Wicked Wednesday- Heros

Jessie-In NH awash in anticpation of Malice Domestic!

We continue to celebrate the release of Sherry’s latest book, A Good Day to Buy. 

As Sherry mentioned yesterday one of the themes of the book is heroes. In your opinion, what defines a hero and who are some of yours?

Edith: That’s a thought-provoking question. For me heroes are the quiet people working selflessly to help others. A woman in my town has been tireless in her efforts to run a food pantry and soup kitchen, which, sadly, more and more people need to use. Our local women’s crisis center has quietly helped many women extract themselves from abusive situations and find a better life for them and their children.  My late friend Richard was responsible for planting a thousand trees locally over a ten-year period, to both beautify and clean the air. Those are my heroes.

Barb: On the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, if you were a victim, and you survived the blast, you lived. This to me is the most extraordinary thing. I don’t mean to minimize in any way the challenges faced by the survivors, but the amazing work of the first responders on the the scene, the volunteers in the medical tents, the medical and non-medical personnel at the eight Boston hospitals where victims were taken, and the ordinary people on the street who ran toward the carnage instead of fleeing, still takes my breath away and makes me a weepy. Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” The helpers are my heroes.

Sherry: Wow, Barb! That is so beautifully said I think it’s a drop the mic moment! In A Good Day To Buy Sarah is called a hero and she doesn’t like it because she doesn’t feel like she is one. And maybe that is the strongest indication that you are a hero. Many of the people Barb mentioned would say they were just doing their job or that they were just doing what anyone would have. I think all of us have a bit of hero in us. It might not be something huge like saving someone’s life. Sometimes small things like listening to a friend or helping a neighbor are heroic.

Jessie: One of the things I believe defines a hero is a willingness to take on risk. For that reason immigrants are amongst my heroes. I am in awe of those who leave familiar lives, languages, customs and families to start lives in far away lands. No matter what motivates them to strike out I admire their grit and determination and am so grateful for the richness they add to all our lives.

Julie: I am having such challenges with this question! To me, heroes are folks who do something brave, not because they aren’t afraid, but despite the fact that they are afraid. Heroes aren’t athletes, or titans of Wall Street. Heroes are the folks Barb mentioned. Heroes are the folks our society holds in disdain who still leave the house every day, and try to live with dignity. Heroes are the folks who do what they can do to create the change they want to see in the world.

Liz: Wow, you guys have all said this so well. For the past seven years I’ve worked with Safe Futures, an organization that is working to end domestic violence, and every single one of the people involved there is a hero. They work tirelessly, they work endlessly and they put the survivors and those in need of help first, no matter what it takes. Someone who is that committed to a cause for good is truly a hero.

Readers: Who are your heroes?

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Dreams Do Come True — Thank You Kensington Publishing

I’m so excited that my fourth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series, A Good Day to Buy, releases today. One of the themes in A Good Day to Buy is about who is a hero and what makes one.

I still have to pinch myself when I think about being published — that I’m writing book six as you read this. It makes me reflect on how it all happened and why. That story starts with Kensington Publishing. Here’s a little about them from their website:

Founded in 1974, Kensington Publishing Corp. is located in New York City and is known as “America’s Independent Publisher.” It remains a multi-generational family business, with Steven Zacharius succeeding his father as President and CEO, and Adam Zacharius as General Manager. From the time its very first book (Appointment in Dallas by Hugh McDonald), became a bestseller, Kensington has been known as an astute and determined David-vs.-Goliath publisher of titles in the full spectrum of categories, from fiction and romance to health and nonfiction. You can read more about Kensington on their website.

Gary goofing off at Bouchercon New Orleans 2016

Some of you have heard this story, but here is my tale of how the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series came to be. Once upon a time a heroic editor, Gary Goldstein, from the land of Kensington, came up with the idea for a cozy series with a garage sale theme. At the time Gary only had thriller and western authors in his castle and yet he went out seeking adventure in the world of cozies. His quest led him to an agent (John of Talbot), the agent went to Lady Barbara of Ross, and Barbara thought, “Sherry loves garage sales.” So it came to pass that the fair maiden Sherry (too much?) okay, just plain old Sherry wrote a proclamation (it was only a proposal but all of this still seems very fairy tale like to me) and Gary of Kensington said yes. Trumpets sounded (in my head), people danced with joy (well I did) and to this very day Sherry is Gary of Kensington’s only cozy writer.

But an editor and a writer do not a book make. There are legions of people working behind the scenes at Kensington. The unsung heroes who make it all happen. I’ve only met a few of them and some only through email. Gary’s assistant Liz alerts me when my books are on sale or there are good reviews among many other things. Karen and Morgan in marketing send out ARCs, set up blog tours, get ads placed, set up events, and probably do a whole heck of a lot more that I don’t even know about.

