The Detective’s Daughter – There’s No Place Like Home

Kim in Baltimore with a beautiful print by artist Joanna Barnum for our Thankful for our Readers giveaway. Leave a comment for a chance to win.

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On a cold, snowy January evening nearly fifteen years ago my dad’s house blew up. You read that correctly. A small fire believed to have started in the living room traveled quickly igniting boxes of ammunition Dad had stored in a bedroom. By the time I arrived on the scene the firefighters had been evacuated and a news helicopter hovered overhead.

The brick walls still stood, stained with soot and glazed in ice, but intact. The rest of the house, the floors, ceiling, stairway, were turned to ash.

Our house had been built in 1860. The Nortons, my grandmother’s family, had moved in

Kim 1

Assorted Norton children

not long after the construction was complete and had been the only family to live there for roughly one hundred and forty years. My grandmother and all of her siblings were born in that house as well as my father and some of his cousins.

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My great-grandmother, Annie Graham Norton and unidentified man.

After the fire Dad moved in with me and the house was sold and remodeled. It nearly broke my heart and I was glad my grandmother had not lived to see this happen.

I have lived in my own house now for twenty-five years, seven years longer than I lived in my childhood house, yet it is still that large brick row house of my youth that I call home. I am always yearning to return.

It’s funny how, as a teenager, I was quite eager to escape and be on my own. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own place. Now all I can think of is how nice it would be to go home and sit across the table from Nana and enjoy a cup of tea.

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My great-grandmother, Annie Graham Norton and her oldest granddaughter, Madeleine Buckey.

I find, though, each month I am able to go home again when I share my stories with all of you. For that I am thankful.

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My grandmother, Florence Norton Kurth Beckhardt, my mother, Frances Smith Kurth, and me.

Readers, share with us about your family home in the comments below. 

Back to School

By Sherry — I’m just back from spending time with the Wickeds in Massachusetts. We had so much fun doing a panel at the Milton Library with Hallie Ephron moderating.

For our Thankful for Our Readers giveaway I’m giving away a set of all four Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries to one commenter. Leave a comment for a chance to win!

Recently a Facebook friend asked me if I would talk via Skype to three classes of sixth graders in New Port Richey, Florida. They are taking a creative writing class. I said yes and then immediately regretted it because I was afraid I didn’t have anything interesting to say.

I gave myself a talking to (okay, many talking to’s). I told myself it would be fine, that I could handle a bunch of sixth graders. The morning of the event as it got closer to the time of the first class, I remembered the advice of author Linda Barnes at Crime Bake. She said pacing and twirling your arms around would disburse some of the adrenaline flowing through your body. I did that. Then I remembered something Julie said about voice exercises so I shook my jaw back and forth saying something like blub, blub, blub. It wasn’t pretty.

Minutes later, there I was, a big giant head via Skype and a classroom full of kids staring at me hopefully. I didn’t want to let them down. I introduced myself and the kids had a bunch of questions for me. So here are some of the things we talked about.

Who does the covers for your books? I told them that Kensington has an art department and that my editor asked me for input. I was the one who suggested having a tag on the cover. The art department did it beautifully.

How much money do you make? Enough to live comfortably in a cardboard box under an overpass. I explained that most authors either have a day job or a partner who supports them.

How did you get published? I explained that the usual process was to write a book, find an agent, and the agent would sell your book to the publishing company. However, in my case my editor at Kensington had the idea for the series. He went to an agent looking for someone to write the series. The agent went to Barbara Ross and asked her if she knew anyone who could write the series. Barb knew I loved garage sales. She knew I’d been writing and studying the craft for a long time. Barb asked me if I wanted to give it a whirl. I told her I’d think it over but when I woke up the next morning my first thought was: Are you nuts? Of course you have to try. Four days later I turned in a proposal for the series.

How long do you have to write your books? I had nine months for the first three and six months for the next four.

Who was my favorite writer and my favorite book? Oh, that one put me on the spot. But I went with Julia Spencer Fleming and her book In the Bleak Midwinter. I told them that her sleuth was a former helicopter pilot who was now an Episcopalian priest. We talked about how those two things created conflict. And then I paraphrased her first line to avoid swearing: It was a terrible night to throw out a baby. (The actual line is: It was one hell of a night to throw out a baby.) The kids gasped when they heard the line. The teacher planned to use the line as a writing prompt and promised to send me some of their stories.

