About Sherry Harris

Sherry Harris started bargain hunting in second grade at her best friend’s yard sale. She honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry uses her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her time living in Massachusetts as inspiration for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. Tagged for Death, first in the series, will be out in December 2014.

Writing About Fear — Welcome Back Lori Rader-Day

Sherry here and I’m so delighted to welcome back Lori Rader-Day. Our first books came out in 2014 so we were on a new authors panel together that year at Left Coast Crime. Her latest book, Under A Dark Sky, released on August 7th. Here’s a bit about the book:

Only in the dark can she find the truth . . .Since her husband died, Eden Wallace’s life has diminished down to a tiny pinprick, like a far-off star in the night sky. She doesn’t work, has given up on her love of photography, and is so plagued by night terrors that she can’t sleep without the lights on. Everyone, including her family, has grown weary of her grief. So when she finds paperwork in her husband’s effects indicating that he reserved a week at a dark sky park, she goes. She’s ready to shed her fear and return to the living, even if it means facing her paralyzing phobia of the dark.

But when she arrives at the park, the guest suite she thought was a private retreat is teeming with a group of twenty-somethings, all stuck in the orbit of their old college friendships. Horrified that her get-away has been taken over, Eden decides to head home the next day. But then a scream wakes the house in the middle of the night. One of the friends has been murdered. Now everyone—including Eden—is a suspect.

Everyone is keeping secrets, but only one is a murderer. As mishaps continue to befall the group, Eden must make sense of the chaos and lies to evade a ruthless killer—and she’ll have to do it before dark falls…

What are you afraid of? No, really. We use the word “fear” a lot, for things we face every day (especially, let’s face it, lately) and for things we’ll never have to deal with in real life. I mean, my stepfather won’t watch any movie that promises to show him a giant spider—it’s a surprisingly large oeuvre, the car-sized spider film—but he’s not likely to meet one in real life. There’s such a thing as an irrational fear, but that must mean we’re allowed the other kind: rational fear. Where’s the line?

In my latest mystery, Under a Dark Sky, a thirty-something woman reeling from the loss of her husband fights through her fear of the dark to visit a dark sky park, a spot set aside for visitors to see the night sky the way nature intended, without light pollution from artificial light. I am not personally afraid of the dark. (I could be talked into it, if I were, say, expecting to step on something spidery while the lights were off.  The regular-sized type of spidery is enough.) A fear of the dark is an irrational fear. But the book is about my own biggest fear, too: being widowed.

When I was deciding what this book would be about, at first all I had was the location. I had never started from location before—a wide-open canvas! A dark sky park, as far as I knew, had never been used as the location of a novel, and it was a slam dunk for a murder mystery: isolated, quiet, no manufactured light to keep things civilized. But who would wander, Bambi-like, into its darkness?

You’re supposed to write about the things that scare you, right? So: a widow before her time, facing the rest of her life alone. But if the character I’d be writing about had already suffered my own biggest fear, what was left? Four hundred pages about someone still in deep mourning is by definition not a thriller. I decided she would be afraid of the dark, wholly and irrationally, and have to fight herself out of that (forgive me) dark place.

Writer to writer? Eden’s fear of the dark only made the book more difficult to write. I had to keep an eye on the clock at all times, because she was a reverse vampire, unable to be outside by the last rays of dusk. I had chosen the dark sky park for the darkness—and then cheated myself out of it.

At another time in my writing career, I might have turned back, too daunted to try and write the book I had conceived. In my lifetime of writing, not writing, publishing, and not publishing, I have been afraid of a lot of things. Failure, of course, the first hurdle. Then success, because if I successfully write and publish this personal thing, someone is bound to read it—Oh no! And then imposter syndrome, the fear that someone will find me out for the grasping hack I am. That’s the Writer’s Triad of Irrational Fears, probably, that any direction you turn will lead to one of those quicksand pits we were all so afraid of in the ’80s.

We’re not afraid of quicksand anymore. We’ve been told that there’s no such thing. No problem. There are enough real worries. We don’t need to borrow any from Gilligan’s Island reruns.

