About Liz Mugavero

Liz Mugavero is the author of the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries. She also writes the Cat About Town Mysteries under the name Cate Conte.

Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker – The Double-Booked Tour

Liz here, excited to welcome back Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker! We hosted them last fall for their double launch, and it was so much fun they’re back to celebrate the release of Jess’s latest, March of Crime, and Shannon’s latest, Dark Signal. Take it away, gals!

Jess: Back in 2006, I attended my first Bouchercon, the premier mystery convention. It was held in Madison, Wisconsin, that year. I remember feeling overwhelmed and out of place, the nerdy girl on the sidelines who no one wanted to dance with. Thank god that’s changed (ha!). I also remember attending a panel called Thriller vs. Cozies, where three thriller writers competed against three cozy writers to see who could turn an idea into a synopsis the quickest. While thrillers more often end up on the New York Times bestseller list, at this panel, the cozy writers were quicker and their story lines were voted more compelling each time. I don’t think it was an accident. I think cozies have a lot to teach thrillers, and all mystery genres.

That’s what Shannon Baker, author of the latest Kate Fox mystery, Dark Signal, and me, author of the recently-released humorous mystery March of Crime, are here today to talk with you about, so pull up a chair, pour yourself a steaming mug of chamomile tea, toss in a splash of brandy, and let’s do this.

Shannon, how would you describe a thriller vs. a cozy?

Shannon: Since I’m in sunny Tucson, I’ll opt for a mai tai instead of the tea, but thank you, anyway. I always think a mystery is a whodunnit, with the whole plot driving to find the identity of the bad guy. In a thriller, we most likely know who the bad guy is, and the book focuses on preventing the big bad event. Typically, thrillers have bigger stakes than mysteries, saving the planet from Dr. Brain’s doomsday machine, as opposed to finding who killed the rector.

Jess: Agreed. And I read them both, and find something to enjoy in both subgenres. When it comes to building and portraying relationships, though, I think cozies beat thrillers hands down. It’s not only the relationship between the characters that is often deep (Joanna Campbell Slan’s Kiki Lowenstein mysteries, which I love, come to mind), it’s also the way cozies connect to me as a reader. I feel like I’m hanging out with friends when I read a cozy, whereas reading a thriller often leaves me feeling entertained, but not included. Shannon, what’s one thing that you find cozies do better than thrillers?

Shannon: Criminy, Jess, you have me all nervous. It’s like saying all redheads have crazy tempers, or all Irish drink a lot of whiskey. So, as uncontroversial as I can: Cozies often make me laugh. I love the madcap adventures of Ivy Meadows in Cindy Brown’s off-off-off Broadway series, for instance. Thrillers can get my heart racing and keep me turning pages, which is fun in its own way.

While thrillers aren’t devoid of character and relationship subplots, it’s a matter of balance, in most cases. (see me tap dancing around this?) For instance, when my husband and I watch Game of Thrones, we enjoy the whole show together. But his favorite scenes involve battles and nudity, while my favorite scenes involve John Snow and how he’s feeling, who his friends are, if he’ll ever find happiness. (We both love dragons, duh.) I enjoy the connection, which is where cozies excel.

Jess: Good call! OK, we’ve been a little hard on the thrillers, so let’s end on a positive note. What’s your favorite thriller, or who is your favorite thriller writer?

Shannon: While I’m not well-read in the thriller genre, I do love Francine Matthews’s books. Last year, I read this wild ride of a thriller, with deep character development, as well a heart-stopping plot, called Salem’s Cipher, that deserves mention here.

Jess: Ha! Thank you, friend. For me, although they might technically be writing suspense, I am always thrilled by Alison Gaylin and Karin Slaughter’s books. And there’s this sexy chick named Shannon Baker whose books I keep hearing great things about. If only she didn’t keep nipping my brandy…

How about you, clever readers? What’s one element of cozies (or thrillers!) that you really enjoy? 

Please join Shannon and Jessie as they continue their blog tour. They will each be giving away three books this tour, and every comment you leave at a blog stop gets you one chance to win. For another chance to win a book, sign up for Jess and/or Shannon’s newsletters on their websites (links below).

Jess LoureyJessie short bio: Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) is best known for her critically- acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 “Rewrite Your Life” TEDx Talk, and the author of Rewrite Your Life, the only book out there which shows you how to turn your facts into healing, page-turning fiction. You can find out more at http://www.jessicalourey.com.

