About Edith Maxwell

Agatha-nominated and national bestsetlling author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing) and the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Midnight Ink). As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries series and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries (both from Kensington Publishing). Edith has also published award-winning short crime fiction. She lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.

Guest: Peg Cochran

Edith here, happy to welcome Peg Cochran, a fellow cozy author who also writes about murder related to farming! Here’s the blurb for her newest mystery,  SowedtoDeathSowed to Death:

The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan—especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer’s Daughter. She’s submitting jams and jellies she’s created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon. But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby’s neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life. The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police. As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

Doesn’t that sound fun? And she’s giving away a copy to one commenter here today. Take it away, Peg!

An Agent by Any Other Name…

When I first starting looking into getting an agent for my work, I had a fairly limited view of what an agent does—they sell your book and make sure the contract isn’t entirely in the publishing house’s favor.

JessicaFaustI was thrilled when agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds agreed to take me on, and I quickly learned that an agent does so much more than get you a book deal and vet your contracts.

An agent—a good one anyway—is a collaborator, editor, nag, supporter, career coach and someone who forces you to write the dreaded synopsis even when you don’t want to.

My newest series, The Farmer’s Daughter Mysteries, is a case in point.  It started with our annual “what are your plans for this year?” conversation (career coach) wherein I indicated a desire to take on a new cozy series.

From there, we tossed around possibilities (collaborator) and Jessica mentioned her idea for a cozy series revolving around a lifestyle blogger who lives on a farm. I liked the idea despite the fact that a) I’ve never lived on a farm or even near one and b) I can’t grow anything and can barely keep a plastic plant alive.

IMG_3769

Peg’s only plant

But I was game so I ran with the concept and put my own spin on it. I made the blogger a widow with two children, added a couple of possible romantic interests, complicated things with a brother-in-law who reminds my protagonist a little too much of her late husband, and then tossed in a dead body.

From there, I submitted three chapters, which I rewrote with Jessica’s subsequent feedback (editor) and then created the series overview and synopsis for the first book (synopsis enforcer).

Jessica was excited about the idea and occasionally emailed to ask how it was going (nag). Finally it was done and on submission. The first publishing house we approached turned it down, but Jessica assured me that it would find a home (supporter).

Jessica then did the two things I knew an agent did: sold it to Berkley Prime Crime and made sure the contract was in order.

I don’t know if I’m just lucky and Jessica is exceptional (which I suspect she is) or if this is the industry norm. Either way, I can’t imagine negotiating the tricky waters of a writing career without someone like her!mlc 9-15

Mystery writing lets Peg Cochran indulge her curiosity under the guise of “work” (aka research).  She put pen to paper at age seven when she wrote plays and forced her cousins to perform them at Christmas dinner.   She switched to mysteries when she discovered the perfect hiding place for a body down the street from her house.  

When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading, cooking, spoiling her granddaughter and checking her books’ stats on Amazon.  Peg resides in Michigan with her husband and Westhighland white terrier, Reg.  She is the author of the Sweet Nothings Lingerie series (written as Meg London), the Gourmet De-Lite series, the Lucille series, the Cranberry Cove series, The Farmer’s Daughter series, and the Reluctant Debutante series debuting in the fall of 2018 from Random House. You can find her at www.facebook.com/pegcochran, @pegcochran (twitter), pegcochran (Instagram), and www.pegcochran.com.

Readers: Have you ever lived on a farm and/or would you like to? Do you have a green thumb or a black one like mine? Remember, Peg is giving away a copy of Sowed to Death to one commenter here today!

Wicked Wednesday: National Daquiri and Hot Dog Days

Another corny July Wednesday for you. Did you know today was National Daquiri Day AND National Hot Dog Day? Have you ever paired those two? Who has a favorite Daquiri recipe? And how do you take your hot dogs? Dish, Wicked and readers!HotDog

Edith: Here’s a Daquiri recipe from the Food Network.

  • 2 cups crushed ice, plus extra for chilling glass
  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 1-ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, strained of pulp
  • 1/2-ounce Simple Syrup, recipe follows

Liz: I can’t comment on the hot dogs… but I do love daiquiris! I found the best recipe for  a blueberry mint daiquiri on Boulder Locavore. Perfect for summer!

