Welcome Guest Susan C. Shea — Finding Inspiration

Welcome guest Susan C. Shea author of French Village Mystery series and the Dani O’Rourke mystery series! Susan is giving away a copy of Dressed for Death in Burgundy to someone who leaves a comment on the blog. Here’s a bit about Dressed for Death in Burgundy:

After finding herself mixed up in a murder investigation the previous Summer, Katherine Goff’s life simply has not been the same. Her husband has been in the US recording a new album, the Burgundy region locals are finally starting to see her as a real neighbor, and Katherine has even started helping out with “tourist” excursions. It seems she’s finally found her place in the small community of Reigny-sur-Canne.

But when Katherine stumbles across a body in the local museum during a tour, she finds herself caught up once again in a whirlwind of gossip and speculation. When the police zero in on her friend Pippa as a suspect, Pippa and Katherine team up to find the real killer and clear her name.

However, the more clues they discover, the more the real killer wants them off the trail. When Katherine and Pippa start receiving threats, they must decide what they are more afraid of—the police getting it wrong, or possibly becoming the killer’s next targets.

Many writers have the ability to snatch a whole story from a news item, or the history of international spies, or Civil War letters. That impresses me so much. But for me, it’s the push and pull, the troubles and triumphs close to home – family, friends, colleagues – that set off my creative sparks.

For a number of years, my day (and often evening and weekend) job was a mix of sensitive communications and high-value donor fundraising for non-profits. I spent time listening for clues as to what would move a millionaire or billionaire to support the organization I worked for. I also spent time working with leadership to get good news out to our constituents and get bad news out before anyone else did. There were always a lot of egos in the room and none of them could be mine. The work was arduous but, frankly, lots of fun most of the time.

My time off was spent with my Significant Other visiting museums, hanging out in his art studio, dropping into art openings in the city, visiting other places known for their visual arts. Many of our friends were artists, and some of them were off-the-charts individualists.

They were all – the artists, the millionaires, the corporate leaders – food for my creativity. The super rich have problems handling so much money and the labels put on them. Artists often have problems handling so little money! Put the two extremes together and my Dani O’Rourke series about a San Francisco fundraiser for an art museum was born. I drew on much that was accurate about these worlds, but invented characters who could show the extremes I needed for a murder mystery.

Follow an artist who, with her patient husband, pulled up stakes on a whim and moved to a tiny town in France, and the inspiration for my Burgundy mysteries was there in front of me. I have acknowledged in the French books that my fictional protagonist and her music-making husband were drawn from the lives of my friends, even though I did the same thing – stretched them into entirely different shapes to serve my fictional ends.

Readers tell me they enjoy learning a bit about what makes the secondary art market (artwork sold again after the artist sold it to its first owner) so wild and crazy and subject to criminal activity. Other people write to say they love reading about a part of France they don’t yet know because it feeds their desire for travel. For me it’s a validation that there’s plenty of worthy material to draw on from my own experiences, with a dash of humor from my own private observations, and real affection for people like some of Dani O’Rourke’s colleagues and Katherine’s rural neighbors.

Catriona McPherson (now, there’s a wonderful crime fiction author!) gave me a novel last year that I adore, Miss Buncle’s Book, by DE Stevenson, who wrote in the 1930s. Miss Buncle also looked close to home for her fiction, with hilarious results. I highly recommend it and the message it sends: Creativity lives everywhere, and we writers only need to look and listen to find inspiration for a thousand stories bubbling up all around us!

Readers: How do you express your creativity?

Bio: Susan C Shea is the author of two critically-acclaimed mystery series, the first set in San Francisco’s art world and the second in a small town in France. She is a past president of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime, services as secretary of the national board of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and former member of its NorCal chapter board. She spent twenty-five years in the not-for-profit world before beginning to write full time. She lives in Marin County, CA.

Mary Feliz: Making a Memorable Entrance

News Flash: Celia Fowler is Mary’s winner. Celia, please check your email, and congratulations!

Edith here, enjoying summer north of Boston! I’m happy to welcome friend Mary FelizFELIZ BLOG #1 Disorderly Conduct (4) to the Wickeds today. Her latest book in the Maggie McDonald Mysteries just came out. I love this series about a professional organizer and can’t wait to read Disorderly Conduct. Here’s the blurb:

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts through clues in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Mary will give a paper copy of Disorderly Conduct to one US commenter, and if you’re selected and are outside the United States, she’ll send a download for the e-reader of your choice!

