Moments of Nature

By Liz, who’s been writing so many blog posts her head may explode soon…

You guys. The launch of Cat About Town is a week away, and I’ve been doing so many guest blogs I have no original thoughts any longer. Usually when I’m at work and that happens, I try to go out for a walk and clear my head.

So I’m going to share a few moments of nature from some of my and Shaggy’s recent walks, and hopefully they will clear all our heads! Or at least, I hope you enjoy them.

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Swans enjoying the river.

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Some people call them weeds, but I love dandelions!

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A view from the top of our walk.

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The nearby beach.

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Ducks enjoying the water.

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Fearless chipmunk.

And, a little fountain meditation. Don’t worry – it will straighten itself once you hit play!

 

 

 

Readers, what’s your favorite nature break? Tell us in the comments.

Easing into the Future

Edith here, roasting north of Boston.

I’m in that stage of revisions on my work-in progress (Quaker Midwife Mystery #4) where I print out the manuscript and spend a couple of days at the dining table with a colored pen and words on paper. Last week Ramona DeFelice Long, my dear friend, editor, and writer, wrote a blog post about how she no longer prints out her manuscripts.

Even though using expensive ink smarts, and watching all that paper crank through my printer does, too, I can’t abandon my paper readthroughs. I do it three times during my writing/revision process. Right now is the first time, after I have finished the first draft and addressed all my self-queries I had saved for later (things like, Did the Meetinghouse have a furnace in the basement? Did the post office have lockable individual post boxes? What went on during the winter on the frozen river? And so on). Paper readthrough

Reading straight through shows me continuity issues, weak plot points, and the flow of the book. I see the words differently on paper, too. I’ll do it again just before I send it off to be edited, and again before I send it to my publisher.

I don’t, however, write original content on paper (unless I am absolutely stuck somewhere with time on my hands and no laptop), and would never go back to that.

In other areas I also have a foot in both the paper and the digital worlds. We pay almost all our bills by writing an actual, old-fashioned check and sending it in an envelope with a stamp on it. I know I could do it all online, but there’s something about sitting down with the checkbook that feels safer, and is also a link to the past. I can picture my father doing the exact same thing.

calendarI’m a convert to Google calendar. I love it! It’s on both my computers and on my phone., and it sends me handy reminders. I don’t even need the appointment card from the doctor any more – I just poke the appointment into my phone and we’re done. But I also use a paper calendar at my desk, and we keep one downstairs, too. I like that visual reminder of what’s coming up and what has already happened.

I prefer to read books on paper. That said, having a Kindle is a boon for traveling or for trying out a book from a new author I can’t get from the library or am not sure I want to own.

A couple parts of my life that are reassuringly old-fashioned are cooking and gardening. I just don’t see those going digital any time soon (although I do often find recipes online, so there’s that).

Readers: what about you? Are you all digital all the time, or straddling the worlds as I am? What’s your favorite analog thing, and your favorite digital?

Summer Reads 2017

NEWS FLASH: Meg is the winner of Peg’s book for commenting yesterday. Congratulations, Meg! Peg will be contacting you by email.

It’s full summer in New England – sun-kissed tomatoes, sun-pinked skin from the beach, sunny yellow flowers abloom. So what are we reading, Wickeds and friends? Share your favorite kick-back-and-lose-yourself-in-a-story choices.

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Edith: I have the great honor of being nominated for a Macavity Award, the Sue FederMemorial Award for Best Historical Novel, along with Catriona McPherson, Ann Parker, James Ziskin, Lyndsay Faye, and Susanna Calkins (in no particular order). I’m reading each of their nominated books before I head to Toronto for Bouchercon in October. So far I’ve loved Catriona’s The Reek of Red Herrings and Lynsday’s Jane Steele. Next up is Ann’s What Gold Buys, which I’m eagerly anticipating.

Sherry: I’ve read a lot of great books over the past few weeks. First up was Identity by Ingrid Thoft. I love this series and have to keep myself from binge reading it. Second I was delighted to read my friend Kim Stockley’s YA fantasy A Shattered Moon the first in a trilogy with the concept: There is still an Eden but it’s no longer paradise. I read an early version and loved it even more now. Then I read Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen. What a plot and full of his usual quirks. I just started Murder with Chicken and Waffles by A.L. Herbert who I met at an event on Saturday. When a book starts with cornbread you know it’s  going to be good.

Liz: I have so many books on my list! I just finished World Gone By by Dennis Lehane, and Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. Next on my list is Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz.

Julie: Diane Vallere and I were on a panel together at Malice. She mentioned that she will read through an entire series at a time–both to enjoy and to learn from. With that as an inspiration, and with a vacation coming up, I’ve decided to read Louise Penny’s series. She is a favorite of so many, and I am already glad I’m diving in.

Barb: I feel like a broken record, because I think every time we do this I’m reading William Kent Krueger. However, I am almost caught up to the present. Currently reading Manitou Canyon. Like Julie, I have vacation coming up. I’m planning to bring Paul Doiron’s latest, Knife Creek, and Bruce Robert Coffin’s second novel, Beneath the Depths. And, like every year, the last week in August, I’ll be at Sherman’s in Boothbay Harbor, picking up a copy of Louise Penny’s latest, Glass Houses this year, for my Labor Day weekend reading pleasure.

