Finding My Power

News Flash: Natalie Marie is the winner of Edith’s author apron and cover flat. Congratulations, Natalie – please check your email!

Liz here. About a month ago, I was stuck. In both life and writing. I had about four thousand words written for my Cat Cafe book two, which is due at the end of August. And I had no creative juices flowing whatsoever. No desire to even pick up the computer.

A problem, right? The clock was ticking and the to-do list was piling up. So I did what anyone else would do. I found a new podcast series to listen to.

I wasn’t in the mood to listen to my normal crime podcasts. Instead, I found one called Adventures in Happiness, hosted by Jessica Ortner of The Tapping Solution. It was just what I needed – fun topics and fun guests. One of the people on the show was a Feng Shui expert.

I’d always liked Feng Shui, but another area where I was stuck was with my living space. I hadn’t really made it mine yet, and didn’t quite know how to get there. Which I assumed was contributing to my creativity problems. So I checked out this person’s website and decided to do a consult.

After my first conversation and a few quick-hit adjustments, I was surprised at how much better I was not only feeling, but how things were starting to flow. I added 11K words that first week, and managed to make my place feel a lot more homey by simply moving some things around, changing some colors and adding a few touches like plants and flowers.

But the best part? I started committing to doing positive things for myself every day that not only helped keep me in my creative flow, but actually shifted me into a place of power that I can channel into all areas of my life. Simple things every morning like a workout, a meditation, reading something new, taking a few minutes to nurture relationships, both with myself and others – all these things helped get me out of my funk and into a better place.

Dyer Quote

There’s a whole list of things that I tackle every morning – well, most mornings – but here are my top three that make the most difference:

  1. Journaling – I’ve written about morning pages before. I’m a huge fan. It’s all about getting the garbage out of my head and onto the page so it’s not festering and driving me crazy. With this new process, it’s about taking something that may seem negative, finding the lesson in it, then identifying how to apply it in all areas of life. Really cool.
  2. Meditation – I’ve been working at this for the last year, and I’ve improved a lot. Now I’m making a point of doing it every day, twice when I can. I feel the results.
  3. Workouts – I’d gotten out of the habit of doing a workout most days, and I felt it. I tend to fall into the trap of thinking that if I’m not doing an hour-long, high intensity workout, it doesn’t count. Wrong. Some days, I do a 30-minute on-demand class. Others I do yoga at my studio. Sometimes, I take an extra long walk with Shaggy and it’s my workout. And it all works. I feel energized, and I don’t feel guilty when I have some potato chips 🙂

And the best part? I’m writing every morning before the day job, so I can go into my day feeling accomplished. And if I get back to the computer at night for more, it’s just gravy. If I don’t, well, I already hit my word count for the day. And how cool is that?

I may even make this deadline without the drama this time…

Readers, do you have any habits that help you navigate life in a more positive way? Leave a comment!

Cover Reveal – Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Edith, with some delightful news, and a giveaway!

I have, that is, Maddie Day has, a cover for Book Four in the Country Store Mysteries. The book is called Biscuits and Slashed Browns, and it takes place during maple sap season in Brown County, Indiana. The book releases January 30, 2018. It is, of course, available for preorder wherever books are sold, and preorders really help the author. I’m giving away an apron and a signed cover flat to one lucky commenter today (US aprononly)!

Here’s the cover blurb:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

So, without further ado, I present the cover:

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Don’t you love it? We have the bottles of syrup, the sugaring-off shack, the sap buckets, pancakes, biscuits, a little March snow left on the ground, even the slashing knife.

And on the bench sits Robbie’s cat Birdy. For those of you who didn’t hear, this Birdy is modeled on my real-life cat Birdy, and he died on June 6, just a few weeks ago. I miss him terribly, and am comforted that he’ll live on in this series.

BirdywithFLIPPED

Birdy, the cat in the Country Store Mysteries – literally, in this case!

Readers: To win one of my Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day aprons–which I save for extra-special giveaways–and a signed cover flat, tell me in the comments section what’s your favorite thing to eat using maple syrup. Pancakes? Maple sugar candy? A mapletini? Oatmeal? Maple bars? Dish, gang.

 

Guest- Kay Finch

News Flash: Dianne KC is our winner from yesterday. Congratulations, Dianne! Check your Inbox for an email from Alyssa.

Jessie: In NH where the weather is feeling like summer!

Several years ago I met the lovely and gracious Kay Finch where I have met so many fellow mystery writers over the years: Malice Domestic. We were seated at the same table at the Berkley Prime Crime dinner and she was a charming dinner companion. It is with great pleasure that I welcome her to the Wickeds today! Take it away, Kay!

Untitled-3My Split Personality

I recently enjoyed signing my third Bad Luck Cat mystery, The Black Cat Sees His Shadow, at Murder by the Book, Houston’s wonderful mystery bookstore. We had a fabulous turnout, and I signed dozens of books. Great day for a writer, right? I had fun, but I also have to admit that I enjoy being in the audience at a book signing more than I enjoy being in the spotlight. The truth is – a writer needs to have a split personality.