Secondary Characters

Secondary characters nearly always threaten to take over a book, and a savvy writer  reins them in a bit to avoid overshadowing other important story elements.

But no two side-kicks have been harder to stifle than Tess and Patrick Olmos, who play a big role in my Maggie McDonald mystery series, particularly in the recently released Disorderly Conduct. While their backstory isn’t included in any of the books, I wanted to share it here, with the Wickeds who share some of the couple’s madcap, over-the-top originality.

Tess and Patrick’s unique relationship began the day Patrick ran his car off the road, into Tess’s family’s living room, and into her heart. With a flair for the dramatic herself, Tess was immediately charmed by the poise with which Patrick handled his entrance. His first words upon exiting his vehicle were, in order, Sorry, Ta Da!, and “Would you like to go to prom with me? I have insurance.” When she glanced at the car and found his dog behind the wheel, Tess asked who’d been driving. Patrick took responsibility. Even at sixteen, he was too much of a man to lay blame on his innocent retriever.

Golden Retriever Puppy Driving Car

Tess didn’t immediately agree to the prom invitation, but Patrick kept her laughing while they helped her building contractor father shore up the roof and nail plywood over the hole where the front window had been. Her father insisted Patrick cough up his deductible before the dance. Patrick’s family grounded him until he meet his increased insurance premiums and replace the car’s tires and brakes.

By the time the teen had paid off his debts, the couple decided to forgo the prom in favor of a more frugal day at the beach followed by dinner grabbed from an artisan food truck. Ten of their friends joined them, wisely betting that Tess and Patrick’s lively company would prove more fun than a stuffy urban hotel ballroom.

Years later, contemplating marriage, Tess insisted that their home be animal friendly, with a pet-free dressing room in which she could exchange her normal Uggs and sweatpants wardrobe for her sharp black and red fashionista work wardrobe. Patrick, on the other hand, was careless in his everyday appearance, but wanted all his possessions stowed with naval precision. The couple struggled through this arrangement for several months before realizing they’d be happier and stay married longer if they created separate domiciles, each with room for the other.

Tess is at home in Patrick’s ship-shape and austere urban loft near the transit hub where he catches the train for San Francisco. Patrick is a frequent visitor at her suburban ranch across the street from the school attended by their son Teddy, who moves seamlessly from one home to the other. It wasn’t until he was in third grade that he realized his family set up was atypical. At first, though his parents had never contemplated divorce, Teddy feared their living arrangement meant their partnership was on the rocks. As Tess explained when comforting her son, “We’re odd. You’re just going to have to face that. But we love each other and you very much. That’s the most important thing in any family.”

Outwardly, Tess and her best friend (my main character, professional organizer and declutterer Maggie McDonald) are polar opposites, but they share a belief in the importance of love, family, justice and friends. They invite you to join them in all their Orchard View adventures including Address to Die For (A Kirkus Best Book of 2017), Scheduled to Death, Dead Storage, and Disorderly Conduct (released July 10, 2018) Additional books are planned.

Readers: In Disorderly Conduct, Maggie and her family are packing to flee a wild-fire. What kinds of natural disasters plague your area? Are there any that scare you so much you’d choose not to live in an area where those conditions were likely to occur? Have you had any close calls? Remember, Mary is giving away a copy of the book to one commenter!

FELIZ BLOG #1 Author HeadshotMary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

Alex Erickson: When the Not So Cozy Gets Cozy

News Flash: Diana Wunning is Alex’s randomly selected winner. Congrats, Diana! Please check your email. Alex will be contacting you.

Edith here, loving full summer north of Boston. Today I welcome a new guest, fellow Kensington Publishing cozy author Alex Erickson. He and I are going to have Christmas novellas published together in 2019 (along with Carlene O’Connor), so I thought I’d invite him over so we can all get to know him. He writes the Bookstore Cafe Mysteries, and his latest book is Death by Espresso. Don’t you love the cover?

EspressoBookstore-café owner Krissy Hancock has plenty to keep her occupied outside business hours, like preparing for her best friend’s wedding and solving a murder.

Krissy is meeting Vicki’s parents at the Pine Hills, Ohio, airport—it’s the least she can do as maid of honor, even if her relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Patterson is a bit strained. Besides, her own dad is coming in on the same flight. But there are a few additional arrivals, too. Her father’s brought a date—and the Pattersons, both actors, seem to have an entire entourage trailing behind them.

