A Wicked Welcome to Joyce Tremel

by Julie, thrilled to welcome Joyce Tremel to the blog today.

Joyce and I both had our debut novels come out in 2015, three months apart. We’ve kept up the schedule ever since, and her third novel, A Room With A Brew, was released on October 3. If you haven’t “met” Max O’Hara and visited Pittsburgh in these books, you’re in for a treat.

THE TOP FIVE THINGS I’VE LEARNED WRITING A COZY SERIES

By Joyce Tremel

ARoomWithABrew5. It’s not as easy as it looks. Believe it or not, there are readers out there who think that cozy mysteries are inferior to other mysteries. Obviously, they’ve never tried to write one. I’ve found it takes quite a bit of skill to kill someone and not gross out the reader. The cozy writer has to get the horror of the murder across without showing much in the way of blood, guts, and the like. You have to describe what happened without actually describing what happened. This also applies to any sexy scenes. I’m perfectly content with not having to write those kinds of scenes. Banter, innuendo, and an occasional kiss that leaves the character’s knees weak is enough for me. I like to leave the rest up to imagination.

4. It’s sometimes hard to find adequate substitutes for swear words. I worked as a police secretary for ten years. Believe me, cops swear. Most of their words start with F and end with K. I learned a whole new vocabulary when I worked for the police department. When you have officers talking in a cozy, you can’t very well have them use what must be their favorite word in the whole world because they say it three times in every sentence. And you can’t have them say gosh, darn, or golly either. Only Andy Griffith could get away with that. My protagonist’s dad is a homicide detective and in one scene I have Max say something like, “My dad rarely swore but I could tell he held back a string of words that would have turned the air blue.” I do throw in an occasional damn or hell, and have used the letters S.O.B. Sometimes I’ll interrupt the dialogue just before the swear word would be uttered. So far, it works. At least I hope it does.

3. There’s a fine line between educating the reader on the character’s craft or occupation and boring them to death. No one wants to read page after page of how your character does something. My protagonist Max is a craft brewer and there’s a lot of chemistry involved in brewing beer. If I started rambling on about how to calculate the specific gravity of a certain brew in order to calculate the alcohol by volume, I don’ t think readers would be too happy. In the best case scenario, they’d skip those pages; in the worst case, they’d throw the book against the wall. It’s a mystery novel, not a textbook. Information like that must be sprinkled in lightly.

2. Recipes are hard to come up with. I’m usually thinking more about the plot and what the characters are doing than about what they’re eating or cooking. I’ve had to train myself to actually stop and describe certain foods and then search for a recipe to include. That’s probably why the first book, To Brew or Not to Brew only had two recipes. I did a little better with books two and three. Tangled Up in Brew had four and this year’s A Room With a Brew has five, including the ever popular Pittsburgh Pretzel Salad.

1. Write everything down. When I was about halfway through writing the first book, I realized I was NOT going to remember which character had blue eyes, who had brown eyes, how tall a certain someone was, etc. I started what we call a Character Bible. I jotted down each character, what they looked like, and anything else I thought might be important. I did the same with each shop and location in the series. I even drew a little map so I’d remember which store/shop/restaurant was where. And thank goodness I did. I refer to it constantly. Between that and the style sheet (which has even more detailed info on it) from my copy editor, I’ve saved hours that would have been spent searching through previous manuscripts for one tiny tidbit of information. All because I couldn’t remember something I thought I would.

These are the top five things I’ve learned writing a cozy series. Readers, what have you learned reading one?

As a bonus, here’s the recipe for the Pittsburgh Pretzel Salad I mentioned above. It is delicious!

Pittsburgh Pretzel Salad
Bottom layer:
2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
Mix crushed pretzels, melted butter, and sugar, and press into 9×13″ pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool.

Filling (middle layer):
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 – 8 ounce container of whipped topping
1 cup sugar
Beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over cooled pretzel mixture. Chill.

Top layer:
2 – 3 ounce boxes strawberry Jello
2 cups boiling water
2 cups sliced strawberries

Combine Jello with 2 cups boiling water. Stir until dissolved, about two minutes. Add strawberries. Chill until partially thickened, then spread over top of cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate overnight or until firm.

Top with additional whipped topping and sprinkle with crushed or broken pretzel pieces.