You might think the hardest part of writing a novel is the writing itself. Yes, the writing is a huge and time consuming and seemingly never-ending project. When someone tells me they want to write a book, these thoughts cross my mind: “Don’t start. Writing is like an addiction. You won’t be able to stop. You won’t have any free time. It’s much easier and more fun to spend your time reading.” But as hard as writing the book is, as far as I’m concerned that isn’t the hardest part of being an author.

When my first mystery was about to come out, I wished I could hire someone to stand in for me. A person who enjoys sitting alone in a room and writing a book is not the same person who relishes the marketing aspect of writing. I naturally choose to do things that keep me from being noticed. My natural instinct to remain anonymous began when I was a little girl. In the privacy of my bedroom, I wrote short mystery stories. No one knew about them except me. For fear someone might see the stories one day and read them, I decided to burn the pages. Today, that sounds ridiculous and embarrassing. To little me, it made sense.

I might sound like a semi-recluse, but I’m not. I work full-time as a family law paralegal and deal with many people who have more quirks than I do. I enjoy meeting people at book signings and other events once I get there. My personality is seriously split. I’m not only an author, I’m also speaker, paralegal, wife, grandma, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend. And don’t forget – I’m a little piece of each of my protagonists, too.

Readers: I’m happy to give away a copy of The Black Cat Sees His Shadow. To enter the contest, leave a comment about your favorite childhood pet and I’ll pick a random winner at noon tomorrow. Good luck!

Kay Finch

Kay Finch

Kay Finch is the National Best-Selling Author of the Bad Luck Cat Mysteries, Black Cat Crossing, The Black Cat Knocks on Wood, and The Black Cat Sees His Shadow. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division. Kay lives with her husband and their rescue pets in a Houston suburb. Visit the author at kayfinch.com.

Guest: Alyssa Maxwell

Edith here, who can’t quite believe it’s almost July! I’m delighted to welcome my friend, name-mate, and fellow historical mystery author, Alyssa Maxwell (no relation) to the blog today! I love her Gilded Newport series, and you will, too. One lucky winner today will win a signed hardcover of the fifth book in the series, Murder at Chateau Sur Mer, which will be out in a month. (I wish I could win!) A bonus for me is that one characters is named Edith.

gildednewport

Here’s the book blurb: Covering a polo match for the Observer, society reporter Emma Cross’s job is to take note of the real players off the field—Newport’s well-bred elite. But the fashionable façade is breached when a woman in gaudy clothing creates a scene demanding to speak to the wife of Senator George Wetmore—until she is escorted off the grounds by the police.  The next morning, police detective Jesse Whyte asks Emma to meet him at the Wetmores’ Bellevue Avenue home, Chateau sur Mer, where the senator’s wife, Edith, has mysteriously asked to see her. Upon entering the mansion, Emma is confronted with a crime scene—the intruder from the polo match lies dead at the foot of a grand staircase.

To avoid scandal, Edith Wetmore implores Emma, a less well-heeled cousin to the illustrious Vanderbilts, to use her reporter skills and her discretion to investigate. When Emma learns the victim was a prostitute—and pregnant—she wonders if the senator was being blackmailed. As Emma peels back layers of deception and family secrets, she may have met her match in a desperate killer who will trample anyone who gets in the way…

I love it! Take it away, Alyssa.

Intertwined Histories

I’m going to tell you a secret, if you promise not to tell anyone. When I decided to write my Newport series, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know if I could pull off writing a mystery, and although I knew modern day Newport pretty well, I had tons to learn about the city in the Gilded Age.

I was positive about one thing: I didn’t want to fictionalize everything. I didn’t want to write about a city based on Newport, and I didn’t want to write about Newport itself but with fictionalized houses and families. If I couldn’t name actual people and places, what fun would it be?

You see, I felt I had a responsibility to everyone who lives there, and even to everyone who has ever visited Newport. I had to get it right, and I had to be so vivid that readers would say yes, I’ve been there; I swam there, walked there, explored there, etc. Because I understand the kind of hold Newport places on people; I know exactly how it reaches into your heart and makes you part of it. Newport of today is a very international place—at least during the summer tourist season—but the city’s history makes it so essentially and vitally American that Newport belongs to all of us, and those who have lived there or have visited for even a short time, feel a fierce and loving ownership of this very special place. (pictured: Clarke Cook House on Bannister’s Wharf)

ClarkeCookHouse

What do I mean by that? For one thing, there isn’t a period of American history that hasn’t left its indelible mark on Newport. And we literally see that history in its architecture as we move through town—colonial, federal, Civil War, shingle style, the palaces of the Gilded Age, and so on up to current times.

What makes Newport different from many other places is that as times and tastes changed, the old didn’t disappear but remained in use—to this day. It’s true living history, not replicated but alive and vital and constantly changing with each wave of people who pass through. In a way, there’s a bit of all of us in Newport. (Pictured: The Waves, built in the 1920s, now a condominium)

the waves

Then there’s my husband’s family, Newporters for generations back. For them, if for no one else, I wanted to capture the spirit of Newport, especially in my sleuth, Emma Cross—who is independent, determined, proud, hardworking, and gets her strength from the bedrock of Aquidneck Island.

