round, but I don’t think I’d fit in anywhere down south. And I do love being near Boston and New York. So I guess the answer is to have a place to live for different seasons. Summer and fall in New England, and winter and spring somewhere warm! And always near a beach. That’s not asking too much, is it?

Barb: Weirdly enough, my husband and I just faced exactly this question. When his mother died sixteen months ago, for the first time in our adult lives we had no obligation to live near jobs, schools or family. It was really weird to suddenly be faced with that kind of choice and the ability to live out at least one of those fantasy scenarios we’d been running for years. Regular readers know the answer. We sold our house in Somerville and bought a house in Portland, Maine. I am now living outside of Massachusetts for the first time in forty-two years, my husband for the first time in his life (not counting college). I can’t tell you how it turned out quite yet–but I’m optimistic!

Sherry: I have no answers to this question. Last weekend I was in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. It’s a lovely town and it’s home to Western Kentucky University. A college town is high on our list of wants. As we drove away my husband and I discussed if we could live there. No matter where we end up I picture a house with a huge screened in porch either on top of a hill overlooking a valley or with a view of the water.

Julie: I live in the city and love it. But, I must confess, lately I’ve been thinking about what it must be like to live on a lake, fully wired and connected to the world, but unable to see or hear anyone. I am not a suburb gal–for me it is city or country. As for which city? I love Boston. I could happily live in London, Berlin or Vienna. I suspect I could also live in Paris, but haven’t visited there in 40 years (must fix that). What a fun question to think about!

Readers: Where is your dream place to live?

 

Missing Malice

By Liz, sad she won’t be heading to Bethesda this week. 

The annual Malice conference in Bethesda is a recurring entry on my calendar. Granted, I’ve only been going for four years, unlike some of the die-hard Malice-ites, but it’s still something I look forward to. Getting to hang out with all my writer and reader pals, being immersed in books all weekend – what could be better?

But this year, I’m not going. My little dog has been having some health stuff, and it will be easier on her if I stay home. So she and I will be hanging out, keeping an eye on Facebook for all the news and updates and photos – so you all better post a lot! We’ll also be wrapping up Murder, She Meowed, Pawsitively Organic book seven, which is due May 1.

So, I thought I’d share some memories of my favorite past-Malice moments – including the other year I couldn’t physically go, but went on a stick.

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And the year Kneading to Die was nominated for Best First Novel!

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I’ve made so many special friends at Malice….

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Malice 5

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Then there was time Shari and I took a picture not knowing there was a toilet behind our heads…

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Most of all, I’ll miss being with the whole gang…

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But I’ll be there in spirit! Have a great Malice, friends.

 

Writing Real Stuff

Edith here, north of Boston, and packing for Malice Domestic!

We Wickeds are fiction writers. We make stuff up. We are goddesses of our story worlds. Don’t like that guy? Knock him off. Discover the hint of a new romance between two characters? Make it blossom.

ACM

One of my series, the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, is set here in my Massachusetts town of Amesbury, which sits on the New Hampshire border one town in from the coast. So I use a real setting – but the action takes place back in the late 1880s. We have a thriving Amesbury Carriage Museum, which has been focusing in recent years on all of Amesbury’s industrial history.350thsquare

This year is Amesbury’s 350th birthday and the ACM is sponsoring a series of lectures about various aspects of the past.

JohnMayerThe ACM’s dynamic director, John Mayer, asked me this winter if I would give a talk on the lives of Amesbury’s women in the past. I didn’t have to think long to respond, “You know, John, the historical woman I know best is FICTIONAL.” He laughed and assured me that was okay. I gulped and said yes. I really like what John is doing for our town and wanted to contribute. We decided I would focus on the twenty years surrounding 1900. But write about real people instead of made-up ones? I had my work cut out for me.

For a couple of months I’ve been interviewing our town’s elders, sharp-minded women in their late eighties and nineties, plus some of their children. I’ve poured over old diaries of farm women, learned about the lives of more well-known women, heard stories about immigrant families, traced the charitable activities of the wives of the factory and mill owners. Every bit of it was fascinating.