*****************************

JT headshot 2Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. She is the author of the BREWING TROUBLE mystery series set in Pittsburgh, featuring brewmaster and pub owner, Maxine “Max” O’Hara. Her debut novel, TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW, was nominated for a 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth. The second book in the series, TANGLED UP IN BREW, was the winner of the 2016 Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth. A ROOM WITH A BREW, the third book in the series was released on October 3, 2017.

Guest Linda Lovely

Edith here, writing from north of Boston, where fall has finally hit. Our guest today is the multi-published Linda Lovely.  Bones to Pick, the first mystery in herFINALBonesToPickfrontCover new Brie Hooker Mysteries series, releases in a few weeks! To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed ARC now or an ebook after the book comes out to one commenter here today. Take it away, Linda.

Wicked Research for Wicked Villains

This blog’s Wicked Cozy Authors title echoes my belief that the best cozy mysteries have plenty of wicked seasoning. Just because a novel eschews profanity, graphic violence and sex doesn’t mean the heroine (or hero) won’t confront a multitude of deadly dangers engineered by wicked, ingenious villains

A mystery’s heroine is most memorable—and heroic—when she faces scary villains. This requires some wicked research. The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), held each August at a real police academy, offers hands-on experiences that writers can use to create haunting villains and plausible plots. WPA instructors are the same ones who train police in everything from firearms and non-lethal weapons to drones and crime scene investigation. Outside experts also explore subjects like bioweapons, forensic psychology, gangs, and private investigation techniques.

Full disclosure: I’m a five-year member of the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) “family.” I handle registrations, coordinate the Golden Donut Short Story contest, and help with varied organizational details. I volunteer because the program affords me—and fellow crime writers—invaluable opportunities to pick the brains of experts and get the details right.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOver the years, the WPA has given me the chance to fire a Glock and an AR-15…feel the tension of making a split-second, shoot-don’t-shoot decision…learn to free myself from a larger assailant…ride in an ambulance with a paramedic…handcuff a suspect…join a SWAT team in clearing a building…wear a duty belt…swing a baton. And the list goes on.

Once I’m home, these experiences weave their way into my cozy mysteries. In Bones To Pick, the first novel in my Brie Hooker Mystery series, Brie’s recall of her dad’s story about gangbangers hiding  weapons saves her life. (Though Brie’s dad is a horticultural professor, he’s also an aspiring crime novelist who attends the WPA each summer.)

In the second Brie Hooker Mystery, which I recently turned into my editor at Henery Press, the heroine flies a drone to gain key information. While Brie doesn’t pack heat, the villains she faces do. So I tap weapons’ knowledge gained at WPA to describe their firearms. Insights into police procedures, CSI techniques, autopsies, poisons and criminal proceedings also figure in how Brie interacts with law enforcement and the legal system.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In the real world, amateur sleuths seldom prove the innocence of a loved one, solve a cold murder case, uncover fraud, or thwart a radical group’s attempt to rig an election. However, authors can make any of these plots more plausible by weaving in accurate criminal behavior and crime-fighting details.

Writers who can’t attend a WPA can look to information sources in their own backyards Options include ride-alongs with local police and online and in-person programs hosted by Sisters in Crime. Speakers at my Upstate South Carolina SinC chapter’s meetings have included K-9 officers, DAs, judges, detectives, US Marshalls, FBI agents, crime scene investigators, ATF officers, paramedics, bank fraud investigators, and even psychics.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe best part? I’ve yet to meet an expert who wasn’t willing to answer my questions. I’ve gained insights into experiences well outside my day-to-day existence. It’s also allowed me to make friends with people from many walks of life. Yes, research improves books, but it also enriches the researcher’s life.

Linda Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and advertising copy. Her blend of mystery and humor lets her chuckle as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her new Brie Hooker Mystery series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. While her new series may be cozy, she weaves in plenty of adrenaline-packed scenes to keep readers flipping pages. LindaHeadshot

She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She’s the award-winning author of five prior mystery/suspense/thriller novels. To learn more, visit her website: www.lindalovely.com  

Readers: Which expert has helped you in some area of your life? Writers: Who is the quirkiest expert you’ve called on in the name of research? Remember, she’s giving away a signed ARC now or an ebook after the book comes out to one commenter here today.

A Wicked Welcome to Nikki Woolfolk!

Julie here, sweating in Somerville (where’s fall?)

I have met Nikki Woolfolk a couple of times, but know her best through Facebook. I love reading about her work as a Chocolatier, love of steam punk, and writing career. When I found out that her book, MISE EN DEATH, was coming out on October 15, I invited her to the blog so you would all get to know her as well. Welcome, Nikki!