Sometimes when the news day is bad—and it is very bad, the day I’m writing this—I wonder if writing little escapist murder mysteries does any good in the world (and of course if you’ve read them, are they escapist? If they cover topics like campus shootings and domestic violence? These are real concerns I have encountered, not Mini Cooper-sized spiders). Whenever I start to doubt, I remember that humans developed storytelling skills before they developed farming. Stories before food. Stories as a tool for survival. And I remember the way all my bookish friends rally around each other and strangers, too, in times of crisis. I remember the way I felt seeing the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre, like the history of the world was collapsed, accordion-like, and small, but also how amazing it was to be a part of it. I remember that when I am stressed, the one thing I still want to do is pick up a book and read, for that same expansive feeling, that same connection. I suspect I’m not alone.

These days I have a whole new set of fears than I used to, most of them exceedingly rational. Writing through them is the only strategy I can come up with. It isn’t escapist, most days. It is only a mirror, reflecting the hard light of real life. But a reflection of light is still light, isn’t it? And maybe when I manage to find the words and share them, reading what I write is a strategy that helps you escape from your fears, too. No giant spiders, I promise.

Readers: What is your irrational fear?

Bio: Lori Rader-Day is a three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, winning the award in 2016 for her second novel, Little Pretty Things. She is the author of Under a Dark Sky, and of The Black Hour, winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, The Day I Died, a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Thriller, Anthony, and Barry Awards. She lives in Chicago, where she is active in Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and co-chairs the mystery conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago.

 

Write Like a Mermaid — Guest Shari Randall

By Shari Randall, who is celebrating publication of her new book, Against the Claw.

Jana Leah is the winner of Against the Claw! Watch for an email from Shari!

Shari is giving away a copy of Against the Claw to someone who leaves a comment! Here’s a little about the book:

Welcome back to the seaside village of Mystic Bay, where someone’s been found sleeping with the fishes. . .Ballerina Allie Larkin is still back home, healing up from a broken ankle and lending a hand at her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. But now that the famed restaurant is branching out into the world of catering, Allie’s help is needed more than ever―even on the lobster boat. The last thing she expects to find once she’s out on the bay, however, is the dead body of a beautiful young woman.

When days pass and not even the police can ID the corpse, Allie takes it upon herself to learn the truth about what happened. Her investigation leads her all the way from the local piers to the secluded estates of Mystic Bay’s posh elite. But how can she crack this case when everyone seems dead-set on keeping their secrets beneath the surface?

“If you can be anything, be a mermaid.” This is one of my favorite sayings.

I named the shack in my Lobster Shack mystery series The Lazy Mermaid because I love mermaids. One of my characters collects “mermaidabilia.” I have an Instagram account where I post mermaid photos on #Mermaid Mondays. It’s fun to see who else has a mermaid obsession.

It’s also fun to see how mermaids can help plot a book.

I was shopping for swag for a Facebook party when I came across this great pen. It’s the Mermazing ™ What Would a Mermaid Do? Predict-a-Pen. It’s a much sparklier version of a Magic Eight Ball, but instead of answering questions it offers advice.

The pen has been helpful as I write. Not only are the predictions good life advice (well, maybe “crash a ship” isn’t a good idea in real life) they’re great suggestions for a writer.

Here’s some writing advice from the Predict-A-Pen:

Pose on a Rock – I translated this into “showcase your character” – let the characters show the reader who they truly are – good and bad, fins and scales.

Make Friends with a Crab – Good advice. Every protagonist needs a friend, a sidekick to share the adventure and watch her back while swimming with sharks.

Brush Hair with a Fork – Okay, I had to give this one some thought. It’s a pretty funny image. Perhaps the magic pen is telling me to add some humor?

Grow Legs – As we all remember from The Little Mermaid, this was a turning point that changed the trajectory of Ariel’s life. For my writing purposes, it means take a chance, do something bold – even if it turns out to have life altering repercussions for my characters. We all like to see characters grow and change, especially if that growth comes from lessons learned by making mistakes and owning up to them.

Fall in Love with a Pirate – A little romance, especially with a dashing partner will add spice to a story.

Crash a Ship – Okay, very bad nautical advice, but great writing advice. Big conflict, disaster, and drama keep readers turning the pages.

Readers: Anyone else love mermaids? Or have a slightly embarrassing obsession?

Shari Randall lives in a mid-century money pit on the Connecticut shore. When she’s not committing murder (on the page, of course) she enjoys dancing, reading, and volunteering at her local library. You can see what’s new with her at https://us.macmillan.com/author/sharirandall/.

