Wicked Wednesday: Santa Claus Stories

purringFriends, we are still celebrating Liz Mugavero’s Purring Around The Christmas Tree release. A reminder about what the book is about:

To the townspeople’s delight, the annual lighting of the tree is a spectacular success. Unfortunately, Santa pulled up in his sleigh, DOA. At first Stan is sure it’s Seamus, her boyfriend’s uncle, inside the red suit. But the victim turns out to be an employee from the town’s Christmas tree farm. Rumor has it the deceased was a mean drunk with a soft spot for feral cats. Stan has no idea why he was dressed as St. Nick—or why he’s dead.

Meanwhile, Seamus, a jolly Irishman who comes to America every December to visit his pub-owner nephew, is nowhere to be found. Could he just be off on a Boston bar crawl? Or is something more sinister under the tree? Seamus was supposed to be dressing up and posing for pet pictures with Santa at the shop, but the dogs and cats might have to find another lap to curl up in if Stan doesn’t solve two mysteries soon. Or murder might be the only thing under the mistletoe this holiday . . .

The question this week–Wickeds, do you have a Santa Claus story you want to share?

Jessie: Huzzah, Liz! When I was a small child my mother would read me the story The Jolly Christmas at the Patterprints every year on Christmas Eve. It was the story of a family of mice who end up with Santa dropping into their cauldron of soup hanging over the fire. Quite the kerfuffle ensues. I now read it to my own children every Christmas Eve.

Edith: Congratulations, Liz! I can’t wait to read this new installment. When I was growing up we always read the old standard “Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve, and I continued that tradition with my sons. The poem has so many perplexing words and concepts for a child. “Threw up the sash” always made me feel a little queasy, as if Santa had eaten the sash to a dress and then vomited. And for years I thought he put a finger INside his nose – not a foreign concept at all to kids. Here are my sons (at 11 and 14) getting almost too old for the tradition.

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Sherry: Yay, Liz another new book! When my daughter was in second grade we were stationed in Florida and my husband traveled a lot. There was a movie on the Disney Channel that Elizabeth and I had watched about the tooth fairy. One night after I put her to bed, I sat in the family room reading. Elizabeth came out, put her hands on her hips, and said, “Tell me the truth is there a tooth fairy?” I told her no there wasn’t. She lectured me about lying and stomped back off to bed. A few minutes later she repeats the process, but this time asks about the Easter Bunny. Another lecture, more stomping. I sat there dreading what might come next, wondering why Bob was never home for these things. Sure enough Elizabeth comes back out, places her hands on her hips, and glares at me. “I don’t even want to know about Santa Claus,” she announced. Then she twirled around and went back to bed.

Barb: Congratulations, Liz. I LOVE your cover and can’t wait to read this new addition to the Pawsitively Organic Pet Food Mysteries. I love Christmas, and pretty much everything around it. My husband’s father’s family has a party every year on the Sunday closest to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Santa comes and gives each kid a small gift to tide them over to the big day. I loved this tradition when my kids were small, and my granddaughter has participated the last few years. (With, I admit, mixed results.)

Julie: First off, HUGE congratulations Liz!! So happy for you!! When I was growing up, my father always took us shopping and out to lunch one day around Christmas, likely to give my mother some time to catch up with the holiday. One year, when we were really little we went to meet Santa. This Santa was tiny, thin, and had horn rimmed glasses. We would have nothing to do with him, insisted that this was NOT Sand, and my sister started weeping. So my father, who was always quick with a story, told us that we were right. It wasn’t Santa. It was too close to Christmas, so he sent two elves down to stand in for him. There were actually two elves in the suit. WHEW. Childhood memories were saved.

Liz: I love these stories! Thanks so much for sharing them, guys! And for celebrating my release with me! xo

How about you, dear readers? Any Santa stories you want to share?Save

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The End is the Beginning

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Jessie: In New Hampshire, where she is sorry to say the leaves are starting to color up.

Today is the launch of my sixth book. To be honest, I am still not sure how I got here. It really does seem like just yesterday that I was sitting at the breakfast bar in my kitchen with tears streaming down my face, staring at the words “The End” typed on my laptop computer screen. But it wasn’t yesterday, it was sometime in January of 2008 and the book in question was my first one, Live Free or Die. And it wasn’t really the end. In fact, it was the beginning.

I hadn’t truly understood how much writing mattered to me until I burst into tears as I realised I was not going to be one of those people who had always wanted to write a book. I had become someone who had gone ahead and done so. I still cannot believe I wrote that one and haven’t quite believed my eyes whenever I’ve seen the words “The End” in front of me all the times that followed.