And what hit me in the face again and again? Women are absent from the history books, even the three local histories written by women! The ladies were working behind the scenes just as hard as – or harder than – the men. Their stories deserve to be told, even though they didn’t end up with their names on buildings or in the town reports.

I presented my talk last week to a standing room only crowd.

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I had a slide show, extensive notes, the privilege of seating some of my primary sources in the front row – and more nerves than I’ve had in a while.

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How a mystery author saves front-row seats for her honored guests. Photo by Christine Green

In one of my first slides, I made sure everybody knew I am an amateur historian. That I love delving into the past, but have no professional credentials to back me up other than an award-winning historical mystery series. Nobody seemed to care.

Here are some of the women I interviewed. Clockwise from top left, Betty Goodwin, Jodie Rundlett Perkins, Pam Bailey Johnson Fenner, and Sally Blake Lavery, treasures all.

And here are some the strong, hardworking women from all economic classes I showcased – the women absent from the history books.

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Josephine Blake at left, Jessie Blake at right, whose detailed memoir of her childhood I drew on.

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Mina and Florence Blanchard. Mina became a teacher, Florence a nurse.

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Lydia Crowell Bailey, very much of the well-off class, who nevertheless lost two young children. (Blemishes on the photo, not her skin.)

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Mary Jewell Little, left, and Annie Little Woodsom, far right

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Marie Tremblay, French-Canadian immigrant, and daughter Rosanna. Neither ever spoke English.

The evening was fun. The audience seemed to love it. Our local cable TV filmed it and I’ll post a link in a couple of weeks to the video on the ACM cable channel. And I sold a lot of books afterwards. For now? I’m glad to get back to making stuff up!

Readers: Who are your local or family elders you hear stories from? Which of their and your own stories have you shared with the next generations?

Exciting News!

By Sherry — I’m in Bowling Green, Kentucky today for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest!

I am so excited to announce that I am writing a second series for Kensington – the Chloe Jackson Redneck Riviera series. The setting is in the panhandle of Florida and the town is a fictional version of Destin, Florida. The area is known as the Emerald Coast, LA – lower Alabama, and yes, the Redneck Riviera.

Why am I setting a book there? My parents used to winter on the Emerald Coast and eventually moved to Destin in 1991. My husband was stationed there in the early 2000s. We lived in the area for almost three years. When we left our daughter said “yes, ma’am, no sir,” called her gym teachers coach, and we all ended up talking slower and saying “y’all.” It’s hotter than the blazes in the summer, people hold open doors for you even when your halfway across the parking lot, the beaches are the whitest, softest I’ve ever been to, and the water is a stunning shade of green.

It’s even beautiful on a rainy day!

Here is a bit about the series from the proposal I turned in:  

There are some promises you hope you never have to keep. Thirty-year-old Chloe Jackson made such a promise to her friend Boone Parker before he left for a deployment in Afghanistan. When he didn’t come back, Chloe packed her bags to go help Boone’s grandmother, Vivi, run her Seaglass Bar on the white sand beaches of Destiny, Florida. Destiny is in the panhandle of Florida which is also known as the Redneck Riviera and LA — Lower Alabama. Destiny has four seasons – snowbirds, spring breakers, summer people, and the month and a half in the fall where it’s just the locals.

Chloe won’t miss the cold winters of Chicago, but giving up her job as a children’s librarian just about broke her heart. However, her late father had told her a promise made must be a promise kept. It’s the code Chloe has always lived by.

Chloe thought Vivi would be grateful for her help — she’s anything but grateful. Because what could a children’s librarian who has never mixed a drink add to her business? However, Vivi quickly realizes that Chloe’s past as a children’s librarian gives her a unique ability to handle unruly customers and employees.

