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.

Writing With Spirit

By Liz, doing everything under the sun to call in the muse!

You may have noticed that I can be a little bit “woo woo.” Luckily I have Jessie to commiserate with when everyone else thinks I’m a little too crazy! But my woo woo-ness has served me well over the years, and even more so lately as I take on more writing projects and at the same time, think through what I want my future as a writer to be.

So many of us creative people have, at one time or another, experienced blocks to our creativity. These blocks could range from not knowing where to go next with a current project to being unable to start writing or creating at all, possibly because of something you learned as a child about creativity being shameful or unrealistic to pursue as your life’s work. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls these blocks “creative injuries.”

I experienced those creative injuries myself along the way, including an ingrained belief that writing was not something I could do for a living. I spent years writing only peripherally, and when I did finally take jobs that centered on writing, I wasn’t paid well (you hear me, fellow journalists??). Eventually, through a lot of work – and applying Cameron’s practices – I found my way to the page and, well, here I am.

But I was still missing something. Even though I was successfully writing two series, I was still struggling – with process, with procrastination, with plots. With taking myself seriously enough to expect more for myself and my writing life.

Until I remembered that writing is my soul work. Which meant that everything I need to be successful – and peaceful – is within me, and I simply had to tune into it. Once I started applying my “soul practice” to my writing life, everything started to change. I stopped procrastinating, started turning out more words daily, “found” more time where there used to feel like none was available, got more inspiration. As a result, my two looming deadlines aren’t causing me stress. I’m approaching my writing time with joy, and I’m confident everything will get done. When I think back to where I was a year ago – stressed to the max, racing to meet a seemingly impossible deadline amidst a spate of personal crises, getting barely any sleep – it’s almost like I can’t even remember who that person was anymore.

So here’s my five-step process for how I did that:

  1. Ask. Ask that place inside you – whether you call it the universe, your muse, God, your soul, it doesn’t matter – for help. Set your intention for creativity and inspiration. It can be as simple as, I need guidance today. Help me find the right words and put them on the page. And be confident you’ll be heard!
  2. Meditate. I know, going completely still and breathing used to seem impossible for me too. Especially with crazy writer brain, where other people are always talking. But I’m telling you – it works. Five minutes a day can totally change your writing life. You can use a guided meditation, music, or nothing at all. You can walk in nature and try to still your thoughts. I started using guided meditations by Kris Carr and Gabby Bernstein, and one of the key things I learned from them is that thoughts are always going to interrupt you – you just need to bring your attention back to your breath and your intention. There’s also a fabulous app called Insight Timer that offers both guided meditations and music to meditate by, whatever your preference. But really, you need to remember to just breathe.
  3. Journal. This is my other non-negotiable practice. Journaling daily can help you get out of your own way. By releasing some of those thoughts that won’t leave you alone, you clear the space for your inspiration to show up. I still use Cameron’s practice – three pages a day, and it can be complete crap. Doesn’t matter. Just get the clutter out of your head.
  4. Use affirmations. Yes, the way you talk to yourself really does matter. If you’re always saying, I can’t do this, I can’t meet this deadline, I have no imagination, my characters have nothing to say, I have nothing to say, I’m going to have to go work at the grocery store because my contracts will be cancelled any minute…Well, you get the idea. It’s much better to plant positive seeds, even if they feel like complete and utter BS at the time. The more you say them, the more they’ll stick. I created this affirmation for myself:

    Say your affirmation daily. Feel it.
  5. Have fun and be thankful. How lucky are we to be creative people? And we’re all creative. It doesn’t matter if you write or not. However you express your creativity, be grateful for it. And most of all, enjoy it. Often we as writers put too much pressure on our work. We need to get back to the joy. And really, what else is there?

Cutest Pumpkin in the Patch

By Liz, hoping the worst of winter might be over….?

Since all you readers are like our family, I thought you might not mind if I used today’s post as a tribute to a friend. Some of you may know that I lost my little Pumpkin cat last week. It wasn’t a shock, as he’d been sick for some time and on a steady decline over the past few months. Still, it’s never easy.

