Mindful Writing

By Kim in Baltimore, reading fascinating short stories.

A few years ago I joined a group called the Mindful Writers. Each year I attend two retreats, one in the fall and the other in spring, where I am able to write for hours in peace and take hikes and meditate. These have been some of the most glorious times of my life.

Last year the group decided to compile some of our writings into a book and the result is Into The Woods. All of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to The Children’s Heart Foundation. I have invited Lori M. Jones, Ramona Long and Kathleen Shoop to the blog to share with our readers more about this wonderful anthology and why this foundation matters to our group.

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In 2005, I was pregnant with what appeared to be a healthy baby girl. Then at a routine 24 week check-up, the doctor said, “I can’t find your baby’s heartbeat.” When the doctor finally did it was only at half the rate the heartbeat should have been. There are 40 known heart defects, and she was diagnosed with one of them – Complete Heart Block – which is a defect in the heart’s electrical system. She would need a pacemaker as an infant in order to survive. She is now 12, on her second pacemaker, and doing very well. But when she was a baby, I had no idea what her future would entail, or more specifically, how she’d handle being different. I dissected my emotions through writing which led to me being offered a contract for my first children’s book – Riley’s Heart Machine – about a girl dealing with being different from her peers because she has heart machinery.

I searched for a heart charity to donate some of the proceeds to which led me to discovering the amazing work of The Children’s Heart Foundation. I eventually became more involved with the charity, from chairing the Pittsburgh Congenital Heart Walk and sitting on the PA Chapter board and the national board to eventually leading the PA Chapter as its president.

Since writing Riley’s Heart Machine, I’ve traveled to schools delivering assemblies on Writing from the Heart and have published another book, Confetti the Croc, which celebrates our unique qualities. I also have written two novels, Renaissance of the Heart and Late for Fate.

One of the best gems I discovered in my writing journey was The Mindful Writing Group. Through the discipline of writing together, I was able to complete my manuscripts. More importantly, I have found my tribe!

The anthology means so much to me because it’s a full circle moment for me. This book was a chance to join forces with all of my tribe members and create one beautiful project. And then they told me the proceeds were going to The Children’s Heart Foundation, to help the very charity that was fighting to make sure my daughter and other children have a bright future.

Kathleen Shoop on why the anthology is titled Into the WoodsIMG_6751.PNG

Into the Woods was a natural outgrowth for us, The Mindful Writers Retreat Authors. We write together a lot – in person and online. After years of retreating together we decided it was time to create something, a sound bite of the variety of voices that make up the group.

An anthology is a fabulous way for authors to pool their energy into a project while maintaining independence in what each person produces for the book. The collection creates a unique and vibrant body of work that can be read in short spurts or in its entirety. The theme – Into the Woods – seemed like the perfect idea for The Mindful Retreat Authors’ first collaboration since so much inspiration, ideas and wonder has grown out of our times in the lovely woods.

Ramona Long on why she wanted to be the editor of this anthology

I volunteered to edit Into the Woods because I wanted to support The Children’s  Heart Foundation and this was a way I could do that. Like any anthology, working with a group of authors is always a learning experience, but I was particularly happy to work with this group because we are so closely bonded as Mindful Writers. We are all a part of one another’s stories, in a way.

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Dear Readers, thank you for joining us today. Please share your stories about a group or organization that is close to your own heart.

Wicked Wednesday — Celebrating Turning the Tide

We are celebrating the release of Turning the Tide, the third book in Edith’s Quaker Midwife Mysteries series. Here is a little bit about the book:

A suffragist is murdered in Quaker midwife Rose Carroll’s Massachusetts town

Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and movement leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to town to rally the troops. When Quaker midwife Rose Carroll finds the body of the group’s local organizer the next morning, she can’t help but wonder who could have committed the murder.

Rose quickly discovers several people who have motives. The victim had planned to leave her controlling husband, and a recent promotion had cost a male colleague his job. She had also recently spurned a fellow suffragist’s affections. After Rose’s own life is threatened, identifying the killer takes on a personal sense of urgency.

Riding in carriages was commonplace during the late 1800s. Wickeds, have you ever ridden in a carriage? Where was it and where did you go? If not is there one you wish you could have ridden in?

Barb: My husband and I took a lovely carriage tour of Charleston, South Carolina. It was a marvelous way to view the narrow, colonial streets, and so quiet with only the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves.

Edith: As part of my research for this series I’ve ridden in several carriages. (I wrote a blog post about it here.) My favorite ride was on carriage trails through woods and pastures in Ipswich, Massachusetts, scenery that wouldn’t have looked any different in the late 1880s. And it was bumpy! No seat belts! I wore my long full linen skirt to get the feel of climbing in and out – not easy. But the experience helped me write about it more accurately.