Welcome Back Guest Aimee Hix

Here’s the thing about the writing community — they are generous, generous people. As you read this I’m flying to Green Bay for Writers Police Academy. On Monday, I was talking to Aimee and telling her how overwhelmed I felt with my schedule this week. I mentioned needing to write a blog and not having an idea for one. Aimee immediately said, “I’ll do it for you.” So here is Aimee. Go buy her books — she’s a wonderful writer and fantastic person.

SMAF. It sounds like a particularly sweet sneeze. Something that would issue forth from a bunny or another wee animal. It’s actually the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, a fantastic event in the town of Suffolk in Southeastern Virginia.

The town of Suffolk has a small town feel with historic buildings, wonderful places to eat, and so many wonderful residents – everyone was smiling, all the time.

There’s also the beautiful Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts that hosts the all-day mystery author festival takes place. Aside from the VIP Meet and Greet (which is a ticketed event) and, of course, the cost of any books you choose to purchase – all the events are free.

This was my first year and let me tell you, if they’ll have me again it won’t be my last. Thanks to the amazing, LynDee Walker, who wrangled an invite for me, I was able to attend this amazing event run by the most amazing people. The Suffolk Tourism team did everything they could to make all of the authors feel as special and famous as the headliners – Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner.

You want to talk about making a baby author feel special? I have a poster with my face on it … like I’m a movie star.

And there was a gift bag full of mystery- and Suffolk-themed gear. They even packed water and snacks in the bag so we wouldn’t get hungry. Unlikely, since there was a lunch just for us before the VIP Meet and Greet, also with food. And a hospitality room with infused waters, coffee and tea. AND, finally, a closing reception for the authors, their guests, and the Suffolk Tourism team. Did I mention there was a Welcome Reception and a ‘Haunted’ Cemetery tour with costumed-guide on Friday night?

You’re jealous now, aren’t you? You should be. Not only was the team so welcoming, warm, and generous but the attendees were too. Every person who came to the table to talk to us (LynDee and I shared a table, thank goodness, or I’d have been way too nervous) kept thanking me for offering them bookmarks or personalizing their books. Thanking me!!! Isn’t that crazy? I made sure I told every single one of them that we, the authors, we were grateful for them. That it was because of them that we were there. All readers need to remember that. You’re never “just a reader.” You’re the reason we get to do this job.

It wasn’t all just meeting people and selling books. The Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival also has panels and workshops. The panel I was on was called Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend: Crafting a Successful Thriller. Before SMAF, I wasn’t sure what qualified me to be on a panel about anything successful book-wise. I figured it out though. Success means something different to different people – sales, awards, bestsellers lists, college courses about your work – but for me, it’s being happy with what I’ve created and all that I’ve been privileged to enjoy because of my hard work.

Writing books is hard work. No, not like manual labor is hard work but quieting your inner critic and letting your imagination take hold. Creative work is not as valued as other jobs but just try to imagine the world without paintings, music, film, poetry, or books. It would be a world empty of all the things that make life worth living.

Writing the Willa Pennington PI series has fulfilled me in a way I knew was missing but didn’t know how to find, at first. The second book DARK STREETS COLD SUBURBS carried me through a six-month bout of vertigo and, my sweet puppy girl, Karma’s terminal cancer diagnosis and palliative care. She died three weeks after the release date of my first book, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU last January. Writing the series allows me to release some of the darker thoughts and feelings I have. It’s cheap therapy.

Meeting people who are interested in the world I’ve created, like the people who visited the Suffolk Mystery Author Festival, are a part of the therapy, the healing too. There’s something special about Suffolk and this festival. I know the biggest part of the wonderfulness of SMAF is Kathleen, Theresa, and the rest of the Suffolk Tourism Board team. I hope you’ll join me next summer so you can enjoy the festival, the people who run it, and the whole town of Suffolk. And don’t forget to try the giant cupcakes at the Plaid Turnip.

Readers: Have you attended a book festival? Do you have a favorite one?

Bio: 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. She began writing the Willa Pennington PI mystery series in 2014 and decided to set it in her “hometown” of Fairfax County because of the rich diversity and opportunities for a private investigator to become entangled in with interesting people.

Aimee lives in Virginia enjoying LASIK-corrected eyesight with her family, three dogs, and all her killer thoughts. You can visit her at www.aimeehix.com.