3 Ways to Create Captivating Characters Without Bogging Down Your Plot

by Nikki Woolfolk

digital-cover-ingram (2)A tale of whodunit is what makes us pick up a novel, but what make us devour a story are the characters.

Creating engaging characters is similar to being given juicy gossip minus the risk to reputation. In mystery novels, our guilty pleasure of peeking into another life and sharing their worries is rewarded. The author invites us into the sleuth’s world through the relationships between secondary characters, setting, and their career. Those relationships act as a mirror for our main character and sometimes the reader themselves.

Secondary characters

The old adage of how a person treats the wait staff at a restaurant tells you all you need to know about them runs true for fictional characters. Whether it has two legs or four paws, readers learn about the main character by how they communicate with those around them. Instead of info dumping an author can use dialogue between the sleuth and secondary characters to show who they are while moving the plot forward.

Setting

Setting goes beyond a weather forecast. Setting is a time or a place that helps to set a mood for your readers as your characters navigate in the world they live, the cultural atmosphere and historical setting.

Growing up in the West coast, with a father born in the South and a mother born up North gave me a unique perspective. A perspective I was not aware of until I recently gave ARCs of my newest mystery, MISE EN DEATH, a historical culinary cozy.

I did mention the Louisiana summer humidity in the fictional coastal town of Honfleur, but to help immerse readers into the world I used Southern nuances. One way was in a name. Mister Jones. Mister Jones is a fellow student at the school, but his peers are called by their given name without a title.

A few of my New England readers pointed it out believing it an error. My Southern readers or those raised by Southern family did not give it a second thought and continued reading. In Mister Jones I am telling the reader the race of Mister Jones, sharing the cultural dynamics and hinting at the alternative historical universe I’ve created.

Speaking of alternative history…

While attending college I wanted to follow in one of my uncles footsteps and become a psychologist. My studies brought me to see motivation, patterns, behaviors and other factors come into play with people. In the end I chose a different career path, but I kept the “what if” aspect of my psyche when developing characters. The largest what if I chose to explore was the Civil War.

What if the Civil War never had happened?

How would this affect our society? Would women have further advances in career and their place in leadership rolls?

The world I’ve created is not filled with endless gadgets or the window dressing per se. This society and its culture, reflect the positive psychological outcomes made due to the women’s movement, Nat Turner’s revolt succeeding, and the promotion of equal education for all in the States.

Where MISE EN DEATH begins is decades later and the people still have the same fears and joys that connect readers. Cozy mysteries can be set anywhere but are always about the people living and working within the town.

Career

Often times readers are either wanting to live vicariously through the sleuth’s career. The reader trusts the author to draw them into the story, not just read it.

Writing my sleuthing heroine as a chocolatier working at a culinary school was my way to share what few are privy to. Enough people watch cooking shows and read recipes, but in MISE EN DEATH the reader gets to walk in sleuthing chef’s shoes, observe her relationship with her students and see students find their place in the world of cuisine.

In MISE EN DEATH solving the murder of the millionaire Madam Brookmeyer is of great importance to our sleuthing chef, but knowing why it matters lies in the heart of the school and its importance to the students and employees.

Characters are what a mystery story is about, but living in their world as they solve the crime is what keeps us turning the pages.

********************************

ABOUT MISE EN DEATH: 
Alex LeBeau, Chocolatier and chef instructor, wants nothing more than to give her almost grown son a quiet life and a place to call home. Settling in Honfleur, Louisiana, Alex can distance herself from her chaotic romantic past and association with the clandestine group Bellicose Solanum (BelSol).

Things might be looking up for her when she takes a job at a promising cooking school. Her contentment is short-lived when a famous millionaire of Honfleur is murdered during the school’s catering event on an airship.

As the body count begins to rise in an eccentric series of mishaps, all evidence points to one of her most beloved culinary students—her son.

If word gets out about the murder, the culinary school’s reputation is ruined, but most importantly Alex cannot let her son be found guilty for a crime he didn’t commit.

With the help of Josephine, the school potager and voice of reason, Alex hesitantly rallies up old friends from her checkered past to help clear her son’s name.

Armed with the fortune that might (or might not) favor the brave, Alex and Josephine race to find the killer before those nearest to Alex become the latest victims.