Sherry: I have some distant memory of a stagecoach ride as a child. My husband and I took an open carriage ride on our tenth anniversary in New Orleans. It sounded so romantic however it was in the middle of the day, it was in the 90s with a gazillion percent humidity. The sun beat down on us and we leaned away from each other on the small seat because we were so sweaty. The only good thing was my hair formed these lovely curls that I’ve never had since. Sadly, we had a similar experience (sans beautiful curls) on a later anniversary on a duck boat in Boston.

Jessie: I don’t believe I have ever ridden in a carriage. The closest thing I can think of was a pedicab ride I took with my husband one evening in Old Orchard Beach, ME. It sounds like something to add to my adventures list!

Julie: I don’t think I have ever ridden in a carriage. But I’ve always wanted to. Have you ever seen the Dancing in the Dark number from The Bandwagon? That’s my kind of carriage ride!

Readers: Have you ever take a carriage ride?

Bringing History to Life

NEWS FLASH: Melinda is the randomly selected winner! Please send your snail mail address to me at edith at edithmaxwell.com. Congratulations!

Edith here, delighted that Turning the Tide came out from Midnight Ink yesterday!

This is my third Quaker Midwife mystery, and my fourteenth published novel, in which Rose Carroll, midwife, becomes involved in murder once again. I’m so grateful for my editors at Midnight Ink for believing in my stories and making them better: Amy Glaser, Terri Bischoff, and Nicole Nugent. And to talented cover artist Greg Newbold for rocking cover number three.

In celebration, I’m most pleased to give away a signed copy of the book to one commenter here today.

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The story has a background theme, as every book in the series does. In book time the season was rolling around to the fall, so I decided to explore issues of women’s suffrage in 1888. The Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association (fictional as far as I know, but it could have existed) turns out in force across from the polling place on Election Day to protest not having the vote. Here’s one of the placards I found online, and it’s my favorite. WomenbringallvotersIn a book featuring a midwife, you can see why I love this sign.

I read that proponents of women’s suffrage wore sunflower yellow sashes, to represent hope. Quaker women were in the forefront of the movement for decades, both before and after this book takes place. Rose’s mother is an ardent suffragist, and in Turning the Tide she comes to town to support the protest.

I love slipping bits of my own family history into the books. Rose’s mother Dorothy Henderson Carroll is named after my paternal grandmother, Dorothy Henderson Maxwell. We called her Momma Dot, and Rose’s nieces and nephews call the fictional Dorothy Granny Dot. My grandmother was the first woman to drive an automobile halfway across the United States in 1918, and I imagine she didn’t hesitate to vote the following year.

I decided to bring Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Amesbury, too. Historically I don’t know if she did, but she might have, and writing fiction gives me permission to portray her rallying the women, with her white curls and comfortable, corset-free figure.

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Stanton was a real intellectual. In the book I took the liberty of paraphrasing a few sentences from her essay, “The Solitude of Self,” which was not published until 1892, for her to speak in person in this book (at Rose’s friends’ salon gathering). I couched it as Stanton developing her thoughts on the topic, and I trust her departed soul will approve.

So, dear readers, who is your favorite suffragist? Any family stories about your feminist foremothers, or the first time you yourself voted?

Wicked Wednesday: I Know What You Bid Last Summer

News Flash – Marla B wins Leslie Karst’s new book! Leslie will be contacting you, Marla.

It’s another Happy Book Release Wicked Wednesday! We’re so happy Sherry’s fifth Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery came out yesterday. Here’s the blurb for I Know What You Bid Last Summer:

When it comes to running a successful garage sale, Sarah Winston believes in doing her homework. She also believes in giving back. But when she agrees to manage an athletic equipment swap, she doesn’t bargain on an uncharitable killer. The day of the event, the school superintendent is found dead in the gymnasium. Suddenly the murder suspects are the school board members—including the husband of a very difficult client who’s hired Sarah to run a high-end sale and demands she do her bidding. In between tagging and haggling, Sarah studies the clues to see who wanted to teach the superintendent a lesson. But as she closes in on the truth, the killer intends to give her a crash course on minding her own business . . .

In I Know What You Bid Last Summer, Sarah’s sleuthing takes her to a bowling alley. The bowling alley has candlepin lanes along with the more common ten pin bowling. And much to Sarah’s dismay, it is also Cosmic bowling night with strobe lights, loud music, and a disco ball. Wickeds, have you ever bowled? Candlepin? Ten pin? Or, gulp, Cosmic?

