Happy or Sad

A week or so ago on Facebook I posed a question to cozy readers about how much of real-world issues they wanted to see in cozy books or series.  Cozy mysteries are usually centered on a crime, most often murder—that much is real world—but often it’s the only cloud to mar a cozy’s sky. But what about real-world social issues, like human trafficking or drug dealing? Do they fit?

The responses to that post covered a broad spectrum, from both authors and readers, and they made interesting reading. Many people read cozies for escape: they want a good story about solving a crime, with a satisfying ending. If they want blood and terror, they look to another genre.

I tend to lean in that direction myself. Sometimes I want to read a book for entertainment, not enlightenment or social commentary. Tell me a story! Make me care about the characters (and want to see them again). That’s enough.

But a couple of days later I started thinking about children’s books and what their authors chose to include. No doubt many of us read the same ones when we were growing up, and maybe even read them to our children (or grandchildren?). They were and are beloved (and many are still in print). But they are not always happy.


Several came to mind immediately: Charlotte’s Web, written by E. B. White with the wonderful illustrations by Garth Williams; Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson; and Bambi, from the Walt Disney group. Of course there are more, but these are the ones I remember best. And guess what: they each involve a significant death, which makes painful reading. I might add Peter Pan, written by J. M. Barrie. No, Peter doesn’t die in the end, but he is left behind while his friends grow up and move on while he doesn’t. Again, it’s sad.

Old Yeller



The one that I recall most often is Charlotte’s Web (and I think it was the answer to a recent Jeopardy question), because I blieve the author teaches a life-lesson without being heavy handed. (If you haven’t read it, skip ahead, because this is a spoiler.) Charlotte is a spider who befriends a pig, Wilbur. They can communicate to each other, and when Wilbur is headed for the slaughterhouse, Charlotte mounts a campaign to save him by weaving written messages into her web (if I remember right, one was “Some Pig”). And she succeeds.

But Charlotte is a spider, and spiders don’t usually live very long. Yes, Charlotte dies in the end. Wilbur’s sense of loss is balanced only when he finds that Charlotte’s spider offspring have hatched and can also speak with him, and they’re all around him. It is a bittersweet ending–and memorable.

What books did you read early in your life that you still remember well? And did they include any sad parts?

Guest Post- Tina Kashian!


Breaking News! The winner of Tina’s giveaway is Kay Garrett! Kay please contact Tina at tina@kashian.com to receive your book!

Jessie: In New Hampshire, hunkered down under a foot of fresh snow!

I had the very great pleasure of meeting the sparkling and lovely Tina Kashian last year at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast at the Malice Domestic conference. We began chatting, as one always does when surrounded by other mystery enthusiasts, and during the course of conversation we realized we shared a publisher. So, of course, I asked her to visit here at the Wickeds as soon as her book was out. The time has come so I hope you will join me in welcoming her here today! 

I love to cook, but I wasn’t born a good cook. It’s a skill that I’ve practiced and grown to Hummus and Homicide - Final Coverenjoy. I also love all different types of cuisine—Mediterranean, Italian, Chinese, and a good American cheeseburger. My mother, on the other hand, was a talented cook. She could taste a dish, then replicate it without a recipe. My parents owned a restaurant for thirty years and food was an important part of our family. I’d often come home from school to the delicious aromas of simmering grape leaves, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, and shish kebab.

But I am more like my heroine in my debut cozy mystery, “Hummus and Homicide.” Lucy is the only person in her family who can’t cook. Her mother, Angela, is a chef, and her father, Raffi, grew up knowing how to grill the perfect shish kebab. Since returning home to Ocean Crest at the Jersey shore and her parent’s Mediterranean restaurant, Kebab Kitchen, Lucy is determined to learn how to prepare a meal. She’s receiving cooking lessons from her mother. We’ll see how it goes…

As for me, I have fond memories of watching my mother in the kitchen. I’d stand by her side with a pen and paper in hand and scribble detailed notes. She never used a recipe. I’d ask, “How much of that?” She’d say a handful or a pinch. It drove me nuts! Our handfuls were not the same. Years later, my mother passed away. When I try to prepare her dishes, they never seem to come out just like hers. Maybe it’s the memory I’m holding onto more than the taste of the food.

Tina Gabrielle Author PhotoBut I am writing down my recipes for my two young girls. No more handfuls or pinches of anything. If my girls decide to make a dish, then I’d like them to have a recipe to follow.

I’m excited about the release of “Hummus and Homicide.” I also had great fun coming up with the other titles—Stabbed in the Baklava (September 2018) and One Feta in the Grave (February 2019). All the titles are puns on food and reflect the light and funny feel of the cozy mysteries.

So, readers, what is your talent or favorite hobby? Did you have to work at it or was it natural? Please comment for a chance to win a copy of “Hummus and Homicide.” Ebook or print (U.S. only). Your choice!

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.)


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.)