********************************

BIO: Nikki Woolfolk is a Professional Chocolatier, Author and active member of Sister in Crime, Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. Nikki enjoys pulling readers into a humor-filled into a spectacular cogged and geared world.

While sought after for her informative Chocolate Tasting sessions at conventions, Nikki also uses her polymath talents to pen articles on the craft of writing, apply her computer science training to her New Adult Blerd Grrl series (Now That Your Joystick’s Broke), and her culinary and aviation knowledge to create a sleuth chef that cooks up Steampunk adventures under a digirible filled sky. (Mise en Death– a Bittersweet Mysteries series, RIVETED: a Collection of Steampunk Tall-Tales).

Get the scoop on upcoming books, chocolate and appearances. Add your email to our BOOKS & CHOCOLATE monthly newsletter NikkiWoolfolk .com.

Get answers. Get chocolate. Get hooked!

Ditching the Comfort Zone by Laura DiSilverio

We’d like to extend a Wicked Welcome to Laura DiSilverio. We’re very excited about her new release, THAT LAST WEEKEND, and invited her on the blog to tell us about it.

Every now and then, I take a baby step outside my comfort zone.

It’s called a “comfort” zone for a reason. Being outside that zone is uncomfortable, emotionally or physically. It’s challenging. It’s a struggle.LD COVER It feels like the world is all sharp edges, rejections, and anxiety. I don’t like it out here.

But–

But, if I never stepped outside the comfort zone I wouldn’t become a better writer. If I didn’t try new things, scare myself, make myself vulnerable, put myself at risk, my writing would atrophy. The same holds true for the writing itself. If I don’t push myself to try new things, I don’t feel like I’m growing.

My latest book, THAT LAST WEEKEND, represents a largish step outside my CZ, from a writing perspective. Where my cozy mysteries (15 of them!) and my Young Adult trilogy are written from a single first person POV, THAT LAST WEEKEND has four viewpoint characters, roughly equal in importance. Where my other books had one timeline, THAT LAST WEEKEND takes place in the present and the past. The POV and the timeline necessitated a change to my writing process; to keep storylines and timelines straight, I actually had to do some outlining, which isn’t my usual process.

comfort zone (1)If that weren’t enough, I wanted the relationships between the main characters to be as important to the book, as important to readers, as solving the mystery. Don’t worry mystery fans–there’s more than one mystery at play here, lots of plots twists and surprises . . . I didn’t stray so far from my comfort zone that I eschewed dead bodies! (Wait for the book after this one . . .) I want readers to think of this book as being about friendship and how friendships change under pressure and over time. (The friendships in this book are admittedly under great strain since there’s a murderer running around.) I hope you’ll read the book and let me know whether or not I succeeded.

Let me leave you with this thought about comfort zones by Dan Stevens (whom you may know better as Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey fame):

“The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.”

One commenter chosen at random will get a copy of THAT LAST WEEKEND so please chime into the discussion!

When was the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone. Was it a deliberate choice, or were you shoved? For instance, I became an empty nester last month, an instance of being shoved out of my comfort zone.

Laura DBio
Laura DiSilverio is the national bestselling and award-winning author of 21 mystery, suspense and young adult sci-fi novels. Library Journal named Close Call one of the Top Five mysteries of 2016, and The Reckoning Stones (2015) won the Colorado Book Award for Mystery in 2016. She offers writing tips and strategies at CareerAuthors.com, a new resource for novelists at all levels. She is a recent empty nester struggling to come to terms with a life that is seemingly devoid of all meaning. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration.)

Tables Turned — Guest Kristopher Zgorski

I love Kristopher Zgorski’s new feature on his wonderful Bolo Books blog, The Bolo Books Composite Sketch. He features someone from the writing industry every Friday and asks a mere five questions. I’ve know some of the people who have been featured, but each time found out something new about them. It got me thinking — how would Kristopher answer his own questions. I was delighted when Kristopher agreed to let the Wickeds turn the tables on him!

But first here is a little more about Kristopher and his amazing crime fiction blog:

My crime fiction review blog, BOLO Books (www.bolobooks.com), will be celebrating five years of existence in just a few weeks – while most of the crime fiction community is at Bouchercon in Toronto, in fact.  With that auspicious occasion approaching, earlier this year I began to think about a new feature I could include on the blog that would be both interesting and more importantly not add to my workload tremendously.  I already spend countless hours a week reading, researching, and writing reviews after all.

