About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. The most recent is Stowed Away. The seventh, Steamed Open, will be released in December 2018. You can visit her website at http://www.maineclambakemysteries.com.

I Just Can’t Talk to You

by Barb, in Boothbay Harbor on a gorgeous spring day (finally)

I’ve noticed lately that many of my relationships are defined by technology preferences–both my own and those of the people I communicate with.

I am an e-mail person–pure and simple. I’ve written before on the blog about how much I hate the phone. Phone calls require synchronous communication–both people have to be on at the same time for meaningful information to be transferred–which means it interrupts whatever you are doing when the call happens, and I hate to be interrupted. I accept that this is a personality quirk. I hate sudden changes of plan, too. I have the whatever the opposite of ADD is. Also, I hate that when you’re talking on the phone, you can’t see the other person’s face and judge it for comprehension, attention, acceptance and so on.

So I hate the phone. And unfortunately, that has caused many of my relationships with my phone-preferring friends to drift away. I’ve stayed closest to the distant people in my life who prefer my main mode of communication.

To me, e-mail was a miracle. It doesn’t have to be synchronous and, as a writerly person, I have time to craft my message. The pressure is off in all kinds of ways. When we first got e-mail, there was quite a long period, over a decade, when it could only be used for internal communication at work. It was a huge improvement over copying memos and sticking them in people’s physical mailboxes, and later a great way to communicate with far-flung colleagues. Then, miracle of miracles, e-mail moved outside the company so we could communicate with customers, suppliers, investors. Fantastic! My social use of e-mail increased on a pace with my use of it at work.

In a final miraculous step, e-mail appeared on my phone. That formerly loathed device. As a Chief Operating Officer at two higher ed technology companies, Customer Support ultimately reported to me. As you can imagine, our busy season was at the start of the fall semester in the northern hemisphere. From early August when many state college systems in the American south went back to work, through the end of September when the UK universities came online, I was virtually chained to my desk. But when I could follow the long e-mail support threads on my phone to monitor what was going on, I could go anywhere and do anything as long as no real emergency was taking place.

Alas, as with all technologies, the world has moved on. I know that if I send an evite to a family event, I have to text all my nieces and nephews to GO LOOK AT YOUR E-MAIL, because they never check it. My son, in his mid-thirties, was complaining that the youngest member of his Dungeons and Dragons group, in his early twenties, has asked that they not communicate about dates and places for games via e-mail because he doesn’t know how to use it.

And the number of ways people reach out is a problem for me. Sometimes I have to search all over, through my Facebook private messages, my Facebook fanpage private messages, Twitter and Instragram direct messages, and my Goodreads mailbox, looking for a message from a fan I know I want to get back to. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting fan mail, but it always puts me in mind of Drew Barrymore’s lament in He’s Just Not That Into You:

I have learned to text a fair amount, though I’m not good at keeping my phone by my side at all times, which my family finds mega-frustrating. I’ll adapt. I’ll learn, but I think I’ll always default to technologies that support my personality and don’t fight it.

Readers: What about you? Do you have a preferred mode of communication? What and why? Do you find it hard to keep in touch with people who have different preferences? Spill it all here.

Welcome, Devon Delaney and a Giveaway

by Barb, loving being back in Maine

Devon Delaney’s cozy, culinary mystery Expiration Date releases on April 24, (my anniversary!). I recently met Devon at the Kensington Cozy-con here in Portland and learned about her amazing success at a fascinating hobby–cooking contesting.

Devon is giving away a copy of Expiration Date to one lucky commenter below.

Take it away, Devon!

If someone had told me my life’s journey would lead me from teaching computer education and Lego Robotics to cooking contesting, then on to writing cozy murder mysteries I would have had a much easier time convincing my father the money he invested in my liberal arts college degree was money well spent. Admittedly, cooking contesting isn’t a degree offered in any schools I’m aware of, but the highly successful twenty years I’ve been involved in the hobby is an education in of itself.

