Getting My Ducks in a Row

Julie Hansen is the winner of the an ebook of the Escape Claws. Please contact Linda Reilly at

Edith here, shivering north of Boston. Getting your ducks in a row, you say. Am I planning a fowl supper? Practicing target shooting? Identifying local water birds?

file9231275368332Nah. And those aren’t even in a row, anyway. The next ones are, almost, but that’s not what I mean, either.


Hugh and I have been filling out estate planning forms. It’s a huge undertaking, one which we started a couple of years ago but never finished.  With my sister’s recent and completely unexpected brush with death (she’s going to be fine, thanks to modern medicine and the power of prayer), I realized it’s really, really time. Because we never know when the Grim Reaper will pay us an irreversible visit.

So what’s involved for a sixty-something author to get her duckies all lined up and accounted for? Let me count the ways:

  • Listing assets.
  • Collecting account numbers, social security numbers, and birthdates in one place.
  • Specifying end-of-life wishes: deciding about extreme interventions when brain dead or terminally ill,  cadaver donation, cremation/burial/ashes disposition, and so on. We’re both already organ donors, so that part is done.
  • Settling on agreeable executors and health care proxies. Much of this is only in the case that the other one of us is unable, but that could come to pass, too.
  • Checking on whether we made a homestead declaration on the house we co-own.
  • Making sure my sons know where I keep my passwords and what goes with what.
  • Deciding on bequeathments to other than immediate family.
  • Thinking about what happens if we die at the same time, or if one is mentally incapacitated and still alive, or mentally fine but physically unable, and so on and on. The permutations are not quite endless but seem that way.
  • And more. I’m sure there are things I haven’t even thought of.

Then there’s the question of literary property. I wouldn’t ever pretend to be Sue Grafton (may her lovely soul rest in peace) or Stephen King, with a library of my extensive writings to donate somewhere. I do have novels in progress, though, series contracts, royalties that come along several times a year, and books in print, e-print, and audio. Some have suggested appointing a literary executor who could handle such matters. But I don’t know if I need one or not.

It’s enough to make a woman’s head spin. That said, I don’t want to leave any of it up in the air and make either Hugh or my sons have to make decisions that I should have dealt with while I was able. So off we both go, one line on the form at a time, one difficult decision after another. Because I know the relief will be immeasurable when our wills and estates, powers and proxies are legally documented and notarized.

Then I can start throwing out stuff from the basement. Or not. I have books to write, after all! The estate-planning process is a bit like writing a book, anyway. Doing research. Thinking about “suppose” and “what if.” Planning. Writing one line at a time.

Readers: What was involved for you to have your end-of-life stuff all squared away? Or do you? What have I forgotten that I need to do? Writers: Anybody out there have a literary executor? Does a modestly successful mid-list author need one?

A Wicked Welcome to Marian Lanouette

By Julie, sloshing around in Somerville

allWe’re thrilled to welcome Marian Lanouette to the blog today! We’ve known Marian for a few years, and enjoy seeing her at Sisters in Crime New England meetings, and at the New England Crime Bake. We’re so thrilled to share Marian’s publishing news today! Welcome Marian!

I’d like to thank Julie and the Wicked Cozy Authors for inviting me as their guest today. I’m excited to be here and talk about how my Jake Carrington thriller series has developed before finding a home with Kensington. I’m also looking forward to visiting with them next month at Geoff Symons Forensic Seminar. Have you signed up for this fabulous seminar yet?

Writing has been cathartic for me. After my 2009 quadruple bypass surgery, I decided to concentrate my time on my writing. Before then life got in the way, working crazy hours, I never seem to have much time for the one thing I wanted to do—writing. I was working on another book at the time when Jake popped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. I put aside the current book and decided to work on Jake; he was the one shouting the loudest. Much to my surprise, six months later I was rushed back to the hospital. I needed three stents to open up three of those clogged bypasses. In that timeframe my husband and I decided I would become a full-time writer and do away with the stress of an accounting career.

I’m happy to say that I’m now writing the fourth book in the Jake Carrington series titled All the Dirty Secrets. And in 2017 I signed a four book deal with Kensington Publishing Corp for the first four books in the series. What stunned me, was the first two books in the series had been published previously; first by a small press out of Canada, and then self-pub by me.

I had achieved some success in the self-publishing area and caught the attention of an editor at Kensington. It floored me when they contracted the two previously published books along with two new ones. Working closely with my editor Michaela and her staff, I’ve added new content as well as sprucing up the endings in those books to make a stronger and more enjoyable read. This collaboration comes to fruition on February 27th when All the Deadly Lies, the first book in the series is released.