I didn’t want to do a sad post. Instead, I thought I’d share his life through pictures, starting with his baby pics. Wasn’t he just the cutest? 

Pumpkin and his three littermates were left in someone’s driveway on my mother’s street. She found them and called me, but not before these two ran and hid in a bush. Guess who had to fish them out??

I totally knew he was my kitty soulmate from the moment I laid eyes on him. He and his sister Gypsy spent a lot of time in my bathroom when they first came home, so they could be away from the other cats.

That might have been where he picked up his love for water and showers. I always knew where to find him – waiting in the tub for someone to turn the water on.  He wasn’t happy unless he was soaking wet. IMG_1440

Or eating. Eating was his second favorite activity. At one point, he weighed 21 pounds…and he was always on a diet. Which he didn’t love.

But he loved most everything else. Pumpkin was known for his crazy loud purr. He purred all the time, night and day, asleep and awake. Sometimes it was so loud it woke you up. I always took comfort in the sound of his little motorboat.

He also bonded with one of my other cats, Rico. He thought she was his surrogate mother. She cleaned him a few times a day and he could always be found by her side. 

Pumpkin was almost 17 when he passed away, and I know he lived a long and happy life. I also know I’ll miss him forever.

 

 

Readers, share a favorite picture of a fury pal from your past that makes you smile. Even if you have to take a picture of an old picture and post that! (Like what I did with the baby pics.) I’d love to see them!

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Guest – Aimee Hix

We’re welcoming Aimee Hix to the blog today! We’re so excited about her debut novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, which is out TODAY! Go get yours now if you haven’t already.

Take it away, Aimee!

AimeeThe blog title may be Wicked Cozies but there is nothing wicked about this group. I’m a Southerner and I know a few Southern grandmas could take lessons on hospitality from these ladies. I have been generously welcomed as a friend and invited in to take the podium once again and I could not be more grateful.

In the years that I’ve been attending Malice Domestic I have been warmly welcomed by everyone I’ve met. The mystery community surely is the kindest, most welcoming group of people. I wouldn’t be in the position to be guest blogging if it weren’t for all the help and support I’d gotten while writing my book, and editing it, and querying it. I’m like 99% a group-made success story. The remaining 1%? Twizzlers.

But while I love Twizzlers what I love even more is gratitude.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

I didn’t understand, truly understand, gratitude for the longest time. I was under the mistaken impression that it just meant being grateful for the good things in your life. That makes sense, right? And for most of my life, I held that belief. Except what happens when things aren’t good? When things don’t go the way you want them to? When the answer back from the Universe is hold on a little longer or even no. Then what?

What then is that you become less grateful with each disappointment and, eventually, you’ve forgotten to be grateful at all. Even if you’ve had a hard life and no one taught you what real gratitude is about then maybe you’ve never had the chance to be truly grateful. Or maybe you’ve had a wonderful life and with nothing to compare it to being grateful isn’t something you’ve had to think about. Isn’t it funny that two people who’ve had vastly different circumstances can both be lacking in this most fundamentally life-changing act.

Gratitude is different than just being grateful. It’s an extra step beyond grateful. It’s recognizing that all the things in your life, good and bad, add up to the entirety of your existence – what you know, what you’ve learned, what you’ve unlearned, who you love, who loves you, how you treat people and how you expect to be treated. Yes, bad things still happen – loved ones die, catastrophic illness happens, jobs are lost – but in the midst of that if you’ve found gratitude and have invited it in there is a small voice that reminds you, ‘it’s all going to be okay.’ Gratitude can banish fear because with it you remember that good things do happen and will happen again. With gratitude you remember that having a moment to breathe in and out and just sit in stillness can return your equilibrium.

I’m not always great at letting gratitude banish fear. I didn’t learn about gratitude until these last few years. I grew up in a family that was always waiting for the other shoe to drop … and so it always did. Why? Because when you’re a hammer, you’re looking for nails, and eventually everything looks like a nail. I grew up in a family that never asked for help and never accepted help. Why? Because if you need help then you’re vulnerable. You’re not the hammer, you’re the nail. And I knew deep inside that the mentality of staying closed off and pushing people away wasn’t strength; I just didn’t know how to change the pattern I’d learned. I knew I had to because it wasn’t making me happy peering around every corner watching for something bad to come after me.

