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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Wicked Wednesday: Whispers of Fortune

whispersWickeds, we are celebrating Jessica Estevao’s Whispers of Warning. A reminder about what the book is about:

Free from the clutches of her con artist father, Ruby Proulx is starting to settle in at the Belden, her aunt Honoria’s seaside hotel. She loves finally being rooted in one place and also feels a sense of purpose as she helps Honoria keep her business afloat by acting as a psychic medium for the hotel’s metaphysically inclined guests.

When one of the guests, renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge, checks into the hotel for a monthlong stay, Ruby finds her sense of purpose expands outside the confines of home and family. Sophronia takes Ruby under her wing and mentors her in the mediumistic abilities, encouraging her to fight for women’s rights.

But not everyone is as happy with Sophronia’s appearance in Old Orchard. When a dangerous act of sabotage is carried out and a body is found floating in the pool of a local bathhouse, Ruby takes it upon herself to find answers— and in the process learns that her new friend has been hiding some deadly secrets of her own…

Today’s question for the Wickeds–Jessie has built up a wonderful world that touches on spiritualism. Tell us–are you a believer?

Edith: Wow. Just hit us with the easy question, Julie! I have a vague sense of the “beyond” – and vague is where it’s going to stay. I certainly think the universe contains something larger than us all, and that a continuation of spirit beyond our earthly shells is possible. That said, I love Jessie’s Change of Fortune Mysteries and can’t wait to pick up my pre-ordered copy from my local indy bookstore.

Liz: I am a TOTAL believer! I love all this woo-woo stuff – which is one of the reasons why I love this series. The rest of the Wickeds can attest to my, shall we say, quirkiness in this area. I think they love me anyway, even if they do think I’m a bit strange half the time…

Barb: I’m one of the non-woo-woo Wickeds. I don’t believe there’s a place we go when we die, and I don’t believe we’re ourselves (or anyone else) once we get there, so returning to visit is out of the question. However, I fully admit there are many things about our universe we don’t yet understand. There was a time when the rational people believed the sun revolved around the earth and that illnesses were caused by humours. They weren’t entirely wrong. Bodies did rotate and invisible (or should I say not yet seeable) entities cause diseases. We’re always learning new things, so I’m not going to knock anyone else’s beliefs.

Sherry: I’m never quite sure where I stand on this. I believe in God and angels. I believe that some people are very perceptive (Jessie, Julie, I’m looking at you two). After that it all gets a little blurry for me. There’s a dark side of all of this that scares me which is why I hate horror books and movies.

Jessie: I think the world is vast and strange and there are a lot of ways of knowing things, not all of which can be explained. I adore things that can’t be explained. After all, isn’t that the allure of mysteries, that which has yet to be explained?

Julie: Wickeds, you went deep on this one! I am one of the woo-woo people. And I do believe in spirits, and guides. I’m figuring out what it all means, and am fascinated by Tarot cards and their uses. Another reason I love this series–the exploration of this world. Congratulations again, Jessie!

Readers, what do you think? Are you a believer in psychics? 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! 

 

 

A CHRISTMAS PERIL Release Day! (and giveaway!)

Cover of A Christmas Peril by J.A. HennrikusDear Readers, you have been on the publication journey for all of us Wicked Cozy Authors, and I hope you know how much your support means to us. We all talk about our books, or new series, but today I want to tell you about what a joy it is for me to hold A Christmas Peril in my hands. You see, this book was the first book I wrote and tried to sell. I got to a point where I never thought it would get published. But now it is. And the timing and publisher couldn’t be more perfect for this series.

Here are some of the bumps along my path to publication for this book.

1999-2001. I wrote the book in third person, and it was boring. I was in the middle of editing it into first person when my house was broken into, and my computer was stolen. I lost several drafts, but rather than despair, I decided to rewrite it the book, keeping the story, changing the point of view. That decision made it a much stronger book, and I finished it the next year. And yes, this has been a book for fifteen years.

The first title was The Power for Good, which was a reference to a line in A Christmas Carol when Marley and Scrooge see all of the ghosts who can’t alleviate suffering, because they lost their power for good. A Christmas Peril is about an ex-cop who is now running a theater company. The company is doing A Christmas Carol. I loved the title, but it wasn’t selling the book. Sherry Harris and I were standing in line at the New England Crime Bake, practicing our pitches to agents and editors. I told her that someone had suggested I change the title, and she came up with A Christmas Peril on the spot.

This book was a labor of love. Like many pre-published authors, I didn’t appreciate the long, slow pace of rewriting and editing without contractual deadlines. But I always knew I loved the world I was writing about. At the time of its inception, I was working at a concert hall, and my theater life was more as an audience member. But I’ve always loved theater (I work in theater now, running a service organization called StageSource), and felt comfortable writing about that world.