Because the name BOLO Books is police inspired, I wanted a feature that would harken back to that concept. I quickly stumbled upon the idea of composite sketch – drawings police artists do when interviewing witnesses to a crime. THAT’S IT!, I thought.  I will start with a black and white sketch type image of a person, ask a few questions, and then end with the full color version of that same image.

With that in place, I needed to craft the questions. I wanted something that was both generic and incisive, which proved to be as difficult and dichotomous as it sounds. Since I wanted this feature to be free of the “sales pitchy” feel of some promotion, I decided to focus on questions that would get to the heart of the person – what makes them tick, who inspires them. I also wanted this feature to highlight everyone in the crime fiction tribe, not just authors, so it made sense to avoid any writing-related queries. But I also wanted to keep it short, so I decided five questions was enough. And with that the BOLO Books Composite Sketch feature was born.

I had the sense that these sketches would be interesting to people – after all, as they were coming in, I myself was finding out fascinating things about people I have known for years – but I had no idea how quickly it would become a go-to stop for people every Friday morning. People from all walks of life have told me that they simply love this feature – even when they don’t know the person at all, they find the idea of getting this insight into them to be very enjoyable. Needless to say, I am glad I had that little brainstorm at the 5th anniversary of BOLO Books.  And I was thrilled when Sherry Harris asked me if I would consider doing a composite sketch of myself for the Wicked Cozy Author Blog.

So with that, here is a bit more about me:

The BOLO Books Composite Sketch

Name:  Kristopher Zgorski  Location: Columbia, Maryland

This person from my personal life is such an inspiration:

Without a doubt, I am going with my mother here. My mom and her siblings had a rough start, ending up in an orphanage and various foster homes, but they never lost contact with each other and maintained the bonds that only family can forge.  Later in life, she would struggle as a single mother to instill in my brother and I a level of compassion and hopefulness that I will forever thank her for.

One of the people I admire most in the crime fiction community is:

This is a tough call, so I am going to go with three folks who I think are always willing to lend a hand, pass along information and advice, and shower enthusiastic support  – not just as it relates to me, but upon everyone in our tribe. Those folks are: Judy Bobalik, Erin Mitchell, and Hank Phillippi Ryan. The crime fiction community – and the world – is better because they are a part of it.

STALKER ALERT! If this fictional character were real, they would likely need to get a restraining order against me:

Although I know I will be fighting over him with countless people – including some of my closest friends – I’m going with James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser – aka Jamie, from the Outlander series.  Hopefully you don’t need to ask why, as I do embarrass easily.

People are always surprised that I am a fan of this individual (singer, actor, or artist):

I’m not sure that any of my fandom will surprise people. It’s about as eclectic as it is possible for an individual to be. I shall answer with two responses however: Georgia O’Keefe because I admire what she was able to do in a time when female artists were fighting an uphill battle – a struggle which continues today – and also because Santa Fe is a bit of a mecca for my husband and I. And in stark contrast to O’Keefe, Frank Lloyd Wright, who by most accounts was probably not a very nice man, but whose architectural design I simply can’t get enough of – there’s a reason we ultimately settled in the craftsman-style home section of Columbia, MD.

My personal catch phase is (or should be):

“Lord have mercy on my soul”  (This sounds way more religious than it really is. But sometimes the things I see, hear, and experience in this world defy any other possible response.)

Thanks so much for allowing me to stop by the blog, Sherry.  I hope that people enjoyed learning a bit more about me.  All the previous Composite Sketches can be found over at BOLO Books at the following link:

BOLO BOOKS COMPOSITE SKETCHES (http://bolobooks.com/?s=composite+sketch)

There have been sixteen previous Sketches at this point and new ones every Friday morning. Please do stop by, I think you will have a good time!

Readers: How would you answer this question: STALKER ALERT! If this fictional character were real, they would likely need to get a restraining order against me.

 

 

 

History, Mystery, Macavity, and Nominees!

Edith here, writing on a lovely late summer day from north of Boston.MysteryReadersInternational

I am hugely honored to have Delivering the Truth, my first Quaker Midwife mystery, nominated for a Macavity Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel this year. The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot. Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in four categories.

A month from today we will already know who among the fabulous group of nominees is the winner (the award winners are announced on October 12 during the opening ceremonies at Bouchercon) – but we’re all winners just to have received the nomination. I wanted to introduce each of the nominees to you today.