Barb: Let’s see. I love hotdogs. I always have trouble at barbecues with the “burger or dog?” question. I’m also partial to Nathan’s when on the road. Mustard and relish, please. My warm weather drinks are margaritas and mojitos, so not so much on the daquiris.

Jessie: With the exception of caipirinhas, I don’t care for sweet cocktails. I much prefer very dry martinis or Scotch. My husband, however, loves all sorts of sweet drinks that come with umbrellas and fruit garnishes. Whenever we order drinks when we are out the server invariably hands us the other person’s drink. Apparently there is gender attached to beverages.

Edith: Right with you there, Jessie – those fruity drinks taste too good and I forget they’re alcoholic. Give me my maxi-proof  straight up every time. Well, except for caipirinhas, the first mixed drink I ever had. It was in southern Brazil at the tender and untested age of seventeen – and wow!

Barb: That is so funny, Jessie. A few nights ago, after a long day of packing, my husband I and went to a local watering hole. I ordered a bourbon milkshake and Bill ordered a shot and a beer. The server who brought our drinks was not the person who took our order. He approached our table cautiously, took a big, deep breath and gave me the milkshake and Bill the shot and beer. “What if it had been the other way around?” I teased. “I don’t like this gender stereotyping.” We were all laughing by the end.

Daiquiri_drink

Photo by Aaron Gustafson from Hamden, CT, USA (Daiquiri) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sherry: I don’t have a favorite daiquiri recipe. But one of my favorite places I ever drank one was in Aspen, Colorado. I haven’t been there in years, but loved sitting outside on a lovely summer day watching people pass and looking at the mountains. The air is so fresh there unlike the heavy summer air of the East Coast. I love hot dogs but don’t eat them very often. I like them grilled, slightly burnt, on a bun with as many toppings as possible.

Edith: Sherry, what a lovely setting. And funny , Jessie and Barb, about the gender expectations (or not so funny?). I grew up with fried hot dogs with yellow mustard. Despite a number of years as a vegetarian and recent years as a minimal red-meat consumer — give me a great grilled dog with mustard and I’m yours.

Julie: Not a daiquiri girl. I stick with beer and wine. But I do love hotdogs. Like Barb, Nathan’s on the road. But the best hotdogs? At Fenway Park, naturally. Not sure how they pull it off, but nothing tastes better on a warm summer night. Relish and mustard, please.

Readers: Tell us what you like!

Save

Save

Save

Bastille Day!

Edith here, enjoying full summer north of Boston. Today is the day when, well, I’ll let history.com tell you:

“Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed.”

Prise_de_la_Bastille

The famous Prise-de-la-Bastille painting by by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

However, another history site gives a rather different take on the storming. “Back in July of 1789, France had already experienced a rough summer that included food shortages, high taxes (as a solution to King Louis XVI’s debts) and the militarization of Paris. Sensing distress, the king called upon the Estates-General—an assembly that hadn’t met in more than a century—to deliver a new tax plan. That resulted in the Third Estate, the non-noble/non-clergy portion of the assembly, breaking from the clergy and nobility, and demanding a written constitution from France….Weeks later, … fears that Louis XVI was attempting to quash any political revolution began to boil.

“That fear culminated on July 14 in a march to the Hôtel des Invalides to loot firearms and cannons, and a resulting (and far more famous) trip to the Bastille for proper ammunition. That hunt for gunpowder—not the hope of freeing prisoners—was the main reason for the storming of the Bastille. The events that followed—the freeing of the few prisoners that remained at the Bastille, but also a deadly battle and the brutal beheading of the prison governor and his officers—were more of a side effect of chaotic uprising, rather than its intent….A year later, France would host the Fête de la Fédération on July 14 to celebrate the France’s constitutional monarchy and to honor France’s newfound unity. “

Vive la Resistance! Every year two widely traveled friends of mine throw a Bastille Day party. They fill their back yard with tables and chairs and decorate with red and blue. They make a big Coq au Vin and all the guests bring French-themed side dishes or desserts. At the end of the evening we all stand to sing the “Marseilles” – yes, they pass out the words to the song.

