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.

Wicked Wednesday – Short Stories

Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re going to make a lot of our writer friends happy and talk short stories (and it’s ok if they’re mysterious!). Wickeds, name your favorite!

Jessie: I loved Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and all of the short stories by Agatha Christie.

MysteryMostHistoricalEdith: I started with Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle as a child. In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to have one or two stories a year published in anthologies (and even nominated for Agatha Awards!), and I love perusing those collections. This year’s Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical includes a whole slew of fabulous stories, including ones by friends of the Wickeds Liz Milliron, KB Inglee, Catriona McPherson, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Victoria Thompson, and Nancy Herriman, (and yours truly) among others.

Barb: I love short stories. I chased down as many of Ruth Rendell’s short stories as I could find looking for something that happened to the characters “in between” two books in the Wexford series. And, after I abandoned literary fiction in the 1980s, it was Alice Munro’s short stories that brought me back. But my favorite mystery short story is “The Woman in the Wardrobe,” by Robert Barnard from Death of a Salesperson and Other Untimely Events. My favorite literary short story is “The Horseman,” by Richard Russo, because it is perfect. It’s recently been re-released in Trajectory, a collection of four of Russo’s long shorts.

Liz: I love Roald Dahl too – I remember reading The Way Up to Heaven in college and it’s remained one of my favorites.

Sherry: When I was in elementary school I read a book of short stories called Night in Funland and Other Stories. In the title story a kid gets on a Ferris Wheel as the dad waits below. When the ride ends the kid is missing. It was such a creepy story and I’ve never forgotten it. As an adult I hadn’t read a lot of short stories until the last few years when so many of my writing friends have great stories in anthologies like those put out by the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime and by Level Best Books.

Julie: Liz, you are testing us this month with the Wicked Wednesdays! Like Jessie, I like Agatha Christie’s short stories. I am also a Flannery O’Connor fan. The Lottery still gives me nightmares, so I suppose I should add Shirley Jackson to the list.

Edith: My son introduced me to “The Lottery.” Gah…

Readers, weigh in with your favorites!




More from the Moving Files

Liz here, with more from the moving files. 

I used to have a giant desk. I loved it, too. It was from Pottery Barn and apparently 10 or 11 years ago when I first moved to Connecticut I believed I needed a desk this large in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a “real writer.”‘

One could say it helped, although secretly I know better – most of my books have been written in my bed with the covers over my head, crying through another deadline crunch, but you’ve all heard those stories before. The point is, if I’m going to write, I’m going write with or without a ginormous desk.


So now I have an adorable, small desk. Which I love, and I do write at it a lot. But it also meant that when I moved, I had to clean out the many drawers associated with having such a large desk, and figuring out how to shoehorn in all the things. I threw a lot of things away, but I realized something I’d only had a sneaking suspicion about before this: I’m a junkie for notebooks and writing utensils and basically any kind of office supply. And notebooks are apparently just as hard for me to get rid of as actual books.

Some things I found: An entire stash of reporter’s notebooks – unused. At some point, I’d been in a phase of “needing” those old-style, 3- or 5-subject spiral bound notebooks, so there were a few of those. Then there was the stack of legal pads, in both letter size and the smaller size – not sure where those came from.

Then there were the items from my Levenger phase – the full-sized notebook with only one or two pages filled out that I’d planned to use for those character bibles. And the smaller sized ones that I planned to carry around with me for brainstorming purposes. Then I apparently turned to Moleskin to solve all my writing problems, so I have at least three empty journal sized notebooks to help me with all that plotting I’ve been meaning to do. (As a side note, I have been using one for plotting – it even came to the Wicked Cozy retreat with me last week. Aren’t you proud?)

And then there were the pens. Good grief, all the pens. From my multi-colored ballpoint phase. My gel pen phase. My black pen phase. Lately, I’m into the Flair pens, so have those in every room. And Post-its! Of every shape and size. Since Dead Fred is my go-to post it guy lately, I had to think long and hard about what I need.

