Welcome Guest Julie Mulhern!

I’m so delighted to welcome Julie Mulhern to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Julie is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Watching The Detectives, in her Country Club Murders series. This fun series is set in the 1970s and if you aren’t friends with her on Facebook you should be her posts of 70s ads are a hoot. I’m never quite sure whether to laugh or cringe. Julie is giving an ebook of the first in the series The Deep End to one of our commenters! Welcome, Julie!

I remember the first time.

My hands shook.

Tears filled my eyes.

My heart seemed too big for my chest.

The first time. It was pure magic.

The fifth time was no less magical.

I’m talking about the arrival of books on my front porch. My books. Delivered by UPS in a brown cardboard box that barely contains the happiness within.

In the past two-and-a-half years, five of Ellison Russell’s adventures have made it into the world.

Five Country Club Murders.

Five release days.

When The Deep End released, I waited for a confetti cannon to go off, showering me with glitter, confetti, and massive sales.

I don’t wait for that cannon anymore. If I want confetti or glitter (frankly I’m not big on either—it gets in the carpets and I have to vacuum), I need to provide them myself.

This release day, I was a guest on a Kansas City morning show (much more fun than waiting for non-existent cannons) then I went out to lunch with my oldest daughter, visited with some of my favorite readers on social media, and went out for wine with a friend then dinner with my husband.

Did I leave out the part about checking my numbers on an hourly basis? Oops!

I did that too. Because sales matter.

Most cozy readers know about the discontinuation of beloved series. It’s painful. For devoted readers. For the publisher who wields the axe. And—most of all—for the writer.

Sales matter. Maybe not to the reader, but I can guarantee the publisher and the writer care. A lot.

Thank heavens, writers aren’t like used car salesmen. We don’t corner readers, put our books into their hands, and tell them they’ll regret it if they don’t buy. We might want to. We don’t. Except that one…never mind.

I am so thrilled to be with the Wicked Cozy Authors today. I have purchased and loved books by each of them. I buy their books new. From Amazon or Barnes & Noble or my local bookstore. I hope you have too.

Because sales matter.

Readers: Do you have a favorite fashion memory from the 70’s?

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

 

 

My Big Pile of Books

Jane/Sadie/Susannah here, gearing up for a weekend filled with family, friends, and memories and wishing the same for all of you …

All the talk this week about desks and what we read outside the cozy genre makes me want to combine the subjects. I have a big ole pile of books, which is currently parked on top of my roll-top desk, where I do my day job as well as much of my writing work. Now, this is not my only pile of books (puh-leeze), but it’s the one I look up at most days. Here’s a sample of what’s up there:

The Emotional Craft of Fiction, Donald Maass

The India Fan, Victoria Holt

Caroline: Oxbow’s American Bonaparte, Ethel Comins

Hope Blooms, Jamie Pope

The Rain Sparrow, Linda Goodnight

Writing Screenplays that Sell, Michael Hauge

Our Fans’ Favorites, The Stratton Mountain Boys (this is a CD of traditional German music that we play during our Oktoberfest meals–not sure why it’s there!)

Murder in Chelsea, Victoria Thompson

Pregnesia, by Carla Cassidy

Crazy times, I know. I’ve also included in the picture a couple of other fun things, including my work mascot, Beans the bulldog, a snow globe from my hometown, and an official bottle of Vitameatavegamin from the Lucy and Desi museum.

What’s the craziest thing on your desk?

 

 

Wicked Wednesday – Short Stories

Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re going to make a lot of our writer friends happy and talk short stories (and it’s ok if they’re mysterious!). Wickeds, name your favorite!

Jessie: I loved Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and all of the short stories by Agatha Christie.

MysteryMostHistoricalEdith: I started with Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle as a child. In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to have one or two stories a year published in anthologies (and even nominated for Agatha Awards!), and I love perusing those collections. This year’s Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical includes a whole slew of fabulous stories, including ones by friends of the Wickeds Liz Milliron, KB Inglee, Catriona McPherson, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Victoria Thompson, and Nancy Herriman, (and yours truly) among others.