Uninvited guests are a headache—especially when one turns out to be, allegedly at least, the most important wedding planner in all the world. Though Vicki and Krissy have already made arrangements for a small, simple party, Vicki’s snobby drama queen mother has her own ideas. Cathy the wedding planner is raring to go, possibly energized by the chocolate-covered espresso beans she compulsively munches. But while the caffeine keeps her awake, it doesn’t keep her alive—and after Cathy chokes on an espresso bean after being hit in the head, Krissy has to find out who ended her supposedly stellar career . . .

Alex is giving away a copy of the new book to one lucky commenter here today, too (US and Canada only)! Take it away, Alex.

“You’re the wrong sex!”

I’ve heard it more times than I can count. Nearly every event I go to, someone comments on the fact that I’m a man writing cozy mysteries. While it’s not unheard of, some say cozies and men simply don’t go together.

I get it. You look up and down the aisle of authors signing their books, you do find a lot of women. I stand out. And when you sit back and look at my interests, I fit in even less.

BooksI grew up on Stephen King. That’s not exactly cozy reading. I also love my sci-fi and fantasy, both in book form and television. While I watch a lot of mystery and detective shows, many of them are of a darker, bloodier sort. Shows like The Killing. Shows like Dexter. These are not cozy.

And then there’s what I do for fun and to relax (when I’m not reading, of course.) I own a Playstation 4, an Xbox One (two in fact,) a Switch, a gaming PC, and most of them get used every single day. Even my work laptop can run most PC games at max settings. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m often found with a controller in my hands, talking to my friends through a headset.Board Games

While I also like board games, which could fit in with certain cozies, my games are quite a bit different than Monopoly.

Don’t even get me started on my music tastes. Let’s just say it isn’t very cozy.

So, how did someone who is more likely to be found at a Moonspell concert, or who spends hours playing Overwatch, or who watches shows depicting gruesome murders, end up writing cozy mysteries?


“Pops” mostly from Overwatch

Easy. I love telling stories. I enjoy making people laugh. When so much of what I do resides in the darker realm of entertainment, it’s good to get out and write something that doesn’t dwell on darkness. Sure, there’s murder, but it’s what I like to think of as “light” murder. Happy murder!

And sure, writing a female lead as a man has its challenges. Voice is important to the story. When I write, I focus on what the character would do, not what I would do in any given situation. That helps. I also subscribe to the idea that I don’t make this stuff up on my own; I’m transcribing for my characters.

While I might not spend a lot of time with traditional cozy hobbies, I am an animal person. And when it comes to cozies, sometimes, the animals are all that matters.

Alex_Erickson_8x10_BWReaders: Do you have any hobbies or interests that would surprise the cozy community? Are there any odd hobbies or themes you’d like to see in a cozy? Remember, Alex is giving a copy of Death by Espresso!

Alex Erickson has always wanted to write, even at a young, impressionable age. He’s always had an interest in the motive behind murder, which has led him down his current path. He’s always ready with a witty—at least in his opinion—quip, and tries to keep every conversation light and friendly. Alex lives in Ohio with his family and resident felines, who provide endless amounts of inspiration.

That Friend — Guest Laura Bradford

Sherry here welcoming author Laura Bradford back to the Wickeds. She’s an amazing writer and woman. This post touches my heart. And I hope you all go out and buy her new book Portrait of a Sister! Here is a bit about the book:

Katie Beiler was always the follower to her twin sister Hannah’s lead. That is until Hannah left their Amish upbringing for an English life—leaving Katie to find her own footing in a world that no longer looks as it once did . . .

Katie has always imagined her life being just like Mamm’s. It’s why she chose baptism and why she’ll soon marry Abram Zook. But ever since Hannah left, the only thing that truly makes Katie smile is the sketchpad in which she indulges her talent for drawing faces—a sin that, if discovered, could get her shunned by her family, her friends, and even Abram. Yet Katie sees her secret pastime as the only way to quiet a growing restlessness she’d just as soon ignore. That is until their Mamm’s untimely death brings Hannah back home to Pennsylvania, with a new outlook on life, a man she adores, and, soon, an invitation for Katie to visit her in New York City.

Suddenly, Katie is experiencing a freedom she’s never had, in a world she never imagined. She’s also spending time in the company of a fellow dreamer, someone who sees her as strong and brave and makes her laugh. But it’s when Hannah shows Katie’s drawings to a gallery owner that she truly finds herself at a crossroads between the only life she’s ever known and the powerful lure of an unfamiliar future.