I love the covers of my books. The Art Department took my idea of having an old fashioned looking tag on the cover and ran with it. They created something better than I could have imagined! There is always something on each cover that I wished I owned.

Someone writes the back cover copy and they are able to sum up my books in a few short words better than I ever could. Here’s the back cover copy of A Good Day To Buy:

HER BROTHER IS NO BARGAIN
When Sarah Winston’s estranged brother Luke shows up on her doorstep, asking her not to tell anyone he’s in town—especially her ex, the chief of police—the timing is strange, to say the least. Hours earlier, Sarah’s latest garage sale was taped off as a crime scene following the discovery of a murdered Vietnam vet and his gravely injured wife—her clients, the Spencers.
 
BUT IS HE A KILLER?
All Luke will tell Sarah is that he’s undercover, investigating a story. Before she can learn more, he vanishes as suddenly as he appeared. Rummaging through his things for a clue to his whereabouts, Sarah comes upon a list of veterans and realizes that to find her brother, she’ll have to figure out who killed Mr. Spencer. And all without telling her ex . . .

Then there are the copy editors who notice if Sarah hates broccoli on page 22 but is asking for a second helping on page 156. They push me to write a better book. There are typesetters, and people who send the proof pages – the last chance to find mistakes before the book is printed.

There are people in Sales and Sub Rights – there are probably departments I don’t even know about who all work hard to get my books out.

So thank you to everyone at Kensington – from top to bottom – who do your jobs, who helped make my dream come true.

To celebrate the release of A Good Day To Buy I’ll Give Away two books to someone who leaves a comment!

Readers: What dream has come true for you?

Poetry & Literature – Mine!

PoetryMonthEdith here, still basking in yesterday’s wonderful afternoon celebration.

Here in Amesbury in the northeast corner of Massachusetts, we have a Poet Laureate. She is the multi-talented Lainie Senechal, a native of the town, who not only writes poetry and paints, but has worked tirelessly to spread poetry through the populace. April is National Poetry Month, and Lainie, with the help of Amesbury’s Cultural Council and the Whittier Home Museum, set up seven events. Poetry and Film. Poetry and Yoga. Poetry and History. You get the picture, and there were others, too. The list also included two poetry contests for young people in the area.

Yesterday was was reserved for Poetry and Literature, and the literature was my second Quaker Midwife Mystery, Called to Justice! I was delighted and honored when Lainie suggested the event, and I thought I’d share the highlights here.

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Me and Lainie Senechal. Photo courtesy Christine Green.

We held the gathering at a lovely crepe (and other delicacies) restaurant, The Noshery, so folks ordered food and drink to enjoy during the readings and discussion. Jon Mooers is the very generous and talented owner and chef, a keen supporter of Amesbury’s history.

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(Some years past he painted two fabulous murals on brick walls on Main Street that evoke the era when I set my books.)

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Jon suggested we set up an antique-look corner for my books, so I borrowed a table from the Friends Meetinghouse.

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As always, I reference a couple of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poems in the book, since he’s a supporting character in the series, so we interspersed portions of those works.  I shared the background of Called to Justice and read several short passages to introduce the poems. Our readers included Lainie, Chris Bryant (President of the Whittier Home Museum), and me. Whittier’s friend Lucy Larcom makes an appearance in the book, so Lainie read one poem about Larcom and another by the well-known New England author, a former mill girl herself.

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Chris Bryant reading Whittier’s  “One of the Signers,” quoted in the book

Poet Carla Panciera wrote a midwifery poem especially for me – “Midwife in the Barn” – and she came to read it herself!

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The questions were many and varied, and I sold and signed books afterward. It was a sweet way to launch my book in the town where it’s set (and where I live) and to celebrate poetry of all kinds at the same time. Thanks to fan Gerry Morenski who volunteered to take pictures while I was up front!

Readers: How do you feel about poetry? What’s your favorite one?

 

Why I’m a Standalone Writer — Guest Lori Rader-Day

I am happy to welcome back Lori Rader-Day. We met at Left Coast Crime in 2014 when we were both debut authors. Our first books weren’t even out yet. Lori’s third book, The Day I Diedreleased on April 11th!

Lori:

[Movie trailer voice] IN A WORLD where the mystery genre is built upon series characters, Lori Rader-Day is a serial author of—standalones.

Hi, I’m Lori, and I write… standalones.

[Everyone chines in.] Hi, Lori.

[A voice from the back of the room] You’re safe here, Lori.