Jessie: I am currently reading Radha Vatsal’s A Front Page Affair and am enjoying it immensely! I recently finished Cold Comfort by Quentin Bates and Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan. For non-fiction I am savoring Naturalists in Paradise: Wallace, Bates and Spruce in the Amazon by John Hemming.

Readers: Share your summer reads!

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Guest: Peg Cochran

Edith here, happy to welcome Peg Cochran, a fellow cozy author who also writes about murder related to farming! Here’s the blurb for her newest mystery,  SowedtoDeathSowed to Death:

The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan—especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer’s Daughter. She’s submitting jams and jellies she’s created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon. But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby’s neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life. The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police. As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

Doesn’t that sound fun? And she’s giving away a copy to one commenter here today. Take it away, Peg!

An Agent by Any Other Name…

When I first starting looking into getting an agent for my work, I had a fairly limited view of what an agent does—they sell your book and make sure the contract isn’t entirely in the publishing house’s favor.

JessicaFaustI was thrilled when agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds agreed to take me on, and I quickly learned that an agent does so much more than get you a book deal and vet your contracts.

An agent—a good one anyway—is a collaborator, editor, nag, supporter, career coach and someone who forces you to write the dreaded synopsis even when you don’t want to.

My newest series, The Farmer’s Daughter Mysteries, is a case in point.  It started with our annual “what are your plans for this year?” conversation (career coach) wherein I indicated a desire to take on a new cozy series.

From there, we tossed around possibilities (collaborator) and Jessica mentioned her idea for a cozy series revolving around a lifestyle blogger who lives on a farm. I liked the idea despite the fact that a) I’ve never lived on a farm or even near one and b) I can’t grow anything and can barely keep a plastic plant alive.

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Peg’s only plant

But I was game so I ran with the concept and put my own spin on it. I made the blogger a widow with two children, added a couple of possible romantic interests, complicated things with a brother-in-law who reminds my protagonist a little too much of her late husband, and then tossed in a dead body.

From there, I submitted three chapters, which I rewrote with Jessica’s subsequent feedback (editor) and then created the series overview and synopsis for the first book (synopsis enforcer).

Jessica was excited about the idea and occasionally emailed to ask how it was going (nag). Finally it was done and on submission. The first publishing house we approached turned it down, but Jessica assured me that it would find a home (supporter).

Jessica then did the two things I knew an agent did: sold it to Berkley Prime Crime and made sure the contract was in order.

I don’t know if I’m just lucky and Jessica is exceptional (which I suspect she is) or if this is the industry norm. Either way, I can’t imagine negotiating the tricky waters of a writing career without someone like her!mlc 9-15

Mystery writing lets Peg Cochran indulge her curiosity under the guise of “work” (aka research).  She put pen to paper at age seven when she wrote plays and forced her cousins to perform them at Christmas dinner.   She switched to mysteries when she discovered the perfect hiding place for a body down the street from her house.  

When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading, cooking, spoiling her granddaughter and checking her books’ stats on Amazon.  Peg resides in Michigan with her husband and Westhighland white terrier, Reg.  She is the author of the Sweet Nothings Lingerie series (written as Meg London), the Gourmet De-Lite series, the Lucille series, the Cranberry Cove series, The Farmer’s Daughter series, and the Reluctant Debutante series debuting in the fall of 2018 from Random House. You can find her at www.facebook.com/pegcochran, @pegcochran (twitter), pegcochran (Instagram), and www.pegcochran.com.

Readers: Have you ever lived on a farm and/or would you like to? Do you have a green thumb or a black one like mine? Remember, Peg is giving away a copy of Sowed to Death to one commenter here today!

Wicked Wednesday: National Daquiri and Hot Dog Days

Another corny July Wednesday for you. Did you know today was National Daquiri Day AND National Hot Dog Day? Have you ever paired those two? Who has a favorite Daquiri recipe? And how do you take your hot dogs? Dish, Wicked and readers!HotDog

Edith: Here’s a Daquiri recipe from the Food Network.

  • 2 cups crushed ice, plus extra for chilling glass
  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 1-ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, strained of pulp
  • 1/2-ounce Simple Syrup, recipe follows

Liz: I can’t comment on the hot dogs… but I do love daiquiris! I found the best recipe for  a blueberry mint daiquiri on Boulder Locavore. Perfect for summer!

Barb: Let’s see. I love hotdogs. I always have trouble at barbecues with the “burger or dog?” question. I’m also partial to Nathan’s when on the road. Mustard and relish, please. My warm weather drinks are margaritas and mojitos, so not so much on the daquiris.

Jessie: With the exception of caipirinhas, I don’t care for sweet cocktails. I much prefer very dry martinis or Scotch. My husband, however, loves all sorts of sweet drinks that come with umbrellas and fruit garnishes. Whenever we order drinks when we are out the server invariably hands us the other person’s drink. Apparently there is gender attached to beverages.