FrenchSalade

My salade composée from last year

This year I’m bringing Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis – the party is tomorrow.

Readers: Do you celebrate Bastille Day? If not, what’s your favorite revolution?

 

 

Wicked Wednesday: National Simplicity and National Pecan Pie Days

Pies

Edith’s 2016 pecan pie (and two pumpkin pies)

More in our National Wednesdays: today is not only National Simplicity Day, it’s also National Pecan Pie Day!

Wickeds, share your favorite pecan pie recipe or memory. And let us know what you do to incorporate simplicity into your life. Readers, please do the same in the Comments.

Jessie: Since I am allergic to nuts I don’t have any positive memories about pecan pies or recipes for them. I am not allergic to simplicity however and am trying to incorporate more of it into my life whenever possible. I think one of the places I manage it best is when I travel. I have gotten the art of packing down to a single backpack for trips as long as 11 days by simplifying my wardrobe and being really choosy. It makes travel so much more fun not to have to be responsible for lugging around excess.

Sherry: Jessie, even though you’ve shown me your magic packing techniques, I don’t think I could ever manage. I remember the first time I ever tried making a pecan pie. I had to cook it for hours. The recipe is so simple but the darn thing wouldn’t set up. So I guess my simplicity is to buy the pie or eat one out instead of trying to make one. And I also buy the pie crust already made.

Edith: Well, heck. I make a pecan pie every year for Thanksgiving but don’t seem to have a recipe anywhere. One year I made the pie with bourbon in it, and another year added chocolate somewhere. I confess most of the time I use the recipe on either the pecan bag or the bottle of molasses – but always with homemade crust. As for simplicity, it’s kind of a big thing with Quakers. It’s also tough to manage in our busy lives. I envy Jessie that packing thing! And isn’t it nice when you go to a vacation home or a hotel room and you realize all the stuff you don’t actually need? Here’s a picture of the ultra-simple – and beautiful – Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse. Yeah, that.

MeetinghouseinsideFramingtheLight

Picture by Edward Gerrish Mair, used with permission

Barb: I love pecan pie. Our Thanksgiving dessert table groans with choices, especially pies. I bring the mincemeat and apple. I love pumpkin, but favor it for day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast. On the day, lots of people go the little bit of this, little bit of that route, but I give what room I have left entirely to the pecan. As for simplicity, I try to avoid unnecessary drama in my life. I think that counts, right?

Julie: Jessie is walking me through her packing techniques, and I am going to try and use them for a 2 week vacation in August. Even if I use a smaller suitcase it makes life easier. We shall see. Regarding simplicity–I aspire to it, but will confess, I have complicated systems that are simple for me. But then again, I’m a Virgo, so there’s that. Regarding pecan pie, my niece has nut allergies, so I haven’t made it recently, but one of my favorite recipes is Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie.  It is very decadent, but so is pecan pie.

Readers: Pecan pie recipes? How you keep your own life simple?

July Opening Lines

Add your own opening line for this picture!

ScaryShoe

Edith:  If ya want somebody to do something, tell ’em not to do it. I told her running alone on the rail trail was too dangerous. My plan worked, and now I’m blissfully alone.

Julie: There were runner’s stretches, then there were stretchy runners. She was the latter, and never met a wall she didn’t like. Until Tuesday. Did that look like a cliff to you?

Liz: I might not have noticed the shoe if I hadn’t dropped my phone during my walk. But when I bent over to pick it up, there it was. I thought at first it was a kid playing hide and seek, but boy was I wrong…

Sherry: I really wish I wouldn’t have pulled on that shoe when I found it.

Barb: “Go get it, girl! Go get it.” But Trixie shook me off, growling and baring her tiny teeth, so I dove through the hedge to retrieve her favorite ball. When I broke through the undergrowth on the other side, I saw something so strange and magical, so astonishing and terrifying, it changed my life forever..