Am I? Am I really? I’m looking around and everyone else—wow, this is hard. Everyone else has a series. Some of them have two or three series. It’s easy to feel as though I’m not doing something right, you know? Like I am not a real mystery author, because I haven’t written a series yet.

Face it. Mystery readers love series. They are always going on about Miss Fisher and Vera and Dexter and Sookie and Longmire. I get it. There’s something great about knowing that the thing you like and have read or, since series books are sometimes turned into television, watched—there’s more! There’s more of this thing I really enjoyed! It’s all good news!

Publishers also love series titles. You know why? Because the marketing does its dang self when it comes to series books. Launch once, write into infinity, and your happy readers from the first book are likely to keep picking up later titles, as long as you let them know they are available. If new readers discover you later into the series, that’s also good news for your backlist sales. Again: all good news.

Wow, you guys are really turning me around on this—

[Voice from the back of the room] Stay strong, Lori.

[Deep breath] OK, right. There’s a reason I write standalones, even so. And the reason is—me. I like standalones. I like to read them. I like knowing that the book I’m picking up is the whole story, that I’m not missing three books prior to this one and hence a lot of backstory. I’m a little OCD on this. If I find a series book that I want to read, I can’t just pick up that new book. I have to go back into the backlist and find the first book. Why? Because I want the origin story. How did this character become an amateur sleuth? Why did they become a bounty hunter instead of a lingerie salesperson (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum) or a private investigator instead of a lady of leisure (Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver)? I’m not going to skip THAT story of all stories they have to tell. That’s the best one!

So there’s my own reading practices to blame. I will take a good standalone over anything, any day of the week. A fully realized story and character, where everything is left on the page and nothing “saved” for a future book is my kind of book.

Though I do like series books. When I find a character who has the potential to carry an ongoing story of growth and change, of course I’ll read that—

[Voice from the second row] She’s wavering. Do something.

But the real reason that I write standalones has nothing to do with my reading habits and everything to do with my own attention span.

When I was writing my first two published novels, I was working a day job. A demanding one. To get my writing done, I had to use my lunch hour almost every day of the week. I was turning down lunch invitations with real friends to go spend time with these fake friends I was making up. I had to make myself want to be at the blank page, or I wouldn’t show up there. There were just so many other things to do. Life easily gets in the way.

So I had to keep things interesting in what I was writing—giving myself fun assignments like two first-person narrators or a really fun character with bad behavior—but I also had to keep myself engaged with the next thing. As in, when I finish THIS manuscript, I get to write something completely different. I get to write The Brand New Shiny Idea!

The Brand New Shiny Idea cannot be a second book with the same character, you see. That’s not Brand New or Shiny enough.

I guess you can say I use the next book, the next standalone by definition, as the carrot at the end of the stick of writing my current project.

[Mumble from somewhere in row four] Heavy-handed metaphor alert.

There are just so many story ideas out there to be written, and the ones that occur to me have me hopping from one character to another, from one setting to another. For now. Someday I hope one of the characters I write gives me another idea—and then another one—for what she wants to do. I will welcome that turn of events. But until then…

[Murmurs from among the group.]

[Voice from the back] You can do it!

I am a standalone writer. Thank you for your support.

Readers: Do you read standalones? Have you thought about writing one?

Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.

A Wicked Welcome to Cynthia Kuhn!

I’m thrilled to welcome Cynthia Kuhn back to the blog. The second book in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, The Arts of Vanishing, came out this spring. I love academic mysteries–they speak to my years working at different colleges, and the folks I thought about. . . well, that’s another blog post. Welcome back Cynthia!

Books About Books

VanishingAlthough I love all kinds of books, those about books/reading/writing seem doubly satisfying. If you’re like me, always looking for more books about books, perhaps this will come in handy: a brief list of great reads that focus on texts in one way or another.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
by William Goldman
The story about Princess Buttercup and Westley is purportedly the “good parts version” of a much longer history by “S. Morgenstern.” Goldman created a structure in which a fictionalized version of himself discusses what he’s “left out” of the other book in hilarious editorial asides throughout the text (which appear in red print in certain editions and in italics in others…I know this little factoid because my family loved the book so much that we bought various editions to give as gifts…before the film came out, even). It’s simply superb. The asides are just as fabulous as the rest.

Possession by A.S. Byatt
Possession is not focused on a single book—it’s more about a love of writing in many forms, mixed with a blossoming romance (multiple romances, to be precise). Things advance through the discovery of texts (letters, poems, etc.); the main characters are always reading and interpreting things they find, and the past and the present are woven together into one delicious tale.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
This book features Thursday Next, a literary detective (what a dream career) who embarks on a case where characters are disappearing from texts. It is something like alternative history meets fantasy meets mystery meets humor and the plot is so creative as to be almost indescribable, but I promise that it’s a very fun read!