Shannon BakerShannon short bio: Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com

Wicked Wednesday – Best Netflix Bingeing

 

Hard to believe we’re getting to the end of summer. I mean, it’s almost Labor Day! Can you believe it? The chill is apparent in the air in the early mornings and evenings, it’s inching toward darkness a bit earlier every day and school has already started in some places. I don’t know about you, but despite looming deadlines for some of us, I think we have to take advantage of the final lazy days of summer to do a little TV watching–or bingeing, as the case may be. So Wickeds, what have you been bingeing? Anything on tap for the long weekend?

Edith: Once again, my credentials as a cultural desert come back to haunt me. No NetflixDowntonASeason1 bingeing up here north of Boston. What I am doing is as much reading as I can, preferably on a beach. I have Netflix binged in the past, though. I was a little slow to catch on to Downton Abbey, and had to catch up quick on the first two seasons once I realized what a great show it was.  This end of summer? Just trying to binge on sun-warmed tomatoes, gin & tonics, a great mystery, and warm sand between my toes.

Sherry: I confess I’m not much of a binge watcher. I seem to get bored after a couple of episodes of anything. I don’t binge read either. However, Bob and I do like the Bosch series on Amazon Prime and did watch three episodes of it in a row once. I keep meaning to watch The Crown on Netflix, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

Liz: I try to stay off TV as much as possible, but I did get sucked into The Fall – a Netflix original starring Gillian Anderson. It’s about a super creepy serial killer and she’s the head cop. It takes place in northern Ireland and it’s really good! One of those shows that will keep you up at night…

Julie: Welp, looks like I am going to be picking up the TV watching crown in this group. I LOVE binge watching shows. I get Acorn TV, so I watched Mr. & Mrs. Murder and The Brokenwood Mysteries. When  I write I like to have the TV on, but only with shows I’ve seen so I don’t get sucked in. So, Midsomer Murders has been on this summer. With 19 seasons, I forget a lot of them. I am watching The Defenders this week (love Marvel series), and watched Supergirl earlier this summer with the nieces.

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Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Barb: I love binge watching, too, Julie. Bill and I started doing it before it had a name many, many years ago when PBS ran episodes of Prime Suspect back to back. We kept saying, “Just one more, just one more.” The bingers lament. For years we watched 24 hours of 24 every New Years weekend. Here in Boothbay we have been doing a major project sorting Bill’s late mother’s saved photos, cards, letters, her kids’ juvenilia, etc., for the various members of the family. Watching TV is a boredom reliever for this massive task. Since we don’t have cable here, binge watching on Amazon and Netflix has been the solution. So far this summer, Bosch, Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, Ozark and Broadchurch.

Readers: what do you like to binge-watch?

Two Leading Ladies

By Liz, who can’t believe the summer is almost over…

I’m still getting used to the fact that I have an alter ego. Cate Conte made her debut earlier this month (thank you to everyone who already read Cat About Town!) and I’m wondering if I’ll ever remember to answer to Cate when I’m out somewhere promoting this book. Some days I can’t ever remember to answer to Liz.

I’ve been asked a lot if my protagonist, Maddie James, is anything like Stan Connor from my Pawsitively Organic series. She’s not. Of course, when I set out to create Maddie, I wanted her to be very different from Stan. They were two different people, after all, with different backgrounds and lives. I started with the obvious physical attributes. But as I started writing Maddie’s adventures, the real differences made themselves apparent.

First of all, Maddie’s voice is in first person, compared to Stan’s third person. I don’t remember consciously making this decision. Maddie just spoke to me in first person, and I’m really enjoying the conversations we have.

The next big difference is their background. Stan’s family is from money and status. She’s not close to her mother – at least until Patricia moves to Frog Ledge – and she lost her dad in her twenties. Maddie comes from a close-knit family, and her mother is one of her best friends. Her father has a good job and is well respected on the island, but her mother is kind of bohemian and into doing her own thing. Like Stan, Maddie is the oldest, but Maddie has a habit of looking out for her younger sisters. Stan had a habit of throwing up her hands and leaving her younger sister to her own devices, given Caitlyn’s similarity to their mother.

And then there are their work habits. Even though Maddie is younger than Stan, she was an entrepreneur much earlier. Before she even hit double digits, actually. She had a laser focus on being her own boss and made it happen early on. After she moved across the country, and again when she moved back. Even though Stan wasn’t close to her family, she only moved one state away. For years she stayed chained by the golden handcuffs of corporate America, until they showed her the door. And it took her a while to realize she could open and run her own business. Even six books in, she’s still building her confidence. Maddie seemed to hit the ground running with an endless supply.

I’m loving writing both of these strong ladies. They each have their own unique personalities and the more books I write, the more those personalities reveal themselves. It’s tons of fun.