We also talked about their favorite books and authors.

What advice do you have for us? Don’t give up. I have stacks of rejection letters and it took me a long time to get published. Read the kind of books you want to write. Study writing. I still take classes and read books on writing. When you are older join organizations like Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Do you get writers block? I don’t believe there is such a thing, It’s fear, fear you aren’t good enough, fear this book won’t be as good as the last book, fear you have nothing to say – you do. When I get stuck I do what author John Dufresne recommended – look around – what does your character see, hear, smell? Write it all down to get them moving again – most of this will be thrown out.

We did a writing exercise that turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our time together. Who is your main character? What are three things they love and three things they hate? What is their favorite smell? Where would they go on vacation? Where do they never want to go?  When the kids finished they took turns coming up to share their answers. Then we talked about how they could take all those things to create conflict. One girl’s sleuth wanted to vacation in the Grand Canyon, but was afraid of small spaces. We talked about how her sleuth could go to the Grand Canyon and get lost in a cave. We went on with other students and what they could do with their answers.

As usual with these things, I worried for nothing. And I’m pretty sure I learned more than they did! Let me just add, god bless the teachers. I was exhausted after three classes — I don’t know how they do it!

Readers: Is there something that makes you nervous that turns out okay? Or just say hi if you don’t have a story to share!

Thankful for Our Readers–Week Three Giveaway Winners

That’s right, folks, it’s the end of our third week of giveaways for Thankful for Our Readers, the Wicked Cozies all November giveaway. We used Random.org for all our drawings.

Drum roll please.

November 13, winner of  the ARC of Stowed Away by Barbara Ross is Cynthia Bain! Please send your mailing information to barbaraross@maineclambakemysteries.com

November 14, winner of Black Cat Mystery magazine from Wildside Press is Mark Baker! Please send your mailing information to sherryharrisauthor@gmail.com!

November 15, winner of Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell) is Jennifer Hansen!

November 16, winner of one of the Clock Shop mysteries by Julianne Holmes is Rose Kerr! ! Please send your mailing address to jhauthors@gmail.com

November 17, winner of an ARC of Etched in Tears by Cheryl Hollon is barbarakay1! Please send your mailing address to cheryl.hollon@gmail.com.

November 18, winner of the ARC, vintage postcard, and tote is Kay Bennett ! Please send your mailing address to sherryharrisauthor@gmail.com

Thank you, readers, and good luck next week!

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Cover Reveal — Guest Dianne Freeman

We are happy to welcome debut author Dianne Freeman to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Our Thankful For Our Readers giveaway is an ARC of I Know What You Bid Last Summer, a vintage postcard, and a Snowden Family Clambake tote bag from Barbara Ross! Dianne thank you for being with us to share your cover!

As a debut novelist, every step in the publishing process is new and exciting. Today I’m excited to share my cover for A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, and I can’t thank the Wicked Cozy authors enough for hosting my big reveal.

Here it is:

It makes me smile every time I see it. Here’s a synopsis of the story:

Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.

No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old life make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive and anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.

While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end.

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mom introduced me to the works of Edith Wharton and Agatha Christie when I was quite young and I read them over and over. Thus, my love of mysteries and the late Victorian era. Wharton’s world was full of elegance, and manners, and rules—lots of rules. Anytime a character stepped a toe out of line and broke a social code, they met with a tragic end. That seemed—harsh. Surely it was possible to bend a rule here and there. Maybe have some fun or solve a mystery?

I back-burnered that idea for 30 or so years until I retired from corporate America and took up writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, I realized my true love was fiction. A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is the first in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series and is the result of my lifelong desire to write a fun whodunit in Wharton’s world of the late 19th century. And, of course it had to include an independent main character, with a knack for solving crimes. Thanks for sharing my big day!

Readers: Frances enlists the aid of her best friend and her handsome neighbor to help solve a crime. If you were an amateur sleuth, who would you want as your partner (real or fictional)? Here is the prize package:

Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing, and the endless summer. She and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona where you can find her indulging in a good read, or hard at work on the next Countess of Harleigh mystery.

Website: https://difreeman.com/ FB: Dianne Freeman Author Twitter: @difreeman001

Guest: Cheryl Hollon

Liz here, and I’m so happy to welcome back our friend Cheryl Hollon, who’s releasing her next book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series. Take it away, Cheryl!