Making the leap from competing in cook-off contests to authoring a cozy murder mystery series may not make sense to most, but to me it’s a perfect evolution of my beloved hobby. In the dictionary the definition of contest is battle, contend and compete. The cooking contests I compete in have taken me from coast to coast. At each venue I meet the most wonderful home cooks. But I never mistake my fellow competitor’s outward warmth as a weakness. Each wants to crush me and every other contestant to get that grand prize. Even though I have yet to encounter a murder at one of my cook-offs, my powers of observation have tuned in to a few salty scenarios when battles got heated. The notion of how far events could escalate occurred to me one day when a friend casually remarked, “I’d kill to be able to cook like you.” A series was born.

That being said, the main character in my series, Sherry, is a compilation of myself and other cooks I know. She is flawed. She finds herself in situations she doesn’t necessarily wish to be in. She makes the most out of the unusual talents she isn’t fully aware she possesses. I might have a more comedic, and probably inappropriate, approach to life’s serious moments than Sherry, but I have hopes she’ll loosen up as she realizes she can’t control every aspect of her life despite her efforts to do just that. Like me, she has her fingers in many pies. From canning her own produce to working at her family’s hooked rug store her day is a busy one, but her favorite pursuit remains battling in cook-offs showcasing her best recipe.

In the meantime, Sherry continues to cook and compete, flourishing with each victory. Her new and unintentional hobby as amateur sleuth lands her in some very precarious situations that only her experience in the contest kitchen could have prepared her for.

Devon’s Bio

I am a wife, mother of three, accomplished cooking contester and a recent empty nester. I taught computer education and Lego Robotics for over ten years prior to pursuing writing. Along the way I have been handsomely rewarded for my recipe innovation over the last twenty-plus years. Among the many prizes I have won are a full kitchen of major appliances, six-figure top cash prizes and four trips to Disney World. I have also won the grand prize in a national writing contest for my ‘foodie’ poem “Ode to Pork Passion.” Combining my beloved cooking contesting with my enthusiasm for writing was inevitable. My author website can be found at: www.devonpdelaney.com

Expiration Date, A Cook-Off Mystery

Sherry Frazzelle lives a busy life in her quaint coastal Connecticut town. Her passion is competitive cooking and she has the trophies to prove how serious she is when she cooks for a prize. When her prepared pork tenderloin dish is the last food a contest judge tastes before he expires, she must put aside her spatula long enough to clear her good name and find the killer before he strikes again. The deeper her involvement in the investigation, the higher the heat soars in the contest kitchen. Will the competition become so unsavory, she isn’t able to get herself off the chopping block?

Readers: Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Expiration Date. Did you know competitive cooking was a thing? (I mean aside from Top Chef and the Food Network.) Would you like to try it? Doesn’t the world of cooking contesting sound like ripe ground for a cozy mystery series? Or just say “hi” for a chance to win.

A Double Cover Reveal!

by Barb, on her first full day back in Portland, Maine

I’m excited to reveal two, count-em two new covers to you today.

The first is the cover for Steamed Open, Maine Clambake Mystery #7, coming December 24 (or 25–Amazon has one date for the mass market paperback and another for the Kindle version), 2018. Either way, an auspicious date, just in time to cozy up in front of the fire as the holiday madness dies down.

Here’s the description.

It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy—or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake’s supply. Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick’s decision. But which one of them was angry enough to kill?
 
Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion. When Julia urges him to reconsider, she’s the last to see him alive—except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake. As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America. They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party—or see this season’s clam harvest dry up for good.

The second cover is for Yule Log Murder. This is a collection of three holiday novellas, by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and me, the same trio who wrote novellas for 2016’s Eggnog Murder.

Here’s the description.

Fresh-baked cookies, pies, and cakes can warm even the frostiest Christmases in coastal Maine. But there’s little room for holiday cheer when murder is the new seasonal tradition . . . 