Book: A Novel by Robert Grudin
Book is as meta as it gets (metafiction is fiction about fiction: texts that draw attention to themselves as texts). From the title itself to the ongoing encyclopedia entries discussing the history of bookselling throughout to the footnotes that cheekily stage a revolution and so much more, the focus is squarely on bookishness. And it’s an academic mystery, with some delightful satire to boot!

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don’t let the “classic” label throw you—although it’s been called the first (modern) novel, this is as readable and hilarious now as it must have been back in the early 1600s when it was written. It’s almost impossible to imagine how Cervantes conceived of writing such a brilliant text, with multiple levels of authorship and playfulness (very meta), without much in the way of predecessors. Not to mention that the unforgettable Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and Dulcinea del Toboso have become cultural icons.

City of Glass by Paul Auster
This Edgar-nominated book is highly metafictional and complex. The protagonist Daniel Quinn (whose initials are not the only allusion to Don Quixote and that’s not the only name of the main character, either, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s leave it there) is a writer-slash-private-investigator caught up in a mysterious case that bends back upon itself in surprising and compelling ways. His efforts to solve the case raise all kinds of questions about identity, knowledge, and mystery. There’s a graphic novel version too, by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, that offers a terrific noir-y adaptation.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This is not fiction but a memoir presenting a series of letters between a bookseller in London and a reader in New York City who become friends over time through their epistolary exchanges. They talk about books and think about books and send each other books/gifts and, well, you’ll have to read it to find out the rest. The film adaptation is incredibly charming and wonderful too (Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins star—case closed).

There are so many more…what are your favorite books about books?

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ck2x3Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent (nominated for an Agatha Award) and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches in Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Wicked Wednesday- Author Events

Jessie- In NH where the crocuses are blooming and the robins are frolicking with abandon!

In a rare turn of events all the Wickeds are together today for two author events. We will be in Nashua, NH for both, first at Rivier College for a R.I.S. E. presentation at midday and then at the Barnes and Noble in the evening. We are ridiculously excited about gathering together for these two occasions and would love to have you all join us. It promises to be memorable. Which got me to wondering about memorable events the other Wickeds have held. So, any favorite memories you’d love to share?

maxwellEdith: Other than my double launch party a couple of weeks ago, I’d have to say my first launch party was an unforgettable evening, for all the right reasons. Speaking of Murder had just released in September 2012 (written as Tace Baker), and I’d invited everyone I knew. The young man managing the Newburyport bookstore had set out ten chairs. I said, “Um, I think you’re going to need more chairs.” I was right. 55 people were there from all different areas of my life: church, work, town, family, and Sisters in Crime, including several Wickeds. The bookstore sold out but I had a box of books in the car to supplement their order. The whole night was touching, exhilarating, just perfect.

Liz: I have to say my first launch party, for Kneading to Die, was also my most memorable. Full of family, friends and dogs, it was held at The Big Biscuit in Franklin, Mass. Shaggy even got her own doggie cake for the occasion!

Sherry: I’ve had so much fun going to author events that it is so hard to pick one. The first time I was on a panel as an author was at Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California in 2014. The women on the panel with me have become friends — Lori Rader-Day (doing a post here on Friday), Carlene O’Neil, Martha Cooley, and Holly West. I was so nervous I don’t think I said much. Afterwards we had a signing time and this was the order of the table Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Jan Burke, then me. I didn’t even have a book out yet, but a couple of people had me sign their programs. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and Jan Burke was very gracious the one second she didn’t have someone in front of her.

Barb: I enjoy author events, too. Most memorable was the launch of my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman. It seemed like everyone I’d ever mentioned I was writing a book to came. Porter Square ran out of books. I did a little talk and a reading and thanked my friends and family. My sister-in-law pointed at me and said to my daughter, “This is what it looks like when your dreams come true,” which is such a lovely, heartfelt sentiment.

CAKE KILLERJulie: My launch party for Just Killing Time was a blast. Friends and family packed the New England Mobile Book Fair. Three of my mentors–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Hallie Ephron–sat right up front, and cheered me on. My friend Courtney made me a cookie cake decorated to look like a clock. It was just lovely. This year Liz and I both have August and September books–2 women, 4 names, 4 books, 2 new series being launched. We are going to do something to celebrate, so stay tuned.

Readers: Do you like to attend author events? What’s your most memorable one?

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The Detective’s Daughter — Seeking Fortune

By Kim in Baltimore where April is living up to its shower promises.