By Cheryl Hollon

Delighted to be here again for another new release! Thank you, Liz, for letting me brag about my newest release. All the Wicked Cozy Authors have been such a great support to me – you are truly awesome.

Another new release. Did you notice how casually that rolled off the tongue – er, screen? Yep, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series will release on November 28, 2017. This is an important book for a select group of cozy mystery readers. Why? Because this cadre of readers will pick up a new author only if there are at least four books already published. Why? Most new cozy mystery contracts are for a 3-book deal. For various reasons, some don’t get extended beyond that third book. I am now a new member in the Four Books Published Club with two more in the works. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Etched in Tears_MM.indd

Another new release. That phrase has made me realize that I am now officially a professional author. I have a series of books that I love sitting on shelves in bookstores. The last two years have been full of rewards, surprises, and challenges. The biggest reward has been meeting readers who enjoy their visit with Savannah, Edward, Amanda, Jacob, Suzy, Rooney, and Snowy. The surprise has been how much I love to write. I didn’t expect the splendid sense of wellbeing that it provides. The challenges are centered around keeping on top of looming deadlines as well as the administrative side of running a small business as a sole proprietor.

What aspect of reading or writing a series surprised you? Tell us below and be entered for a chance to win a signed ARC of Etched in Tears!

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Each book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series highlights a particular skill within the broad category of glass art. Savannah Webb will teach and participate in each skill area exploring and expanding her knowledge of the craft, along with her assistant, Amanda Blake. As a subject matter expert consulting with the St. Petersburg Police Department, her close associations within the art community and the unusually keen observation skills of her apprentice, Jacob Underwood, combine to solve crimes. Edward Morris, boyfriend and the British owner of the pub next door, fills out the investigation posse with more than moral support accompanied by coffee and scones. The craft topics for the third book in the series are etching glass and slumping glass to make dishware.

The cover art for Etched in Tears (Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #4) is an image of my favorite museum with the magnificent droopy bench in front. That’s where the body is discovered, so as research, I had to slump myself over the bench to see if it was feasible. I considered it a triumph to get strange looks at an art museum that specializes in surrealism.

 

You can read more about Savannah in Etched in Tears, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries, published by Kensington Books. Available for pre-order at your favorite book vendor. It releases on November 28, 2017.

About Etched in Tears:

When a famous glass artist is murdered at his own exhibit, deadly secrets are put on display, and it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb to see through a killer’s cover.

 Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images into his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.

Meet the author:

Author Hollon PhotoCheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art.

You can visit Cheryl and her books at:

Newsletter signup at:  http://www.cherylhollon.com

Like her:  https://www.facebook.com/cherylhollonwriterFollow her:  http://www.twitter.com/cherylhollon

 

Murder on the Orient Express Thoughts

by Julie, thinking about pulling out my winter hat in Boston

Friends and family have felt compelled to email and text me this past week. “Saw the movie today! Have you?”

“No,  Crime Bake weekend,” I’ve replied.

“Call me after you see it!”

Crime bake 8 selfie station

Channeling Poirot and his mustache

I am, you see, a bit of an Agatha Christie aficionado, and have strong feelings about Murder on the Orient Express. I wrote a thesis about Agatha Christie’s use of point of view, and Murder on the Orient Express was one of the novels I focused on. For writer friends, I recommend reading it to see how moves from distant third to close third throughout the novel, and uses POV to confuse the reader. She is a master at deception.

I am also a huge fan of the 1974 movie. Albert Finney was a wonderful Poirot, though over the top. That said, it really holds up and is very faithful to the novel. It also brought a resurgence in interest in Agatha Christie’s work, and since it was towards the end of her life, the timing was great in making sure she’s remembered.

David Suchet was the best Poirot ever, but I didn’t like his version of Murder on the Orient Express.  They changed some character motivations that changed some plot points and took away from the strength of the story. (Julie’s Rule of Thumb: don’t mess with Agatha Christie plots. Just don’t.) I won’t discuss it on the blog (spoilers), but am happy to have the conversation in person.

So, I still haven’t seen the new version of the movie, but I will. Will it be as good as the 1974 version? That’s a tough bar. But it has a wonderful cast, most of whom I would watch in anything. I love that Agatha Christie may be finding a new audience, ensuring that her popularity will continue for another generation. One of my nieces is a recent convert, which thrills me beyond measure.