I asked Susanna Calkins, Lyndsay Faye, Catriona McPherson, Ann Parker, and James Ziskin to share their favorite/quirkiest historical tidbit they learned while writing their nominated book, where they learned it, and how they worked it in. Going alphabetically, let’s start with Susanna – although she also writes the furthest back in time of any of us.

author photoSusanna Calkins: The first image that came to me, when writing A Death Along the River Fleet, was that of a distraught woman running across a bridge. I didn’t know who she was or where she was going but I wanted her on a bridge. Unfortunately, the London Bridge–the only bridge to cross the Thames in 17th century England—had been rendered virtually inaccessible after the Great Fire of 1666.

After studying 16th century maps with a magnifying glass, I located the Holborn Bridge, which crossed the mysterious “River Fleet,” a river rarely identified on modern maps. The River Fleet—once a river great enough to carry large Roman ships—had become by the 17th century an “uncovered sewer of outrageous filthiness.”  Moving through the Smithfield butcher markets, traversing Fleet Street, and emptying into the Thames, the river had become the Londoners’ dumping ground for animal parts, excrement, and household waste.  In other words, the perfect backdrop for murder.

death along the river fleet_MECH_01.indd

Bricked over in early 18th century, the River Fleet today is considered one of the great hidden rivers of London. Try to find it! But hold your nose.

Susanna Calkins writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical mysteries, featuring a chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice (Minotaur/St.Martins). Holding a PhD in history, Susanna currently works at Northwestern University. A native of Philadelphia, Susanna lives outside Chicago now with her husband, two sons and a cat. She is delighted to be nominated for the Macavity alongside Ann, Catriona, Edith, Lyndsay, and James.

lyndsay1Lyndsay Faye:

I try to hold to a hard and fast rule with my historicals, which is that if the protagonist doesn’t care about the tidbit, that narrator won’t mention it.  But sometimes my copyeditors nail me on fascinating subjects just as a way of double checking.  Like guess what I learned during editing Jane Steele?

Pet doors have existed from at least the 14th century.

When your copyeditor asks, “Author, please confirm pet doors existed in 1837,” the author feels a momentary rush of overwhelming how in God’s holy Jesus H. Name will I do that followed by at least twenty minutes of ashen existential despair.  After those twenty minutes and some serious headdesking are over, however, you find via none other such venerable source as Wikipedia that 14th century author Geoffrey Chaucer referenced pet doors in “The Miller’s Tale.”JaneSteele

An hole he foond, ful lowe upon a bord
Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at the hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the last he hadde of hym a sighte.

Following a discovery along these lines, your inclination is to laugh your face off because in the Great Jeopardy Game of Life, both you and your copyeditor can now be superstars.

Lyndsay Faye has been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Dilys Winn Award, and is honored to have been selected by the American Library Association’s RUSA Reader’s List for Best Historical.  She is an international bestseller and her Timothy Wilde Trilogy has been translated into 14 languages. Lyndsay and her husband Gabriel live in Ridgewood, Queens with their cats, Grendel and Prufrock.  During the few hours a day Lyndsay isn’t writing or editing, she is most often cooking, or sampling new kinds of microbrew, or thinking of ways to creatively mismatch her clothing.  She is a very proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, the Baker Street Babes, the Baker Street Irregulars, Mystery Writers of America, and Girls Write Now.  She is hard at work on her next novel…always.

 

Catriona McPhersonCatriona McPherson: The best historical nugget I discovered writing The Reek of Red Herrings is the best bit I’ve ever discovered in the course of all twelve books.

I was reading about the wedding customs of the Aberdeenshire fisherfolk in the 1930s and I happened on the explanation for the best man and best maid (maid of honour). Get this: the bride and groom, inevitably prominent during their wedding, might well attract the notice of . . . the devil! If Old Nick’s looking for souls to steal, the buzz around a bride makes her tempting. The best man and best maid are decoys.

And, since the devil is – by anyone’s reckoning – a bit of an odd duck, with strange tastes, the herring fisherfolk made doubly sure the happy couple were protected by also 7b98a5ff-fdcb-478d-b41c-62517b4f7e22including a worst man and worst maid, with dirty hair and sooty faces, dressed in old clothes and odd boots.  You can just about see the connection to sacrificial scape-goats, can’t you?

As to how I included the research in the book . . . my female detective and her male counterpart needed to infiltrate the wedding party. Guess what roles they took.