Welcome Guest Susan C. Shea — Finding Inspiration

Congratulations Autumn Trapani — you won a copy of Dressed for Death in Burgundy. Watch for an email from Susan!

Welcome guest Susan C. Shea author of French Village Mystery series and the Dani O’Rourke mystery series! Susan is giving away a copy of Dressed for Death in Burgundy to someone who leaves a comment on the blog. Here’s a bit about Dressed for Death in Burgundy:

After finding herself mixed up in a murder investigation the previous Summer, Katherine Goff’s life simply has not been the same. Her husband has been in the US recording a new album, the Burgundy region locals are finally starting to see her as a real neighbor, and Katherine has even started helping out with “tourist” excursions. It seems she’s finally found her place in the small community of Reigny-sur-Canne.

But when Katherine stumbles across a body in the local museum during a tour, she finds herself caught up once again in a whirlwind of gossip and speculation. When the police zero in on her friend Pippa as a suspect, Pippa and Katherine team up to find the real killer and clear her name.

However, the more clues they discover, the more the real killer wants them off the trail. When Katherine and Pippa start receiving threats, they must decide what they are more afraid of—the police getting it wrong, or possibly becoming the killer’s next targets.

Many writers have the ability to snatch a whole story from a news item, or the history of international spies, or Civil War letters. That impresses me so much. But for me, it’s the push and pull, the troubles and triumphs close to home – family, friends, colleagues – that set off my creative sparks.

For a number of years, my day (and often evening and weekend) job was a mix of sensitive communications and high-value donor fundraising for non-profits. I spent time listening for clues as to what would move a millionaire or billionaire to support the organization I worked for. I also spent time working with leadership to get good news out to our constituents and get bad news out before anyone else did. There were always a lot of egos in the room and none of them could be mine. The work was arduous but, frankly, lots of fun most of the time.

My time off was spent with my Significant Other visiting museums, hanging out in his art studio, dropping into art openings in the city, visiting other places known for their visual arts. Many of our friends were artists, and some of them were off-the-charts individualists.

They were all – the artists, the millionaires, the corporate leaders – food for my creativity. The super rich have problems handling so much money and the labels put on them. Artists often have problems handling so little money! Put the two extremes together and my Dani O’Rourke series about a San Francisco fundraiser for an art museum was born. I drew on much that was accurate about these worlds, but invented characters who could show the extremes I needed for a murder mystery.

Follow an artist who, with her patient husband, pulled up stakes on a whim and moved to a tiny town in France, and the inspiration for my Burgundy mysteries was there in front of me. I have acknowledged in the French books that my fictional protagonist and her music-making husband were drawn from the lives of my friends, even though I did the same thing – stretched them into entirely different shapes to serve my fictional ends.

Readers tell me they enjoy learning a bit about what makes the secondary art market (artwork sold again after the artist sold it to its first owner) so wild and crazy and subject to criminal activity. Other people write to say they love reading about a part of France they don’t yet know because it feeds their desire for travel. For me it’s a validation that there’s plenty of worthy material to draw on from my own experiences, with a dash of humor from my own private observations, and real affection for people like some of Dani O’Rourke’s colleagues and Katherine’s rural neighbors.

Catriona McPherson (now, there’s a wonderful crime fiction author!) gave me a novel last year that I adore, Miss Buncle’s Book, by DE Stevenson, who wrote in the 1930s. Miss Buncle also looked close to home for her fiction, with hilarious results. I highly recommend it and the message it sends: Creativity lives everywhere, and we writers only need to look and listen to find inspiration for a thousand stories bubbling up all around us!

Readers: How do you express your creativity?

Bio: Susan C Shea is the author of two critically-acclaimed mystery series, the first set in San Francisco’s art world and the second in a small town in France. She is a past president of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime, services as secretary of the national board of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and former member of its NorCal chapter board. She spent twenty-five years in the not-for-profit world before beginning to write full time. She lives in Marin County, CA.

A Favorite Thing

By Sherry — I’m melting in the summer heat

I originally wrote about this on my SherryHarrisauthor.com website a couple of years ago. But I was dusting today and thought maybe you all would like this story too.

One day when I was wandering around an antique store in Concord, Massachusetts I found the beautiful little jar below. I loved it for two reasons — it was blue and white and it said Boston on it. I knew I would live in the area forever and thought it would be a wonderful keepsake.