Destiny is a town that grew too fast. Greedy developers made shady deals while lining the back pockets of the town council. Resources – police, utilities, and roads – are strained as is the environment. Rich people don’t want the locals to have access to the beach and fights about the mean high tide are ongoing. Harley riding local doctors don’t like the Speedo wearing foreigners coming to town.

Will Wade has owned the Briny Pirate restaurant next door to the Seaglass for thirty years. The two buildings are so close they might as well share a wall. When a Seaglass customer is hungry Vivi calls in an order and someone from the Briny Pirate runs it over.

Cast of Characters:

Chloe Jackson – is a thirty-year-old former children’s librarian who moves to Destiny, Florida to help her college friend’s grandmother run her bar on the beach.

Vivi Slidell – has run Seaglass Bar on the beach in Destiny for the past forty years long before the sleepy fishing village became a tourist hot spot. Vivi doesn’t think she needs help from anyone. She’s grieving the loss of her grandson whose support meant more to her than she ever realized. Vivi is reluctant to accept help from anyone and especially a Yankee who shows up every day unbidden.

Joaquin Diaz – the handsome bartender, a fisherman by day, who ladies flock to see. Overworked, Joaquin seems to be the only one who is happy that Chloe has arrived.

Will Wade – owns the Briny Pirate restaurant next door and has been in love with Vivi for thirty years. Will is a cranky native who doesn’t like how tourists, land developers, and northerners have ruined the once quiet beaches.

I hope you will join me in this new adventure!

Readers: Have you ever been to the Redneck Riviera? If not what is your favorite beach town? I’m at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest today, but will stop by as possible!

 

 

 

Guest: Cindy Callaghan

NEWS FLASH: Andrea Lerum is the winner of Cindy’s book. Check your email, Andrea!

Edith here, happy to host Cindy Callaghan  today. Her tween mystery Sydney Sydney Mackenzie coverMacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead is an Agatha Award nominee for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel this year. And she’s giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter here today!

Here’s the blurb:

Can inheriting a haunted cemetery be anything less than disastrous for California tween and actress wannabe Sydney MacKenzie?  Highly unlikely.  But, stranger things have happened in the cozy town of Buttermilk River Falls… Not only does she finally land a great groups of friends, she also solves an old town secret that’s been buried for decades and achieves her movie star aspirations.

Tales from the secret society of idea stealers

stealI recently made a list of the most frequent questions I get, and there’s one that you might not expect:  Are you afraid someone will steal your ideas?

Here’s the true story:  In the early ‘90s, I widely submitted a book to publishers that never sold.  A short time later, a similar concept became a book, TV, and movie series with merchandising.  I’m talking plush toys, stickers, lunch boxes, you name it.

Had my idea been stolen?  I’ll never know for sure.  Here’s the part that was hard for me to accept:  If it had been stolen from me, there’s nothing I could do about it, because an idea can’t be copyrighted.

Let’s take a minute to look in the casebook of the Idea Stealer

  • A woman I met at a writing meeting told me that she’d submitted ideas to a current popular TV show. She received a reply that the show doesn’t accept ideas from the general public.  However, she swears that one of the ideas she submitted was used in future episodes. How do you explain that?  I give this reputable TV network the benefit of the doubt and believe the idea wasn’t deliberately hijacked.

Side note:  It’s probably smart to submit to shows or publishers via agent representation who can best protect your interests.

  • I’ve personally received emails from writers noting the strange coincidence that one of my books is similar to theirs. These suggestions of impropriety miss that my book was published before theirs, and I don’t know these people and would have no way to have been exposed to their work.

How does this happen? Darwin

An idea whose time has come: If Darwin hadn’t written On the Origin of Species, would someone else have?

I’ve heard this referred to as “Railroad Time.”  This isn’t the time of day that the trains run, rather the concept that when the world needed a specific transportation infrastructure its invention inevitable.

Or, perhaps, the same idea coming to multiple people is a function of similar inputs, as one of my writing partners explained it.  In general, we’re exposed to the same news, books, movies, trends, world events, social evolutions making it natural that, with over seven billion other humans on the planet, someone will process this input in a similar way and birth the same ideas.  This is also called “Multiple Discovery.”