Laura: When I sat down to write this post, I thought it would be about my transition from cozy mysteries to women’s fiction. After all, if one of my fellow cozy authors suddenly veered in a completely different direction, I’d be curious as to why/how.

But there’s another story tied to this whole transition that seems a better fit for Wicked Cozy Authors, a blog founded on (and run by) women who epitomize what it means to be true, supportive friends. Because just as Katie Beiler, the main character in Portrait of a Sister, is essentially nudged into discovering who she is/what she wants in life, Portrait of a Sister’s release this week is, in part, due to someone who nudged me.

First though, a little backstory (it’s a blog, not a book, right?)…

Of the thirty books I’ve written prior to Portrait of a Sisters release, twenty-six of them were essentially cozy mysteries. I love the small town, regular “jane” protagonist aspect of the genre for its relatability. The whodunit part was always fun to write, but the characters and their lives spoke to me most. Readers who took the time to write me notes about my books over the years, always commented about my characters, letting me know that what I felt while writing my mysteries, was the same thing my readers were receiving. And just like they wanted to know more about certain characters, so did I.

I think that’s when I really started thinking about women’s fiction. After all, I loved reading women’s fiction for the same reason I wanted to write it. Unfortunately, breaking into a completely different genre isn’t always easy. So after playing around with an idea or two, I put the whole women’s fiction idea on the back burner in favor of my contracted (read: paying) mysteries.

Or so I thought.

Sure enough, while writing the fifth book in my Amish Mysteries (in particular the pivotal character of Detective Jakob Fisher), I knew I could no longer ignore the urge.

Quick side note of explanation:  Detective Jakob Fisher was raised/baptized Amish and opted to leave to pursue law enforcement, thus severing all ties to his family. I explore his heartache to a degree in my mysteries, but I’ve always been fascinated by it on a different level.

 My fascination with his choice claimed its own corner of my brain, birthing a completely different character and her twin sister—characters that spoke to me at all hours of the day and night.

And then tragedy struck my household and everything turned upside down. My thoughts…my worries…my every brain cell was focused on my children. When a quiet moment presented itself, I was working on a deadline book, but really, I was drowning. Once in a while I could see the shoreline, but it was in someone else’s world, not mine.

Until the day I talked to Joe, that is. Joe is one of the truest, most genuine people I’ve ever known, and he is the complete definition of the word “friend.”  He knew what was going on, he listened, he spoke, he wiped my tears from 1200 miles away, and when I told him I felt as if I was drowning, he threw out a three-part life raft:

  • He worked out a word count schedule for me to follow to hit the two back-to-back deadlines. This sounds like a no-brainer, and it’s something I do with most of my books, but I was unable to think of anything during this time. His doing it for me helped. He broke it down into manageable chunks at a time everything seemed too big.
  • He encouraged me to take two weeks for myself before moving on to the third deadline. He said I needed to do something for me.
  • When all my deadlines were met, he said I needed to step away from the computer and live.

Thanks to his schedule and his support, I made the two back-to-backers. And his third suggestion? About the big break when all my deadlines were met? I took the entire summer off in 2017 (heaven, I tell you).

But it was that second suggestion that had me writing the proposal for Portrait of a Sister. Literally five days after I started, I sent the eight chapter/full synopsis proposal to my agent. No more than three hours later, she was on the phone with me, the emotion in her voice letting me know I’d hit the right note. By the end of that week, the proposal was sent to a handful of publishers and a bidding war of sorts began.

Yes, I wrote Portrait of a Sister.

And yes, it was a passion project in every sense of the word.

But it being out this week? That’s because of Joe. Because of his nudge. Because he knew I was drowning and he held out his hand.

That’s what friends do. ~Laura

P.S. A huge thank you to the Wickeds for inviting me to be here today, and for being living, breathing examples of the reality that no one person’s boat has to sink in order for someone else’s to float.

P.P.S.   Portrait of a Sister is now available in trade paperback and e-book. It is a “summer book club” pick for Mary Janes Farm Magazine and Southern Lady Magazine.  To learn more about the book, visit my website:  https://www.laurabradford.com/ , and hang out with me on my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/laurabradfordauthor/

Readers: Have you had a friend step in and help you?

Bio: Laura is the national bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Amish Mysteries, the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries, and the Tobi Tobias Mystery Series. Portrait of a Sister is her first women’s fiction novel. ​ A former Agatha Award nominee and recipient of an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Laura enjoys making memories with her family, baking, and being an advocate for those living with Multiple Sclerosis.