IMG_2667This side of the jar reads: MAGDA TOILET CREAM, C.J. Countie G CR, CHEMISTS, BOSTON, U.A. — other jars say USA but the S on mine has disappeared.

I decided to use the jar in the third book of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries , All Murders Final. I wanted to find out more about the jar so I did some research (thank you Google). Boy, was I surprised! There was a jar similar to mine on Etsy and the seller provided a lot of information — you can view the full post here. I had always thought the lid said Counti of Boston with a little extra flourish by the word “Counti”. In reality Countie is the family name of the company that manufactured Magda Toilet Cream. Here’s a picture of the lid:

IMG_2669 The Esty site provided this information: One of the Countie family members was kind enough to contact me and offer more information about this beautiful jar. Here’s what she told me:

‘My Grandfather Francis’ two Uncle’s John and Charles started this business in the late 1800’s. They called it MAGDA toilet cream. They were Chemists in the beauty business and developed this wonderful cream. Beacause it was in such demand, Cheeseborough Company, which is now Pond’s bought the formula and called it Pond’s Cold Cream. They used the porcelain jar back in those days because of it’s lower cost. Pond’s Cold Cream

IMG_2670This reads: Ah, Exquisite Communion of rare blossoms (Isn’t that so perfect?)

IMG_2671And this one reads: A dainty luxury for me skin. (I love that!)

I’ve done some more research since I wrote the first post.

The National Museum of American History has one, but it’s not currently on display. Click here for the link.

There are eight jars for sale on eBay and range in price from $26.75 to $199.00. I paid $10 for mine. (I’m almost tempted to by another one!)

There are two for sale on Esty. Both are around $150.00.

Most sites date these from the mid to late 1800s to the early 1900s.

Readers: What small thing do you have that you treasure?

That Friend — Guest Laura Bradford

Sherry here welcoming author Laura Bradford back to the Wickeds. She’s an amazing writer and woman. This post touches my heart. And I hope you all go out and buy her new book Portrait of a Sister! Here is a bit about the book:

Katie Beiler was always the follower to her twin sister Hannah’s lead. That is until Hannah left their Amish upbringing for an English life—leaving Katie to find her own footing in a world that no longer looks as it once did . . .

Katie has always imagined her life being just like Mamm’s. It’s why she chose baptism and why she’ll soon marry Abram Zook. But ever since Hannah left, the only thing that truly makes Katie smile is the sketchpad in which she indulges her talent for drawing faces—a sin that, if discovered, could get her shunned by her family, her friends, and even Abram. Yet Katie sees her secret pastime as the only way to quiet a growing restlessness she’d just as soon ignore. That is until their Mamm’s untimely death brings Hannah back home to Pennsylvania, with a new outlook on life, a man she adores, and, soon, an invitation for Katie to visit her in New York City.

Suddenly, Katie is experiencing a freedom she’s never had, in a world she never imagined. She’s also spending time in the company of a fellow dreamer, someone who sees her as strong and brave and makes her laugh. But it’s when Hannah shows Katie’s drawings to a gallery owner that she truly finds herself at a crossroads between the only life she’s ever known and the powerful lure of an unfamiliar future.

Laura: When I sat down to write this post, I thought it would be about my transition from cozy mysteries to women’s fiction. After all, if one of my fellow cozy authors suddenly veered in a completely different direction, I’d be curious as to why/how.

But there’s another story tied to this whole transition that seems a better fit for Wicked Cozy Authors, a blog founded on (and run by) women who epitomize what it means to be true, supportive friends. Because just as Katie Beiler, the main character in Portrait of a Sister, is essentially nudged into discovering who she is/what she wants in life, Portrait of a Sister’s release this week is, in part, due to someone who nudged me.

First though, a little backstory (it’s a blog, not a book, right?)…

Of the thirty books I’ve written prior to Portrait of a Sisters release, twenty-six of them were essentially cozy mysteries. I love the small town, regular “jane” protagonist aspect of the genre for its relatability. The whodunit part was always fun to write, but the characters and their lives spoke to me most. Readers who took the time to write me notes about my books over the years, always commented about my characters, letting me know that what I felt while writing my mysteries, was the same thing my readers were receiving. And just like they wanted to know more about certain characters, so did I.