Barb: I love short stories. I chased down as many of Ruth Rendell’s short stories as I could find looking for something that happened to the characters “in between” two books in the Wexford series. And, after I abandoned literary fiction in the 1980s, it was Alice Munro’s short stories that brought me back. But my favorite mystery short story is “The Woman in the Wardrobe,” by Robert Barnard from Death of a Salesperson and Other Untimely Events. My favorite literary short story is “The Horseman,” by Richard Russo, because it is perfect. It’s recently been re-released in Trajectory, a collection of four of Russo’s long shorts.

Liz: I love Roald Dahl too – I remember reading The Way Up to Heaven in college and it’s remained one of my favorites.

Sherry: When I was in elementary school I read a book of short stories called Night in Funland and Other Stories. In the title story a kid gets on a Ferris Wheel as the dad waits below. When the ride ends the kid is missing. It was such a creepy story and I’ve never forgotten it. As an adult I hadn’t read a lot of short stories until the last few years when so many of my writing friends have great stories in anthologies like those put out by the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime and by Level Best Books.

Julie: Liz, you are testing us this month with the Wicked Wednesdays! Like Jessie, I like Agatha Christie’s short stories. I am also a Flannery O’Connor fan. The Lottery still gives me nightmares, so I suppose I should add Shirley Jackson to the list.

Edith: My son introduced me to “The Lottery.” Gah…

Readers, weigh in with your favorites!

Save

Save

Save

More from the Moving Files

Liz here, with more from the moving files. 

I used to have a giant desk. I loved it, too. It was from Pottery Barn and apparently 10 or 11 years ago when I first moved to Connecticut I believed I needed a desk this large in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a “real writer.”‘

One could say it helped, although secretly I know better – most of my books have been written in my bed with the covers over my head, crying through another deadline crunch, but you’ve all heard those stories before. The point is, if I’m going to write, I’m going write with or without a ginormous desk.

IMG_0784

So now I have an adorable, small desk. Which I love, and I do write at it a lot. But it also meant that when I moved, I had to clean out the many drawers associated with having such a large desk, and figuring out how to shoehorn in all the things. I threw a lot of things away, but I realized something I’d only had a sneaking suspicion about before this: I’m a junkie for notebooks and writing utensils and basically any kind of office supply. And notebooks are apparently just as hard for me to get rid of as actual books.

Some things I found: An entire stash of reporter’s notebooks – unused. At some point, I’d been in a phase of “needing” those old-style, 3- or 5-subject spiral bound notebooks, so there were a few of those. Then there was the stack of legal pads, in both letter size and the smaller size – not sure where those came from.

Then there were the items from my Levenger phase – the full-sized notebook with only one or two pages filled out that I’d planned to use for those character bibles. And the smaller sized ones that I planned to carry around with me for brainstorming purposes. Then I apparently turned to Moleskin to solve all my writing problems, so I have at least three empty journal sized notebooks to help me with all that plotting I’ve been meaning to do. (As a side note, I have been using one for plotting – it even came to the Wicked Cozy retreat with me last week. Aren’t you proud?)

And then there were the pens. Good grief, all the pens. From my multi-colored ballpoint phase. My gel pen phase. My black pen phase. Lately, I’m into the Flair pens, so have those in every room. And Post-its! Of every shape and size. Since Dead Fred is my go-to post it guy lately, I had to think long and hard about what I need.

So like with the books, I had to make some decisions. There was no room for all my notebooks in my new desk, which has four small shelves. Since my days of reporting are pretty much done, I gave up my Steno pads. All the legal pads, gone. The old-school spirals – I have to confess I kept a couple brand new ones, but mostly gone. I kept my Levengers and Moleskins. And the Post-its – I do use them for my day job, so they got a reprieve. Anything journal-ish went into a special place, since I do a lot of journaling. And it eliminated the need for them at my desk.

So, another task (almost) conquered. What do you think?