Being Crafty

Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, taking a break from last minute online shopping…

Hello, all. Hope your holidays, however, whatever, and whenever you celebrate, are bringing you much joy.

We talk a lot about the craft of writing here at the Wickeds. But today let’s talk craft of a different kind: handicrafts! As satisfying as it is for me to write stories, and to edit stories for other people, sometimes there’s just no substitute for making a physical object–something useful, beautiful, or just plain fun. So here’s a crafty pattern, with a variation, for you to try:


For the knitted version, which you can easily make in an hour, you will need:

-Size 13 knitting nesadie-hartwell-picture-1edles

-Bulky weight yarn, about 10 or 12 yards

-A pint-size mason jar, or any glass jar that’s about 5 inches high with a circumference of about 9 inches. Cozy will stretch.

-Small flameless candle

Gauge is not important. Cast on 26 stitches. Row 1: K1, P1 across. Row 2: P1, K1 across.sadie-hartwell-picture-2a

Repeat these two rows until piece measures 5”. Bind off, and sew shorter edges together into a tube. Place tube on jar. Decorate with ribbon, tiny Christmas ornaments, or bits of greenery. Place flameless candle inside and enjoy.


For you non-knitters (Gasp!), here’s another version, using a doily. It will take about 60 seconds to make. You will need:

sadie-hartwell-picture-3          -A doily (if you don’t have one of Grandma’s, check thrift stores. Use one with a loose pattern around the outer edge)

-A glass jar that’s shorter than ½ the diameter of the doily. I used a 9” doily and a 4” high jar.

-Paper or cloth ribbon


sadie-hartwell-picture-4aThread ribbon through the pattern around the outside of the doily. Place jar in center of doily, and pull the ribbon tight (like a drawstring), creating a ruffle around the top of the jar. Tie off the ribbon. Use some double-sided tape to hold the doily in place if necessary. Fill with a flameless candle, or use as a cute vase as I’ve done here.

What’s your holiday craft of choice? Bonus points if it includes glitter, felt, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, yarn, or hot glue!

It’s the Great Cozy Pumpkin, Wicked Friends

Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, studiously avoiding the piles of New England leaves that await raking…

It’s October, Wicked Friends, and who doesn’t love this time of year? Costumes. Scary Movies. Candy. And of course, the Great Pumpkin.

EdgarLast January, on Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, Wickeds Barb Ross, Sherry Harris, and Edith Maxwell, and Accomplices Sheila Connolly and Yours Truly released a collection of short stories based on some of Poe’s work: Edgar Allan Cozy. We had such fun coming up with our own twists on the classics.

Now, of course the Wicked Cozy Authors have the Most Sincere Blog around. And because you’ve all been extra good (not wicked at all), the Great Cozy Pumpkin has a gift for you, but only for a few days.

From today through October 31, just like trick-or-treat candy, Edgar Allan Cozy is free. So please, download your copy from Amazon, tell all your friends, read and enjoy. And if you’re inclined to leave a review, we’d appreciate it.

Let us know what you think, and thanks for reading!

Readers: What’s your favorite Poe story or poem? How old were you when you first read him?


Writers in the Big Easy

by Sheila Connolly, who’s still reeling from a week in NOLA

At last I get to dither on about the glories of New Orleans and Bouchercon, where most of the Wickeds were gathered a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t know of it, Bouchercon is an amazing writers conference by any standard, raised to another level by its location in NOLA this year.

While it is always a joy to gather with other writers—our tribe!—I also wanted to treat myself to some sightseeing, so I stayed an extra day. Way back in 1970 I visited New Orleans with a group of college friends, and I wanted to see how my memories compared with today’s reality.

I was shocked to find that I had absolutely no memory of where we had been, or at least how one place connected to another. I remember vaguely where we stayed (with the parents of one friend, in the Garden District), and that we rode a streetcar, and we visited the zoo, but the French Quarter was kind of a blank to me, with brief flashes of recognition. On this trip I found myself standing in front of Preservation Hall, where I know I went to hear the music, but I couldn’t remember the façade facing the street. (I do remember being very hot, though!)


So I decided to reset my memory files and enjoy the New Orleans of today. Despite the 90-degree heat and the 80% humidity, I did. I walked almost everywhere in the French Quarter. I ate lots of things (beignets!). I took pictures. I visited a church, a cemetery, a convent; I waved at the mighty Mississippi. I loved every minute of it.

Once again it drove home how different places can be, and how much that matters to a writer. I’ve visited many major cities in this country and abroad, but New Orleans has its own strong character (at least in the French Quarter—I didn’t venture beyond that). Certainly most cities have their own identity, but few seemed to me so “in your face” as New Orleans, where the sights and sounds and smells and even the air itself assault you from all sides.


One thing I noticed was the plaques on many buildings—celebrating authors. Tennessee Williams wrote here, William Faulkner lived there. The tour guide I was following around counted off more names: Anne Rice, of course, plus O. Henry, Truman Capote, Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and more. Standing where they stood, looking at their views, the streets where they walked (and most likely the bars they visited), it made perfect sense that they would have been drawn to the place. Even if you write about the Arctic Circle, you cannot walk away from New Orleans unaffected.