Jessie: Patrice had always wondered how Melody had dazzled the judges, year after year at the annual Little Watford garden competition. Now that she knew her rival’s secret she could check two items from the top of her to-do list: win the Silver Spade trophy and rid her household of her layabout brother-in-law.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Wicked Wednesday: Bikinis and Graham Crackers

Wait, what? Bikinis and Graham crackers? Is that what we’re supposed to wear while eating graham crackers? No, but it’s Wicked Wednesday and it’s summer, so we thought we’d feature whichever National Days the date falls on. July 5–and I’m sure you ALL knew this–is both National Bikini Day and National Graham Cracker Day.

Graham-Cracker-StackA little background on each, straight from wikipedia: “The Graham Cracker was inspired by the preaching of Sylvester Graham, who was a part of and strongly influenced by the 19th century temperance movement; Graham believed that a vegetarian diet anchored by home-made whole grain bread, made from wheat coarsely ground at home, as part of a lifestyle that involved minimizing pleasure and stimulation of all kinds, was how God intended people to live and that following this natural law would keep people healthy.”

“A bikini is usually a women’s abbreviated two-piece swimsuit with a bra top for the

BeachVolleyball

The US women’s volleyball team wears these.

chest and underwear cut below the navel…. The name for the bikini design was coined in 1946 by Parisian engineer Louis Réard, the designer of the bikini. He named the swimsuit after Bikini Atoll, where testing on the atomic bomb was taking place.”

So fess up, Wickeds – tell us about your first bikini. Extra points if you include a picture of yourself in it. And are you a fan of Graham crackers or never touch the stuff?

Liz: I don’t remember my very first bikini! But I did have an awesome purple polka dot one that I only recently gave up. Which just means I have to go shopping for a new one! As for graham crackers, I like them – but going gluten free meant giving them up. Until I found a really great gluten free version. I love them with peanut butter.

Edith: they are SO good with PB. And as a vehicle for cheesecake…

Barb: I’m not sure I every wore anything that truly qualified as a bikini. I had an excellent green two piece in high school, but I think the bottoms were a little too covery for it to be called a bikini. Since then, nothing even close. I blame it on my love of graham crackers.

Sherry: Ha, Barb! I remember my first bikini! I was in tenth grade and my mom took me shopping for it — she wanted to approve. It was a sky blue with something white on it — maybe palm trees. And hello, Smores! How can none of you mentioned their ooey-gooey goodness?!

Barb: Ha! Sherry, you would be the one to mention the treat with the marshmallow in it.

Edith: I had a red bikini in ninth grade, the year I outgrew my baby fat and hadn’t yet gained any of my adult poundage. But my favorite was the pink  cotton one I sewed when I was sixteen, with eyelet lace at the top of the top. Wore it to the beach for the day with Tibor Derencsenyi, my boyfriend  (a gorgeous Hungarian senior at my school), and at sunset he asked me to the prom. At the time I felt like we were getting engaged. Too bad he broke up with me right after he graduated. Graham crackers? Bring ’em on – regular, chocolate, cinnamon, I love them all.

Julie: When I was about fourteen my mother sewed me a bikini. I wore it twice. My first and only. Sadly, my confidence in bikini wearing was never strong. As for graham crackers–love them. LOVE s’mores, love graham cracker crusts, love them with tea. I’m actually pretty fussy about my graham crackers. Honey Maid or bust.

Readers: Dish on your bikini (or guys, the one you most appreciated seeing…) and your opinion of graham crackers.

Save

Declaring Independence

Edith here. I know you’re all out celebrating our country’s origins, and I wish you the best, safest, and most delicious of gatherings.

US-original-Declaration-1776

Although all the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were (white landowning) men, I just learned from dynamite mystery author Martha Reed that the first printed copy was printed by Mary Katherine Goddard!

“When on January 18, 1777, the Second Continental Congress moved that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, Goddard was one of the first to offer the use of her press. This was in spite of the risks of being associated with what was considered a treasonable document by the British. Her copy, the Goddard Broadside, was the second printed, and the first to contain the typeset names of the signatories, including John Hancock .”

And just in case you haven’t read it recently, here’s the full text of the declaration, thanks to ushistory.org:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Readers: How often do you read the whole thing? Was this your first time? What pops out at you?