Catriona McPherson is the multi-award-winning author of twelve Dandy Gilver historical mysteries and six contemporary stand-alones. She lives in California.

AnnParkerAnn Parker: One of the tidbits I picked up, fairly late in drafting What Gold Buys, involved who-did-what when it came to preparing a body for burial in 1880.

It all started when I was searching the internet for photos of 1880s-era embalming tools for my fictional undertaker. I stumbled across this news article about mortician James Lowry, who was preserving “the history of embalming”: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140924/DM07/140929575

The article was great, but I needed more. I started digging, tracked Mr. Lowry down on Facebook (yeah, I did), and sent him an out-of-the-blue inquiry, asking if he would be willing to talk about the embalming trade circa 1880. He responded, kindly, graciously, and quickly. In our subsequent phone interview, he explained embalming was refined in the 1860s during the Civil War and medical physicians not undertakers performed embalming until the first embalming school opened in 1883. What?? I had assumed What_Gold_Buys_Coverundertakers did the embalming, much like modern morticians. Visions of mad last-minute rewrites set in. However, Mr. Lowry saved me from despair, noting that in the late 1870s, some undertakers began forming “alliances” with embalming surgeons, adding that art to their skills set. I perked right up, thinking I can work with this! And I did. Whew. I’m forever grateful to Mr. Lowry, for saving me from that particular assumption about the past.

Ann Parker pens the award-winning Silver Rush historical series, featuring Leadville, Colorado, saloon-owner Inez Stannert—a woman with a mysterious past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. http://www.annparker.net

ZiskinJames Ziskin: The favorite tidbit I’ve used in my books is the IBM Selectric type ball. And I had to wait five books for it to be invented before I could slip it in. The Selectric came out in late summer 1961, which disqualified the first four Ellie Stone mysteries. They all take place before that date. Patience paid off in the end. Here’s how Ellie puts the type ball to good use in tormenting her nemesis at the paper, Georgie Porgie (CAST THE FIRST STONE, February 1962):

“Since August of the previous year, the IBM Selectric had been the talk of the newsroom back in New Holland.selectric But Georgie Porgie was the only reporter who got one. And that was a waste. He could barely type his name with one finger. I’d exacted my revenge on several occasions, though, through subtle and not-so-subtle means. Whereas in the past I’d had to pry the green plastic letter covers off the different keys and switch them around to create confusion, the Selectric’s “golf ball” type element meant I could simply remove it and hide it. Or drop it from the fifth-floor window into the street to see how high it HeartofStonewould bounce. Other tricks included switching the American type ball for a German one that had come with the machine. It usually took George a paragraph or two before he realized ßomething was öff.”

 

James Ziskin is the author of the Edgar-, Anthony-, Barry-, Lefty-, and Macavity-nominated Ellie Stone Mysteries. Heart of Stone is a finalist for the 2017 Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel.

Delivering the TruthCoverEdith Maxwell: Since I’m a nominee, too, here’s mine.  While I was researching the series, I wondered how I could find out about police procedure in 1880s New England. I struck out at the Massachusetts State Police museum, and my local detective didn’t know where I could learn about it.

PoliceManualCoverI reached out to author Frankie Bailey, who is a college professor of criminal justice and also writes killer mysteries. She suggested I look for a book called The Massachusetts Peace Officer: a Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and Other Civil Officers, published in 1890. Sure enough, I found a reprint on Amazon. The manual includes all kinds of little case studies and all the regulations a twenty-first-century author could ever dream of.

One of my favorites rules, which I have now used in several Quaker Midwife mysteries and short stories, is that an officer making an arrest is required to touch the arm or shoulder of the person he is arresting. Bingo! Such a small thing, but I think it’s the kind of historical detail that brings stories to life. And the sort of detail each of the nominated authors include in their novels.

So, readers: Which of these fantastic authors have you read? Anyone have fun historical tidbits of your own to share?

Welcome Guest Roger Johns!

By Sherry — I’m so delighted to introduce you to Roger Johns!

Roger’s debut book Dark River Rising released on August 29 from Minotaur Books! Here’s a bit about the book: Dark River Rising is a tense and expertly-plotted mystery set against the bayous of Louisiana, from debut author Roger Johns.