YULE LOG MURDER by LESLIE MEIER
Lucy Stone is thrilled to be cast as extra in a festive period film—until the set becomes a murder scene decorated in blood and buttercream icing. Returning to her role as sleuth, Lucy dashes to restore peace to Tinker’s Cove, unwrap a cold-hearted criminal’s MO, and reveal how one ornate yule log cake could possibly cause so much drama.

DEATH BY YULE LOG by LEE HOLLIS
Hayley Powell’s holidays aren’t off to a very merry start. Not only has her daughter brought Connor—an infuriatingly perfect new beau—home to Bar Harbor, but a local troublemaker has been found dead with traces of her signature yule log cake on his body. As Connor becomes the prime murder suspect, Hayley must put aside her mixed feelings to identify the real killjoy.

LOGGED ON by BARBARA ROSS
Realizing she can’t make a decent Bûche de Noël to save her life, Julia Snowden enlists the help of her eccentric neighbor, Mrs. St. Onge, in hopes of mastering the dessert for Christmas. With everyone in the old woman’s circle missing or deceased, however, it’s up to Julia to stop the deadly tidings before she’s the next Busman’s Harbor resident to meet a not-so-jolly fate.

Kick back with something sweet and indulge in three bite-sized yuletide tales too good to resist!

Readers: What do you think of the covers? I loved writing both the novel and the novella and hope you enjoy them.

Wicked Wednesday–the Best Museum

Wickeds, rounding out “the best” Wicked Wednesdays this month, tell us about your best trip to a museum, gallery or other exhibition. It could be art, furniture, crafts, technology, or something else. Why was it so memorable?

Liz: One of my favorite museum trips was to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. It was the coolest place for crime junkies like us, taking visitors through the most famous crimes in history as well as crime through the ages, from way back in the days of the wild west – and pirates. I remember walking into the lobby and seeing Jeffrey Dahmer’s real VW bug – it was creepy and fascinating at the same time. Sadly, it closed down about two years ago. But the Newseum, also in DC, is a close second for awesome museum experiences.

braball

The BraBall, by Emily Duffy.
Photo by Sibila Savage.

Edith: What would we do without museums? Liz, I saw the Newseum last week and took pictures of the rows of daily newspaper front pages – what a beautiful thing – but we didn’t go in. I have to say the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore was one of the most fun museums I’ve ever seen (I googled “Baltimore museum of weird stuff” to get the right name…). We saw a ball made of donated bras of all sizes and colors that was as tall as me (see the creator Emily Duffy’s web site).  A huge sailing ship made of toothpicks. Odd bird’s nests and body parts sticking out of the building’s outer walls. A magic schoolbus. And lots more. The experience was part Gaudi, part Dali, part whimsy, and all delight. I highly recommend a visit to AVAM.

Jessie: I recently took a trip to the International Spy Museum in Washington with two of my kids. It was such fun to see the buttonhole cameras, recording devices and propaganda posters from other eras. I loved crawling quietly through the ductwork of a pretend office building ceiling as part of an immersive experience.  Probably the most interesting to me personally was a photograph of a WWI era pigeon. Why was that, you ask? Because pigeons are part of the fun in the next Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Flies the Coop!

Sherry: Jessie, I love that you are using pigeons in your next book! I grew up in Davenport, Iowa which had a wonderful museum and art gallery. In fourth grade they loaded us up on a train and took us to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. It was amazing. A heart that you could walk through and listen to it beat. A coal mine. Model trains. But best of all an amazing fairy castle doll house — the story of it is fascinating. Sigh. I’ve always loved doll houses. I was lucky to have parents that indulged my sister’s and my curiosity so we visited lots of museums as we traveled around the country. And now I live outside of Washington DC with its amazing selection of museums.

Julie: I have a museum date with one of my nieces on Thursday–we’re going to the MFA in Boston, one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been blessed to go to museums all over the world and in this country, and have many happy memories. But my favorite? I always dreamed of going to Egypt, and nine years ago I realized my dream. To be in Egypt, and to go to the Cairo Museum where treasure are laid out all over the place–that was a treat on so many levels.