I think that’s when I really started thinking about women’s fiction. After all, I loved reading women’s fiction for the same reason I wanted to write it. Unfortunately, breaking into a completely different genre isn’t always easy. So after playing around with an idea or two, I put the whole women’s fiction idea on the back burner in favor of my contracted (read: paying) mysteries.

Or so I thought.

Sure enough, while writing the fifth book in my Amish Mysteries (in particular the pivotal character of Detective Jakob Fisher), I knew I could no longer ignore the urge.

Quick side note of explanation:  Detective Jakob Fisher was raised/baptized Amish and opted to leave to pursue law enforcement, thus severing all ties to his family. I explore his heartache to a degree in my mysteries, but I’ve always been fascinated by it on a different level.

 My fascination with his choice claimed its own corner of my brain, birthing a completely different character and her twin sister—characters that spoke to me at all hours of the day and night.

And then tragedy struck my household and everything turned upside down. My thoughts…my worries…my every brain cell was focused on my children. When a quiet moment presented itself, I was working on a deadline book, but really, I was drowning. Once in a while I could see the shoreline, but it was in someone else’s world, not mine.

Until the day I talked to Joe, that is. Joe is one of the truest, most genuine people I’ve ever known, and he is the complete definition of the word “friend.”  He knew what was going on, he listened, he spoke, he wiped my tears from 1200 miles away, and when I told him I felt as if I was drowning, he threw out a three-part life raft:

  • He worked out a word count schedule for me to follow to hit the two back-to-back deadlines. This sounds like a no-brainer, and it’s something I do with most of my books, but I was unable to think of anything during this time. His doing it for me helped. He broke it down into manageable chunks at a time everything seemed too big.
  • He encouraged me to take two weeks for myself before moving on to the third deadline. He said I needed to do something for me.
  • When all my deadlines were met, he said I needed to step away from the computer and live.

Thanks to his schedule and his support, I made the two back-to-backers. And his third suggestion? About the big break when all my deadlines were met? I took the entire summer off in 2017 (heaven, I tell you).

But it was that second suggestion that had me writing the proposal for Portrait of a Sister. Literally five days after I started, I sent the eight chapter/full synopsis proposal to my agent. No more than three hours later, she was on the phone with me, the emotion in her voice letting me know I’d hit the right note. By the end of that week, the proposal was sent to a handful of publishers and a bidding war of sorts began.

Yes, I wrote Portrait of a Sister.

And yes, it was a passion project in every sense of the word.

But it being out this week? That’s because of Joe. Because of his nudge. Because he knew I was drowning and he held out his hand.

That’s what friends do. ~Laura

P.S. A huge thank you to the Wickeds for inviting me to be here today, and for being living, breathing examples of the reality that no one person’s boat has to sink in order for someone else’s to float.

P.P.S.   Portrait of a Sister is now available in trade paperback and e-book. It is a “summer book club” pick for Mary Janes Farm Magazine and Southern Lady Magazine.  To learn more about the book, visit my website:  https://www.laurabradford.com/ , and hang out with me on my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/laurabradfordauthor/

Readers: Have you had a friend step in and help you?

Bio: Laura is the national bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Amish Mysteries, the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries, and the Tobi Tobias Mystery Series. Portrait of a Sister is her first women’s fiction novel. ​ A former Agatha Award nominee and recipient of an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Laura enjoys making memories with her family, baking, and being an advocate for those living with Multiple Sclerosis.

The Night of the Flood

The winner of The Night of the Flood is Mark Baker! Look for an email from me!

I fell in love, first with the concept of The Night of the Flood, and then the book when it came out in March. It’s interesting, unique, gripping, and in turn poignant and funny. I loved it so much I’m giving away a copy to one person who leaves a comment.

Alan Orloff, one of the contributors, interviews the two intrepid editors, E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen.

Alan Orloff: You two (Ed Aymar and Sarah M. Chen) should be commended, not only for the sterling end product, a buzz-generating novel-in-stories (THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD), but for surviving the task of editing/babysitting/torturing 14 thriller writers, all with mayhem on their minds. Let’s start at the beginning. Can you describe the genesis of this fascinating project?

E.A. Aymar: It was an idea originally proposed, in a different form, by J.J. Hensley. He, along with seven other writers in this book, regularly contributes to The Thrill Begins, and we had all become good friends and fans/supporters of each other’s work. He had the idea to do a joint collaboration on a project, and it morphed into THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD.