I sent this book out to agents and editors, and got lovely rejections. Then I got the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Series as Julianne Holmes, and I jumped at it. What a gift that was–jumping onto the path of being a published author, and learning what that meant. Were A Christmas Peril my first time working with a professional editor, I would have been much more resistant to the process. But, I was able to work with my editor, and tear Just Killing Time apart because it made it a better book.  Going through edits on this book was much easier because I’d been through it three times before. Also, I was able to rework the text because I had a better sense of what needed to be done.

The final part of my path happened last fall. My agent and I were talking about my writing life,  and we decided to send A Christmas Peril to an editor from Midnight Ink. Edith published her Quaker Midwife series with them, and spoke very highly of her experience. At Bouchercon I saw the editor and she said that she was looking forward to reading the proposal. By the New England Crime Bake, I had a contract.  Even more amazingly, they had space in the Fall 2017 publishing schedule, and since A Christmas Peril was done (though it needed editing), it would get moved onto the schedule. Things don’t move that fast in publishing, but they did this time.

Holding a book I wrote in my hands is always a thrill. This time, it’s a dream come true. I hope you all enjoy A Christmas Peril. Know that I am floating on air today.

To celebrate publication day, I am going to send a copy to a commenter of the blog. I’ll pick a winner Sunday at noon.

Wicked Wednesday: A Christmas Carol

Cover of A Christmas Peril by J.A. HennrikusWickeds, today we are celebrating the Friday, September 8 release of A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus. It is the first in a new series about an ex-cop, Sully Sullivan, who runs a theater company in Massachusetts. Friday’s post will be more about the book. and the series.

In A Christmas Peril, the theater company Sully runs is doing A Christmas Carol, and chaos ensues. So today’s question–what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

Barb: Wow. I’m tempted to say Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, which is the one I grew up with, or the Muppets, which is the one my kids did. As I was thinking about this answer, I realized how embedded this story is in our lives, from books (I always put a few editions out at Christmas) to movies to TV. I was even in the play as Mrs. Cratchit when I was in high school. Without it we’d never have the expression, “Bah, humbug,” or call someone a Scrooge. Some people think it popularized the saying, “Merry Christmas,” itself. Anyway, Julie, congratulations on becoming a part of this rich canon. I can’t wait to read it!

Liz: Julie, congratulations!! So excited for you and this book. I love A Christmas Carol – for movie versions, the Patrick Stewart is my favorite. I’ve also been lucky enough to see the production twice at The Hartford Stage, and they put on a wonderful version.

Sherry: I’m so excited to read A Christmas Peril and I’m so happy for you, Julie! Like Barb the Mr. Magoo version loomed large in my life as a kid and it scared me! But my favorite version is the 1970 movie Scrooge with Albert Finney. I confess I had to do a search to find it. I knew I’d seen it with my family and remember it being a visual feast along with the wonderful story. I haven’t seen it in years, but now hope I can track it down. I’m amazed how many versions of A Christmas Carol there are!

Edith: Congratulations, dear Julie! I can’t wait to read this book, and am so glad you’ve joined the Midnight Ink family. I haven’t seen A Christmas Carol in so long I have no idea what my favorite version is, but I do love the Muppets, so that one would probably win.

Julie: There is no Mr. Magoo shame in my world–that is my mother’s favorite version. And Sherry, I have Scrooge on DVD. A perfect excuse to get together around the holidays. We can all sing the songs. I do love the Muppet version, and George C. Scott, and . . . I own over twenty different versions on DVD, so lots to chose from. Thank you for your best wishes dear Wickeds! I am so excited about this book seeing the light of day, and will blog more about that on Friday!

Jessie: The Muppet version is my favorite, Barb! I love the way it sticks to the backbone of the story while bringing its own personality and twist. Just as I am sure you will do with your addition to the story! I couldn’t be happier for you, Julie!

Readers, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

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Knitting with the Wickeds

KNITToday, the Wickeds are celebrating  Sadie Hartwell’s A Knit Before Dying release! Here’s the description of the book:

Shop owner Josie Blair is finally settling into the pace of living in Dorset Falls, Connecticut. Between running Miss Marple Knits, jumpstarting a blog, and handcrafting items with the help of her knitting pals, Josie’s too preoccupied to worry about her past in New York. And thanks to Lyndon and Harry, the owners of the brand-new antique shop next door, she has another project in her midst—repurposing a box of vintage crocheted doilies adorned with the most curious needlework . . .

But before Josie can formally welcome her neighbors, she discovers Lyndon on the floor of his shop stabbed to death by a rusty old pair of sheep shears. Police have pinned Harry as the killer, but Josie isn’t so sure. Now, she’s lacing up for another homicide investigation—and no eyelet or stitch can go unexamined, lest she herself becomes ensnared in the criminal’s deadly design . . .

Wickeds, the question for you is–do you do knit, crochet, sew, tat, quilt, or do any other crafts? Bonus question–do you ever think about how to kill folks with your craft? On the page, of course!