On Mulberry Street, a mile or two from where I grew up, sits an abandoned shop that once housed my family’s favorite Chinese restaurant. It was called The White Rice Inn. When Nana didn’t feel like cooking her traditional Sunday feast, or I had a good report card, or some family tragedy had befallen us, we visited The White Rice Inn.

It was an exotic place for a little Irish girl who was use to white potatoes for dinner. I loved it all – lo mein, chow mein, fried rice, chop suey – but none of that compared to what was served afterwards.

At the end of each meal, along with the check, fortune cookies were delivered. There was one for each of us. First you ate the cookie, then everyone had a turn reading aloud what was written on their paper. You had to choose your own cookie, no one could hand it to you.

Through the years I have eaten hundreds – really, I’m not exaggerating – hundreds of fortune cookies, and I have saved nearly every single fortune paper that was tucked inside. I have boxes of fortunes, tiny papers stuffed in drawers, hung on bulletin boards, taped on my laptop, pressed between the pages of books and bursting from my wallet.

In 2004 my family and I took our first cross-country trip to San Francisco on the Amtrak. With such beautiful sites as the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower and Lombard Street to see, I chose the most spectacular of all for our initial tour…The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Opened in 1962 and family owned, the factory is located at 56 Ross Alley in China Town. We headed down the alleyway unsure that our directions were correct and finding the sign, stepped into the small establishment. In a cramped room an older woman sat at a table pressing snips of paper between the edges of warm cookies. The aroma of vanilla was heavenly. I held my camera up to snap a photo, but the woman put out her hand towards me.

“No, no. One dollar,” she said. I gladly unfolded the dollar bill from my purse and gave it to her. She shoved it on a shelf where a wad of crumpled bills overflowed from a cigar box. I would have given her ten dollars for the photo had she asked.

I bought so many bags of fortune cookies – who knew they came in chocolate! – and worried they would be eaten or crushed in our suitcases before we returned home. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is always the top item on my itinerary anytime I visit San Francisco.

Did you know that fortune cookies originated here in the USA and that they were not available in China until 1993? In China the cookies are advertised as “Genuine American Fortune Cookies.” I tried my hand at baking these several years ago for Chinese New Year. The cookies tasted good, but they hardened so quickly I couldn’t get the fortunes inside. Instead I had my guests take a cookie then choose a fortune from a bowl.

Last week I went away on a retreat with my good, good friend, Ramona. About twenty-five writers attended and we were each asked to bring a dessert to share. No, I didn’t bring fortune cookies, but someone else did. A lovely lady named Teresa had baked them herself and they were delicious. Maybe even better than the factory cookies! Inside she had tucked sweet messages such as “eat a brownie” or “what would Dr. Phil say?” Most of them, though, had messages related to writing or being mindful which was good considering we were participating in the Mindful Writers Retreat. Teresa was kind enough to share the recipe with me and gave me permission to share it with you. I haven’t attempted this recipe yet, but it’s on my to-do list.

The night I arrived home from my retreat I was tired from driving and didn’t feel like cooking. We ordered Chinese food. After dinner I went in search of the cookies only to discover someone (I’m not going to mention any names, but if you’re a wife you have one of these!) threw away the take-out bag before removing the cookies. This will never happen again.

Here is the recipe:

FORTUNE COOKIES

5 tablespoons butter, melted*

1 cup sugar

1 pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

4 large egg whites

1 cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons milk

Plug in fortune cookie maker and preheat for 5 minutes (until ready light is on.)  Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl and mix until frothy and well blended.  Sift flour and salt into egg white mixture and stir until fully incorporated and lump free.  Add melted butter, milk and extracts  and blend until the batter is thick and smooth.  Coat top and bottom of fortune cookie maker with melted butter and apply a tablespoon of the batter into the center of each plate.  Close cover.  Cook for 2 minutes, until lightly golden brown, then remove cookie.  Working quickly, place fortune in center of cookie and use the folding tools to shape.  Fold as directed.

*  Let the butter cool after melting, it should be lukewarm when you mix it into the batter.

NOTE:  The amount of sugar in the batter determines how dark the fortune cookie gets with baking.  Add less sugar to make lighter color fortune cookies.

Kim, this Fortune Cookie Maker comes with a ladle, a fork-shaped thing to lift the cookies off the griddle, two little plastic pieces to hold either end of the cookies to help close them and the top of the plastic box they come in has two indentations to help keep the curved shape.  When I need room for the next two, I use a cupcake pan to completely cool them.

I hope you enjoy them!

Readers: has your love of a certain food inspired you to take a trip? Do you keep your fortunes? Do you have a favorite?