At book signings, writers and readers asked if they had previously published a book if it had a shot at a publisher acquiring them. I’m a true optimist. I believe that anything is possible. How I reply to these questions is that first you need a dream, the ambition, and the commitment to working towards those dreams. You also need to learn the craft of writing which includes the technical side of it, and the business side of it. I stress how important it is for writers to network and go out and meet people. A group of my writing buddies make fun of me because I always have a business card with me. If you make eye contact with me before we depart each other’s company you’ll have my card in your hand. I’m talking waitresses, grocery store clerks and the readers and librarians I meet at all my signings. I think it’s good business, but I find it fun and exciting to meet new people and learn about them. Authors need to keep that in mind.

I’m a people person and I love networking. The most important thing about networking is that you never know where an opportunity can pop up. I met my editor at a charity gala, in Boston, that was put on by another author. That night I not only met my future editor, I met my future agent. I did not accept the invitation to be one of the guest authors at this function for any other reason than I believed in the charity it was benefiting. The plus side of this appearance, I was rewarded with an introduction to two people I love working with.

marianWhen asked for advice about writing, I offer up what has benefited me over the years. First write the book of your heart and then network—join writing groups, church groups, craft groups, any group you are truly interested in, and give small seminars at those meeting to get comfortable with public speaking. More important than anything, go out and meet people and remember to enjoy the whole experience.

BIO:  A self-described tough blonde from Brooklyn, Marian is the author of The Jake Carrington Thrillers, a gritty thriller/suspense series. As far back as she could remember, Marian loved to read. As a child, she was especially intrigued by the Daily News crime reports. Tragically, she knew someone who was murdered. The killer was never found. This event ignited Marian’s desire to write books where good prevails, even in the darkest times.

You can buy All the Deadly Lies at all the regular places,, including AmazonB&N, and Kobo . Stay up to date on Marian’s books by going to her website, and following her on FacebookTwitterPinterestPinterest 2Goodreads, and on her Amazon Author Page

Cats Take Over A New Series — Welcome Back Linda Reilly

I want to start with a huge thank you to Sherry Harris for inviting me to guest blog today with the wonderful Wickeds! I’m pleased to give away an e-Book of ESCAPE CLAWS to one person who leaves a comment.

When I first hatched the idea for a series that featured lots of cats, I had no idea how challenging it would be to weave a large cast of cats—eleven, for starters—into a full-length mystery.

I started by imagining a crotchety, aging woman living on a thinly-inhabited island somewhere off the New England coast, her house overflowing with rescued felines. The problem with said thinly-inhabited island…not enough people to populate a story. Even more daunting—not enough people to adopt cats, a necessary element of the series. Plus, the woman’s niece (the intended protagonist), had to seek her out, help her care for the cats, and (possibly?) make a life for herself there.

So, what if I made the island larger, more populated? But wait . . . wouldn’t that mean adding a ferry to shuttle people to and from the mainland? I wasn’t sure, but the mere mention of anything larger than my grandfather’s old rowboat made me run, screaming, for the Dramamine.

Nope. The island setting wasn’t working for me. I needed a cozy town, one where I could imagine a charming home on a bluff overlooking a picturesque town center. I looked to my own state of New Hampshire, where quaint villages abound. I selected one based on its location only and created my town from scratch. I named it Whisker Jog and chose an old Folk Victorian house as the primary setting.

The crotchety woman morphed into a kind, intelligent, fifty-something school teacher sidelined by arthritic knees—a woman who hadn’t seen her estranged niece, Lara, for sixteen years. Lara is a watercolor artist who’s been living in a studio apartment above a Boston bakery. She makes ends meet by working part time in the bakery.

And then came the cats. I love cats, but the task of naming and describing nearly a dozen of the furry felines suddenly overwhelmed me. Not only did each cat need his or her own personality, but each one had to be laced into the story . . . and still allow Lara time to solve a murder.

Last there was the mystery cat—the beautiful Ragdoll with the startling blue eyes who had an eerie knack of slipping in and out of the story without warning. Here is one of Lara’s early encounters with her:

Sparkling blue eyes, alight with curiosity, regarded Lara from the arm of the tufted sofa. Blue sat very straight, her dark tail curled around her fluffy form. Her coloring was stunning—like a cream-colored cookie whose edges had been dipped in a dark, exotic chocolate.

No sound came from the cat. She seemed content to have Lara watch her, not skittish in the least.

Lara held her breath and remained very still. In the past, Blue had been a mystery cat—there one moment, gone the next. This time, Lara was determined not to let her out of her sight.