Since then, more books have reached the end and more bouts of weepiness have ensued. Every book has been a pleasure in its own way, including this second Change of Fortune mystery. I hope many of you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. But even more, I hope each of you will find a satisfying ending of your own that turns out to be a delightful new beginning as well!

Readers,  have you ever reached an end that was a beginning? In order to celebrate the release of Whispers of Warning I will give away a copy to one commenter! 

 

 

Turning Five

Edith here, luxuriating in the rebirth of life (finally!) north of Boston – salad greens, flowering shrubs, fresh eggs, book ideas, and so much more. Make sure you read to the end for a special giveaway.

Mulch Ado About Murder releases today! I am delighted that the Local Foods Mysteries has continued through book five. I originally conceived of organic farmer Cameron Flaherty way, way back in 1994. At the time I operated and co-owned the smallest certified organic farm in my county tucked away up here in the northeast corner of Massachusetts.

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When A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die finally came out in 2013, it introduced Cam, her great-uncle Albert, the town of Westbury, and the cast of regular characters who have kept Cam company throughout the series. The book opens on June 1, the first day her CSA customers are coming to pick up their shares of the produce she harvested that morning: herbs, greens, asparagus, and more.

A Tine To Live A Tine To Die PB COVER

In Tine we meet the cast of continuing characters: Lucinda, the devoted Brazilian locavore. Felicity, a committed volunteer with a long gray braid and an infallibly cheery manner. Albert, of course, who gave Cam his farm. A younger volunteer, Alexandra, and the even younger girl scout Ellie who loves helping out. Plus State police detective Pete Pappas, who is back in every book but takes on an additional role in book two.

The books release once a year at the end of May, but book time is different. Til Dirt Do Us Part, the second book, takes place in early October.

Til Dirt do us Part Cover

One of Cam’s more difficult shareholders is murdered the day after a farm-to-table dinner and her stepson Bobby is wanted for questioning. Cam doesn’t think the hunky carpenter who rebuilt her barn is involved – but is he?

Farmed and Dangerous is the winter story, with a blizzard, someone murdered in Albert’s assisted living residence, Cam under suspicion because she provided the produce that was poisoned, and an apparent attack on Cam herself.

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I was delighted Cam’s farm cat Preston finally appeared on a cover. He’s our senior cat here at home and he deserves his moments of fame.

Book four, Murder Most Fowl, was a fun one. I got to set a couple of scenes in a New England town meeting very much like the one I used to attend in West Newbury, which Westbury is closed modeled on.

Murder Most Fowl

The wasn’t fun for the murdered poultry farmer, of course, but I loved that Cam acquired chicks, and I learned about foxes, too. I got the murder weapon from a talk the Poison Lady (Luci Zahray) gave, and the book just came out in paperback.

And now we’re up to Mulch Ado About Murderbook five, where Cam’s peripatetic parents come to visit. Both of them are immersed in a good deal of trouble, and Cam gets to know them more intimately. Over the course of the series Cam has grown to know herself better, too. This nerdy introvert, a former software engineer, had no idea when she acquired the farm that growing and selling food would involve hanging out with people, not just vegetables. What blossomed in her is a realization that she likes it.

The story takes place right now, so the series has come around the full cycle of the farming year. I decided to celebrate by throwing a fifth birthday party on June 1!

LOCAl Foods birthday party

Come on over to the Facebook event page between 6:30 and 9:30 PM eastern time. Twelve authors, including many of the Wickeds, are going to pop in every fifteen minutes and each will have a giveaway to a commenter during that period. I have a slew of items I’ll give away, too.

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And the grand prize is a signed set of all five books in hardcover. We’ll have virtual cake – carrot, of course – and bubbly, too.

But for today, let’s celebrate Mulched‘s release by me giving away one of my author aprons to a commenter here!

Wicked Wednesday-4th of July Memories

NEWS: Mary Lou H is the winner of Mulch Ado About Murder! Check your Inbox or Spam folder, Mary Lou. And congratulations!

called-to-justiceJessie, In NH, dreaming of warmer weather!

Edith’s latest release, Called to Justice, opens on Independence Day. Which got me thinking fondly of the 4th of July which happens to be one of my favorite holidays. So, Wickeds, do you have any special memories of our nation’s birthday?

Barb: I, too, love 4th of July. I love barbecues with friends and family, parades, and fireworks. I have many happy memories of 4th of Julys past, from childhood to last year. Our front porch in Boothbay Harbor offers a fantastic view of the town fireworks, which are set off over the water. For the last several years, both my kids, their spouses, and my granddaughter have been with us, which makes it extra special. I especially love that my granddaughter shares my love of fireworks.