The Night of the Flood

The winner of The Night of the Flood is Mark Baker! Look for an email from me!

I fell in love, first with the concept of The Night of the Flood, and then the book when it came out in March. It’s interesting, unique, gripping, and in turn poignant and funny. I loved it so much I’m giving away a copy to one person who leaves a comment.

Alan Orloff, one of the contributors, interviews the two intrepid editors, E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen.

Alan Orloff: You two (Ed Aymar and Sarah M. Chen) should be commended, not only for the sterling end product, a buzz-generating novel-in-stories (THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD), but for surviving the task of editing/babysitting/torturing 14 thriller writers, all with mayhem on their minds. Let’s start at the beginning. Can you describe the genesis of this fascinating project?

E.A. Aymar: It was an idea originally proposed, in a different form, by J.J. Hensley. He, along with seven other writers in this book, regularly contributes to The Thrill Begins, and we had all become good friends and fans/supporters of each other’s work. He had the idea to do a joint collaboration on a project, and it morphed into THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD.

That said, J.J.’s a terrible person and we really don’t want his further association with this project. So Sarah and I kept his name off the cover, refused to give him credit, and you should probably just delete that preceding paragraph. Fine to keep this one, though. (Sherry here. For those of you who don’t know this crew — this is a joke and J.J. has a story in the book.)

Author Alan Orloff

AO: Getting fourteen writers all on the same page seems daunting. How did you manage it (without bloodshed or lawsuits)?

EA: Oh, we all weren’t on one page. That would have been a very short book. 

AO: Ha ha, that was a good one.

EA: Anyway, we had a very loose outline to which everyone adhered, and the stories were split hourly. Writers were free to borrow elements from each other’s work and occasionally did, and that worked well turning an anthology into a novel. We did take pains to avoid repetition, more in word choice than theme. For example, there were a lot of references to the town name (Everton) and “The Daughters,” the group of women who blow up the town’s dam and instigate the rioting that night. We made sure to space those out.

AO: Getting two editors on the same page seems daunting. How did you manage that? Can you describe your east coast/west coast working relationship? 

EA: First off, let me say that Sarah M. Chen is the best partner a co-editor can have. She’s thorough, funny, and razor smart. We paired up sort of incidentally, and she’s really an absolute dream to work with. And I don’t know how or why she puts up with my crap.

Regarding communications, we exploited all sorts of modern technology and went back and forth on texts, e-mails, vaped smoke signals, and (very rarely) phone calls. From ideas to editing to promotion, we ran stuff by each other and made sure we were on the same page. Safe to say that we’re both intensely proud of this book, and want to give it the best treatment possible.

AO: With fourteen different stories/writers, I imagine there were some significant continuity issues. How did you make sure the book flowed as a unified story?

Author E. A. Aymar

EA: I kind of addressed that earlier, but I’ll add something to that earlier point. Having good writers makes editing so much easier. Good writers tend to be inventive, and the contributors did a great job of ensuring continuity on their own. And then Sarah’s sharp eye caught discrepancies like the position of the moon or the changing height of the water.

We approached this idea as a group, so we all, essentially, began at the same starting point. That was a huge, and unforeseen, help in unifying the concept.

AO: Publishing a book is more than just writing words, doing a few revision passes, and shipping it off to the publisher (the wonderful Down & Out Books). After it’s complete, there’s the “other” stuff: promotion, marketing, sales, making book trailers, collecting awards, enforcing restraining orders against disgruntled authors. Can you describe some of those efforts?

Author Sarah M. Chen

Sarah M. Chen: It was a collaborative effort from everyone as we pooled our ideas together on different ways to market and promote. One of the benefits of working with such experienced writers is that I learned so much. Normally I just go through the usual social media channels, but there’s so much more than that. Like the UrbanaAMA app. Ed and I answered questions about editing / writing an anthology via video and it was a blast. I’d never had a book trailer done before and thanks to Ed, we had our very own cool book trailer. I want to say that Ed was really good at organizing our promo efforts, generating ideas, and just getting us psyched about our little project. He was a great cheerleader. Other contributors promoted the book through their respective newsletters and did things like scavenger hunts. And I don’t want to forget Down & Out’s efforts. They did an incredible job sending out review copies to everyone, including Publisher’s Weekly, Foreword Reviews (they even made FLOOD a Book of the Day!), and Crimespree. D&O provided us with some awesome promo graphics to spread all over social media.

