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.

The Detective’s Daughter — Page to Screen

Kim in Baltimore enjoying the air conditioning and a cool glass of watermelon lemonade.

 

I’m going to do a dangerous thing. I’m going to read a book and then see the movie! What’s that you say? Don’t do it? I know, I know! I set myself up this way every time. Although most novels make a disappointing show on the big screen, a few have managed to capture the essence of the author’s story. I loved Practical Magic, the fabulous book by Alice Hoffman turned into an equally fabulous (in my opinion) movie starring Aiden Quinn. I  think Sandra Bullock was in it, too, but who knows once Aiden Quinn hits the screen! To Kill A Mockingbird and Gone With The Wind are two of my other favorites.

People are passionate over the books they love and are not forgiving when Hollywood botches up a story the reader holds dear. I am a great fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I was thrilled when I learned Ms. Evanovich modeled her character after Sandra Bullock. That was exactly who I saw as I read each novel. When there was talk of One For The Money being filmed, I was overjoyed. That fizzled fast enough when word spread that Katherine Heigl – not Sandra Bullock – was to play the lead role. I gave it a chance anyway. Who wouldn’t want to see Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur? I was sorely disappointed.

This time will be different, though, I’m sure of it. While sitting in The Charles Theatre taking part in their weekly revival series, I saw the coming attractions for My Cousin Rachel starring Rachel Weisz. It looked good enough that I felt I’d be willing to pay for a full price movie ticket. I had read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca several times and had seen the 1940 movie as well, but I’d never read My Cousin Rachel. I made haste to my local library and borrowed a copy. I was only halfway through the novel when I realized the movie was showing at my beloved Charles Theater. I was truly torn about going before I’d completed the book, but didn’t want to miss it’s run at my favorite movie house.

Just as in every great novel, my life had a major plot twist before I could make it to the cinema. My husband ended up having heart surgery on the very day we had planned to see the movie. He recovered at an amazing speed, but we have yet to see the film. I might need to wait until it’s on Netflix at this rate.

The book kept me company over these past weeks and the story now is as close to me as a dear friend. I’m counting on Rachel Weisz not to disappoint me.

 

Readers: What books do you think were turned into enjoyable movies? Which ones should have stayed on the pages?

Cover Reveal — Guest Debra Sennefelder

We are delight to welcome back Debra Sennefelder and share the cover of her debut book The Uninvited Corpse! It’s available for pre-order here. It comes out March 27, 2018 from Kensington Publishing.

Thank you Wicked Cozy Authors for inviting me to reveal the cover of my debut novel, The Uninvited Corpse. I’m beyond thrilled to here today and I’m so excited to have the cover my book. It’s truly a dream come true.

Here is the back cover copy for  the first book in the Food Blogger Mystery series: Leaving behind a failed career as a magazine editor and an embarrassing stint on a reality baking show, newly divorced lifestyle entrepreneur Hope Early thought things were finally on the upswing–until she comes face-to-face with a murderer . . .

Hope’s schedule is already jam packed with recipe testing and shameless plugs for her food blog as she rushes off to attend a spring garden tour in the charming town of Jefferson, Connecticut. Unfortunately, it isn’t the perfectly arranged potted plants that grab her attention–it’s the bloody body of reviled real estate agent Peaches McCoy . . .

One of the tour guests committed murder, and all eyes are on Hope’s younger sister, Claire Dixon–who, at best, saw Peaches as a professional rival. And suspicions really heat up when another murder occurs the following night. Now, with two messy murders shaking Jefferson and all evidence pointing to Claire, Hope must set aside her burgeoning brand to prove her sister’s innocence. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer intent on making sure her life goes permanently out of style . . .

I had a blast writing The Uninvited Corpse. For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be an author. I had visions of spending my days writing scenes, chapters and hitting bestseller lists. Silly childhood dreams, right? I discovered mysteries beyond Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, cozies in particular when I found the Miss Marple books. I was hooked.