Edith: Right with you there, Jessie – those fruity drinks taste too good and I forget they’re alcoholic. Give me my maxi-proof  straight up every time. Well, except for caipirinhas, the first mixed drink I ever had. It was in southern Brazil at the tender and untested age of seventeen – and wow!

Barb: That is so funny, Jessie. A few nights ago, after a long day of packing, my husband I and went to a local watering hole. I ordered a bourbon milkshake and Bill ordered a shot and a beer. The server who brought our drinks was not the person who took our order. He approached our table cautiously, took a big, deep breath and gave me the milkshake and Bill the shot and beer. “What if it had been the other way around?” I teased. “I don’t like this gender stereotyping.” We were all laughing by the end.

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Photo by Aaron Gustafson from Hamden, CT, USA (Daiquiri) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sherry: I don’t have a favorite daiquiri recipe. But one of my favorite places I ever drank one was in Aspen, Colorado. I haven’t been there in years, but loved sitting outside on a lovely summer day watching people pass and looking at the mountains. The air is so fresh there unlike the heavy summer air of the East Coast. I love hot dogs but don’t eat them very often. I like them grilled, slightly burnt, on a bun with as many toppings as possible.

Edith: Sherry, what a lovely setting. And funny , Jessie and Barb, about the gender expectations (or not so funny?). I grew up with fried hot dogs with yellow mustard. Despite a number of years as a vegetarian and recent years as a minimal red-meat consumer — give me a great grilled dog with mustard and I’m yours.

Julie: Not a daiquiri girl. I stick with beer and wine. But I do love hotdogs. Like Barb, Nathan’s on the road. But the best hotdogs? At Fenway Park, naturally. Not sure how they pull it off, but nothing tastes better on a warm summer night. Relish and mustard, please.

Readers: Tell us what you like!

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The Detective’s Daughter — Page to Screen

Kim in Baltimore enjoying the air conditioning and a cool glass of watermelon lemonade.

 

I’m going to do a dangerous thing. I’m going to read a book and then see the movie! What’s that you say? Don’t do it? I know, I know! I set myself up this way every time. Although most novels make a disappointing show on the big screen, a few have managed to capture the essence of the author’s story. I loved Practical Magic, the fabulous book by Alice Hoffman turned into an equally fabulous (in my opinion) movie starring Aiden Quinn. I  think Sandra Bullock was in it, too, but who knows once Aiden Quinn hits the screen! To Kill A Mockingbird and Gone With The Wind are two of my other favorites.

People are passionate over the books they love and are not forgiving when Hollywood botches up a story the reader holds dear. I am a great fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I was thrilled when I learned Ms. Evanovich modeled her character after Sandra Bullock. That was exactly who I saw as I read each novel. When there was talk of One For The Money being filmed, I was overjoyed. That fizzled fast enough when word spread that Katherine Heigl – not Sandra Bullock – was to play the lead role. I gave it a chance anyway. Who wouldn’t want to see Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur? I was sorely disappointed.

This time will be different, though, I’m sure of it. While sitting in The Charles Theatre taking part in their weekly revival series, I saw the coming attractions for My Cousin Rachel starring Rachel Weisz. It looked good enough that I felt I’d be willing to pay for a full price movie ticket. I had read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca several times and had seen the 1940 movie as well, but I’d never read My Cousin Rachel. I made haste to my local library and borrowed a copy. I was only halfway through the novel when I realized the movie was showing at my beloved Charles Theater. I was truly torn about going before I’d completed the book, but didn’t want to miss it’s run at my favorite movie house.

Just as in every great novel, my life had a major plot twist before I could make it to the cinema. My husband ended up having heart surgery on the very day we had planned to see the movie. He recovered at an amazing speed, but we have yet to see the film. I might need to wait until it’s on Netflix at this rate.

The book kept me company over these past weeks and the story now is as close to me as a dear friend. I’m counting on Rachel Weisz not to disappoint me.

 

Readers: What books do you think were turned into enjoyable movies? Which ones should have stayed on the pages?

Murder in an English Village-Cover Reveal

Jessie: enjoying the salty breezes on the coast of Maine

MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGEAs seems to be my habit, I am working away on a September 1 deadline. This year it’s for the second book in my new Beryl and Edwina mystery series. I am having a great deal of fun spending time with the two protagonists in this book. Every day when I sit down to my desk I am eager to get to work. It feels a bit like sitting alone in a restaurant eavesdropping on the fascinating conversation between the people at the next table.

The funny thing is, I’m not even sure where these two came from. They simply popped into my head and set up shop. They arrived full-blown with physical attributes, quirks in their personalities and partial back stories. I just love it when that happens.

The village where the series takes place evolved quickly too. Years of reading mystery set in England and a self-indulgent attitude towards Netflix binge watching have given me a good sense of which buildings ought to be there. The greengrocer, the church hall and the stationer come sweetshop are all present and correct. So are the winding lanes, rolling hills, and cottage gardens.

I have always loved mysteries set in England. It is such a delight to be writing one of my own.  I’m thrilled to be sharing the cover with all of you today.

Readers,  do you love books set in any particular foreign locations? Writers, is there a place you have always wanted to set a book?