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

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.

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 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.

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!

Hit Lit

by Barb, winding down her days in Key West

I’m reading a fascinating book called Hit Lit by Edgar-award winner James W. Hall, the author of fourteen mystery novels featuring Thorn, an off-the-grid loner in Key Largo. Hall teaches writing and literature at Florida International University and he was one of Sherry Harris’s first writing teachers. Knowing that, I went to hear him speak at the Key West Library last year.

His latest book is a thriller with a female protagonist and is published by Thomas and Mercer, the Amazon imprint. I found both of these choices interesting–the female protagonist and the publisher. But I found the premise of his book Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers even more intriguing. Over years of teaching popular fiction, Hall and his students investigated what elements made a book a mega-bestseller. They took the books apart and put them together again, looking for commonalities and differences.

In Hit Lit, Hall examines twelve of them. None of these books are ordinary bestsellers. Most have sold tens of millions of copies. They are

  • Gone with the Wind, 1936, Margaret Mitchell
  • Peyton Place, 1956, Grace Metlalious
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960, Harper Lee
  • The Valley of the Dolls, 1966, Jacqueline Susann
  • The Godfather, 1969, Mario Puzo
  • The Exorcist, 1971, William Peter Blatty
  • Jaws, 1974, Peter Benchley
  • The Dead Zone, 1979, Stephen King
  • The Hunt for Red October, 1984, Tom Clancy
  • The Firm, 1991 John Grisham
  • The Bridges of Madison County, 1992, Robert James Waller
  • The Da Vinci Code, 2003, Dan Brown

So already the list is interesting, right? Because some of these giant bestsellers are still with us, whereas others I would guess are rarely read. Despite the inclusion of The Da Vinci Code, Hit Lit, which was published in 2012, focuses on bestsellers of the 20th century, which is perhaps why there is no mention of J.K Rowling. Or maybe Hall didn’t think it would be interesting to have his students analyze books they probably already knew well. In fact, there’s no fantasy on the list at all, though The Dead Zone is about pre-cognition and The Exorcist is about satanic possession.

Hall finds twelve features that all these books have. I won’t go through them all, just a few that I found the most interesting.

  • The “protagonists share a high level of emotional intensity that results in gutsy and surprising deeds. These actions may not always take the form of swashbuckling heroics, but rest assured, not one of these heroes or heroines sits idly on the sidelines pondering or strikes endless matches to watch them burn while stewing about the great issues of the universe…Our heroes and heroines act. They act decisively.”

This isn’t much of a revelation and indeed it’s one of the early observations of the book. Almost a gimmee. I’ve thought about this a lot in the context of cozy mysteries. I have noticed in my own writing and in others that once the protagonist commits to the hunt, the book comes alive. Her relentless forward motion drives the same in the book. When I critique manuscripts for unpublished writers the most common issue I see is an amateur would-be sleuth wandering through her day, “observing” things that will later become clues, but not driving the action of the story. These manuscripts are always flat.

The idea of relentless forward motion goes along with Hall’s twin observation about emotional intensity. The protagonists in these books believe in something intensely and are willing to fight for it. We may not agree with Scarlett’s romantic notions of antebellum plantation life, but we get the idea of home and why that’s worth fighting for.

  • These books tell a human story set against a sweeping backdrop. The story itself may be on a small scale–an immigrant family making it in the new world, a young girl coming of age in a small southern town, a top Harvard Law grad starting his first job. But while the story is small, the canvas is big–organized crime, racial upheaval, the “greed is good” ethos of the 1980s.

I thought this was a fascinating observation. It reminded me of a more recent bestseller, Gone Girl. The book is inextricably anchored in the aftermath of the recent recession. Both lead characters are journalists, and junk journalists at that. The dislocation of the move from print media to digital, accelerated and exacerbated by the recession, results in both losing their jobs at the same time Amy’s parents lose their money and hers. Since both main characters are journalists, they knew how to manipulate the media, as it goes through its own changes. Small story. Huge backdrop.

  • The Golden country. The idea of a beautiful home, a beautiful time and an inevitable exile. Tara before the war. Michael Corleone in Sicily. Scout’s innocent summer days with Gem and Dill.

The Eden story is never far away, and all of these books include an element of it. I wondered how, in more recent books, where the action must start right away, authors painted this picture. As Hall tells us, in The Firm, Grisham begins with the protagonist Mitch McDeere’s wife returning to their law school student apartment. He tells her of his great (too great, as it turns out) job offer. They eat Chinese food and drink white wine. This all happens in a few paragraphs. The call back in the book to this Eden is a single sentence, when Mitch says to his wife, “I think we were happier in the two-room student apartment in Cambridge.” It’s brief, but it is there.

In cozies the Eden is our communities before the murder, which may play out in chapters or a half a scene. The murder upends that and the hero must find the snake and chase him out. Though we know things will never quite be the same.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed Hit Lit and may have more things to say on it another time. It’s written in a highly accessible style and packed with examples. At times, Hall really has to strain to prove all twelve books have all twelve elements, but I forgave that because I was buying what he was selling.