IMG_0378Edith: Congratulations, Sadie! I can’t wait to read the new book. I sew, quilt, sometimes knit, and always garden and put up food – do the last two count as a craft? I have (fictionally) killed people with a sharpened knitting needle, with a pitchfork, with commonly grown – and poisonous – garden plants. Thinking back on my seventeen novels and dozen short stories, I’ve also used a lethal chemical commonly used by jewelers and dark rooms (not that I do either of those crafts), and both a chef’s knife and a vintage kitchen implement (is cooking a craft?). All the rest of my murder methods couldn’t remotely be considered craft-related.

Liz: Congrats on the new release! So, I am probably the least crafty Wicked. I don’t have the patience for it! My mother tried to teach me to sew when I was a kid and I just wasn’t into it. Then she taught me to crochet. Again, not my thing. I did do some of those needle-hook things (not sure what you call them) where you follow a pattern. Those I could handle!

Sherry: I used to do lots of counted cross stitch. And I made a lot of Christmas ornaments using a folding technique and a heck of a lot of pins. Here are two things that are still in a drawer in my basement!

I love taking pictures — that has become my other creative outlet. And while I haven’t thought about killing anyone with my craft, I do think about what would work as a weapon at every garage sale I attend.

Barb: Nupe, nupe, nupe. Terrible hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills here. I do admire the work of others. I have needlepoint pillows from my mother, paternal grandmother and great-grandmother, crewel work from my maternal grandmother, and knitted goods from my paternal grandmother. I treasure them all. I did manage to work a knitting-related clue into my short story, “Bread Baby,” with help from my amazing sister-in-law, Ann Ross, the manager at the yarn boutique GoshYarnIt.

Jessie: I love to knit. I always seem to have several projects on the needles at any given time. Currently I am working on one sweater, two pair of socks, a Red Riding Hood cape and two different shawls. I find that I am not always in the mood or in the right place physically to work on a particular project so I like to have a choice of what to grab to work on. Throughout the summer I usually work on socks or other small, light-weight projects. At this time of year I start contemplating something heavier to keep me feeling productive as well as to keep me warm whilst sitting at the soccer fields watching my son’s games. I haven’t decided what to choose this year but there is a cable-yoked pullover I can’t put out of my mind.

Julie: I am a knitter as well. Jessie, I need to try your multi project idea. I keep trying to knit socks, but I don’t enjoy it. I am working on a lovely shawl, but I can’t remember where I left off. So obviously, I need to focus a bit more on my projects. I love all sorts of crafts, but knitting is my favorite.

Readers: do any of you knit? Do you do other sorts of crafts? Let us know!Save

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Poetry & Literature – Mine!

PoetryMonthEdith here, still basking in yesterday’s wonderful afternoon celebration.

Here in Amesbury in the northeast corner of Massachusetts, we have a Poet Laureate. She is the multi-talented Lainie Senechal, a native of the town, who not only writes poetry and paints, but has worked tirelessly to spread poetry through the populace. April is National Poetry Month, and Lainie, with the help of Amesbury’s Cultural Council and the Whittier Home Museum, set up seven events. Poetry and Film. Poetry and Yoga. Poetry and History. You get the picture, and there were others, too. The list also included two poetry contests for young people in the area.

Yesterday was was reserved for Poetry and Literature, and the literature was my second Quaker Midwife Mystery, Called to Justice! I was delighted and honored when Lainie suggested the event, and I thought I’d share the highlights here.

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Me and Lainie Senechal. Photo courtesy Christine Green.

We held the gathering at a lovely crepe (and other delicacies) restaurant, The Noshery, so folks ordered food and drink to enjoy during the readings and discussion. Jon Mooers is the very generous and talented owner and chef, a keen supporter of Amesbury’s history.

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(Some years past he painted two fabulous murals on brick walls on Main Street that evoke the era when I set my books.)

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Jon suggested we set up an antique-look corner for my books, so I borrowed a table from the Friends Meetinghouse.

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As always, I reference a couple of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poems in the book, since he’s a supporting character in the series, so we interspersed portions of those works.  I shared the background of Called to Justice and read several short passages to introduce the poems. Our readers included Lainie, Chris Bryant (President of the Whittier Home Museum), and me. Whittier’s friend Lucy Larcom makes an appearance in the book, so Lainie read one poem about Larcom and another by the well-known New England author, a former mill girl herself.

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Chris Bryant reading Whittier’s  “One of the Signers,” quoted in the book

Poet Carla Panciera wrote a midwifery poem especially for me – “Midwife in the Barn” – and she came to read it herself!

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The questions were many and varied, and I sold and signed books afterward. It was a sweet way to launch my book in the town where it’s set (and where I live) and to celebrate poetry of all kinds at the same time. Thanks to fan Gerry Morenski who volunteered to take pictures while I was up front!

Readers: How do you feel about poetry? What’s your favorite one?