Barb: I had trouble picking the “best” with this question as I did all the others. Gun to my head, I’ll go with the David Hockney exhibit I saw with my husband and daughter in 2012 at the Royal Academy in London. Kate was there getting her Master’s degree and Bill and I came over for her spring break. I happened to read that there was a Hockney exhibit that would end while we were there. The exhibition was so popular our tickets were for 10:30 on a Tuesday night. I love Hockney and I love, loved the show. You can read what I wrote about it here. Second favorite: The Gee’s Bend Quilts at the Whitney in 2003.

Readers: What is your favorite museum, gallery or exhibition?

When Did I Become a Writer–and a Giveaway by Vickie Fee

Barb here. I’m so happy to welcome Friend of the Wickeds Vicki Fee to the blog today.

Vickie will give away a signed paperback copy of Til Death Do Us Party to one lucky commenter here.

The next entry in Vickie Fee’s Liv & Di in Dixie cozy mystery series, TIL DEATH DO US PARTY (with the electric pink cover), comes out March 27. The Dixie gang travels to Las Vegas for Mama and Earl’s rockin’ Elvis-themed wedding, while Liv juggles a bachelorette party for Mama and a problem-plagued soirée back home. Mama and Earl’s happily-ever-after seems like a sure thing, but all bets (and nuptials) are off when they get to the Burning Love Wedding Chapel. Their Elvis-impersonating minister has left the building…permanently. And worse, Liv’s cousin, Little Junior, is suspected of his murder. With Mama’s happy ending on the table and Little Junior about to lose it all, the stakes are higher than ever. Liv and Di must hit the Strip to find the real killer before he finally plays his ace…

WHEN DID I BECOME A WRITER?

When people ask how I became a novelist, I usually tell them I worked many years as a newspaper reporter and finally decided I wanted to write my own stories instead of other people’s—and that editors take a dim view of reporters who make up stuff. This is true, but only part of the story. My writing roots go much deeper.

I was the kid who couldn’t wait to write about my summer vacation. While most of my classmates seemed to dread these little writing exercises, I relished them. Not that my summer vacations were all that exciting, but I knew I could make them sound exciting if I just found the right words. By the third grade, I was nerdily reading my way through the 10-inch-thick unabridged dictionary at our house. I started this self-imposed project because I was deadly serious about the school spelling bee. But I soon became much more interested in the meanings and sounds of words than their spelling.

In the fourth grade I won a national essay contest in my age group, which garnered me a congrats over the school public address system, a box of candy from my principal and an appearance on a local TV news show. Not only that, but they gave me a huge pile of cash (a $25 savings bond). My writing career was assured at that moment. However, I spent a few decades writing for school and then writing for newspapers before I broke into fiction.

The mystery writer seed was also planted early on, even if it bloomed late. By age 12 I had moved from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie. I loved trying to unravel the whodunit. I loved the setting. But more than anything I loved the characters, especially Miss Marple. I daydreamed that Miss Marple was my great aunt with whom I spent summers in St. Mary Mead, having tea, untangling her yarn and—most importantly—helping her solve murders. As years passed, I read voraciously and explored many genres, but my first love remained traditional mysteries. And if I didn’t like the way a novel ended, or thought the author didn’t resolve a subplot the way the she should, I would rewrite it in my head. I believe this is when I became a mystery writer, although I didn’t know it at the time.

I’m now a certified (or certifiable) mystery writer, with three books published and a fourth set to release in a few days. From this side of things, I understand better how my favorite authors sometimes went off course with a subplot or an ending. Writing a novel that weaves together an intriguing plot and compelling characters isn’t easy. I don’t claim to have mastered the mystery, but those rare, precious moments when things come together and I feel like I’m getting it right are glorious. Still, at some point in every manuscript so far there has come a moment when I’ve asked myself, “Why did I ever think I was smart enough to be a mystery writer?” But when one big piece of the puzzle finally falls into place, I think, “I’m brilliant! I’ve just figured out my own mystery.” The one that I made up myself.