Readers: What do you think? Do mega-bestsellers have common elements? Remember it’s not about whether you liked the books, it’s about why they sold.

Guest Post- Tina Kashian!


Breaking News! The winner of Tina’s giveaway is Kay Garrett! Kay please contact Tina at to receive your book!

Jessie: In New Hampshire, hunkered down under a foot of fresh snow!

I had the very great pleasure of meeting the sparkling and lovely Tina Kashian last year at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast at the Malice Domestic conference. We began chatting, as one always does when surrounded by other mystery enthusiasts, and during the course of conversation we realized we shared a publisher. So, of course, I asked her to visit here at the Wickeds as soon as her book was out. The time has come so I hope you will join me in welcoming her here today! 

I love to cook, but I wasn’t born a good cook. It’s a skill that I’ve practiced and grown to Hummus and Homicide - Final Coverenjoy. I also love all different types of cuisine—Mediterranean, Italian, Chinese, and a good American cheeseburger. My mother, on the other hand, was a talented cook. She could taste a dish, then replicate it without a recipe. My parents owned a restaurant for thirty years and food was an important part of our family. I’d often come home from school to the delicious aromas of simmering grape leaves, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, and shish kebab.

But I am more like my heroine in my debut cozy mystery, “Hummus and Homicide.” Lucy is the only person in her family who can’t cook. Her mother, Angela, is a chef, and her father, Raffi, grew up knowing how to grill the perfect shish kebab. Since returning home to Ocean Crest at the Jersey shore and her parent’s Mediterranean restaurant, Kebab Kitchen, Lucy is determined to learn how to prepare a meal. She’s receiving cooking lessons from her mother. We’ll see how it goes…

As for me, I have fond memories of watching my mother in the kitchen. I’d stand by her side with a pen and paper in hand and scribble detailed notes. She never used a recipe. I’d ask, “How much of that?” She’d say a handful or a pinch. It drove me nuts! Our handfuls were not the same. Years later, my mother passed away. When I try to prepare her dishes, they never seem to come out just like hers. Maybe it’s the memory I’m holding onto more than the taste of the food.

Tina Gabrielle Author PhotoBut I am writing down my recipes for my two young girls. No more handfuls or pinches of anything. If my girls decide to make a dish, then I’d like them to have a recipe to follow.

I’m excited about the release of “Hummus and Homicide.” I also had great fun coming up with the other titles—Stabbed in the Baklava (September 2018) and One Feta in the Grave (February 2019). All the titles are puns on food and reflect the light and funny feel of the cozy mysteries.

So, readers, what is your talent or favorite hobby? Did you have to work at it or was it natural? Please comment for a chance to win a copy of “Hummus and Homicide.” Ebook or print (U.S. only). Your choice!

What’s Next for Sarah Winston?

Karen Surprenant is the winner of a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer. Watch for an email from me Karen! Thanks to all who left a comment. I wish I could give you all a book!

Last week for the release of I Know What You Bid Last Summer I wrote about the idea behind the book. Today I want to tell you what is coming up for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. Next February my sixth book in the series, The Gun Also Rises, comes out. Here is the back cover blurb:


 A wealthy widow has asked Sarah Winston to sell her massive collection of mysteries through her garage sale business. While sorting through piles of books stashed in the woman’s attic, Sarah is amazed to discover a case of lost Hemingway stories, stolen from a train in Paris back in 1922. How did they end up in Belle Winthrop Granville’s attic in Ellington, Massachusetts, almost one hundred years later?


Before Sarah can get any answers, Belle is assaulted, the case is stolen, a maid is killed, and Sarah herself is dodging bullets. And when rumors spread that Belle has a limited edition of The Sun Also Rises in her house, Sarah is soon mixed up with a mobster, the fanatical League of Literary Treasure Hunters, and a hard-to-read rare book dealer. With someone willing to kill for the Hemingway, Sarah has to race to catch the culprit—or the bell may toll for her . . .

Kensington does such an amazing job with the back cover copy! I’m always so grateful. When my editor, Gary Goldstein, and I were tossing around ideas for this book I suggested a book sale and he suggested a Hemingway like character and a stolen valuable book. While I was researching I came across the true story of early Hemingway manuscripts being stolen. They were never found. Click here for more about this fascinating story. Incorporating this bit of history in my novel was so interesting.

But wait there’s more!

Book seven, Let’s Fake A Deal, will come out in July 2019. I don’t have the official back cover copy yet. But Sarah has her hands full. She is just about to open a garage sale she’s throwing for two new to town hipsters when the police show up. They received a tip that everything she’s selling is stolen. To further complicate Sarah’s life a good friend from Fitch Air Force Base is implicated in a murder. As Sarah investigates she wonders how to prove both she and her friend are innocent before they both end up in jail.

And finally!

I’m delighted to be able to say this out loud! Kensington has asked me to write two more Sarah books! Titles and publication dates to be announced. I’m really excited about the ideas for both books. Thanks so much to all of you who have supported this series!

I’m giving away a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer to someone who leaves a comment.

Readers: Had you ever heard the story of the stolen Hemingway manuscripts?