AO: What has been the response to THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD within the crime-fiction community, from both writers and readers?

 SMC: It’s been amazingly positive so far and I’m grateful for every single review. The blurbs we received early on blew me away as well. (AO adds: From Lee Child – “A brave concept brilliantly executed.)

AO: A second book with a similar multiple-author novel-in-stories concept, THE MORNING OF THE KILLERS, is on the drawing board. A brief description, please? What lessons learned from FLOOD will you apply as you plan, edit, and promote it?

SMC: It’s a novel-in-stories so it’s similar in concept but it’s not a sequel. Contributors can use their FLOOD characters though if they’d like. We haven’t officially announced it and we’re still hashing it out but it involves a crime boss, infidelity, and bounty hunters. I’m really excited to be working with the same writers as well as new ones. And of course, co-editing with Ed again is a bonus. He really knows how to rally all of us together and spearhead a lot of the promotional efforts. I’m telling you, he’s our cheerleader.

 We have more writers involved in this project, so Ed and I are cobbling together a loose outline after all of us agreed on the basic premise. From there, all the contributors will bounce ideas off each other and flesh out the storyline even further. Chris (Rhatigan) is a fantastic editor and we’re excited to be working with D&O again on this project. A perk working with so many writers is that there’s a good chance I’ll learn of some new platforms and ideas on promotion as I did with FLOOD.

AO: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

 EA: The first half of this year has been all about THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, chiefly in regards to promotions. I have a standalone coming out from Down and Out Books in March 2019, called THE UNREPENTANT, and Sarah and I are going back and forth on THE MORNING OF THE KILLERS. We haven’t officially announced it as of this writing, but Down and Out likes the concept and we’re set for a 2020 publishing date (with many of the same contributors as THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, along with some new faces). And I have an essay coming out in the second UNLOADED anthology this July. And…oh, I guess that’s it.

SMC: I have a few short stories that are set to be released in upcoming anthologies, including MURDER A GO-GOS, edited by Holly West and released by Down & Out Books. All stories are inspired by song titles of The Go-Go’s. This is one I’m extremely proud to be a part of. All proceeds are to go to Planned Parenthood.

AO: Thanks for a great interview, Sarah and Ed, and stay dry!

Readers: Do you have a favorite theme (or hook) for a book or anthology?


Sarah M. Chen has published crime fiction short stories with Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, and Betty Fedora, to name a few. Cleaning Up Finn, her noir novella with All Due Respect Books, was an Anthony finalist and IPPY award winner. For more info, visit sarahmchen.com

In addition to The Night of the Flood, E.A. Aymar writes a monthly column for the Washington Independent Review of Books and is the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, ITW’s online resource for aspiring and debut thriller writers. He also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide. He has never won an award, so let’s get on that. For more info, visit eaymar.com

Alan Orloff has been a finalist for the Agatha and Derringer Awards. His eighth novel, Pray for the Innocent, came out earlier this year. He’s published numerous short stories, including “Rule Number One,” which was selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2018 anthology edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler. For more info, visit alanorloff.com


“Each of the 14 varied and fitfully amusing stories in this solid anthology takes as its starting point the destruction of a dam and the subsequent flooding of Everton, PA. Aymar and Chen deserve kudos for putting together a distinctive anthology.” —Publishers Weekly

It happened the night Maggie Wilbourne was to be put to death, the first woman executed by the state of Pennsylvania in modern times. That was when a group of women passionately protesting Maggie’s imprisonment struck. They blew up a local dam, flooding the town of Everton and indirectly inspiring a hellish night of crime and chaos.

Fourteen of today’s most exciting contemporary crime writers will take you to the fictional town of Everton, with stories from criminals, cops, and civilians that explore the thin line between the rich and the poor, the insider and the outsider, the innocent and the guilty. Whether it’s a store owner grimly protecting his property from looters, an opportunistic servant who sees her time to strike, or two misguided youths taking their anger out against any available victim, The Night of the Flood is an intricate and intimate examination of the moment when chaos is released—in both society and the human spirit.

Contributors: E.A. Aymar, Rob Brunet, Sarah M. Chen, Angel Luis Colón, Hilary Davidson, Mark Edwards, Gwen Florio, Elizabeth Heiter, J.J. Hensley, Jennifer Hillier, Shannon Kirk, Jenny Milchman, Alan Orloff, and Wendy Tyson.