It was my fabulous editor at Kensington who suggested that I write a Feline Cast of Characters. I’d already been working with a loose, messy version, so it was a natural leap to writing one that readers could enjoy, too. Best of all, it helped me highlight the key features of each kitty’s personality.

Readers: What kinds of settings do you most enjoy when reading a cozy mystery? Do you favor a particular locale? Seaside? Eatery? Bookstore?


Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examinations, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, Linda lives in southern New Hampshire, where she loves solving mysteries of the cozy type. When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, she can usually be found prowling the shelves of a local bookstore or library hunting for a new adventure.

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Wicked Wednesday: Writing Goals for 2018

Wicked Wednesday!Well Wickeds, what are your writing goals for this new year? Are you using any new tools, or programs, to help? Let us know!

Jessie: I ordered the Plot Your work planner for 2018. I have loaded some projects into it and am pleased with the way it takes so many parts of the job into consideration. There is a lot to it and it can feel a bit daunting but for planner enthusiasts who are writers I would highly recommend giving it a look.

Liz: I ordered it too, Jessie! I’m diving in now. So actually using it is one of my goals…aside from that, I have three books to write and a non-contracted book that I’m desperately trying to revise and move forward with.

Sherry: Turning in three Sarah books in the last twelve months (okay one hasn’t been turned in yet but is due on February 1st) has kept me from writing much else. I started a light romance in June and it’s about halfway done. I’m looking forward to finishing it. I’m also writing a short story that’s due in June. Short stories are a huge challenge for me. And then my head is overflowing with ideas — everything from Sarah to new series ideas.

Edith: I have three and a half books to write from now until January, so my writing goal beyond finishing those on time is modest: write one new short story, my best yet. I’ve had a few glimmers of inspiration dancing around for a suspense novel, and if they make themselves more clear I’ll try to arrange some time for looking at that, too.

Barb: This year I want to write something really funny. Not only with the gentle humor that I hope readers find in the Maine Clambake Mysteries, but laugh-out-loud funny. I want to write a novel-length book in the third person. I want the eighth, as yet untitled, Maine Clambake Mystery to be the best book in the series to date. I’m daunted by each of these, but I think that’s good with goals.

Julie: Thanks to Jessie’s recommendation, I have the Plot Your Work Planner as well, and have been using it to do that, and to figure out how I am going to get it all done this year. I have two books on contract. I also have a suspense novel that is tapping on my brain. Like Barb, my goal is to stretch myself as a writer. Push to make these my best work, stretch to test new genres, and to dream about other goals. My other big writing goal is to give everything a chance to sit and marinate for a bit before I edit-that is a question of managing time.

Writer friends, what are your goals for 2018? Readers, work goals? Craft goals? Reading goals?

The Detective’s Daughter

Breaking news! Jennyjc is the winner of Julie Moffett’s contest. Jenny please send Sherry your contact information and she will get it to Julie:

The flu has hit the Wickeds! Kim we hope you feel better soon. We are bringing you this encore post — the very first one Kim wrote almost four years ago.

Today we introduce Kim Gray, winner of the 2009 William F. Deck – Malice Domestic Grant. We met Kim at the Seascape Writers Retreat in 2009. Her stories of growing up as a detective’s daughter fascinated us and now she will be sharing them in a monthly column. Welcome Kim!

By Kim Gray In Baltimore City

Today we introduce Kim Gray, winner of the 2009 William F. Deck – Malice Domestic Grant. We met Kim at the Seascape Writers Retreat in 2009. Her stories of growing up as a detective’s daughter fascinated us and now she will be sharing them in a monthly column. Welcome Kim!

With a mother who grew up as a grave digger’s daughter, and a dad who was a homicide detective for over thirty years, is it any wonder I spend copious hours contemplating death? I can’t see an abandoned glove without wondering where the remains of the owner might be. Every discarded trash bag left along the side of the road has the potential for holding together a dismembered body. Even the innocence of a free floating balloon brings my thoughts to mayhem. I can not help myself.

kimbabypicAs a child, I didn’t spend a great deal of time with my dad. He worked everyday, after all, this was Baltimore City, a place synonymous with murder. Dad was a busy man. He was also a man of few words. There wasn’t a great deal of conversation during dinner, for my mom was also a quiet person. On the nights Dad brought home a folder of a case he was working on, well that was a treat. On those nights he actually talked with us. There was nothing he loved more than to discuss a case. I hung on every word and they seeped through my skin and into my bloodstream.