Oh, and the similarities! They both love coffee and cats. Orange cats, to be exact!10541952_914577361905352_8714990119533756205_n

Readers, what do you think of Stan vs. Maddie? Leave a comment!

 

Wicked Wednesday – More Podcasts!

Hey everyone! We had so much fun talking about crime podcasts last week that we decided to delve into a couple more categories. It’s so cool to hear what other people are listening to and finding new things to explore. And today, the news we listen to is so important, right? So Wickeds, which news-focused podcast do you love?

Julie: I am SO sorry I missed last week’s discussion. (Assuming Crime Town was included!) I love podcasts–I walk a lot, and take the train to work, and find them a perfect way to spend my time. News centered? I download WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, and WBUR’s On Point, so I can catch up when I can’t listen. I only download a couple of episodes, though, since news podcasts don’t age well.

Sherry: I still haven’t listened to any. But am eager to hear what others are listening too!

Barb: My daughter got me into Modern Love. In this series, made by one of Boston’s NPR stations, WBUR, and the New York Times, actors read Modern Love columns from the Times. The columns are moving and so are the discussions with the actors about why they were drawn to the column they picked. As a long-time reader of Modern Love, I’ve heard some stories that I’d missed, and seen new things in columns I remembered.

Edith: Sorry, not my topic! I get my news from the newspaper and WBUR or WGBH on the radio, and love the mix of news and laughs that the NPR show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” offers. But I’m just not a podcast kind of gal.

Jessie: One of my sons is such a podcast enthusiast. Because of his encouragement Ihave started listening to Crime Town, This American Life and also Ted Talks as podcasts. Since my daily commute involves walking down two flights of stairs my life is not really as seemlessly suited to podcasts as some people’s but I enjoy them when I remember to give them a listen.

Welcome Nancy Coco!

Happy Friday! Liz here, happy to welcome our friend Nancy Coco, aka Nancy Parra, also aka Nell Hampton… but today, she’ll be Nancy Coco. Her newest book, Oh Fudge, is out August 29. It’s the fifth novel in the Candy Coated Mystery series set on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which she’s going to talk about today. 

Here’s a little more about the book, then Nancy will take it away!

Oh Fudge      View More: http://alisonpaigephotography.pass.us/nancy_parra_roanoke_texas_portrait_photograph

Life is always sweet in Allie McMurphy’s delectable fudge shop. But murder can make things unpleasantly sticky . . .

After Allie inherited her family’s McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop, cousin Tori moved off to California in a bitter huff, and the two haven’t spoken since. So to have her cousin reappear on Mackinac Island without warning is a big surprise—but not as surprising as finding her standing over a dead woman impaled with a garden spade in the Mackinac Butterfly House. Butterflies may be free, but Tori won’t be for much longer—unless the cousins can bury the hatchet and work together to catch a killer who’s taken flight. Because when it comes to family, blood is thicker than fudge . . .

Hi, Nancy here. I’m lucky to have grown up along the shores of Lake Michigan. We had sand dunes in our backyard and a blueberry farm on one side, woods on the other. We used to go out in the early morning and spend the entire day outside playing. There were wild grapes in the trees and wild strawberries and blackberries, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and other wild things to gather and eat. My Dad grew huge gardens. We raised chickens, rabbits, ducks and geese for eggs and meat. My best friend had horses and magical things like electric fences. If you touch an electric fence with a stick covered in bark you don’t feel the shock. But if you remove the bark you would get the poke.

They used to crop dust the blueberries and we would run up to the second floor of the old farmhouse and watch as the plane came straight at the house then shot straight up in time to miss hitting the house.

There were bee hives, clover, bee stings from running barefoot in the grass. We used to draw lines in the sand and outline houses with hand drawn doors and rectangles for furniture. In fourth grade, my best friend’s mom gave us a box of old party dresses with crinoline. We were small and they make perfect pioneer outfits. The boys would build forts with pine needles and pull out the ferns. The roots were pointed and the ends feathered and they would toss them at each other playing cowboys and Indians.

This is my memory of Michigan. We would go to the lake shore and play in the water. Visit cousins and swim in smaller lakes. Every few years we would vacation to the Upper Peninsula crossing the great Mackinac Bridge – a suspension bridge that rivals the Golden Gate. There we would stay in cabins along a lake. We would hike up and down old mining roads and get visits from bears. Everywhere we went the people were hospitable and the days long.