So like with the books, I had to make some decisions. There was no room for all my notebooks in my new desk, which has four small shelves. Since my days of reporting are pretty much done, I gave up my Steno pads. All the legal pads, gone. The old-school spirals – I have to confess I kept a couple brand new ones, but mostly gone. I kept my Levengers and Moleskins. And the Post-its – I do use them for my day job, so they got a reprieve. Anything journal-ish went into a special place, since I do a lot of journaling. And it eliminated the need for them at my desk.

So, another task (almost) conquered. What do you think?


Readers, anyone else have a must-have writing tool or other desk necessity? Or just a ginormous desk? Let us know in the comments!

Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Children’s Book

Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re talking children’s books – maybe we don’t read them all the time, but we all must have a couple that stand out that we’d gift to the young people in our lives. So Wickeds, which book would you pick?

Liz: I’ve gotta go back to Dr. Seuss for this one – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It’s so simple but inspirational and you can go back at any age for a pep talk! My favorite quote: “You have brains in your head you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Jessie: I love books by Roald Dahl. The Twits is one that I love, as is Esio Trot.  I also adore books by Lloyd Alexander. His Prydain Chronicles books  are amongst my favorites. I also adored his West Mark trilogy. For budding mystery lovers of the right age, it’s hard to beat The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

Edith: I am going to chime in with a couple of middle-grade books by Elizabeth Atkinson.Island-high-res She had a tough time as a tween, and writes books to help other kids in that situation get through a difficult age. I, Emma Freake is a wonderful, engaging story about a girl who feels like a misfit – until she goes alone to meet her father’s quirky family for the first time, and they’re all tall redheads like her. Atkinson’s latest, The Island of Beyond, is her first story featuring a boy. I highly recommend all Elizabeth’s books – and she lives down the road from Stephen King in Maine (he jogs by her house in the mornings), so you know she’s absorbing super-creative energies in addition to her own.

Sherry: I’ve probably said this a million times here, but I love the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. They are based on Maud’s life growing up in Mankato, Minnesota. They start when Betsy is five and first meets Tacy who moves in across the street. They continue through the last book Betsy’s Wedding. As Betsy grows up the reading level increases. They are wonderful, warm books. I still read them.

smile for auntieBarb: One of the wonderful things about being a grandparent is that you get to revisit your children’s favorite books, and sometimes even your own favorite books from childhood. Some of those are classics like The Cat in the Hat, and some are eccentric books that just tickled your family for whatever reason. One of my kids’ favorites, and now Viola’s, was Smile for Auntie, in which a babushka-wearing aunt tortures a baby with tickles and silly faces, trying to get him to smile, and he does–the moment she goes away. (This book was given to my son Robert when he was an infant, by his aunt, who thought it was hilarious.)

Julie: Too many to name! I love Robert McCloskey books–Make Way For Duckings was a favorite. I also loved Harriet the Spy, and (natch) Nancy Drew.

Readers: What are your favorite children’s books (and remember, twelve-year-olds are still children)?




The Annual Wicked Retreat

It’s that time of year again – the Wickeds are going on retreat, starting today. This year, we’re changing things up a bit and heading to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to stay at Barb’s famous former B&B. We’re planning a lot of fun, food, and drinks – and of course, work. So, Wickeds, what do you hope to accomplish this year?

Edith: I might still be polishing Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery number one, due June first. But I might start plotting (did I, a Pantser, just use the PL-word?) and writing Quaker Midwife Mystery number four, since that’s next on the schedule. Conversation with the Wickeds is high on the agenda, as always, and I hope to get a Canva tutorial from Julie and Sherry, so I can get over my graphics ineptitude. Can’t wait!

Sherry: I hope to get some plotting done too — yikes, Edith maybe the others are converting us! I will be working on book six which has a possible title of For Whom The Belle Tolls. I love our late night late night chats when we are settled down with a glass of wine. See you all soon.