Edith: When my sons were growing up we had a one-acre back yard. On the 4th of July we’d invite everyone we knew and fill up the place, sometimes with more than a hundred friends. Kids jumped on the trampoline or splashed in the kiddie pool. Adults played horseshoes and volleyball. We set African rugs around on the grass for lounging. People brought sides or desserts, we grilled meats, and a keg of beer flowed under the big shade tree. It was a splendid way to gather community for a relaxing celebration, although I don’t miss the work it took to pull it off!

Liz: When I was a kid, we used to have family cookouts for the 4th. It was a big deal to have lobsters. My grandfather loved them and he would devour every piece that he could, right down to the icky green stuff. It wasn’t my thing, but I’ll always remember how happy he was sitting at the picnic table eating his lobsters and watching us play on the swing set.

Jessie: There is a Fourth of July parade that goes right past my house every year. There are antique cars, kids on bikes decorated bikes and the town fire and rescue vehicles. It is organized by volunteers and has a very small-town, nostalgic feel to it. The parade route is so short that they often go around twice. Ahh, village life!

Sherry: One of my most interesting Fourth of July experiences is when we were flying from Miami to Boston on a flight that left at 8:00 pm and landed around 10:00. For almost the entire flight we could see fireworks displays from above. It was so beautiful and we even saw part of the Boston celebration.

Barb: Sherry–I had a similar experience one year on the ferry from Provincetown to Boston. It was wonderful!

Julie: I adore the 4th of July. I have a ton of fond memories, including one year at Old Orchard Beach.  But my favorite thing to do is to watch the Boston fireworks, whether from my house (I can see them through my living room windows) or down on the Esplanade, which is very crowded but stunning. My favorite time was when my friend Mary was in town on the tour of Mama Mia (she played Rosie), and they were going to sing at the Pops concert. Knowing how much I love the holiday, she invited me to be one of her special guests! It was beyond thrilling, and a memory I will treasure forever!

Readers: Do you have a favorite Fourth of July memory?

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Meeting Myself

Edith here, half high (no, not THAT kind of high…) and half exhausted north of Boston.

My eleventh mystery officially released on Saturday. Called to Justice is my second Quaker Midwife Mystery and I’m delighted by the reviews and cheers it has received so far. Any regular reader here knows that my tenth mystery came out only two weeks ago, and I was confronted with how to celebrate two books (under two names in two series from two publishers) at once.

So I held a double launch party at my fabulous local independent bookstore, Jabberywocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday night. To top off the celebration, I’ll give away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

From above

Owner Sue Little is super supportive of local authors and readers everywhere. When I mentioned I wanted to interview my alter ego Maddie Day  – and vice versa – she thought it was a great idea.

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With Sue Little

I found an Indiana cap, and brought my Quaker bonnet. I baked gingersnaps from the late 1800s (Fanny Farmer helped with the recipe) as well as Kahlua Brownies Robbie Jordan might serve in her country store restaurant (recipe in Flipped for Murder). I assembled a few door prizes. And I wrote up a number of questions for Maddie and me to ask each other.

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The audience kept building. I spied local writer pals, a bunch of Quakers, fans I’d met at previous library events, and more.

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Writers Connie Hambley, Mary Schaefer, Nancy Langmeyer, me, Laurie Mendoza, and Holly Robinson

My darling son JD helped dole out raffle tickets.

I’d started speaking when two Wicked Cozys slipped in – Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross, having battled traffic all the way up from the Boston area (we three slipped out for a drink and a late dinner afterwards, too).

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It was one of the more fun launch parties I’ve held. People seemed to like the alter egos talking to each other.

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After my script was done, I read a short first scene from each book, and then entertained lively audience questions.

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Afterwards? Wine, dessert, and signing books, of course.

And if anyone not local to north of Boston wants to order a signed copy of Called to Justice, please consider doing it via Jabberywocky! Just make sure to request a signed copy in the comments when you check out.mulch-ado-about-murder

Readers: Thanks to everybody for helping me celebrate! Which authors have you helped celebrate launches – or wished you had? Writers, favorite launch parties? Tips and downfalls? Remember, I’m giving away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

My Tenth

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith here, aka Maddie Day, on a glorious occasion – my tenth novel releases today!

I am delighted and happy about this third Country Store mystery, which is already garnering some pretty darn nice reviews. Dru’s Book Musings said, “Done to perfection…tightly woven mystery…cleverly placed clues…engaging dialogue…lovable cast of characters…the best book in this delightfully charming series.” From Kings River Life Magazine: “Intriguing plot will draw in even those who skim past tantalizing treats and elaborately depicted preparations. Yet who could resist those? This blend of academia and small-town secrets satisfies on so many levels.” And the fabulous cooking blog Cinnamon &Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder wrote, “Solid addition to a terrific series…nails both the [Midwestern] setting and the characters…well-plotted…suspenseful and exciting conclusion.” apronI’m grinning and  blushing at the same time.