It’s why I chose to set this series on Mackinac Island. I hope to bring some of the joy of growing up in the mitten state to readers everywhere. It’s a place where the sky touches the water. The smell of fudge, fresh hay, horses and fair food mix together. Where you can sit after dinner across from a fire roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. Where children wave sparklers and write their name in the sky as dew falls on the grass. The scent of tall pine trees, warm sand and sassafras brings all the memories back. I get to visit again every time I write another Candy-coated mystery.

Now that I’ve told you about my summers growing up. I’d love to know-what is your favorite summer memory?

Wicked Wednesday – Crime Podcasts

NEWS FLASH: Ginny C is the winner of Brooklyn Bones from Triss! Check your email, Ginny.

Happy Wicked Wednesday! A while back, I’d mentioned podcasts in a blog post. One of our readers said they’d love to hear about the Wickeds favorite podcasts – so here we go! This week we’re talking about – what else – our favorite crime podcast. So Wickeds, what’s yours?

Podcasts

Barb: It’s strange to me that though I don’t like true crime on television, I love true crime podcasts. Like many people, I got hooked with season one of NPR’s Serial, which Bill and I listened to in two obsessive days on our annual drive from New England to Key West. Now one of my major favorites is CRIMEandSTUFF created by sisters Maureen and Rebecca Milliken. Mystery author Maureen’s journalism background shines through in this well-researched crime podcast, and both sisters know their popular culture cold. There’s a focus, though not an exclusive one, on New England crime, so I am often hearing much more indepth stories on events I’ve read one or two articles about, or have vaguely heard happened in the past. They’re on summer hiatus now, but there are thirty-one episodes stockpiled for you to enjoy. Totally recommend!

Sherry: I haven’t ever listened to a podcast. I’m always intrigued by the ones I heard about but never get around to listening to them. One day…

Liz: Barb, like you the first Serial hooked me. I’ve been dying for something just as good! I did like S-Town, though I wouldn’t consider that a true “crime” podcast, even though it was an amazing story. I have a whole list of new ones to try though, including Criminal and Missing, which got great reviews.

Edith: Like Sherry, I’m not a podcast convertee. I did sign up with (or is it, downloaded the app for? #mustgetwiththeprogram) a podcast service on my phone, but I only used it once to listen to and episode I’d missed of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” the NPR news quiz show I adore. I always listen to the show on Saturdays, so I guess I was utilizing their podcast as an archive.  Like with TV – when would I listen to podcasts? When I walk I listen to birds and talk to myself about my plot. When I drive, it’s either all that news I didn’t catch at home, or on a long-distance solo drive I snag an audiobook from the library.

Readers: do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites?

Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Murder Method

It’s Wicked Wednesday again! Some of you might remember the time the Wickeds were interviewed for the Boston Globe. One of the questions we were asked was, What’s your favorite murder method? So I thought it would be fun to revisit the question and see if any of our answers changed!

So Wickeds, what’s your favorite way to off someone?

Julie: I am old school. I like poison. I find it fascinating, unexpected, a bit passive aggressive, and confounding.

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Barb: I don’t think I have a favorite murder method. I remember being flummoxed by the question from the Globe. But for the Maine Clambake Mysteries, I like to tie the murder weapon to the subject of the books. I used the clambake fire in Boiled Over, and the victim gets tangled in the lines under a lobster boat in Musseled Out. There’s another murder weapon like that coming up in the seventh Maine Clambake Mystery, Steamed Open, but no spoilers!

Edith: Like Julie, I like poison. I’ve taken inspiration from Luci Zahray, the Poison Lady, a Texan pharmacologist who gives talks to writers about readily available poisons. In recent books I’ve used liquid nicotine (yes, that stuff you put in vaping “cigarettes”) and rosary peas, and worked Tylenol and whiskey into a short story. I blogged about her a few years ago here.

Sherry: I don’t think I really have a favorite method but have had a few of people die by getting whacked on the head. Many of my killers have struck out in anger instead of carefully planning out a murder. It seems to me that is how most murders occur — in a moment of crazed thinking. I love that the murder weapon is on the cover of my first book, Tagged for Death.

Jessie: No question, blugdeoning. It allows for endless creativity of improvised weaponry and it makes it far more possible for a wide range of suspects to have done the deed as it requires no specialized knowledge and often uses heft and momentum to aid smaller killers in going about their tasks It’s a total win in my book. Or books!

Liz: I continue to be fascinated by poison, but like Barb, it depends on the book and the victim. And, of course, the killer. I have to say, I did like the method I used in my second book, A Biscuit, A Casket – a nice scythe to the chest!

Readers, do you have a favorite murder method? Tell us in the comments!