Both names are a little blah, and as creators, we can come up with something better. Callaghan puts on her red and white Seuss hat and exclaims, “Sameideaology!” I think sameideaology is a pretty good explanation of alleged “idea theft.”

Catching the trend: Writers often chase the market, meaning they see a trend and rush to join.  Usually this fails, because the writing-sale-publication cycle is too long for this strategy to work.  BUT, consider this: There were enough people writing about a topic/genre at the same time to make it a trend in the first place!  So, maybe some writers are better at “trend catching”, or “trend predicting,” than others.

The Re-fresh: Some will say there are no new ideas, just old ones reinvented.  I’m not sure where I sit on that argument, but I think this is a third alternative to idea stealing.  That is to say, it’s fair game to mix up an old idea.  Consider my Just Add Magic – potions aren’t new, a trio of gal pals isn’t new, a secret club isn’t new, but a Secret Cooking Club is  And consider Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead – cemeteries aren’t new, hauntings aren’t new, family secrets aren’t new, but a California girl wanting nothing more than to be a movie star ending up haunted in southern Delaware in bitter January is new.  And, let’s face it, funny.

city countryMaybe I’m a “Refresher,” because my Lost In books are twists on the City Mouse/Country Mouse story.  But, with unique plot lines and twists told through fun, interesting, and unique characters, presto, the idea is new and fresh, not stolen.

 So, back to the question, Does the thought of someone stealing one of your wonderfully fabulous and amazing ideas fill you with dread and fear?

Yes, for sure.  But I think it’s pretty unlikely that someone would snatch something from the bowels of the secret Callaghan writing laboratory, write it to completion in the same way I would, pitch it, and sell it.

Bottom line:  The notion of an idea-stealer lurking in the shadows of the Callaghan Writing Cave doesn’t keep me up at night….. Hmmm, an “idea-stealer,” that’s an interesting idea for a novel.  (See how that works?)

So, readers, tell me: Are you a refresher? Can you think of examples of “sameideaology”? And what do you think might be the next big trend?

I’ll give away a copy of the book to one commenter here today!Callaghan-55retouched

Cindy Callaghan is a business professional and ‘tween writer. Her books: Just Add Magic (2010), Lost in London (2013), Lucky Me (2014)/Lost In Ireland (2016), Lost in Paris (2015), Lost in Rome (2015), Lost in Hollywood (2016), and Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead (2017), Just Add Magic: Potion Problems (2018) and Saltwater Summers (2019) magically capture the tween voice and experience.

Cindy’s first book, the much-loved Just Add Magic, is now a breakout Amazon Original live-action series. Cindy lives in Wilmington, Delaware.

Welcome, Devon Delaney and a Giveaway

by Barb, loving being back in Maine

Devon Delaney’s cozy, culinary mystery Expiration Date releases on April 24, (my anniversary!). I recently met Devon at the Kensington Cozy-con here in Portland and learned about her amazing success at a fascinating hobby–cooking contesting.

Devon is giving away a copy of Expiration Date to one lucky commenter below.

Take it away, Devon!

If someone had told me my life’s journey would lead me from teaching computer education and Lego Robotics to cooking contesting, then on to writing cozy murder mysteries I would have had a much easier time convincing my father the money he invested in my liberal arts college degree was money well spent. Admittedly, cooking contesting isn’t a degree offered in any schools I’m aware of, but the highly successful twenty years I’ve been involved in the hobby is an education in of itself.

Making the leap from competing in cook-off contests to authoring a cozy murder mystery series may not make sense to most, but to me it’s a perfect evolution of my beloved hobby. In the dictionary the definition of contest is battle, contend and compete. The cooking contests I compete in have taken me from coast to coast. At each venue I meet the most wonderful home cooks. But I never mistake my fellow competitor’s outward warmth as a weakness. Each wants to crush me and every other contestant to get that grand prize. Even though I have yet to encounter a murder at one of my cook-offs, my powers of observation have tuned in to a few salty scenarios when battles got heated. The notion of how far events could escalate occurred to me one day when a friend casually remarked, “I’d kill to be able to cook like you.” A series was born.

