About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries: Clammed Up, Boiled Over, Musseled Out, Fogged Inn and Iced Under. The sixth book, Stowed Away, will be published in December, 2017. You can visit her website at http://www.maineclambakemysteries.com.

Where are the Wickeds at Bouchercon Toronto?

by Barb, who is already in Toronto

Julie suggested a three word post for today, “In the bar.”

Four of the Wickeds, along with Wicked Accomplice Sheila Connolly, will be in Toronto this week for Bouchercon, the World Mystery conference. It’s true, you will find us in the bar, and we love seeing old friends and meeting new ones in the “white space” of a conference, when there’s no agenda and no program to pay attention to.

But you can also find us in particular places at particular times and here they are:

Wednesday, October 11, 1:00 to 6:00, Sherry, Edith and Barb will be attending the SinC into Great Writing, Alex Sokoloff’s workshop, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, sponsored by Sisters in Crime National. (Pre-registration required.)

Thursday, October 12,

  • Noon to 4:30 pm, Edith and Barb will be at the autographing free books at the Kensington Hospitality Suite in the Grand Ballroom Foyer. Sherry will make a couple of cameo appearances, though she’ll also be attending the Sisters in Crime national board meeting. We’ll be giving away glasses cases and micro fiber cleaning cloths. Come and see us.

  • 2:30 to 3:30 pm, Sheila Connolly will be on the panel “Comfort Reading,” these authors keep the stakes high while their books read like a warm blanket, with Cheryl Hollon, Joe Reese, J.R. Ripley (Marie Celine), Marty Wingate and Elizabeth J. Duncan moderating, in Sheraton A, with a signing immediately after in the Book Room.
  • 7:30 to 9:30 pm, we’ll be at the Opening Ceremonies, paying extra close attention to the announcement of the winners for the Macavity Awards. Edith is a nominee for Best Historical.

Friday, October 13, 8:30 to 9:30 am, Sherry Harris will be on the panel, “Write What You Know,” how like authors are their characters? with John Burley, Susan Furlong, Nick Kolakowski, Dr. L. J. M. Owen and J.T. Ellison moderating, in Sheraton B with a signing immediately after in the book room.

Saturday, October 14,

  • 7:30 am, we’ll all be attending the Sisters in Crime Breakfast, (though Barb will be sneaking out early to go to her panel) in the Grand Ballroom East. (Reservations required.)
  • 8:30 to 9:30 am, Barbara Ross will be on the panel, “A Recipe for Death,” cooking up culinary mystery plots, with Leslie Budewitz, Maya Corrigan, Suzanne Trauth,  and Linda Wiken (aka Erika Chase), and Mo Walsh moderating in Sheraton B, and signing immediately after in the book room.

Sunday, October 15,

  • 8:30 to 9:30 am, Julianne Holmes/J.A. Hennrikus will participate in “Thespian Readings,” author reads a section of their own work, then another reads it as a
    character-actor, with Kimberly G. Belle, L.A. Chandlar, R.J. Koreto, Catriona McPherson and David A. Poulsen moderating in Grand West and signing immediately after in the book room.
  • 9:30 to 10:30 am, Edith Maxwell / Maddie Day will be on the panel “Medical Mysteries,” lives are at stake with these stories, often in more ways than one, with Colin Cotterill, Alec Peche, Christine Poulson, Melissa Yi, and Wendy Walker moderating, in Sheraton C and signing immediately after in the book room.

If you’re at Bouchercon, please say hello. If not, never fear, Liz and Jessie will be holding down the fort, though they’re each having adventures of their own. (I’ll let them tell you those stories.)

Readers: Will you be at Bouchercon 2017? Have you ever been? Would you like to go?

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A Barnes & Noble and Kensington Promotion and Sweepstakes!

Posted by Barb, who’s in Milwaukee today

From September 5 to October 5, Barnes & Noble and Kensington have teamed up to offer a special promotion–Buy 3 Kensington cozy mysteries and get 1 free!

But wait, there’s more!

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display or any Kensington cozy mystery from BarnesandNoble.com between 9/5/17 – 10/5/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will:

  • Automatically be entered into Kensington’s “Cozy Mystery Bonanza” sweepstakes for a chance to win a $300 value gift basket. One grand prize winner will be selected after the sale has concluded.
  • Automatically receive a free Kensington Cozies recipe booklet plus a download code for the novel A STORY TO KILL by Lynn Cahoon after the sale has concluded.