Animal socks Liz brought each of us to the retreat one year! Guess whose foot is whose…

Liz: Hoping to get a bunch of words written in the second Cat Cafe Mystery, as well as a plotting session for book seven in the Pawsitively Organic Series. And some quality time with my besties…

Jessie: When I am writing I’ll be working on the second book in my new Beryl and Edwina series. Liz and I also plan to demonstrate interactive plotting/ brainstorming/ book noodling for those Wickeds who are not quite convinced about the upside of plotting ahead. I hope to convince at least one of them that premeditated crimes can be as much fun as those that are crimes of passion!

Barb: I’ll be finishing up a short story and getting it to my writers’ group. I also hope to make good progress on two synopses.

Julie: I have copy edits due next week for Theater Cop series book one, A CHRISTMAS PERIL. Pages are printed out, and I will be doing another read through and some final tweaking. I also just finished a draft of Theater Cop series book two, tentatively titled WITH A KIISS I DIE. I want to do a read through so I can get it to my first reader, Jason Allen-Forrest. I also want to talk to Edith and Liz about this juggling two series business. Plus, wine.

Readers: What do you like to accomplish when you go away from your everyday routine? Do you have a list, or prefer just chilling? And if we’re a little slow on responses to comments today, it’s because many of us are traveling north!


Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Poets

Happy Wednesday! Continuing the theme of “what are we reading that isn’t mystery fiction,” let’s talk poetry today, Wickeds. Who’s your favorite poet, or what’s your favorite poem and why?

Liz: I’ve been super into Mary Oliver lately. I discovered her years ago with her famous poem The Journey and lately I’ve been devouring her work. Wild Geese keeps coming up lately – one of her standards, but seems so relevant for me right now. I think she’s such a master at weaving life and nature into one concept. (As you can see, I like to mark my favorites!)


Edith: Mary Oliver is one of my favorites, too. “The Summer Day,” with it’s stunning, clarion-call last line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I also love many of Billy Collin’s poems, particularly when I can hear him read them himself in his regular, almost deadpan voice. “Purity” is a wonderful poem for authors, about his favorite time to write, and how he goes about it. Here’s the first part:

My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I got about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.

Sherry: I confess I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it usually isn’t on my radar unless someone posts a poem. I tend to like New England poets like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Here is my favorite poem of hers. I had it posted on my bulletin board for years starting in high school:

Not In Vain

by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Jessie: When I was a small child I received a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein which I loved for its silliness and its wisdom. I love it still. Here’s one of my favorites:

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

Barb: In honor of Key West, I’m including poet Elizabeth Bishop. (Though I would note that three other poets mentioned in this post have connections there. Robert Frost spent part of eighteen winters, Shel Silverstein lived there, and Billy Collins lives there now.)

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Julie: Like Sherry, I am not a huge poetry reader. But my friend Ruth Polleys makes me reconsider it. She has an MFA in poetry, and wrote a remarkable blog called “All That Can Happen in 1000 Days”. (A line from Our Town.) Part memoir of an extraordinary time in her life, part poetry journal. Very raw.  I’ve been trying to talk her into doing something with it for a couple of years. Her passion for poetry is contagious, and her talent is real. I’m going to say that Ruth is my favorite poet. (PS, if you are going to read the blog, start from day one. It is a journey.)

Edith: These are all so wonderful. I must include one more, which I had on my wall for many years, by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Readers: Share your favorite poet or poem!


How I Trick Myself Out of Procrastination – Guest Cheryl Hollon

Liz here, welcoming back our good friend Cheryl Hollon. (We always love when you come to visit, Cheryl!) And today, she’s talking about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart – procrastinating. I definitely need to try some of her methods below…

If procrastination is my weakness, ingenuity is my strength. I have a lot of tricks to get me out from under those time-wasters that eat into my productive writing time. You know what I mean, like Facebook, where you’re only going to check on a few of your friends. Then, whoosh! It’s been two hours.