My books are set in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ireland—all places where I’ve spent time and know fairly well. I wouldn’t even try to write about New Orleans without spending some serious time there soaking it all in. Five days was not enough. Now, how do I get back again?


My next Orchard Mystery is due out tomorrow, October 4th. It’s set in western Massachusetts, in February. That’s about as far from New Orleans as I can get. Massachusetts has its apples, but New Orleans has—bananas in Jackson Square? It’s another world.


Coming tomorrow! Seeds of Deception (Orchard Mystery #10). Yes, that’s snow on the cover–a nice change from NOLA.


Past and Present

by Sheila Connolly

It’s the first Monday of a new year, so here’s my kick-off for the year.

While our daughter was home for Christmas, we watched the 2013 movie Inside Llewyn Davis. I remember reading reviews of it when it came out, but somehow we never think about going to movies, or even watching movies at home (and my husband has a tendency to fall asleep in his chair after the first hour or so anyway). Not that choosing a movie for three people with very different tastes is easy. I think we looked at everything that On Demand offered, and by the time we’d read all the titles, we couldn’t remember what had sounded good when we started.

Finally -we settled on Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by the Coen brothers. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s about a musician in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, back when the folk movement was just picking up steam. I lived in suburban New Jersey back then, so I’d hear about that scene occasionally, but I was too young to venture into New York on my own, at least until I turned 18. (Okay, I was too chicken to even try.) But I knew about it—among my school friends, it was always pronounced reverently: The Village.

Anyway, whether by design or by coincidence, the movie turned out to kind of mirror our daughter’s current gypsy lifestyle, if you substitute theater for music. I don’t know if she knew that when we chose it, but she didn’t disagree, and we all enjoyed the movie.

A week later, I was driving along Route 44 from Plymouth. Driving alone in the car is about the only time I get to listen to “old” music, and believe me, I sing along. I decided on Peter, Paul and Mary’s album, A Song Will Rise. (Confession: I have every album they ever made, bought new, up through  Peter, Paul and Mommy, and I’ve purchased several of the earlier ones on CD for the car. Yes, I still have a turntable so I can play the records.) The album was released in 1965. Yikes, that’s fifty years ago. Way to feel old fast!

PPM A Song Will Rise

One of the songs on that album is “Wasn’t That a Time,” and I’ve heard it a few thousand times. But this time one line stood out to me:

“There is no freedom in a land/Where fear and hate prevail.”

Pete Seeger

Okay, a brief history of the song: it was written by Lee Hayes and Walter Lowenfels, in 1948, at the height of the Cold War. Hayes and Pete Seeger were both members of the singing group The Weavers, and Seeger made it one of his signature songs. He and Hayes were both forced to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, as suspected Communists. The original lyrics for that stanza went:

“There is no victory in a land/Where free men go to jail.”

Someone changed the lyrics along the way—I have no idea who. But the point is that Peter, Paul and Mary chose to use a modified version, which they released in the midst of the Vietnam War.

Maybe they were thinking about Vietnam when they recorded that song, but their version still rings true today. Look at us now. People—ordinary citizens—are buying guns because they’re afraid that they’ll find terrorists at their door or their school or their mall. Large blocks of our population want to ban immigrants from our borders. I keep yelling at the debates and commercials I see on television, “but we were all immigrants once!” My grandfather came from Ireland in 1911. He arrived in New York, got a job, worked hard, married, bought a house, had kids, and lived a respectable life. Should I point out that there were plenty of “terrorists” in Ireland at that time? Should the authorities have turned him away?

Why should we, one of the most powerful and successful nations in the world, believe we are threatened in our homes? Or on a city street? (And why at the same time are towns and cities cutting police forces because they can’t afford to pay them, and the voters don’t want to see their taxes go up to cover the cost? But that’s another story.)

It makes me sad. It’s why I like to spend time in Ireland, particularly West Cork, where the crime rate is very low, and where even the police don’t carry guns (unlike in Northern Ireland). And I think it explains why we at Wicked Cozy Authors choose to write cozies. There are plenty of suspense and thriller writers who are very talented—and very successful. I admire them. But I find more and more I don’t want to read their books, even though I’m pretty sure the main character will live to fight another day—after leaving a trail of carnage behind. Who needs the anxiety and stress? Yes, there are deaths in cozies, but we write about ordinary people who seek and usually find justice. And cozies sell because our readers want to believe in small safe communities where people care about each other, and care about doing the right thing. I’d like to think such places do exist.

It should be an interesting year.

And nCover A Turn for the Badow the pitch: A Turn for the Bad, the fourth book in the County Cork Mystery series, will be released February 2nd.  It’s about high-dollar (or euro) international smuggling (surprised?), but it’s also about people helping each other, at their own risk, because the people–friends and relatives–matter.