Baton Rouge Police Detective Wallace Hartman has had better days. With her long-time partner and mentor on medical leave and a personal life in shambles, she’s called to the scene of a particularly gruesome murder: the body of a known criminal has been found in a deserted warehouse, a snake sewn into his belly. Obvious signs of torture point to a cunning and cold-blooded killer who will stop at nothing to find what he’s looking for.

When Federal Agent Mason Cunningham arrives on the scene, Wallace expects a hostile takeover of the case. But when a scientist with ties to the victim goes missing from a government lab, she needs Mason’s federal connections as much as he needs her local insight, and the two form an uneasy partnership to solve a case that grows more complicated—and dangerous—by the minute.

Meanwhile, the killer lurks in the shadows with an agenda no one saw coming, and when Wallace and Mason threaten to get in the way they risk losing everything they hold dear. Including their lives.

Thanks for joining us today, Roger!

Thank you, to the fantastic Wicked Cozy Authors for having me on the blog today. Full disclosure: I am most certainly a cozy reader, but I am (gulp!) not a cozy writer. Gritty, hard-boiled, and neo-Noir would be pretty good descriptors for the category I belong in. Contemporary writers like Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Craig Johnson, and Tess Gerritsen would be good shelf-mates. And, if you look back a few years, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels would also be kindred spirits. So, at least the ‘wicked’ aspect of the blog title is probably apropos.

That said, I’m absolutely thrilled to be in the company of the Wicked Cozy Authors and their readers, today. Trust me, every first-time mystery writer longs for a chance in a spotlight this big and bright. And . . . there’s a little bit of a story behind how this happened. It falls into what my wife and I call the “You just never know ____________” category. There are the usual ways we would all fill in that blank, such as “You just never know . . .

* what you’re gonna find if you stop at that garage sale,” or

* what kind of meal you’re going to have when you try that new Ethiopian restaurant,” or

* whether you’re going to feel guilty for buying that budget-busting sport coat/pair of shoes/Maserati until after you’ve brought it home.”

And, today’s blank can be filled in with another of the old standards: “You just never know . . .

* who you’re gonna meet when you share a taxi from the hotel to the airport at the end of a mystery readers and writers convention in New Orleans . . . in October . . . of last year.”
The convention–Bouchercon 2016, by the way–was a great deal of fun. A year earlier, I had never even heard of, much less been to Bouchercon. But as I got deeper into the business of being an author I started learning about all these cool goings-on in the mystery reader-writer world. Maybe it was a blessing that I hadn’t known before, because I can see myself having dropped a ton of cash on it over the years. In any event, there I was, in the Crescent City, mingling with all these writers whose books I’d spent a lifetime reading, and meeting new writers and fellow readers. I didn’t have a book in play at the time–that was still about ten months away– so, in a sense, I was pressing my nose to the glass, but what a fine time it was.

Oh, and about that taxi ride, I tried hard not to eavesdrop (yeah, right!), but from a foot away, inside a van, afflicted with a congenitally nosey streak, it’s impossible not to overhear what your fellow riders are talking about. Mysteries, of course. Well, one thing led to another, and eventually I was invited into the conversation and eventually (and very nervously, I must add) I told my travel companions that I was in the early stages of being a mystery writer myself. My fellow riders–Sherry Harris (yes, that Sherry Harris) and Julianne Holmes (yes, that Julianne Holmes)–were so kind and so generous with their advice and in the recounting of their early experiences in the writing biz. I wish I had a video of the conversation to put up with this blog post.

There’s something exceptional about the reading-writing community, in general, and about the mystery-reading and writing community, in specific. Given that murder and mayhem are our stock in trade, it really is a remarkably good-natured slice of humanity (pun intended). In this ultra-competitive, too-often ill-mannered world we live in, it’s refreshing and affirming to be so readily embraced by the people who are already making the writing world go around. In my earlier incarnations, I met plenty of unpleasant people, but I have yet to encounter a single one in the reader-writer community. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has been so thoughtful and helpful and friendly, and so much fun to be around. We people of the book are a special tribe, and we should take a great deal of pride in this.

Author Bio: Roger is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, with law degrees from LSU and Boston University. Before, during, and after those endeavors, and before turning to mystery writing, he also worked as a script reader, drapery hanger, waiter, book seller, tuxedo rental clerk, ranch hand, television-commercial agent’s assistant, and party photographer–among other things. His debut novel–Dark River Rising–was released in August of this year by Minotaur Books-St. Martin’s Press.

 

Readers: What “you just never know” moments have you had?