“Plenty of complex characters and hard edges. Take a breath, then hang on and enjoy this entertaining romp.” —Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

“Bravo to all the authors who contributed to The Night of the Flood, a collection of brilliant short stories about residents of the dysfunctional town of Everton who are thrust into the turbulence of decisions that will forever change who they thought they were. A stormy page-turner that will leave you wanting more.” —Sandra Brannan, author of the award-winning Liv Bergen Mystery Series

“A brilliant, multi-leveled concept, Faulknerian in its structure. A novel in stories. Wow. Fourteen exciting crime writers create a rare three-dimensional mosaic of a doomed town and the night hell flooded through it. Terrifically exciting. Wonderfully inventive.” —David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder As a Fine Art

“A brave concept brilliantly executed.” —Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher Series

“An impressive collection of stories from some of the most talented writers working in the crime genre today.” —BOLO Books Review

Welcome Tonya Kappes…and a giveaway!

Liz here, and I’m excited to welcome Tonya Kappes, author of the Camper and Criminals Cozy Mysteries, to the blog! Tonya and I met on Facebook, like many of us do these days, and then we discovered we had another connection – we’re both Gabby Bernstein fans. I love when lives intersect, don’t you? And today she’s talking about making connections with readers. Take it away, Tonya!


How do you like to connect with your favorite author?

Long before social media, I’ve been connecting with readers. Initially, it started out with a blog similar to the Wicked Cozy Authors. Actually, I didn’t even have a book contract when I joined, but I started my connection with readers.

It’s a connection that so hard to describe. Every decision I make in my travels or my author giveaway goodies, I think about the reader. When Facebook came along, it was a game changer for me. I was able to put faces to names and if I was going to a book signing, I was able to connect instantly with readers in that area.

Tonya Family (6)As we all know, Facebook has changed a bit and with so many authors and so many groups, it can sometimes feel a little impersonal. That’s why I started my Cozy Krew reader group a few years back. I missed the small intimate group of readers where we discussed books and actually a lot of us became such good friends.

A couple of years ago, I’d gotten an idea about hosting my own reader event. It was something that truly popped into my head during a Kentucky snow day. It would be an event where it was just catered to the readers.

I wanted something different. Not just a book signing. Something fun for everyone and not to promote me. I wanted to celebrate the reader. It dawned on me that I can’t be everywhere at once, so I decided to host something once a year at a different location. The more I muddled the idea in my head, the more excited I got and started my search on mystery themed idea. After all, it had to do with mystery!

I came across mystery diner trains. How fun would that be???? I Googled these such events and quickly found out these trains can be rented out. You got a mystery theater along with a meal while riding on a train! Seriously….how fun is that????

It turned out to be a ton of fun! This year is my fifth year doing the train and I couldn’t be more excited to see the readers. The event has turned into a weekend of fun. The first night we all get together in the hotel and have a pizza party along with some sort of mystery game. The next morning we meet up for breakfast, maybe do a little sight-seeing in the town we are in before we head out to the train for the adventure. Afterwards, the readers can buy books or just hang out. It’s so much fun.

damesI think I get more excited about seeing my readers than they get meeting me. It’s magical! This photo was taken last year during the Two Dames on a Mystery Train event in Lockport, NY. This year we’re headed to Knoxville, TN….next year is rumored to be out west…but y’all know how small town gossip goes, right? Or is that just common in my southern mysteries?

If you’d like to check out Two Dames on a Mystery Train, please head on over to my website and click on the Two Dames on a Mystery Train tab. I’d love to have you come join us!

I’d like to thank Liz and the Wicked Cozy Authors for having me today. It’

s been a WICKED good time! And…I have to say (I told Liz this too), I’ve never connected to a group of authors and I’m a smidgen jealous with their amazing retreat. I think it’s so cool how much they adore each other and have each other’s back!

Readers, how do you like to connect with your favorite authors? Leave a comment and win a print signed copy of DEAD AS A DOORNAIL and a bag of IT’S A SOUTHERN MYSTERY, Y’ALL goodie bag. Tonya giveaway

All the Marys: Marian Stanley

BURED TROUBLES COVER.2Breaking News: Lisa Q. Matthews is the winner of Buried Troubles! Congratulations, Lisa. Watch your email for one from Marian.

Edith here, on my older son’s 32nd birthday (and the day I become a mother for reals) – happy day, Allan! I’m always delighted to welcome good friend Marian Stanley to the blog. I read the manuscript of her new book, Buried Troubles, and you’re going to love it! And she’s going to send a copy of Buried Troubles to a selected commentator.