Fast forward a few more years and I was browsing in the local bookstore of my new hometown after I married and I found the Faith Fairchild mystery series by Katherine Hall Page. Once I read The Body in The Belfry I knew what I wanted to write. Then I discovered Valerie Wolzien, Diane Mott Davidson, Claudia Bishop and so many other wonderful writers. Then life happened and I stepped away from fiction writing. I eventually started a food blog, The Cookbook Diva. In that space I was in control of everything – content, schedule, promotion. No one was editing me. No one was rejecting my work. I loved it. I enjoyed sharing my recipes, I enjoyed the blogger community and I really enjoyed spending time in my kitchen. But over time I felt that tug of something that was missing. What was missing was fiction writing. When I really thought about it I couldn’t see myself in ten years from then still writing a food blog but I could see myself as an author.

One weekend I decided to pull out my idea file (writers usually have thick folders of ideas for books) and I started thinking up plots and characters. I slowly got back into the writing community, found my critique partner, mystery author Ellie Ashe, and set forth to write a novel. I knew my amateur sleuth would be involved with food somehow. I considered several options and the one that seemed the best fit was food blogger. I had experience with that world and it was something different for the cozy world. Once I was well into the first draft of The Uninvited Corpse I made the decision to shut down my food blog and focus entirely on fiction writing. I’m so glad I did because I’m exactly where I should be writing novels.

Thank you for sharing my cover reveal with me today!

Readers: What is your favorite thing about culinary mysteries? Or what is your favorite thing about finding a new series?

 

 

Repurposing

By Sherry — how is it already July?

One of my favorite things to do is take something old that I’ve found at a garage sale or antique store and do something different with it. So it’s no surprise that Sarah Winston from my books does the same thing. It also made me think about repurposing life experiences for books — more on that in a bit. Here are some things that I’ve found a new purpose for:

I love old utensils with wooden handles, but only buy them if I can think of a way I would use them. I thought these dough blenders would be great for holding vintage postcards or photos. When I posted a picture of them on Facebook, Edith said they’d also be great for holding recipes.

I found a wooden trivet at a garage sale but thought it would look pretty on the wall.

When we lived in Monterey I found a little bookcase at an antique store in Santa Cruz. It first housed my collection of cobalt glass but now holds my collection of vintage tablecloths.

I found this old wooden box at a garage sale and fell in love with it. It might be from a library but I use it to store bookmarks and business cards.

This Victorian breakfast tray was at a show called The Big Flea. With the help of a couple of books it became a tiny end table.

I found a piece of vintage fabric at an antique store in Fort Walton Beach Florida. It wasn’t very big but my mom lined it and made it into valances for me.They hang in my office.

This old trunk was in my grandparent’s basement. My sister restored it and gave it to me. It now houses cds and albums.

I spotted this old cranberry scoop at an antique store in Annapolis. It now holds the newspaper.

It’s so much fun to do this and I realized I do that a lot in my writing too. One example is the opening and part of the plot from Tagged For Death the first book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. I was sitting in an airport a few years ago and a guy was pacing around near where I was sitting while he talked on the phone. I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation and thought some day I’m going to use that. I also used a crime that occurred when we were stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in the plot of The Longest Yard Sale. There are so many ways to draw from life experiences and repurpose them in writing.

Readers: What have your repurposed in your life?

 

Fun, Facts, and a Few Dead Bodies by guest Patti Phillips

I love Patti Phillips’ Kerrian’s Notebook and was curious about how and why Patti started it. Thank you Pattie for joining us today and filling us in!

Www.kerriansnotebook.com began over five years ago as a marketing tool for a novel featuring Homicide Detective Charlie Kerrian and his wife, Sheila. The idea was to introduce the public to the characters via the website before publication, and get the readership so involved that they would buy the book by the thousands. The original book was never published, but the characters became so popular that the readership responded warmly (and I might add with more than a little glee) to Kerrian looking for bodies everywhere and/or ways to kill people (on the page of course).

 

How many places can you find bodies? Apparently around every corner and under every bush. And that’s just for starters. The enthusiastic readers have been happy to suggest many ways that people can wind up very dead.

Take a look at “100 ways to die an unnatural death.” Wicked Cozy author, Edith Maxwell, contributed to that list with ‘cyanide salts in an almond cake.’ Wicked, indeed.