Meeting my publisher’s deadlines is a serious matter. My engineering career demanded unfailing compliance with project milestones to keep our government on schedule. I treat my writing business with the same attitude.

However, lofty intensions don’t keep me from wandering off the path, so I’ve adopted some little tricks to keep the words flowing onto the page. The first approach is to have a set routine each morning for starting the day. I am more or less on complete autopilot until I’m sitting at my computer out in my writing shed.

My first trick is to open my writing-in-progress document. Then I sprint for one hour without checking e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. This is the most powerful tool in my box of tricks. The second trick is that when I complete my sprint, I can work the Times Mini Crossword Puzzle ( https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords/game/mini ). The reason I choose the mini puzzle rather than the grown-up version? It takes me less than five minutes to solve.

After that, I get some administrative tasks done. But, here’s how I limit my time: I use an hour-glass. It should be called a half-hour-glass because it takes thirty minutes for the sand to run out.

Cheryl 1

Throughout the day, I use various other rewards. Lunch is a big one, so is another cup of coffee. Sometimes, it’s a piece of candy or a chilled Coke in a glass bottle. Basically, whatever it takes to get me to my word target for the day.

What are your tricks?


Each book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series highlights a particular skill within the broad category of glass art. Savannah Webb will teach and participate in each skill area exploring and expanding her knowledge of the craft, along with her assistant, Amanda Blake. As a subject matter expert consulting with the St. Petersburg Police Department, her close associations within the art community and the unusually keen observation skills of her apprentice, Jacob Underwood, combine to solve crimes. Edward Morris, boyfriend and the British owner of the pub next door, fills out the investigation posse with more than moral support accompanied by coffee and scones. The craft topics for the third book in the series are etching glass and slumping glass to make dishware.

The cover art for Etched in Tears (Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #4) is an image of my favorite museum with the magnificent droopy bench in front. That’s where the body is discovered, so as research, I had to slump myself over the bench to see if it was feasible. I considered it a triumph to get strange looks at an art museum that specializes in surrealism.

Etched in Tears_MM.indd

My husband, George and I have a glass studio in a freestanding cottage behind our house and we enjoy making promotional gifts for my blog tours. For this book, I will be giving away all sorts of etched items: wine glasses, pendants, earrings and maybe some beer steins.

You can read more about Savannah in Etched in Tears, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries, published by Kensington Books. Available for pre-order at your favorite book vendor. It releases on November 28, 2017.

About Etched in Tears:

When a famous glass artist is murdered at his own exhibit, deadly secrets are put on display, and it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb to see through a killer’s cover.

Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images into his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.

Meet the author:

Author Hollon Photo

Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art.


Opening Lines – The Abandoned Flip-Flop

It’s opening lines day! Wickeds, how would you start a story about the photo below?


Sherry: A clue! If only I’d just stopped there because I’ll never be able to un-see what followed.

Julie: At first I thought it was abandoned. Then I realized it was still attached to the foot, and that the owner had been buried upside down. That wasn’t the only secret I found that day, in the alien ship landing site.

Barb: I ran into the mangroves as fast as my legs could carry me, losing my flip-flops one at a time.  I ran and then I swam until I couldn’t hear the dogs.

Jessie: Brent knew Kayla prided herself on her scavenger hunting prowess and that she would jump at his offer to host one for her birthday. He was certain she would be the first to find the flip-flop and when she did he would be there waiting for her.

Edith: Ginnie had said she would leave no trace of her victim. Yet there it was, for all the world to see. But I was better than Ginnie, and when I found her, I wouldn’t leave any blue flip-flop behind.

Liz: I thought I’d been so careful, but after all my digging and dragging of the body, I returned to the place where I’d entered the woods and found her flip-flop.

Readers: Give us your opening lines!