But wait, there’s even more!

There’s a special end-of-the-aisle display featuring Kensington cozies at every B&N. Sherry Harris, Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell), and Barbara Ross all have their latest mysteries on the shelf!

We thought it would be fun for some of the Wickeds to get their photos taken with this special display.

Here we are!

cozyendcap

Edith at the Newington, NH B&N

Edith: My closest B&N is in New Hampshire, and when I asked an employee where mystery section was, she led me to the cozies. I pointed to When the Grits Hit the Fan, said it was my book, and asked if she would take my picture. But the end cap was so close to a perpendicular row she couldn’t get back far enough to snap the whole thing!

barnesnoblesale

Look for this sign on the end cap

Sherry: I stopped by my local Barnes and Noble In Fairfax, Virginia where I’ve celebrated the release of all four of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries.

Sherry in Fairfax, VA

Here’s a closer look at the books!

All the books

Barb: I stopped at the B&N in Peabody, Massachusetts on my way from Boothbay Harbor, Maine to Logan Airport.

Barb in Peabody, MA

As with Edith, we couldn’t get far enough back from the display to get the whole display, so I’m glad Sherry did.

The Wicked’s books

If the display is a success for B&N and Kensington, they’ll repeat. Since all the Wickeds will have Kensington books soon, we hope it goes on and on.

Readers: Take advantage of the special if you can and don’t forget to register your purchase for a chance to win the gift basket, short story, and recipes!

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!

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Stowed Away ARCs are Here! (And a Giveaway)

by Barb, sorry to see the summer go

Update: The winners have been chosen by random.org and have been notified. Thanks so much for participating in the giveaway. I’ll be doing more giveaways on my Facebook page here and via my e-mail newsletter (sign up here) and on Goodreads.

The ARCs for Stowed Away are here. For those who don’t know, ARCs are Advance Reader Copies (or Advance Review Copies) that publishers send to reviewers, bookstores, bloggers, and others in hopes of getting buzz for a book. They’re uncorrected proofs. At Kensington, they typically incorporate the copy edits, but don’t include the final corrections the production department and I find while reviewing the galleys.

Two lucky commenters to the blog will win an ARC for Stowed Away and won’t have to wait until December 26 to find out what happens.

I’m excited about this sixth addition to the story of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It’s June in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and Julia Snowden and her family are working hard to get their authentic Maine clambake business ready for summer. Preparations must be put on hold, however, when a mysterious yacht drops anchor in the harbor—and delivers an unexpected dose of murder . . .
 
When Julia’s old prep school rival Wyatt Jayne invites her to dinner on board her billionaire fiancé’s decked-out yacht, Julia arrives to find a sumptuous table set for two—and the yachtsman dead in his chair. Suspicion quickly falls on Wyatt, and Julia’s quest to dredge up the truth leads her into the murky private world of a mega-rich recluse who may not have been all that he seemed . . .

There will also be Netgalley copies for those who prefer electronic ARCs, but they’re not up yet. I’ll let you know on my Facebook page when they’re available.

Readers: Do you like the little jump on the story you get with an ARC, or would you rather wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed in the final version?

Welcome Back to Kate Flora (and Thea Kozak)

by Barb, posting this on a gorgeous day in midcoast Maine

I’m excited to welcome back to the blog someone who has been a friend and mentor to all the Wickeds, and a sort of a midwife to so many authors in the New England crime writing community as they brought forth their first books.

Death Warmed Over is the latest book in Kate Flora’s Thea Kozak series. Kate is offering a copy to one lucky commenter on this post. Here’s the description.

Thea Kozak’s dreams of a perfect home are shattered when she finds her realtor, Ginger Stevens, tied to a chair in the living room of her dream house, surrounded by glowing space heaters. Ginger utters five indistinct words before she dies. The house is tainted, and Thea has moved on to managing a drug crisis on the campus of a Connecticut boarding school, when Maine state police drag her into their investigation of Ginger’s death. It seems that Ginger Stevens is the name of a child who died in New Hampshire many years ago. The police have no idea who their victim really is. Her boyfriend has disappeared. Her colleagues know little about her, and her apartment is so sanitized there are few clues.