Last summer, we were contacted by a Newport resident who, during renovations of his newly purchased house, came upon two large, framed photographs of my husband’s great great grandparents hidden away behind a wall in his attic. What made this even more exciting was that this house had been built by my husband’s great grandfather’s company, The Manuel Brothers, using materials, such as flooring and woodwork, reclaimed from Bellevue Avenue mansions the company had been hired to demolish. At about the same time, in the 1920s, the Manuel Bros. also demolished a mansion owned by Reggie Vanderbilt, who is a character in the series. What’s more, we believe my husband’s great grandmother, Honora Taylor Whyte, worked as a maid in one of the great houses when she first came to this country from Ireland. My father-in-law and my husband grew up in the same house in the harbor-side Point neighborhood, on same the street where I have set Emma’s childhood home.

manuel brothers

These are just a few examples, but you can see that Newport’s history and my husband’s history is intricately entwined. There could be no fictionalizing the city, or, for me and I think for many readers, the meaning would have been lost.

Readers: Join me for a visit to Newport! Is there a place you’re passionate about? Tell us about it in the Comments and enter for a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of the 5th Gilded Newport Mystery, MURDER AT CHATEAU SUR MER!

amaxwellpinkAlyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Novelists Inc. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books, and find her social media links, at www.alyssamaxwell.com.

 

 

Wicked Wednesday: Movies that make you want to fall in love (again)

Okay, I admit this one is a little more obscure, with our “movies that make you…” theme, but what I’m looking for here are love stories. Wonderful, stories that sweep you up in the romance. Romances, historicals, and romantic comedies all count here. Go!

Jessie: I love You’ve Got Mail. There are so many great moments in that movie that I watch it at least a couple times each year. And I adore Love, Actually. It does such a great job of showing so many facets of the complex thing we all sum up with the single word, Love.

Julie: Does the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehie Pride and Prejudice count? Cause I’d put that on the top of my list. But if you want movie-movies, I really love When Harry Met Sally. Charming, funny, romantic. Sleepless in Seattle is also a favorite of mine.

Sherry: Oh, Julie, I love that version of Pride and Prejudice too! Colin Firth, be still my heart. That brings me to my choice Love Actually! I think I could have listed Love Actually in the last categories, laugh, cry, love. It hits every level of emotion. Maybe I’ll go watch it right now!

Barb: I’m a sucker for romantic comedies. Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers, Richard Curtis–bring them on! It’s hard to pick a favorite. I love When Harry Met Sally. I love Four Weddings and a Funeral. I watch Love, Actually every Christmas season–preferably while doing something Christmas-y like writing cards or wrapping presents. I’m also a sucker for Nick Hornby novels made into movies, no matter how much they mess with the originals, which I also love: Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, and my absolute favorite, About a Boy.

Liz: I love When Harry Met Sally too, Barb! I haven’t watched Love, Actually in years – maybe I need to refresh my memory. This may sound totally cheesy, but there’s something about the Jack and Rose love story in Titanic that gets me every time. That whole right side of the tracks meets wrong side thing, I guess…

Dr-ZhivagoEdith: Dr. Zhivago. Does it get any more romantic than the Russian Steppes, Omar Sharif, and Julie Christie, with balalaika music in the background? Other than that, I’ll also vote for Sleepless in Seattle, even though I saw it a long time ago, and will bring Bridges of Madison County back in for a replay, even though I already used it in the movies-that-make-you-cry post last week.

Readers: Dish! Share your favorite romantic movies.

 

The Detective’s Daughter Goes on Retreat

Edith here. Our Accomplice, Kim Gray,who usually writes the Detective’s Daughter posts, can’t be here today, so I’m jumping in to share her virtual report of going on a writers’ retreat.

Kim, Annette Dashofy, Martha Reed, and I were invited by Ramona DeFelice Long to go on a week-long retreat at Clare House, a convent retreat house in Pennsylavania. None of us had any problem with jumping at the opportunity. I’d gone with Ramona and Kim last year and loved it. After we returned last week, Kim put up a few pictures and commentary on her Facebook page, so I’m drawing it together in a blog post for her!

The gathering spot for the animals’ breakfast.

AnimalBreakfast

Time for reflection.

TimeforReflection

Our doorbell.

OurDoorbell

The front entrance of my home away from home.

Front

A good spot to sit and think.

SitandThink

My companion on my walks these past seven days.

bunny

A great place to relax and write.

clarehouse

(Edith: The “Hermitages” referenced in the sign are five tiny cottages also on the grounds that one can rent. I haven’t been inside, but the web site says they are 17′ x 17′ and have all the essentials, including a mini-kitchen. Wow.)

Hermitage01enhanced

Our last dinner table set.

dinner

Edith: And a couple of mine, this one just before Ramona, Kim, and Martha set out to explore the Amish farmers’ market. It wasn’t all work!

ramonakimmartha

And my “office” in the room designated as the chapel.

Edith's desk

We all had a highly productive week interspersed by laughter, wine, meals, and of course, storytelling. And we Wickeds look forward to having Kim back next month with another tale of the Detective’s Daughter.

Readers: Where do you go to recharge, to think, to reflect, to get away from your usual setting?