I love to cook, and it seemed logical to include recipes on the website. Charlie enjoys the same kind of food that my family does, so what you see on the recipe list are some of our favorite dishes. On the site, they are almost always cooked by Sheila and taste-tested by Charlie. In actuality, all are created and photographed by me. The exceptions are two guest posts by Canadian writer, Cynthia St-Pierre (co-author of The Vegetarian Detective series) and one from Chin Bawambi, an uber sports fan and foodie. Cynthia contributed a recipe for brownies and for Mediterranean Potato Salad. Chin contributed Jalapeno Peach Chicken. Please note: Nobody has ever died while eating at any of our houses.

Where do I get my ideas? Kerrian’s Notebook is loosely based upon my own life. If I attend law enforcement, gun safety, or self-defense etc. courses, I take photos and tell the world about the experiences. The family trips to Civil War battlegrounds pay homage to the men and women that fought to keep us free. The facts are double-checked by experts in the various fields and many writers use the details from my articles in their own work.

My golfing stories are light-hearted, but bodies have been known to pop up. Along with the occasional snake.

The stories are personal, the facts are real, even if the Kerrians are fictional.

When the deck guy tore down the old deck top, Kerrian asked if there was a body buried under it and showed photos. When a mouse was seen in the kitchen in the dead of night, Sheila shrieked, an exterminator arrived and the resulting article discussed why rat poison works.

 

From its gentler beginnings of looking for bodies under the floorboards, the website has evolved to include true crime and detailed information about first responders and law enforcement agencies.

 

A connection with Texas and the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, resulted in a series of three articles about the Texas Rangers. Every day, that series is ranked by Google in the top 10 for articles about the Rangers. I cover what they do, how to become one, and relate stories told by a real Texas Ranger I met while I lived in Texas. I could have listened to that Ranger and his wife for days. What a career he/they had!

The fans love The Visiting Detectives series. Guest writers can showcase their fictional detectives during a chat with Charlie and Sheila. We’ve had a time-traveling Sheriff, a psychic investigator, a newspaper publisher, and the vegetarian. The articles and characters couldn’t be more different, and always have links to the projects the writers like to feature. If you know anyone who would like to be a Visiting Detective, contact me (oops, Charlie & Sheila).  J

I knew that my second book would heavily feature fire, so discussions with a firefighter friend led to attending the Writers’ Police Academy where I concentrated on the firefighter strand of classes. Unhappily, around the time of the conference, a civilian friend of mine, along with 1500 other families, lost her house to a wildfire. The information gleaned at WPA became much more personal and focused what happened to her on the why and the how the fire moved so quickly through the tall evergreens. High summer temperatures in that part of Texas only added to the tragedy. Two of the articles appeared in my collection of short stories, “Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 1” on Amazon.

Those articles led to others – how to become a firefighter; what a firefighter wears in order to stay safe, and sadly, immediately following a week-long course on Crime Scene Photography, the actual post-fire scene of my grandfather’s former house.

Firefighters have a dangerous job. It’s not just a matter of running into a house and grabbing someone from the closet and running back out again. There is zero visibility and the smoke fills the lungs and competes with life giving oxygen that humans should be breathing. In an active fire, firefighters have under five minutes to get in and get out. As we learned at WPA, a room can be fully engulfed in a minute and a half. 90 seconds, folks.

One of the regular readers (and fellow author) has requested that I do an article describing the types of fire trucks used while fighting a fire. Since I always take photos during the research, I think he really just wants to see fire trucks. J  That article will be coming soon.

Kerrian looks for bodies everywhere, but Patti has never found one anywhere on her property or at any friend’s house. She hasn’t checked out the ditch in the new rock slope, though. Hmmm…

Future stories?

“How many cherries will kill you?”

“Krav Maga – self-defense for the real world.”

“Fire trucks”

and many more. Join Patti & the Kerrians at www.kerriansnotebook.com for fun, for facts, and a few dead bodies.

Patti Phillips is a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina.

Her best investigative days are spent writing, attending The Writers’ Police Academy, cooking, traveling for research, and playing golf. Her time on the golf course has been murderously valuable while creating the perfect alibi for the chief villain in her novel, One Sweet Motion. Did you know that there are spots on a golf course that can’t be accessed by listening devices?