For me, as a writer thinking about a career, the fact that Agatha Christie’s 1934 (!) novel is being made into a movie forty one years after her death blows my mind. Christie is sometimes dismissed as a writer, but never by me. I aspire to write one Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, or And Then There Were None in my career, never mind all three of those plus sixty-three other novels, a dozen or so plays and dozens of short stories.  It has been said that she created characters with broad strokes, but I think that is part of what makes her relevant. Every generation can add their “take” on the characters, and on the story. (Just don’t touch the plot.)

As a writer, do I aspire to be of my moment, or timeless? Did she think about that?

I do wonder if this movie will bring forth a new phase of Agatha Christie films.  The Man in the Brown Suit gets my vote for consideration. Which books would you like to see adapted?

As part of our month long celebration of our readers, I will pick one winner randomly to get a signed copy of any of my Clock Shop mystery series.

Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for the New England Crime Bake

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win an advance copy of Edith/Maddie’s Biscuits and Slashed Browns, leave a comment below.

The 2017 New England Crime Bake was last weekend. As New England based authors, all the Wickeds have written about how grateful we are to the Crime Bake for what it’s added to our careers and our lives.

Wickeds, tell us a story about something that happened at Crime Bake this year that taught you something about craft, the writing community or yourself! Photos are a bonus.

Edith: I went to a great master class on Research given by author and professor of criminal justice, Frankie Bailey. I picked up some excellent tips on new sources I hadn’t thought of.

FrankieTalk

I also held a Sisters in Crime New England board meeting over breakfast, and am so grateful for these authors from six states who make our chapter the best one around. SINC National president Kendel Lynn joined us, too, and offered perspectives on what the umbrella organization is up to.

SincNEBoardPosed

I had so many other stellar moments, including hanging out with the Wickeds, visiting with friends like Ramona DeFelice Long, Kim Gray, and Dru Ann love, drinks with some of the Guppies, a Seascape reunion photo, and being asked to sit at the “head” table at the banquet along with Guest of Honor Lisa Gardner. Here she is holding one of the centerpiece vases of paper flowers, all made by hand by Crime Bake co-chair Sharon Daynard!

LisaFlowers

Barb: I took an excellent master class, too, A Map in the Wilderness, Unsticking Your Plot with Cinematic Structure with Ray Daniel. I did three manuscript reviews for unpublished authors–the best manuscripts I’ve ever seen while doing this. For two of them, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to say.

From left: Kim Gray, Karen Cleveland, Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, one of our revered instructors, Hallie Ephron, Sherry Harris, Dianne Herlihy, Barbara Ross, Ramona DeFelice Long

A group of us who had all attended Seascape in ’09 had a mini-reunion.

The banquet was a lot of fun. Great food!

I moderated a panel called Conflict! Conflict! Conflict! (Fortunately, nobody got hurt.) And I taught a Sunday class called, “Four Lies People Will Tell You about Marketing Your Novel.” The best part of Crime Bake is always the people. It’s like old home week.

From Left: Barbara Ross, Paula Munier, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Karen E. Olsen

Jessie: I learned the most from a stellar presentation by our own Barb Ross on Marketing. It was just like Barb to take a topic that is routinely overwhelming and typically dry and to turn it into a comprehensive, accessible and very funny seminar. I was so grateful for her expertise and her willingness to share it. Thanks, Barb!

Sherry: Ditto, what Jessie said. It was a wonderful class. I learned a lot at the master class on suspense by Lisa Gardner. I love all of those little moments of grabbing some time with an old friend and making new friends. It was also fun to discover one of my daughter’s high school friends was working at the hotel.

Liz: Triple ditto! I thought Barb’s presentation was fabulous and there were many terrific points that everyone could take away. She’s great at breaking things down into pieces that everyone can understand. And overall, it was a great conference. This is always my favorite mystery con and this year didn’t disappoint!

Julie: I moderated two panels, both with EXCELLENT panelists which made my job easier. I was on the committee, so I have a slightly different perspective, but my favorite moments were solo acts by three fabulous women. Lisa Gardner, the GoH, gave a wonderful pep talk at lunch about why it is so great being a writer. Susan Reynolds did a Friday night talk about firing up your writer’s brain (she wrote a book on the topic) that I started taking notes during (which tells me how great it is). And Barb’s talk on Sunday really was wonderful. We all know how wonderful she is, but she really blew me away.

Readers: Tell us about a particular experience at a meeting or conference, or simply say hello.Save