The trick? You may have figured it out. Most people do long before I did. It’s the easiest thing in the world … you just ask for help. Or, even easier, you accept help when it’s offered. I did both because I wanted to fast track some changes.

And it was easy. Okay, it was easier than I thought it would be. I chose people who were kind, who seemed to genuinely want to help. I chose wisely because every person I accepted help from treated me kindly, as if they knew it was not something I was well-experienced doing. The people I asked for help were just as kind and gentle.

It gets easier every time I do it.

And the cool thing is that the circle of people who I ask for or accept help from keeps expanding.

Which brings me to the other point about gratitude and one that I thought was a hippy-dippy fake sell-more-books-if-you-do-it-right-money-will-roll-in-and-you’ll-have-a-mansion-and-sports car-and-vacation-home-in-Fiji. Oprah said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.” *snort* Yeah, right. Except that’s not what it means. It means ‘what you focus on, what you make important, what you are filled with gratitude for, you’ll recognize when it comes to you’. Like when you’re looking to buy a car and then that kind of car is all you see on the road? They were always there, your focus was just on something else. And it goes a step further … you’re a part of the club so the other people who own that car notice you too. They’ll smile at you, wave, let you in when traffic is backed up.

Gratitude breeds abundance – not money or sports cars or houses in Fiji but an abundance of what you’re focusing on like vulnerability and friendship and love and care and being a part of something.

And it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s still scary and I shrink back down into the shell with just enough room for me (and maybe my sweet Little Big Dog) but gratitude reminds me that that’s not the only space for me. And abundance reminds me that soon that shell will be too small and I won’t fit anymore because of all the abundance I have now.

And I’m so grateful for that. And I have such gratitude for that. Because of all the people I’ve allowed in I’m growing too big for the solitary shell. Gratitude breeds abundance in the very best way.

Aimee What Doesn't Kill YouAbout What Doesn’t Kill You:

Favors are for suckers, especially when they lead you straight to a dead body. ​ Willa Pennington thought that becoming a PI would be better than being a cop. She thought she’d never have to make another death notification or don a bulletproof vest again. She thought she’d be safe. But she couldn’t have been more wrong, because Willa’s real problem is that she’s always sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. And people really don’t like that. ​ Now, agreeing to do a simple favor has netted her a dead body, a missing person, and an old friend who just may be a very bad guy. If whoever is trying to kill her would lay off she could solve the murder, find the missing girl, and figure out if the person she’s trusted with her life is the one trying to end it.
About Aimee: 
An inability to pass the sight requirements and a deep aversion to federal prison prevented Aimee from lying on her FBI application so she set her deficient eyes on what most Northern Virginians do for work – the non-law enforcement side of the federal government. After twenty years as a federal contractor, she retired and turned to murder. Fictionally, of course. Aimee lives in Virginia enjoying LASIK-corrected eyesight with her family, two dogs, and all her killer thoughts.

Stow-Away Snake

By Liz, already wishing for summer…it’s freezing in these parts!

So Barb had a teaser the other day in the blog about a stow away story I’d shared with the Wickeds at one of our retreats. I thought in keeping with the theme of her release day for Stowed Away, I’d share my story with all of you. But I’ve gotta warn you – it’s pretty disturbing!

So it was a really hot summer day – the kind I’m wishing for right now, in fact – and I was off to work. I was working in Hartford at the time. I was wearing sandals, and these particular sandals tended to slide off my feet. So I didn’t think much of it when I was driving and my toe brushed up against something. I thought it was the gas pedal, that maybe my shoe had shifted or something. Forgetting about it, I reached over to pick up my coffee from the center console.

And a snake slithered right through the console and vanished into the backseat of my car.

I’m pretty sure I screamed. I have no idea how I didn’t rear end the 18-wheeler in front of me. Oh, and did I mention I was merging from one highway onto another?

I had no idea what to do. In my mind, the snake was the size of a boa constrictor, and I imagined it was readying itself to wrap around my neck and strangle me, causing a fifty-car pileup on I-84 and killing me instantly. So I was driving looking over my shoulder to make sure this didn’t happen.