Ms. Phillips (writing as Detective Charlie Kerrian) can be found at www.kerriansnotebook.com. Her book reviews can be read at www.nightstandbookreviews.com

Thinking about Thinking Scenes

By Sherry — I’m enjoying a cool day before the heat hits again

I confess my WIP (work in progress) is a bit of a mess. No, it is a mess. It’s due in to my freelance editor, Barb Goffman, on Sunday. Even scarier it’s due to my Kensington editor on August first. It’s the sixth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. I’ve been thinking (maybe overthinking) a lot about writing which may be part of the reason for the mess. I recently wrote about trying to improve my writing. You can find that blog post here.

Part of my problem is I had a deep emotional connection to A Good Day To Buy (number four in the series). Number five, I Know What You Bid Last Summer, felt a bit lighter to me. It has a lot of crazy, complex relationships that can occur in small towns where people sometimes know each other to well or think they do. And I love the subplots – I had so much fun writing them. Book five also answers some questions readers have been wondering about. But after A Good Day, it didn’t seem to have the same depth to me. Maybe I’m crazy saying all of this out loud. Maybe I’m tilting the reader pool to not like the book. So don’t get me wrong, I like the book, I just had a different emotional connection to it.

That brings me back to my WIP. I was having the same problem of connecting with the manuscript on an emotional level. Then combine that with some obsessive thinking about writing  and it wasn’t pretty. One of the things that’s been on my mind is black moments and I wrote a recent blog about that for Miss Demeanors. You can read it here.

I moved on from worrying about black moments to worrying about what I call “thinking scenes”. (I feel like these scenes are different than inner dialogue, although inner dialogue can be part of thinking scenes.) Then another thought struck me — aren’t thinking scenes the opposite of show don’t tell? Ugh. In a mystery it is almost unavoidable to not have the protagonist trying to put the pieces of a mystery together. So then I started pondering ways to do that.

A protagonist thinking…

One way is to have your character sitting on the couch, driving down the road, or walking some place thinking about what they know and what connections there might be.

Another, that I often see in mysteries, is having your character involved in some activity while they are trying to piece the puzzle of who dunnit together. For example Sarah could be refinishing a piece of furniture as she thinks about a murder.

Writing all this makes me realize why sidekicks are so popular. The sidekick allows the protagonist to talk it out. The sidekick can point out flaws in the protagonist’s logic or point something out that sends the protagonist in a new direction. They could also cause the protagonist to doubt themselves.

I’ve used all three in different ways in different books. There are probably a gazillion other ways to handle thinking scenes, but these three seem to be the most common. And maybe the best solution is to weave the clues together so well that the protagonist doesn’t have to have a thinking scene and only needs an “aha” moment.

Back to my messy WIP. The good news is two days ago I came up with a subplot that speaks to me on an emotional level. Now I’m working hard to weave it in as an intricate part of the story. Wish me luck!

Readers: Do you like scenes where the protagonist is putting the pieces together? Writers: Do you have a way you like to handle these kind of scenes?

 

 

Welcome Guest Julie Mulhern!

I’m so delighted to welcome Julie Mulhern to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Julie is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Watching The Detectives, in her Country Club Murders series. This fun series is set in the 1970s and if you aren’t friends with her on Facebook you should be her posts of 70s ads are a hoot. I’m never quite sure whether to laugh or cringe. Julie is giving an ebook of the first in the series The Deep End to one of our commenters! Welcome, Julie!

I remember the first time.

My hands shook.

Tears filled my eyes.

My heart seemed too big for my chest.

The first time. It was pure magic.

The fifth time was no less magical.

I’m talking about the arrival of books on my front porch. My books. Delivered by UPS in a brown cardboard box that barely contains the happiness within.

In the past two-and-a-half years, five of Ellison Russell’s adventures have made it into the world.

Five Country Club Murders.

Five release days.

When The Deep End released, I waited for a confetti cannon to go off, showering me with glitter, confetti, and massive sales.

I don’t wait for that cannon anymore. If I want confetti or glitter (frankly I’m not big on either—it gets in the carpets and I have to vacuum), I need to provide them myself.