Edith: I have bowled a few times. Big balls in California in high school, candlepin up here on the North Shore. I am NOT good at ball sports. Too much enthusiasm, too little aim and control. So we won’t talk scores, not that I remember them. And these days the lights and sound of Cosmic anything? No thank you! That said, I can’t wait to read about Sarah’s next adventure.

Barb: Congratulations, Sherry! I can’t wait to read I Know What You Bid Last Summer. I have bowled when the opportunity presented, or more accurately when it couldn’t be avoided. I don’t know why I’m reluctant. I’ve enjoyed it whenever I’ve done it. There was a bowling alley with both ten pin and candle pins one town over from us when my kids were growing up. Lots of fun birthday parties for their friends there. Happy memories.

Jessie: Congratulations, Sherry on another release! I am not really an enthusiastic  bowler. Maybe it is because the shoes don’t have heels… I have done it as a kid for birthday parties and that sort of thing. When my own children were small we went on occasion. One of my kids bowled a great game once when he was very small by tossing the ball down the lane with glee and landing on his backside each turn. It was a delight to watch!

Julie: Huge congratulations Sherry! I can’t wait to read the book! I have bowled. I am not good at the big balls, but I used to be pretty good at candlepin. I really enjoy the social aspects of bowling, and have a few friends on leagues. If I had the time, I might be tempted. And yes, I’ve bowled in neon alleys, and with rock and roll. Is that cosmic?

Sherry: Thanks everyone! I have never been candlepin bowling. The first time I went bowling when I was about ten I dropped the ball, it rolled down the middle, and I got my first strike! I did a bowling league one year with the Spouses Club and my team took first place. I practiced a lot so I didn’t let down the general’s wife who was an ace bowler!

Readers: Bowling experiences? Thumbs up or down on the sport?

How Did I End Up Here?

Suekey12 is the winner of I Know What You Bid Last Summer. I will send you an email!

With the release of every new book I reflect on the journey that led me here — the people who helped me along the way, the hands up, the people I’m grateful to. I was struggling with a topic to write about for this blog. So I turned to the Wickeds and Edith suggested writing about where the idea for this book came from. Interestingly the idea for I Know What You Bid Last Summer came from the Wickeds too.

A couple of years ago after I turned in the third book, All Murders Final, I was writing a proposal for three more books while we were having our annual Wicked retreat. I had two solid ideas for books which turned into book four – A Good Day to Buy and book seven – Let’s Fake a Deal. But for some reason I was struggling to come up with that third idea. Fortunately, I was sitting around with the Wickeds during a brainstorming session.

Jessie was the first one to suggest that Sarah do something with the school board and that they could be the suspects. She also mentioned doing something like a sports equipment swap. In the original proposal it said this: At the end of the summer Sarah is hired by the school board to run a charity event to raise money for extracurricular activities. While the pay is nominal Sarah feels like it will raise her profile in the area is she can pull I off without a hitch.

It was interesting to me that there’s no mention of sports equipment and that Sarah was getting paid. It also suggested an end of summer event which turned into an end of June event with no pay. I like to include a bit of humor to relieve the seriousness of the crime. And for some reason this time I wanted it to revolve around Sarah’s friendship with Angelo and Rose DiNapoli who own DiNapoli’s Roast Beef and Pizza. But what could she do for them? Angelo has a bit of an ego so what would be better than having him enter a lasagna bake off that he really wants to win?!

I felt like those two elements weren’t enough for a complete book. What could Sarah do that would involve a garage sale that she hasn’t done before? That’s when I dreamed up a difficult client who wants to do an over the top garage sale like the ones she’s seen in magazines and on TV. Since the customer is always right, Sarah goes along with it. Even Sarah has to admit the results are amazing. So that’s how I Know What You Bid Last Summer came to be.

I still have so many people to thank. I signed my first contract with Kensington on February 22, 2013 almost five years to the day from the release of this book. I’m so grateful to my editor, Gary Goldstein, and everyone else at Kensington who work behind the scenes from the art department to the marketing department and everything in between.

I can’t thank everyone but must thank the Wickeds, Sisters in Crime, my agent John Talbot, the very supportive crime fiction community, all the bloggers and reviewers that get the word out about books without compensation, readers – including all of you who stop by here. I’m so grateful to Barb Goffman for her wise guidance when she edits my books and to my beta readers Clare Boggs and Mary Titone. Mary also is my publicist and does so much for me.

And finally my family. My support system at home is amazing. Although my daughter is still a bit offended when a couple of years ago she asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day and I said for everyone to pretend I wasn’t home for a week – that was the looming deadline talking. My husband tells almost everyone he meets that I’m an author. My parents filled our house with books, took us to the library, and always let us buy a book at school book sales.