As she drives through March slush on New England roads, trouble-shooting for her clients, Thea is also searching her memory for small details Ginger might have revealed that could be clues to her identity. A photograph of a former student at a client school may be a clue. So may be that menacing visit from the former boyfriend who claims that Ginger sent Thea a package. As she makes her way through board rooms and alternately coddles and strong-arms wayward headmasters, Thea’s own life may be in danger. But from whom? Strangers in a mysterious truck? Or from her client’s own faculty?

Determined to get justice for Ginger, Thea plays detective until she finally puts the clues together that let her understand the meaning of Ginger’s five final words.

Thea is Kate’s original series character. I think many of us think back to characters we’ve created and wonder what they’re doing now. I asked Kate what it was like returning to a character she knew so well.

When the Character Barely Ages, but the Author Does

Writing a series character is challenging at the best of times. When a few years in a character’s life spans more than two decades in the author’s, the challenges—from culture to technology—can be great. The journey from my first Thea Kozak mystery, Chosen for Death, published in 1994, to the eighth, Death Warmed Over, published in 2017, has been full of publishing delays, discouragement, and determination. Before Chosen was published, I spent ten years in the unpublished writer’s corner. By the time I sold the series, the first two books were written. I then embarked on what I believed to be the rhythm of my career: nine months writing, then three months marketing.

Those of us who embarked on writing strong women represented “Nancy Drew comes of age.” We wanted to write women who rescued themselves, had their own careers, and for whom solving problems and helping others, rather than finding Mr. Right. Creating a series character who would grow through the books, and a character arc that went beyond the story arc of each book, was an adventure in learning to write. It was also an adventure in learning about Thea Kozak, with a deepening knowledge of who she was, what shaped her personality and her views, and about her family and her co-workers. Readers often asked if Thea was based on me, and I always said that she was younger, taller, stronger, and braver than I would ever be.

When I started the series, I wasn’t a lot older than Thea. She was entering her thirties, I was leaving them. She longed for children, I was raising some. She was an attractive woman in a working world still largely run by men. I was a lawyer in court hearing the judge say I was so attractive he couldn’t focus on what I was saying. Thea was a feminist in a world where men stared at her chest instead of looking at her face. She was a professional woman wanted to be taken seriously. She struggled to balance her work life and her personal life, often sacrificing her personal life for her job. I liked watching her strength emerge and her abilities grow.

I had a publisher that remaindered the books when a new one came out, and didn’t support the series. After a long, unexplained gap between book five, Death in Paradise, and book six, Liberty or Death, the editor I’d worked with on all the books notified me by e-mail that the series was dropped.

Then came several years when I thought I’d left her behind. I embarked on a new series: police procedurals set in Portland, Maine. Three of us started Level Best Books and published crime story collections. I learned to take the kinds of chances my fictional Thea did. (Though I never faced down bad guys.)

But Thea Kozak was a dynamic character. Writing her was fun. I missed her. After spending more than six years imagining her, I was curious about what was happening in her world. And then Thea was rescued by Jim Huang and the Mystery Company. He put the first book back into print. My faith in the series restored, I finished a story of stalking on a private school campus, Stalking Death, and The Mystery Company published it. Then I wrote Death Warmed Over. It got stuck on the vagaries of a small press, and languished for nearly three years. Finally, I decided to embrace the world of indy publishing, and the book at last appeared.

Bringing out the backlist, and moving Thea forward, has been a real challenge. As technology changed, cell phones, text messages, and social media became a part of Thea’s life and part of the private school world she consults with. Thea remained a thirty-something, hoping for a family, while I acquired daughters-in-law and nieces Thea’s age. Music changed, TV changed, language and cultural references changed. I needed to update her housing and social concerns, update trends in food, and explore changes in her work world. I needed to pay attention to what she’d wear. My family and Faceboook friends provide a source for answering those questions.

Reviving Thea has been so much fun, I’m now 200+ pages into the next Thea Kozak mystery, Schooled in Death. So if you’ve missed her, or you’re just discovering her, there will be more.

About Kate

Kate Clark Flora writes true crime, strong women, and police procedurals.  Led Astray is her latest Joe Burgess police procedural; Death Warmed Over her latest Thea Kozak mystery. Her fascination with people’s bad behavior began in the Maine attorney general’s office chasing deadbeat dads and protecting battered children. In addition to her crime fiction, she’s written two true crimes and a memoir with public safety personnel. 2017 will bring Shots Fired: The Myths, Misconceptions, and Misunderstandings About Police-Involved Shootings. Flora has been an Edgar, Derringer, Agatha and Anthony finalist and twice won the Maine literary award for crime fiction.