Being in the middle of a merge, there weren’t a lot of places to pull over. When I finally reached a spot where I could get on the shoulder safely, I did so, then jumped out of the car and opened all the doors. I had no idea what to do next.

I didn’t see my passenger anywhere. I checked the whole backseat, pulled out the dog’s blanket, checked under the seats. Nothing. At this point, my hair was suffering from the 80-degree, high humidity weather, and I must’ve looked like a crazy person on the side of the road. Or a drunk person, although it was barely nine a.m.

I wandered to the front passenger side of the car and happened to glance in the window. I wish I had been thinking clearly enough to take a picture of what I saw.

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The contaminated purse

This snake, who was clearly messing with me, had hopped into my Coach purse and was sitting there, looking around, tongue sliding in and out as he surveyed his new domain.

I opened the door, took the entire purse and threw it down the embankment. Then I waited ten minutes to make sure he’d slithered away, and I went and collected my things. I had some qualms about the bag itself – I mean, what if there were snake eggs in it or something?? but in the end I had no choice, since I had no other purse.

I went to work, a bit late and a bit disheveled, but I have to admit it’s been a great story ever since.

Oh – and it took me a few days to figure out how he’d come to stow away in my car. I’d put a bag of recycling that had been in my trunk in the driveway because I needed the room. When I put the bag back in  my car, it must’ve had a bit more than water bottles in it…

Readers, has anything creepy ever showed up in your moving vehicle? Or anywhere else it wasn’t supposed to be?

Friendly Advice

By Liz, finding it hard to believe it’s the holiday season already…

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: I’m giving away a copy of either Purring Around the Christmas Tree (the sixth Pawsitively Organic Mystery) or Cat About Town (the first Cate Conte Cat Cafe Mystery) – winner’s choice! Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

At this year’s New England Crime Bake, I had the privilege of meeting a number of new and aspiring authors. Really talented people who were there to network, meet agents and editors, pitch their work, and hopefully move to the next step in their publishing careers.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I remember when I first started going to Crime Bake. I was so eager, and I soaked up everything. Every word, every piece of advice, every opinion, thinking that any of it – all of it – would be the key to my success. And the less that I knew, the more I believed that I needed to listen and take everything all the experts said as gospel.

I thought of that a few weeks ago at Crime Bake as I sat at one of the first page critique sessions, listening to aspiring authors reading their pieces and hoping for positive feedback. They wanted to learn, and they definitely wanted the secrets to publishing success revealed.

They were hanging on every word, just like I used to.

I realized what a privilege it was to sit in that seat – the seat of a published author. I also realized that it’s so important to think about the advice you’re giving out, if you’re asked to do so and so inclined to respond.

With seven published books and a few more in the pipeline, I know a little bit more than I did ten years ago – but not much. I know the experiences I’ve had, and what’s worked or not worked for me. I don’t know what the next seven-figure best seller will be (believe me, if I did I’d write it), nor do I know for sure that a book featuring a protagonist of [insert age here] will sell better than a book featuring a protagonist of a completely different age.

No one in that room knew that without a doubt. Not even the people we all think hold the keys to the kingdom. Sure, the people who work on the business side of publishing have a lot of insights, a lot of contacts and a lot of intel. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean they have a error-free crystal ball with all the answers.

I really believe that writers and artists do best when they follow their gut instincts. It could mean choosing to write your novel as a YA told from a teen’s POV or as a suspense novel told from a detective’s POV.

So here are a few simple pieces of advice for the aspiring authors who have a passion project, or a book of the heart they’re working on.

  1. Be open to all the advice you receive. This is a wonderful, generous community and people are eager to help. You’ll get a lot of advice. Don’t be afraid of it. Say thank you, and be grateful people want to help. Everyone believes what they’re saying is the right thing.
  2. Take only what feels right to you. This might not be any of it, and that’s okay.
  3. Write the book you want to write. You’re an artist. Your gut is telling you what the big idea is that’s right for you. That doesn’t mean ignoring good writing practices, or learning about your craft every day. It just means following your heart. That’s the only way you’ll achieve real success.
  4. Believe in yourself. Enough said.