If not for all of this, I wouldn’t be publishing my fifth book today. There’s another fifth in my life this year — the WIckeds are celebrating our fifth anniversary of our blog this May!

Thank you for being with me on this lovely, wonderful, wild adventure of writing books.

Readers: Who do you brainstorm with? Or just say hi! I will give away a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer to a commenter.

 

 

 

 

 

Wicked Wednesday: Biscuits and Slashed Browns

BiscuitsToday we are celebrating Maddie Day’s Biscuits and Slashed Browns release! A reminder about the book:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

In honor of the newest Robbie Jordan adventure, let’s talk about breakfast, Wickeds. What is your favorite “eating out” breakfast?

Jessie: I don’t have a specific favorite place for breakfast. What I do favor is breakfast in beautiful hotels. I love to sleep in and then head down to a restaurant in the hotel about an hour before they stop serving. I like to ask the waitstaff for a carafe of coffee and then let them know they needn’t worry about me any further. I sit with a notebook and a stack of postcards and nibble and people watch. It is a bit of a travel ritual for me. I’ve done it in Orlando, Vegas, San Francisco, NY, China, Iceland, Brazil, and in the U.K.

Sherry: Jessie, that sounds like a fabulous way to spend a morning. Congratulations on the new book, Edith. I love to order something more complicate than we would make at home. Sigh, with my cooking skills that’s almost anything. It’s a great time to try something new, especially regional dishes. I have to say I tried fried toast in England and it wasn’t my favorite!

Barb: I love diners. For any meal, really, but especially for breakfast. My two favorites in Portland are Becky’s and the Miss Portland. Favorite orders: Omelet with cheese, ham and onions, or blueberry pancakes with syrup and bacon. I’m making myself hungry just typing this.

Liz: I love diners too! And I especially love when I find a diner that has food I can eat 🙂 Omelets are usually my go-to, with mushrooms and spinach, and home fries. And coffee. Lots of coffee!

Julie: I love breakfast, and could happily eat it for every meal. I am an Eggs Benedict fan. I usually order it, since I never make hollandaise sauce at home. Lately, the S&S (a favorite local spot) has expanded on my go-to with Eggs Oscar. Poached eggs on potato pancakes, topped with asparagus and crabmeat. And, of course, the sauce. So. Good. That said, I’m also a pancake fan, and if I’m in a diner I always ask about the special.

Edith: Thanks for helping me celebrate, Wickeds! For breakfast out, I often order crispy  hash browns, which are so hard to make at home, with a fried egg. Like Julie, though, I don’t make hollandaise sauce at home, and I once had a California Benedict with avocado to die for.

Readers, help us celebrate this book birthday by sharing your favorite breakfast!

Wicked Wednesday: Our 2018 Books!

Wicked Wednesday!We Wickeds were busy in 2017, and 2018 will be proof of that. Friends, what books under which names will be released when?

Liz: Cate Conte’s second Cat Cafe Mystery, Purrder, She Wrote, will be out next August. The 7th Pawsitively Organic Mystery, Murder, She Meowed, will be out next fall/winter sometime – no pub date yet!

Sherry: I Know What You Bid Last Summer the fifth Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery releases on February 27th! And I think The Gun Also Rises (book six) will come out at the end of December. Like Liz, I’m waiting to hear for sure.

Barb: Yule Log Murder, the holiday novella collection by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and me comes out October 30, 2018. Steamed Open, the seventh Maine Clambake Mystery, comes out December 25, 2018.

Edith: Biscuits and Slashed Browns, Country Store Mystery #4, comes out in six days (written as Maddie Day)! The third Quaker Midwife Mystery, Turning the Tide, releases on April 8, followed shortly by my short story, “A Divination of Death” in Mystery Most Geographical, the Malice Domestic anthology which releases at Malice at the end of April. Mulch Ado About Murder, Local Foods Mystery #5, comes out in paperback June 26. And Death Over Easy, Country Store Mystery #5 (also written as Maddie Day), will be out at the end of July. Yes, it’s a busy year for me.

Jessie: I am looking forward to the release of the paperback version of Murder in an English Village in August. The second Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder Flies the Coop, launches a month later, at the end of September. And, I have plans to finally make the second Granite State Mystery, Body of Water, available. Look for it between June and August!

Julie: In 2018 I will have one book coming out–the next in my Theater Cop series, With A Kiss I Die. It will come out on September 8.  Can’t wait for you all to read Sully’s next adventure!

Writer friends, tell us about your 2018 books! Reader friends, any 2018 titles you’re particularly looking forward to?