Readers: Was there a moment when you knew (at the time or in retrospect) that you would become a writer, or teacher, or doctor or…? Comment or simply say hi to be entered to win Til Death Do Us Party. (Love the title.)

Bio:

Vickie Fee, the highly-caffeinated author of the LIV & DI IN DIXIE mystery series, was born and raised in Memphis, where Elvis and BBQ are king. She worked many years as a newspaper reporter in small Southern towns populated with colorful characters, much like those in the fictional town of Dixie. She now lives in Marquette, Michigan with a peek-through view of Lake Superior and a longsuffering husband. Catch up with Vickie (www.vickiefee.com) on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/VickieFeeAuthor), Twitter (@vickiefeeauthor), or on the mystery blog (www.chicksonthecase.com).

Four Wickeds and Lots of Friends in Portland, Maine on April 10

by Barb who is packing up in Key West and preparing to head north too soon

On April 10, from 7 to 9 pm Jessie, Liz, Edith, and Barb will be at an exciting event in Portland. Maine. Co-sponsored by Print Bookstore and Kensington, the evening is billed as a Cozy Mystery Author Palooza. The event will be held at at local brew pub. Partner vendors will provide delicious beer, drinks and snacks. You can get all the details on Print’s website here.

Rising Tide Brewing
103 Fox Street
Portland, ME 04101

The authors coming include

Anne Canadeo, author of KNIT TO KILL
Maddie Day, (Edith Maxwell) author of BISCUITS AND SLASHED BROWNS
Devon Delaney, author of EXPIRATION DATE (out 4/24/18, pre-orders available at the event)
Kaitlyn Dunnett, author of X MARKS THE SCOT
Jessica Ellicott (Jessie Crockett), author of MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE
Sally Goldbenbaum, author of MURDER WEARS MITTENS
Leslie Meier, author of BRITISH MANOR MURDER
Liz Mugavero, author of CUSTOM BAKED MURDER
Carlene O’Connor, author of MURDER IN AN IRISH CHURCHYARD
Barbara Ross, author of STOWED AWAY
Misty Simon, author of CREMAINS OF THE DAY
Lea Wait, author of TIGHTENING THE THREADS

We’d love to see our New England peeps there!

So Wickeds, a brew pub is an unexpected place for a cozy mystery signing. What the most unusual author event you’ve participated in–place or any other factor?

Julie: I so wish I could be there to cheer you all on! What a wonderful event, and a great lineup! As to my most unusual place–I need to get on this. So far they’ve been pretty standard, but I aspire to sign in a brew pub, so there’s that. I expect tons of pictures my friends!

Edith:  Probably my most unusual event was my dual launch of Called to Justice (written as Edith Maxwell) and When the Grits Hit the Fan (by Maddie Day). I had my two personalities interview each other at a local indy bookstore. It was fun and the audience loved it. And if you don’t get enough great beer at our Portland event, come to my launch party on April 11 in Amesbury! Please see my web site for details.

Jessie: Several years ago I did a murder mystery night event at Zorvino Vineyard in Sandown, NH. The organizers had invited several mystery authors to play roles in the event along with a bunch of seasoned actors. It was a ticketed event and part of what was included was a signed copy of a book by one of the authors. There must have been over two hundred mystery enthusiasts in attendance. I got to play the victim!

Barb: This question caused my mind to travel over a lot of venues. Hard to believe I’ve been at this for 7 and 1/2 years. What I saw was a whole lotta libraries and bookshops, and the occasional auditorium, theater or classroom.No place unusual. I think one of the most unusual things was after my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was published. When I showed up for a library visit, there was a lovely display with my photo and bio–and no book. “I’m sorry, your book was stolen,” the librarian reported. I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered!