That said, J.J.’s a terrible person and we really don’t want his further association with this project. So Sarah and I kept his name off the cover, refused to give him credit, and you should probably just delete that preceding paragraph. Fine to keep this one, though. (Sherry here. For those of you who don’t know this crew — this is a joke and J.J. has a story in the book.)

Author Alan Orloff

AO: Getting fourteen writers all on the same page seems daunting. How did you manage it (without bloodshed or lawsuits)?

EA: Oh, we all weren’t on one page. That would have been a very short book. 

AO: Ha ha, that was a good one.

EA: Anyway, we had a very loose outline to which everyone adhered, and the stories were split hourly. Writers were free to borrow elements from each other’s work and occasionally did, and that worked well turning an anthology into a novel. We did take pains to avoid repetition, more in word choice than theme. For example, there were a lot of references to the town name (Everton) and “The Daughters,” the group of women who blow up the town’s dam and instigate the rioting that night. We made sure to space those out.

AO: Getting two editors on the same page seems daunting. How did you manage that? Can you describe your east coast/west coast working relationship? 

EA: First off, let me say that Sarah M. Chen is the best partner a co-editor can have. She’s thorough, funny, and razor smart. We paired up sort of incidentally, and she’s really an absolute dream to work with. And I don’t know how or why she puts up with my crap.

Regarding communications, we exploited all sorts of modern technology and went back and forth on texts, e-mails, vaped smoke signals, and (very rarely) phone calls. From ideas to editing to promotion, we ran stuff by each other and made sure we were on the same page. Safe to say that we’re both intensely proud of this book, and want to give it the best treatment possible.

AO: With fourteen different stories/writers, I imagine there were some significant continuity issues. How did you make sure the book flowed as a unified story?

Author E. A. Aymar

EA: I kind of addressed that earlier, but I’ll add something to that earlier point. Having good writers makes editing so much easier. Good writers tend to be inventive, and the contributors did a great job of ensuring continuity on their own. And then Sarah’s sharp eye caught discrepancies like the position of the moon or the changing height of the water.

We approached this idea as a group, so we all, essentially, began at the same starting point. That was a huge, and unforeseen, help in unifying the concept.

AO: Publishing a book is more than just writing words, doing a few revision passes, and shipping it off to the publisher (the wonderful Down & Out Books). After it’s complete, there’s the “other” stuff: promotion, marketing, sales, making book trailers, collecting awards, enforcing restraining orders against disgruntled authors. Can you describe some of those efforts?

Author Sarah M. Chen

Sarah M. Chen: It was a collaborative effort from everyone as we pooled our ideas together on different ways to market and promote. One of the benefits of working with such experienced writers is that I learned so much. Normally I just go through the usual social media channels, but there’s so much more than that. Like the UrbanaAMA app. Ed and I answered questions about editing / writing an anthology via video and it was a blast. I’d never had a book trailer done before and thanks to Ed, we had our very own cool book trailer. I want to say that Ed was really good at organizing our promo efforts, generating ideas, and just getting us psyched about our little project. He was a great cheerleader. Other contributors promoted the book through their respective newsletters and did things like scavenger hunts. And I don’t want to forget Down & Out’s efforts. They did an incredible job sending out review copies to everyone, including Publisher’s Weekly, Foreword Reviews (they even made FLOOD a Book of the Day!), and Crimespree. D&O provided us with some awesome promo graphics to spread all over social media.

AO: What has been the response to THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD within the crime-fiction community, from both writers and readers?

 SMC: It’s been amazingly positive so far and I’m grateful for every single review. The blurbs we received early on blew me away as well. (AO adds: From Lee Child – “A brave concept brilliantly executed.)

AO: A second book with a similar multiple-author novel-in-stories concept, THE MORNING OF THE KILLERS, is on the drawing board. A brief description, please? What lessons learned from FLOOD will you apply as you plan, edit, and promote it?

SMC: It’s a novel-in-stories so it’s similar in concept but it’s not a sequel. Contributors can use their FLOOD characters though if they’d like. We haven’t officially announced it and we’re still hashing it out but it involves a crime boss, infidelity, and bounty hunters. I’m really excited to be working with the same writers as well as new ones. And of course, co-editing with Ed again is a bonus. He really knows how to rally all of us together and spearhead a lot of the promotional efforts. I’m telling you, he’s our cheerleader.