I know that I’ve been very lucky in my writing career. A lot of people have helped me along the way, by sharing insights and offering advice. I also know that ultimately, I have to write what’s meaningful to me. Yes, I can always make my work better. Yes, I can find different ways to market, or try a new point of view in my story.

But if the story isn’t one that excites me, it’s not going to excite the publisher, even if it’s exactly what they wanted. It probably won’t excite the readers, either.

Your gut doesn’t lie. It’s the only place you’ll find the stories you’re meant to tell.

Readers, what’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve gotten, about writing or otherwise? 

The Detective’s Daughter – There’s No Place Like Home

Kim in Baltimore with a beautiful print by artist Joanna Barnum for our Thankful for our Readers giveaway. Leave a comment for a chance to win.

Hat

On a cold, snowy January evening nearly fifteen years ago my dad’s house blew up. You read that correctly. A small fire believed to have started in the living room traveled quickly igniting boxes of ammunition Dad had stored in a bedroom. By the time I arrived on the scene the firefighters had been evacuated and a news helicopter hovered overhead.

The brick walls still stood, stained with soot and glazed in ice, but intact. The rest of the house, the floors, ceiling, stairway, were turned to ash.

Our house had been built in 1860. The Nortons, my grandmother’s family, had moved in

Kim 1

Assorted Norton children

not long after the construction was complete and had been the only family to live there for roughly one hundred and forty years. My grandmother and all of her siblings were born in that house as well as my father and some of his cousins.

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My great-grandmother, Annie Graham Norton and unidentified man.

After the fire Dad moved in with me and the house was sold and remodeled. It nearly broke my heart and I was glad my grandmother had not lived to see this happen.

I have lived in my own house now for twenty-five years, seven years longer than I lived in my childhood house, yet it is still that large brick row house of my youth that I call home. I am always yearning to return.

It’s funny how, as a teenager, I was quite eager to escape and be on my own. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own place. Now all I can think of is how nice it would be to go home and sit across the table from Nana and enjoy a cup of tea.

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My great-grandmother, Annie Graham Norton and her oldest granddaughter, Madeleine Buckey.

I find, though, each month I am able to go home again when I share my stories with all of you. For that I am thankful.

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My grandmother, Florence Norton Kurth Beckhardt, my mother, Frances Smith Kurth, and me.

Readers, share with us about your family home in the comments below. 

Guest: Cheryl Hollon

Liz here, and I’m so happy to welcome back our friend Cheryl Hollon, who’s releasing her next book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series. Take it away, Cheryl!

By Cheryl Hollon

Delighted to be here again for another new release! Thank you, Liz, for letting me brag about my newest release. All the Wicked Cozy Authors have been such a great support to me – you are truly awesome.

Another new release. Did you notice how casually that rolled off the tongue – er, screen? Yep, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series will release on November 28, 2017. This is an important book for a select group of cozy mystery readers. Why? Because this cadre of readers will pick up a new author only if there are at least four books already published. Why? Most new cozy mystery contracts are for a 3-book deal. For various reasons, some don’t get extended beyond that third book. I am now a new member in the Four Books Published Club with two more in the works. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Etched in Tears_MM.indd

Another new release. That phrase has made me realize that I am now officially a professional author. I have a series of books that I love sitting on shelves in bookstores. The last two years have been full of rewards, surprises, and challenges. The biggest reward has been meeting readers who enjoy their visit with Savannah, Edward, Amanda, Jacob, Suzy, Rooney, and Snowy. The surprise has been how much I love to write. I didn’t expect the splendid sense of wellbeing that it provides. The challenges are centered around keeping on top of looming deadlines as well as the administrative side of running a small business as a sole proprietor.

What aspect of reading or writing a series surprised you? Tell us below and be entered for a chance to win a signed ARC of Etched in Tears!

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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.

 

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 PhotoCheryl 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.

You can visit Cheryl and her books at:

Newsletter signup at:  http://www.cherylhollon.com

Like her:  https://www.facebook.com/cherylhollonwriterFollow her:  http://www.twitter.com/cherylhollon