IMG_2459

Readers, anyone else have a must-have writing tool or other desk necessity? Or just a ginormous desk? Let us know in the comments!

Pasting up a Vision

Edith here, during the busy month of May! The Saturday night activity at the recent Wicked Cozy Authors retreat was to create a vision board, so I thought I’d share how that went for me.

I’d never made a vision board, but several others among us had, and reported that they’d had success in having certain visions come to fruition. So I said, Sure! We each brought a stack of magazines to cut words and pictures out of. Liz, Jessie, and Julie brought boards, markers, glue sticks. Barb had a collection of stickers.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but Julie said, “Cut out what speaks to you.” Okay, I could do that. It was fun to see the wide array of magazines we each brought to the table, from self-help to mystery publications to the newspaper’s Sunday magazine to a community college catalog (admittedly on nice paper with cool graphics), and more. It was fun to sit around leafing through, cutting out, and chatting as we passed along the publications.

visionfinding1.jpg

Then we got out the boards, glue, and stickers and began assembling. Yes, adult beverages might have come out, too. Hey, it was Saturday night!

board assemblycropEveryone’s turned out different, of course. At the end we shared some of the details of how our visions were manifested in paper. I think mine (an in-progress version visible in this picture) came out more a statement of where I am and what I value rather than where differently I might like to aim my life, but I’m fine with that. And I included a couple of aspirations – Anthony Award, anyone?

 

Readers, have you ever created a vision board? In paper or digitally (because, of course, that’s another way to go)? Did you see direct results?

Welcome Back Cindy Brown — A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Congratulations, Avis! you won an ebook! Cindy will be in touch!

I hope you all have the chance to meet Cindy in person some day. Her smile lights up any room she’s in. Here is are three things that inspired some of Cindy’s latest book Ivy Get Your Gun! Cindy is going to give away an ebook to one person who leaves a comment. Thanks, Cindy!

A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Ivy Get Your Gun may be fiction, but three real-life events inspired the book. The first two were news events in Arizona. When my mom sent me the following clipping, I knew I had the opening to my new book:

Actor Shot During Tombstone, Arizona, ‘Old West’ Gunfight Re-enactment Play

An “Old West” gunfight re-enactment in Arizona ended with real casualties                          Sunday when one of the actors fired five live rounds from his gun instead of                        blanks, injuring another actor and a bystander.

Yep, Ivy’s going undercover at Gold Bug Gulch, a Western theme town a little like Tombstone. She’s also been hired to solve a problem inspired by the following real-life incident:

Stray Chihuahuas Terrorize Arizona Town, Chase Children, Run Wild

Ay, Chihuahua! An Arizona town is overrun with tiny pooches that are terrorizing children    and defecating anywhere they want — and animal control officials can’t get a leash on the problem.  Large packs of the small dogs in Maryvale chase children as they head off to school, and the number of strays has swelled beyond control, officials and residents said.

The third incident was not nearly as dramatic, but a lot closer to home. Ivy is a part-time detective and an actor, so her escapades take place in the theater. In Ivy Get Your Gun, she performs in a melodrama at Gold Bug Gulch, but I also wanted a connection with the show Annie Get Your Gun. I had a difficult time getting hold of the script and the video, so I began by researching Annie Oakley. I’d always been a fan, but I had no idea what a truly amazing woman she was.

She survived a nightmare childhood to single-handedly raise her family out of poverty (when she was still a young teen) and then went on to become the most famous woman in the world, all while maintaining an uncommon degree of integrity. I was smitten. Finally, I received the script in the mail (had to order it off eBay from New Zealand), and was able to get the movie from the library, and…wow. All I had remembered was the wonderful music and some cowboy-type shenanigans. I didn’t remember how stupid they made her look or the makeover she had to endure, and I certainly didn’t know they had changed the real-life ending of Annie’s shooting match with Frank Butler, making her lose on purpose so that she wouldn’t upstage her man. UGH.