In the book, Rosaria O’Reilly finds herself in grave danger from those who won’t let go of the past in this thrilling sequel to The Immaculate.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during her last effort in solving a murder, Rosaria is dragged into a new case with ties to the Irish community on both sides of the Atlantic. The victim is an Irish journalism student working on a research paper in Boston. His aunt, a friend of Rosaria’s, reaches out to her for help in solving the case. This does not go over well with Rosaria’s significant other, Boston Police Detective Solly Belkin, who wants Rosaria to leave the case in his capable hands. Instead, Rosaria travels to Ireland and is caught up in a dark web of ancient grievances, old crimes, and secrets that powerful people are determined to keep hidden forever.

Can Rosaria unearth these buried troubles and solve the murder before the killer buries her instead?

Take it away, Marian!

BURIED TROUBLES.COTTAGEMaybe someday I’ll write in a cottage in Western Ireland like Sheila Connolly’s. Like this one in Ballyconneely, Connemara—my grandmother’s home village, and that of the murder victim in Buried Troubles, a Rosaria O’Reilly mystery set in Boston and Western Ireland.

NANAEarly in the last century, my Gaelic-speaking grandmother, Mary Agnes Burke, left this remote village as a teenager—coming to a tightknit Irish enclave in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. She got a job as a housekeeper in the rectory of (what else?) Saint Mary’s church, married James O’Leary, and moved to Malden where they raised six children. Not an uncommon immigrant story.

Charlestown, like some other Boston neighborhoods, was a waystation for many of these young people. It wasn’t Ireland, but almost—the customs, the music, the Church, the insular prejudices. And the history. Old memories and grievances from a small, poor island with one great and powerful oppressor never really went away. Buried Troubles is the story of some caught in the long reach of that history.


Old Charlestown

A successful rebellion created an independent republic in the south of Ireland, but the British kept six northern counties as part of the deal. That part of the deal and longstanding Catholic civil rights issues in the north resulted in a decades-long, savage war in Northern Ireland given the curiously genteel name of The Troubles. Stubborn pockets of Irish republican support for the insurgency flourished in certain American cities, including Boston. For some, the fervor for a unified Ireland excused much more than it should have.

Over time, most of the immigrants of my grandmother’s generation were too busy working and raising children to go to the hall for the ceili or dance. No one spoke Gaelic here. When homesick immigrants went home to Ireland for visits, they found it poor. They missed the comforts of their new country. (“Imagine,” my grandmother said, “We still had to start the fire for a little pot of tea.”) So, gradually, most of them moved on to new lives, a new history.

But some couldn’t. My paternal grandfather, Patrick McMahon, never spoke again to his youngest daughter (another Mary, of course) when she married a Charlestown man from a family said to have informed for the British. This was the worst sin—to be a “tout”, a snitch, an informer. Sadly, this particular Mary died in childbirth and we know little about her.

BURIED TROUBLES.CHARLESTOWNToday, Charlestown is a hip neighborhood, home to many young professionals with small children and dogs. Our own daughter Mary (what else?) lives not too far from old Saint Mary’s church where her great-grandmother was a housekeeper. Every day, she travels the same streets where Mary Agnes, James O’Leary, and my ill-fated Aunt Mary lived as young immigrants.

Our Mary is too young, too sensible, and far too busy to feel the presence of ghosts in this old neighborhood. For my part, I feel the spirits. I see the two Marys—my grandmother and the aunt I never knew—everywhere. I see new versions of them in young Hispanic immigrants in Chelsea and Everett. All in a new home, but carrying so much history.

Readers: If your family had a coming-to-America experience (not everyone’s was voluntary and some people were already here), what memories did they bring with them to America? What’s your own story of traveling to a distant land? I’m happy to send a copy of Buried Troubles to a selected commentator.

author photo

Marian McMahon Stanley is the author of two Rosaria O’Reilly mysteries from Barking Rain Press – The Immaculate (May 2016) and Buried Troubles (June 2018) as well as a recent short story “Career Transitions” in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  Marian enjoyed a long international corporate career and, most recently, a senior position at an urban university. A dual citizen of the United States and Ireland, she writes in a small town outside Boston, where she lives with her husband Bill and a Westie named Archie. She is now working on the next in the Rosaria series The Mariposa Circle. www.marianmcmahonstanley.com