Readers: What do you think about the idea of bringing a series character back? What series characters would you like to see return?

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By the Sea, by the Beautiful Sea

by Barb, at the Jersey shore

What is it about the connection between human beings and bodies of water? Why do so many of us find a quality of peace and relaxation when staring at the ocean, or a favorite lake, that we find nowhere else? What is it about a rushing trout stream on a spring day that carries our troubles away with it? Is it because we’ve depended on the water for millennia for food, transport, cooling on hot days? Is it because our bodies are 60% water and we need it to live? Is it because we came from the oceans originally and that memory is somewhere buried deep in our primitive brains?

Our personal histories play into it, too. When I was growing up, both sets of my grandparents had places near the ocean, my mother’s parents in Sea Girt, New Jersey, and my father’s parents in Water Mill, Long Island.

My grandmother Ross would pick my brother and me up on the last day of school every year, and drive us out to the end of Long Island. We knew all the landmarks along the way, the strawberry fields, the windmills, the building shaped like a giant duck that was a market that sold, well, duck, what else? My grandmother’s father would visit her for the same two weeks, so I grew up knowing my great-grandfather well. His hobby was painting tiles and he would let my brother and I paint them, too and then we would take them to be fired. My grandparents belonged to a beach club on Flying Point Road and a part of every day was spent there. Then we’d stop at a friend’s pool on the way home, diving for pennies my grandmother threw in the deep end. Whatever we retrieved we kept to spend at the Penny Candy Store on the way home. I can still taste the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Later in the summer, my mother would deliver us for two weeks with her parents in Sea Girt. The Jersey shore was a different sort of place, more organized and built up in those days, with a boardwalk. In the mornings my grandmother did household chores while my brother and I agitated for the beach. If the day was overcast she would say, “Go out on the lawn and look up. If you see enough blue to make a Dutchman’s pants, we’ll go.” I’ve never heard the expression since, and I wonder if it is a New Jersey thing, vaguely insulting to the original settlers? My grandmother shared a rental umbrella and two lounge chairs with her friend, Rose Bigley, which would be set up by lifeguards with white zinc oxide on their noses while we waited. Rose and my grandmother would sit in the chairs and talk of grown-up things while my brother and I played in the sand and the ocean.

My parents started the tradition of renting a house for a week in Stone Harbor. It was their way of corralling a family that was spread out, of making sure the cousins grew up together. We evolved our traditions, of mini-golf and cut-throat Scrabble games, and, of course, daily trips to the beach, often two a day. For years a trip to Cape May kicked off my annual Christmas shopping. We did it for a decade and then the kids grew up, had summer jobs and the tradition ended.

When my mother died, my sister-in-law had only one request. “I want to go back to the beach.” And so we have, indoctrinating new in-laws and a new generation of grandchildren along the way.

From this experience, maybe, decades from now, when my granddaughter looks at the ocean, she’ll feel at peace. Or maybe that’s already inside her.

Readers: Do you have a location by a body of water that’s special to you?

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Good-bye, Old House

by Barb, amid the boxes

The house

We’ve sold our Somerville, MA house. It closes (madly knocking wood) on August 3. There was a whirlwind one week period in which in went on the market, opened its doors for a broker’s lunch and three open houses and went under agreement. Now the real work begins.

People keep asking how I feel. I always answer, “This isn’t the house where I brought up my kids. It isn’t as emotional to leave it.” But even as I am saying the words, my chest tightens, my voice gets hoarse and tears spring to my eyes. Being a genius about my feelings, this gives me a clue that maybe I am lying.

But why should that be so? This house was a way station of middle age, neither the work-a-day family home, nor the retirement dream house. Then I realize that any place that forms the stage for more than a decade of our lives is going to burst with memories.

This is the house where we celebrated our first Christmas with our granddaughter and the last with Bill’s mother. It is the last house either of my parents will have ever visited me in.

Viola’s first visit

It’s the house where our son brought his daughter when she was two weeks old. The place he came when he returned from California before he left to hike the bottom half of the Appalachian Trail, and the place he returned from the trail before he left for New York.

It’s the place we collected all the bits and bobs and clothes and shoes for my daughter’s wedding. The place where we celebrated her graduation with her BA and then her MFA. The place she returned to after college, after New York, and after London, bringing stuff with her each time. (Hey Kate, come and get your stuff!)