But what to do now?  I had the rest of the book in my head and a lot of it on paper. I decided to have Ivy channel me. In addition to acting in the melodrama, she’s auditioning for Annie Get Your Gun. Like me, she has a tough time finding the script in the video and researches Annie Oakley while she waits.  And when she sees what they did to Annie’s legacy, she gets as ticked off as I did and decides to do something about it.

I love how these three real events melded into the book: the gunfight became the mystery, the Chihuahuas became the comic relief, and Annie Oakley became the soul of the book. I hope I did her proud.

Readers: What strong woman do you admire?

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Agatha-nominated Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Cindy and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

She’d love to connect with readers at cindybrownwriter.com (where they can sign up for her Slightly Silly Newsletter) or on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Guest: Lynn Cahoon

Edith here north of Boston, enjoying some actual May weather, finally. We have H&H jpegwritten about writers’ retreats several times on this blog, and the core Wickeds just returned from our annual Maine retreat. Let’s welcome guest Lynn Cahoon back on the blog, and hear about when she took herself on a retreat. She also has a new mystery out, Hospitality and Homicide, which sounds fabulous, and she’s giving away one e-copy to a randomly chose commenter here today!

Lynn: Thanks for having me over today! I got to meet several of the Wicked Cozys at Crime Bake last year. Such a fun event!

The Writer’s Retreat

I write a lot about writers. And readers. And bookstore owners.  People I like to hang out with as a person.  And when we hang out, we talk about setting up a magical event called a retreat. I know people who do this. (One is a Wicked.) You see posts filled with pictures of a lovely, deserted cabin on a seashore or up in the woods. Or even on top of a skyscraper in a big city.  And, if they’re doing it right, a message saying “I’ll be off line for a while.”

But I had never taken the time to do my own retreat.  My life is busy with a day job, the writing gig, a husband who likes to visit our lake property often, like every time he can. Driving somewhere to lock myself up and write? It seemed indulgent.

IMG_0660Until I went to Chicago for Printer’s Row. I had a panel and was signing afterwards. Two hours out of a weekend committed and I had a deadline the next week, but I also had a hotel room reserved in a lovely place.  I flew up on a Friday after work, ordered room service for dinner, then opened my laptop. By the time I left on Sunday, I had over 10,000 words and was ready to cross the finish line.

I loved it.

I didn’t get out much that weekend, except to the MWA booth for my event, but my mind soaked up the atmosphere of the hotel, the sidewalk café where I ate dinner, and I watched a group of friends talking and catching up which turned out to be IMG_0681part of an opening scene for the next book I had on deck to write.

By taking some time away from my desk and my computer, I filled the writer well inside me.  And the room service was delicious.  I’ve got another retreat on the books for 2018 and I’m planning time at my next convention to treat at least part of the week as a retreat. I’ve learned the magic.

In Hospitality and Homicide, we find Nathan Pike, a well-known mystery author taking his own writing retreat.  I understand Nathan Pike’s need to get away from his normal life to write his next book.  And having 24-7 access to Greg who’s the South Cove head detective would be a huge bonus, curtsey of our friend the mayor.  No one counted on Nathan writing the murder scene that happened just days after he arrives in town. And no one expected Nathan to work out the how-to details on a ride along with Greg.

Readers: Have you taken a break from real life to fill your creative well? Remember, one random commenter will win an e-copy of Hospitality and Homicide.

A visit to the serene coastal town of South Cove, California, could make anybody feel refreshed and inspired. But as Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—discovers, some folks won’t live to tell about it . . .

Mystery author Nathan Pike checked into South Cove Bed & Breakfast to compose a compelling novel, not commit murder. But things get real when a rival B&B owner ends up exactly like the victim in his draft—undeniably dead. As Nathan prepares to complete his magnum opus behind bars, Jill’s the only one who can prove his innocence and deconstruct Cahoonthe plot of a twisted killer!

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER, book 1 of the series, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She also pens the Cat Latimer series. A STORY TO KILL, and FATALITY IN FIRELIGHT are available in mass market paperback. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com