That being said, the main character in my series, Sherry, is a compilation of myself and other cooks I know. She is flawed. She finds herself in situations she doesn’t necessarily wish to be in. She makes the most out of the unusual talents she isn’t fully aware she possesses. I might have a more comedic, and probably inappropriate, approach to life’s serious moments than Sherry, but I have hopes she’ll loosen up as she realizes she can’t control every aspect of her life despite her efforts to do just that. Like me, she has her fingers in many pies. From canning her own produce to working at her family’s hooked rug store her day is a busy one, but her favorite pursuit remains battling in cook-offs showcasing her best recipe.

In the meantime, Sherry continues to cook and compete, flourishing with each victory. Her new and unintentional hobby as amateur sleuth lands her in some very precarious situations that only her experience in the contest kitchen could have prepared her for.

Devon’s Bio

I am a wife, mother of three, accomplished cooking contester and a recent empty nester. I taught computer education and Lego Robotics for over ten years prior to pursuing writing. Along the way I have been handsomely rewarded for my recipe innovation over the last twenty-plus years. Among the many prizes I have won are a full kitchen of major appliances, six-figure top cash prizes and four trips to Disney World. I have also won the grand prize in a national writing contest for my ‘foodie’ poem “Ode to Pork Passion.” Combining my beloved cooking contesting with my enthusiasm for writing was inevitable. My author website can be found at: www.devonpdelaney.com

Expiration Date, A Cook-Off Mystery

Sherry Frazzelle lives a busy life in her quaint coastal Connecticut town. Her passion is competitive cooking and she has the trophies to prove how serious she is when she cooks for a prize. When her prepared pork tenderloin dish is the last food a contest judge tastes before he expires, she must put aside her spatula long enough to clear her good name and find the killer before he strikes again. The deeper her involvement in the investigation, the higher the heat soars in the contest kitchen. Will the competition become so unsavory, she isn’t able to get herself off the chopping block?

Readers: Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Expiration Date. Did you know competitive cooking was a thing? (I mean aside from Top Chef and the Food Network.) Would you like to try it? Doesn’t the world of cooking contesting sound like ripe ground for a cozy mystery series? Or just say “hi” for a chance to win.

Wicked Wednesday — I’m A Fool for Spring Books

Spring is in the air and it’s a great time to sit out in the sun and read. Wickeds, what are you reading or what are you looking forward to reading?

Edith: Last week I picked up several new releases I’d ordered from my local independent bookstore. What a treat to have a stack of great books – written by friends – to read!GreatBooks

Barb: Edith, I’m reading Scot Free, too. We must discuss.

Liz: Scot Free is on my list too! I’ve been writing so much this winter that I’ve barely had time to read anything, so I’m planning on catching up on my pile once I turn in my next book on May 1. Finishing up The Snowman, then will tackle The Handmaid’s Tale, Walter Mosley’s Little Green (in prep for Crime Bake!) and I just picked up Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield, who wrote The War of Art.

Jessie: I am hard in the last throes of a double deadline so I am reading Wine Spectator magazine and collections of Agatha Christie short stories. After June 4 I will be reading The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley and The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths.

Sherry: I just finished two amazing books. The Night of the Flood — an Anthology in Stories edited by E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen — each story is an hour on the night of the flood. The whole concept of the anthology intrigued me and it surpassed all of my high expectations.  Oh, and The Daughters part in the anthology — fascinating. The second book is The Dangerous Edge of Things by Tina Whittle. I could not put this book down and I’m now in the throes of trying to decide whether to power through the series one after the other or savor the books. I’m looking forward to reading The Bad Break by Jill Orr and Scot Free.

Readers: What are you reading or looking forward to reading?