On occasion Dad would let me run an errand with him. We’d be driving down a street and he would point out locations where bodies had been found. Later in life I referred to this as Dad’s Homicide Tour. It was interesting and if he were alive today I believe he could have had an enterprising business.

kim's dadThe story I remember most clearly occurred near St. Paul street, in a very posh neighborhood. Dad pointed to a large Victorian house on the corner. “See that third floor window, over to the right? Well, we were called in there for a suspicious death. Parents claimed the boy hung himself. But I could see straight away it was wrong. Everything was wrong. The kid had a bruise around his wrist and the rope just wasn’t right. Found out within an hour the stepfather had a history of domestic abuse. He killed the kid, said it was accidental.”

So many stories were similar to that one. Hardly a street was passed without a story of some poor person and their final moments in Baltimore. As hard as I tried to pay attention, listen to every syllable he uttered, I wish I had written it all down. At the time it didn’t matter what he said,or what story he told. I only cared that he was talking, sharing a story and some time with me.

On a summer night a few years ago I was sitting at a red light in a very posh neighborhood of the city. My own children were very young and my dad had been dead three months.  Looming ahead of me was a Victorian-style mansion. “Hey guys, see that house?” I asked my kids. They were busy looking at books in the back seat. “Well, years and years ago Grandpa Charlie was the lead detective on a case there.”

And so the tour continues to this day,with me passing the torch to the next generation of homicide hunters.

Readers: What traditions do you carry on with your kids?

Cover Reveal-Murder Flies the Coop!

GIVEAWAY WINNERS: Congratulations Sheryl Sens and Kara Leigh! You each won a copy of Murder in an English Village! Please email me at with your mailing address so that I may post them off to you this week!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where my head is spinning from the rapid changes in temperature!

The writing life involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for ideas and characters to form in the mind. Waiting to hear from agents and editors. Waiting for reviews to come in. Waiting for the release date for a book.

But there are things that keep me from going stir crazy while I am doing all that waiting . I write the next book or research a new series. I have also learned to celebrate all the milestones along the way, which is what I am doing here today. I am absolutely delighted to tell you that the cover and back matter for my second Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Flies the Coop is available to share! I have loved working on this series and spending time with the two protagonists and have been chomping at the bit to post a cover reveal here on the Wickeds.


Here is the back cover copy:

One would hardly call them birds of a feather, but thrill-seeking American adventuress Beryl Helliwell and quietly reserved Brit Edwina Davenport do one thing very well together—solve murders . . .
Sharing lodging in the sleepy English village of Walmsley Parva has eased some of the financial strain on the two old school chums, but money is still tight in these lean years following the Great War. All of Beryl’s ex-husbands have proven reluctant to part with her alimony, which is most inconvenient.
So when the local vicar—and pigeon-racing club president—approaches them with a private inquiry opportunity, the ladies eagerly accept. There’s been a spot of bother: the treasurer has absconded with the club’s funds and several prized birds.
Beryl and Edwina hope to flush out the missing man by checking his boardinghouse and place of employment at the coal mine. But when they visit the man’s loft, they find their elusive quarry lying in white feathers and a pool of crimson blood, stabbed to death—the only witnesses cooing mournfully.
After a stiff gin fizz, the ladies resume their search for the missing funds and prized birds—and now a murderer. Beryl and Edwina aren’t shy about ruffling a few feathers as they home in on their suspects. But they had better find the killer fast, before their sleuthing career is cut short . . .

Murder Flies The Coop

Readers, I would love to know what you do to keep your spirits up while waiting for things in your lives. Writers, how do you deal with the long tail of publishing? I would love to celebrate my cover reveal by sending a copy of the first Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder in an English Village to two commenters who post today!


2017 Was A Wicked Good Year for the Wickeds

2017wickedreleases (1)Friends, it occurred to us that we hadn’t properly celebrated our 2017 titles. Better late than never! We’re going to list titles and the names we wrote them under here, and will also put it on our site.

How many of these books and stories did you read?


Cat About Town by Cate Conte

When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day

Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

A Good Day To Buy by Sherry Harris

A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus

Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes

Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell

Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell

Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero

Iced Under by Barbara Ross


“Murder in the Summer Kitchen” by Edith Maxwell, in Murder Among Friends: Mysteries Inspired by the Life and Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (Post Mortem Press)

“The Unfortunate Death of Mrs. Edna Fogg” by Edith Maxwell, in Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical (Wildside Press)

“An Ominous Silence” by Edith Maxwell, in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017 (Level Best Books)

“Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody” by Barbara Ross, in Noir at the Salad Bar (Level Best Books)