It’s the place our cocker spaniel escaped from and we spent a night looking for him in a howling storm while he slept soundly at a kind neighbor’s house before going off to animal rescue in the morning, where he was chipped and returned, dry and rested, while we…

It is probably the last house where we will ever have owned a dog.

Christmas 2014, the happy chaos of the family Yankee book swap

It’s the place I moved into as a tech executive and left as a published author. The place my husband moved into as a political consultant and left as a photographer. The place we moved into as parents and left as grandparents. The place we moved into as someone’s child and left as orphans.

That’s a lot to pack into one little house.

Bill said yesterday, “Very few of our memories are tied to real estate.” He was right, of course. They’re tied to people. They’ll come with us when we go.

Readers: Tell me a moving story. Tell me it all turned out okay in the end.

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Welcome Back, Hallie Ephron

by Barb, who as of when she’s posting this, has no idea what U.S. state (or what mental state) she will be in when it’s published.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ve heard of Hallie Ephron. She’s been our guest on the blog several times, and has been a teacher, mentor, and friend to each of us. Not to mention, she writes for one of our favorite blogs, the Jungle Red Writers.

Now she has a fabulous new book, You’ll Never Know, Dear. I devoured it in two greedy days. Spoiler alert, I loved it and you will, too. Please welcome Hallie back to the Wicked Cozies.

Barb: You’ll Never Know, Dear is set in the fictional town of Bonsecours, SC, a departure for you. Why did you set this story in the south?

Hallie: I imagined the book opening with two of my main characters sipping sweet tea and eating egg-salad sandwiches on a front porch hung with wisteria. The older woman is a doll maker. I knew we weren’t in New England. Or Hollywood. Or the Bronx. Or anywhere else I’ve set a story.

When I envisioned the town around them, I “saw” Beaufort, South Carolina. I’d been there a few times. Historic. Gracious. Riverfront. Perfect. Then I fictionalized it to Bonsecours because the real Beaufort has such an incredible history (it rivals nearby Savannah) and has already been immortalized by writers far more brilliant than I.

Barb: The book is about a crime in the past, the abduction of a little girl and her doll in the 1970s. The narrative takes place entirely in the present, when the doll comes back. Why did you decide on that timeline? Was it an easy decision? Did you every write any of the scenes set in the past?

Hallie: Such an interesting question. No, I never considered writing full blown flashbacks, or starting in the past which is where the story really begins (as do most!) I wanted secrets from the past to be uncovered in the present, by the reader as much as by the characters. That’s why I couldn’t let the grandmother, Miss Sorrel, narrate. She knows too much.

Barb: You’ve recently published an updated edition of your acclaimed writing book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: The Complete Guide to Mystery, Suspense, and Crime. I’ve always wondered, does thinking through and externalizing your writing process–i.e. consciously knowing what you know, help you as a writer? Or does it make that voice from your internal editor even louder?

Hallie: Spontaneity has its limits. Then it helps if you have some idea what you’re doing. Knowing what I know is especially useful in plotting, making sure there’s an arc for the main character, making sure that something HAPPENS…every so often.

Barb: Recently, Wicked guest, Lori Rader-Day, posted here about why she writes standalones. You switched from series to standalones. Why? Have you ever wanted to go back?

Hallie: Only when I start a new novel and have to start all over with new characters, new setting, new dynamics. Once I’ve got a story up and running I never look back. I was afraid switching to standalones would be bad from a business perspective–that my publisher wouldn’t maintain my backlist. But they have, even better than my previous publisher did for the series.

Barb: What are you working on now?

Another standalone, this one set back in New England. I’m only 50 pages in and no one’s been murdered yet. But for once I know who’s the victim and who did it. Or at least I think I do.

HALLIE EPHRON is the New York Times bestselling author of suspense novels reviewers call “deliciously creepy” page turners. He new novel, You’ll Never Know, Dear, tells the story of a little girl’s disappearance and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to her fate. The Boston Globe called it “an accessible, easy read that deftly integrates the mystery genre with women’s fiction, it’s made compelling by the depth and resonance of the relationships.” In Night Night, Sleep Tight, Hallie took her experiences growing up in Beverly Hills in a family of writers and wove them into a suspense novel with echoes of a scandalous true crime. Her Never Tell a Lie was adapted for film as “And Baby Will Fall” for the Lifetime Movie Network. She is a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and author of Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel, an Edgar Award finalist.

Readers: Do you like standalones? Novels of the south? Suspense?

If so, this book is for you.

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