 We have more writers involved in this project, so Ed and I are cobbling together a loose outline after all of us agreed on the basic premise. From there, all the contributors will bounce ideas off each other and flesh out the storyline even further. Chris (Rhatigan) is a fantastic editor and we’re excited to be working with D&O again on this project. A perk working with so many writers is that there’s a good chance I’ll learn of some new platforms and ideas on promotion as I did with FLOOD.

AO: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

 EA: The first half of this year has been all about THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, chiefly in regards to promotions. I have a standalone coming out from Down and Out Books in March 2019, called THE UNREPENTANT, and Sarah and I are going back and forth on THE MORNING OF THE KILLERS. We haven’t officially announced it as of this writing, but Down and Out likes the concept and we’re set for a 2020 publishing date (with many of the same contributors as THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, along with some new faces). And I have an essay coming out in the second UNLOADED anthology this July. And…oh, I guess that’s it.

SMC: I have a few short stories that are set to be released in upcoming anthologies, including MURDER A GO-GOS, edited by Holly West and released by Down & Out Books. All stories are inspired by song titles of The Go-Go’s. This is one I’m extremely proud to be a part of. All proceeds are to go to Planned Parenthood.

AO: Thanks for a great interview, Sarah and Ed, and stay dry!

Readers: Do you have a favorite theme (or hook) for a book or anthology?

Bios

Sarah M. Chen has published crime fiction short stories with Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, and Betty Fedora, to name a few. Cleaning Up Finn, her noir novella with All Due Respect Books, was an Anthony finalist and IPPY award winner. For more info, visit sarahmchen.com

In addition to The Night of the Flood, E.A. Aymar writes a monthly column for the Washington Independent Review of Books and is the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, ITW’s online resource for aspiring and debut thriller writers. He also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide. He has never won an award, so let’s get on that. For more info, visit eaymar.com

Alan Orloff has been a finalist for the Agatha and Derringer Awards. His eighth novel, Pray for the Innocent, came out earlier this year. He’s published numerous short stories, including “Rule Number One,” which was selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2018 anthology edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler. For more info, visit alanorloff.com

About THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD

“Each of the 14 varied and fitfully amusing stories in this solid anthology takes as its starting point the destruction of a dam and the subsequent flooding of Everton, PA. Aymar and Chen deserve kudos for putting together a distinctive anthology.” —Publishers Weekly

It happened the night Maggie Wilbourne was to be put to death, the first woman executed by the state of Pennsylvania in modern times. That was when a group of women passionately protesting Maggie’s imprisonment struck. They blew up a local dam, flooding the town of Everton and indirectly inspiring a hellish night of crime and chaos.

Fourteen of today’s most exciting contemporary crime writers will take you to the fictional town of Everton, with stories from criminals, cops, and civilians that explore the thin line between the rich and the poor, the insider and the outsider, the innocent and the guilty. Whether it’s a store owner grimly protecting his property from looters, an opportunistic servant who sees her time to strike, or two misguided youths taking their anger out against any available victim, The Night of the Flood is an intricate and intimate examination of the moment when chaos is released—in both society and the human spirit.

Contributors: E.A. Aymar, Rob Brunet, Sarah M. Chen, Angel Luis Colón, Hilary Davidson, Mark Edwards, Gwen Florio, Elizabeth Heiter, J.J. Hensley, Jennifer Hillier, Shannon Kirk, Jenny Milchman, Alan Orloff, and Wendy Tyson.

Praise for THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD:

“Plenty of complex characters and hard edges. Take a breath, then hang on and enjoy this entertaining romp.” —Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

“Bravo to all the authors who contributed to The Night of the Flood, a collection of brilliant short stories about residents of the dysfunctional town of Everton who are thrust into the turbulence of decisions that will forever change who they thought they were. A stormy page-turner that will leave you wanting more.” —Sandra Brannan, author of the award-winning Liv Bergen Mystery Series

“A brilliant, multi-leveled concept, Faulknerian in its structure. A novel in stories. Wow. Fourteen exciting crime writers create a rare three-dimensional mosaic of a doomed town and the night hell flooded through it. Terrifically exciting. Wonderfully inventive.” —David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder As a Fine Art

“A brave concept brilliantly executed.” —Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher Series

“An impressive collection of stories from some of the most talented writers working in the crime genre today.” —BOLO Books Review