To celebrate, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter! (US only.)

In a flourish of riches, my eleventh novel (Called to Justice) will be out April 8 and my twelfth (Mulch Ado About Murder) at the end of May. I just figured out that as of now, I am contracted through my twenty-first mystery, which will be Cozy Capers Book Group #3.

But I guess the tenth hitting bookstores and ereaders makes today a milestone book birthday, and it got me to thinkingEdieFifthgrade about other tenth milestones in my life.

My tenth birthday took place in the fall of my fifth grade year. I was a pretty goofy kid, always youngest and shortest in my class. A good student, but prone to getting up to mischief, and often bewailing the injustice of stuff the boys got to do that I wasn’t asked to (can you say Young Feminists of America?). Little Eva released “The Loco-Motion” that year, and I was in Girl Scouts. I don’t remember much else, frankly.

The tenth house I lived in was an apartment in a double triple-decker in Somerville, which might be unique to the Boston area. It’s a three-story apartment house which has two apartments on each floor. I had the bottom floor on the right, with the bow windows. 223SummerStreetWhen I lived there, eventually with my good friend Jennifer, the front part was open covered porches (now closed in). After our apartment was burgled in broad daylight when neither of us were home, we made the landlord install bars on the windows – and then found somewhere else to live.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was eight, but remarkably haven’t changed frames very often. I do believe my current model is my tenth pair! It’s possibly my favorite set of frames, too. After my second pair, which I wore into high school (until I transitioned to contacts for a few years), I have only worn wire rims of one kind or another. But two years ago I need new glasses. Everybody was getting bold dark frames, and I couldn’t quite stomach rectangular black specs. But when I saw these turquoisey-print glasses, I fell in love, and have been complimented on them regularly since.NewGlassesCrop

And I calculate that the quilt I finished this winter, which my dear mother designed and began for me but didn’t finish, is probably my tenth completed quilt. I started putting together quilts when I was in college, so I’m clearly not a regular in that hobby if I ‘m only up to ten, but I do love setting up the machine, laying out the components, and assembling them. Is there any more practical product than the beautiful cover you sleep under? (The pink border cloth and the backing are fabrics I brought home from West Africa years ago which were sitting in my cloth bank just waiting for their time.)

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So, dear readers, help me celebrate by telling me some of your own tenth milestones. Anybody have ten children? Ten cars (I’m only up to seven)? Ten countries you’ve lived in (I’m only up to six) or the tenth you visited? The tenth school you attended? What about your own tenth birthday, house, car, glasses, or hobby result? Do tell! Remember, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter. (US only.)

Happy Cruel Winter Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to Sheila Connolly. Her fifth County Cork Mystery, Cruel Winter, is cruelwinterout!

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan’s small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan’s pub. But now she’s stranded in a bar full of patrons–and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder. Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan’s reviews the facts and theories about the case–and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

To celebrate, I (Edith) decided to make one of Sheila’s many Irish recipes from her other group blog, Mystery Lover’s Kitchen. She’s over there most Fridays sharing dishes, both savory and sweet, that she has concocted. I’ve adapted the following recipe slightly, but what follows isn’t too far from her Feb 7 post of three years ago. As you can see, I didn’t have Irish whiskey, but figured I couldn’t go too far wrong with using bourbon, instead.

Irish Chicken and Cabbage

Ingredients

1/2 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  minced
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 T dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
2 cups shredded cabbage
1-1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade/canned/from a bouillon cube)
Sheila’s twist—a tablespoon or two of Irish whiskey (Edith’s substitution—an equal amount of bourbon)

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Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie pan and dredge the chicken pieces in it, shaking off the excess.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Tuck the garlic cloves, carrots, onions and rosemary around and between the chicken pieces. Lay the cabbage in an even layer on top and season with salt and pepper.

Mix the whiskey into the broth and pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables. Cover the contents of the Dutch oven with its oven-proof lid, or with foil (press it against the contents to make a fairly close seal), then place the pot in the oven and cook for 75 (remember, the heat is low). Peek once or twice and baste the top with the pan juices.

irishchickTo serve, place a piece of chicken on the plate and spoon the vegetables and sauce over it. I urge you to check Sheila’s original recipe for pix of the entire process and for the few ingredients I left out (because, oops, I didn’t have them in the house).

I wanted to serve the dish with new potatoes steamed and then lightly sauteed in olive oil and herbs – except somebody in my house used the last potato and didn’t put them them on the shopping list. So instead I made quick whole-wheat soda biscuits. Which went almost better with the dish than the potatoes would have.

Readers: Who has read the County Cork series up to now and can’t wait to get your hands on this one?  [Me! Me!] Anybody been to Ireland and, if so, what was your favorite meal? Your favorite Irish pub near where you live?