Sherry: Have a fantastic time in Portland! The strangest was the time a bookstore put me in the children’s section and I had to keep telling parents not to buy my book for their children. Last week the Centreville Regional Library set up an event for me at the Winery at Bull Run here in Virginia. It was a lot of fun.

Liz: For my very first book launch for Kneading to Die, I did it at The Big Biscuit, the pet bakery in Massachusetts. These are the wonderful people who supply me with recipes for the books. It was such a fun experience – dogs and people abounded, and there was even a doggie cake for Shaggy and her friends. One of my favorite times ever.

Readers: What is the most unusual place you’ve been to or done a book talk?

Wicked Wednesday–the Best Performance

Wickeds, what was your all-time favorite performance–play, musical, opera, ballet? Tell us all about it and especially tell us why. I think this one will be impossible for Julie–or maybe incredibly easy. Top three, Julie?

Edith: I, along with my two older sisters, studied ballet from first grade through ninth. FOnteynNureyevSomewhere in the mid-sixties, my mother splurged for four tickets for us to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance a ballet. My vague memory says the performance was of Romeo and Juliet, and I can’t find a historic record of the performance. Despite the vagaries of an older mind, I have a clear memory of these two master dancers’ beautiful and graceful bodies. Their physical art put to music. Their emotional interpretations of the story. I still love to see any artistic dance performed.

220px-Christmas_Carol_(Patrick_Stewart)_Broadway_PosterJulie: You’re right, this is impossible. Three that come to mind: Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol. I actually saw him do it twice. Amazing. (He was also fabulous in Macbeth at BAM, but I digress.) Another one is the Lyric Stage Company production of Nicholas Nickleby. (Here’s the cast warming up.) Two shows, which I saw on the same day. About seven hours between them. A really delightful show, with a stellar cast. My last choice is another long one. Gatz, by the Elevator Repair Service. I saw it at the ART in Cambridge. Another two shows, this time eight hours of theater all told. Gatz is a staged version of The Great Gatsby. When it first started, and the main actor (the narrator) picked up a copy of the book and started reading it aloud, I started to squirm. The setting was a 80’s era office, and I thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?” Then other people started to say lines, and all of a sudden there was magic. I was transported. Now, I didn’t list Hamilton, or Les Miz, or . . . Nor did I list dance or opera. I am very blessed that working in the performing arts has been part of my life for over  30 years, so there is a lot to choose from.

Jessie: I love, love, love Cirque du Soleil. I have attended performances three times and all of them have been magical. I saw them in Las Vegas, Orlando and in Boston. There is something so engrossing about the experience. There was so much to see that I couldn’t decide where to look! My very favorite part of each show was the aerial silks performance. Breathtaking!

Sherry: In the mid-eighties my sister and I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in Denver, Colorado. It was supposed to be an outdoor performance but the weather was bad so they moved it inside. His leaps were breathtaking. The emotion he put into his performance unforgettable. A couple of weeks after we saw him, he was injured and from what I remember he never did the high leaps again. Another favorite performance was seeing Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard when we lived in the LA area. She was fabulous.

Liz: I really loved seeing Wicked (and I’m not just saying that because of the name!) in New York years ago when it first came out. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz and I loved learning the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West. And the music was fab!

Michael Maloney as Prince Hal, Robert Stephens as Falstaff, Rob Edwards as Ned Poins

Barb: I struggled mightily with this one, too. Finally I decided to go with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Henry V, Part 1, which Bill and I saw in London in 1991. We both love the historicals most of all and have seen many together. I always feel when you see Shakespeare well-performed, you learn something about the contemporary world and people you know. This performance was so accessible, I felt like the actors were speaking directly to me and I was almost a part of it. Like Sherry and Edith, my second choice would be a ballet–seeing Violette Verdy with the New York City Ballet when I was a kid. She had so much charisma, you could not tear your eyes off her.

Readers: Tell us about your very favorite performance, who, what, when, where, why?