This release day, I was a guest on a Kansas City morning show (much more fun than waiting for non-existent cannons) then I went out to lunch with my oldest daughter, visited with some of my favorite readers on social media, and went out for wine with a friend then dinner with my husband.

Did I leave out the part about checking my numbers on an hourly basis? Oops!

I did that too. Because sales matter.

Most cozy readers know about the discontinuation of beloved series. It’s painful. For devoted readers. For the publisher who wields the axe. And—most of all—for the writer.

Sales matter. Maybe not to the reader, but I can guarantee the publisher and the writer care. A lot.

Thank heavens, writers aren’t like used car salesmen. We don’t corner readers, put our books into their hands, and tell them they’ll regret it if they don’t buy. We might want to. We don’t. Except that one…never mind.

I am so thrilled to be with the Wicked Cozy Authors today. I have purchased and loved books by each of them. I buy their books new. From Amazon or Barnes & Noble or my local bookstore. I hope you have too.

Because sales matter.

Readers: Do you have a favorite fashion memory from the 70’s?

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

 

 

Welcome Back Cindy Brown — A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Congratulations, Avis! you won an ebook! Cindy will be in touch!

I hope you all have the chance to meet Cindy in person some day. Her smile lights up any room she’s in. Here is are three things that inspired some of Cindy’s latest book Ivy Get Your Gun! Cindy is going to give away an ebook to one person who leaves a comment. Thanks, Cindy!

A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Ivy Get Your Gun may be fiction, but three real-life events inspired the book. The first two were news events in Arizona. When my mom sent me the following clipping, I knew I had the opening to my new book:

Actor Shot During Tombstone, Arizona, ‘Old West’ Gunfight Re-enactment Play

An “Old West” gunfight re-enactment in Arizona ended with real casualties                          Sunday when one of the actors fired five live rounds from his gun instead of                        blanks, injuring another actor and a bystander.

Yep, Ivy’s going undercover at Gold Bug Gulch, a Western theme town a little like Tombstone. She’s also been hired to solve a problem inspired by the following real-life incident:

Stray Chihuahuas Terrorize Arizona Town, Chase Children, Run Wild

Ay, Chihuahua! An Arizona town is overrun with tiny pooches that are terrorizing children    and defecating anywhere they want — and animal control officials can’t get a leash on the problem.  Large packs of the small dogs in Maryvale chase children as they head off to school, and the number of strays has swelled beyond control, officials and residents said.

The third incident was not nearly as dramatic, but a lot closer to home. Ivy is a part-time detective and an actor, so her escapades take place in the theater. In Ivy Get Your Gun, she performs in a melodrama at Gold Bug Gulch, but I also wanted a connection with the show Annie Get Your Gun. I had a difficult time getting hold of the script and the video, so I began by researching Annie Oakley. I’d always been a fan, but I had no idea what a truly amazing woman she was.

She survived a nightmare childhood to single-handedly raise her family out of poverty (when she was still a young teen) and then went on to become the most famous woman in the world, all while maintaining an uncommon degree of integrity. I was smitten. Finally, I received the script in the mail (had to order it off eBay from New Zealand), and was able to get the movie from the library, and…wow. All I had remembered was the wonderful music and some cowboy-type shenanigans. I didn’t remember how stupid they made her look or the makeover she had to endure, and I certainly didn’t know they had changed the real-life ending of Annie’s shooting match with Frank Butler, making her lose on purpose so that she wouldn’t upstage her man. UGH.

But what to do now?  I had the rest of the book in my head and a lot of it on paper. I decided to have Ivy channel me. In addition to acting in the melodrama, she’s auditioning for Annie Get Your Gun. Like me, she has a tough time finding the script in the video and researches Annie Oakley while she waits.  And when she sees what they did to Annie’s legacy, she gets as ticked off as I did and decides to do something about it.

I love how these three real events melded into the book: the gunfight became the mystery, the Chihuahuas became the comic relief, and Annie Oakley became the soul of the book. I hope I did her proud.

Readers: What strong woman do you admire?

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Agatha-nominated Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Cindy and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

She’d love to connect with readers at cindybrownwriter.com (where they can sign up for her Slightly Silly Newsletter) or on Facebook or Twitter.