Welcome Guest Lynn McPherson!

I had the great luck to all to briefly meet Lynn McPherson at Bouchercon this year. Please join me in welcoming Lynn to the blog!

I have to start out by saying a big thank you to Sherry Harris for inviting me and including me in the Cozy Wicked Authors site. It is such a privilege to be here.

I am a Canadian who writes about New England. I thought it might be fun to explain the process of how and why I chose this specific location for my books. It was certainly no accident.

The setting where my stories take place is a small, wealthy, town located along the shores of Connecticut, not far from New York City. As the readers likely know, this description could only fit a few actual locations. However, I chose to create a fictional town based on a mishmash of where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and things I’ve researched. The result is the beautiful, idyllic, and cozy town of Twin Oaks. I wanted to incorporate some of my favourite experiences of New England into my stories so I felt the best way to do this was to create a place where this could happen as opposed to trying to work a way around factual locations in already established communities.

As a lifelong lover of mysteries and storytelling, New England was a very natural place for me to base my own series. One of my earliest influences and inspirations was a TV show I watched weekly growing up. While most of the kids in my class loved Growing Pains or Who’s the Boss, I couldn’t wait for my hero, Jessica Fletcher, best-selling author and super sleuth, to grace the prime-time screen and solve whatever crime she was somehow tangled up in. Not long after Murder, She Wrote ended I discovered Steven King. Between Salem’s Lot and It, I became a lifelong fan. There could be no going back after that. I won’t even venture into my love of Gilmore Girls. Needless to say, New England was it for me.

When I finally got to New England in person, it was phenomenal. I took a road trip with a friend who had gone to school there. We entered through Vermont and right away were introduced to a winter wonderland. The natural beauty of untouched snow on a brilliant, sunny day is easy to appreciate. From there we continued on down to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where I went tobogganing on a classic red wood sled. Another big highlight happened a few days later, when I was lucky enough to get a tour of a picturesque school named Kent, in Kent, Connecticut, since my friend was lucky enough to be an alma mater at the prestigious institution. Walking through the hallways I wondered if Robin Williams was going to walk around the corner at any given moment and convince me to run into a classroom to recite Walt Whitman or Shakespeare.

The rest of the trip was full of other fun activities such as learning how to make s’mores at a rustic inn, feeding carrots to horses on a farm, and watching the Patriots win a big game among a crowd of very enthusiastic fans at a small tavern. I went from having never watched an entire football game to becoming an expert, confident in instructing the players what they should be doing next, shouting excitedly along with my newfound friends at the large screen TV we were all glued to.

Every time I’ve gone to New England since, it has been a pleasure. I’ve yet to come across anything to complain about and I hope to keep it that way. While I know that I am experiencing a place from a rather fantastical point of view—never having to do chores or worry about getting to work on time, it has allowed me to keep the idyllic point of view that I incorporate into my stories.

The Girls Weekend Murder is the first book in The Izzy Walsh Mystery Series. The next one, The Girls Whispered Murder, will be out in the fall of 2018.

Lynn McPherson grew up in various parts of Canada, from the Canadian Rockies to the big city of Toronto. She is a debut author who has channelled her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Having a particular love of New England, possibly stemming from a snowy winter’s night spent at a cozy inn, Lynn knew this is where her mystery series must take place. She is a member of Crime Writers Of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters In Crime. Her cozy mystery, The Girls’ Weekend Murder, is the first book in The Izzy Walsh Mystery Series.

Readers: If you were going to create a fictional town based on a real one, what town would you choose?

 

 

 

 

Of Family and Holidays and Inspiration — Welcome Sparkle Abbey!

First off, we are thrilled to be here at Wicked Cozy Authors today. Thanks so much to Sherry Harris for inviting us.

This time of year there are so many online photos of picture perfect family get-togethers. You’ve seen them, right? The matching china, the colorful centerpiece, the happily chatting family and friends gathered around the sumptuous feast. Is that what it’s like at your house?

We have to confess that’s not quite what it’s like for us. And frankly, though sometimes we long for that magazine-cover-worthy gathering, most of the time we’re thrilled to be a part of the not-always-perfect celebrations.

You see as mystery writers, our novels are ultimately about motives and what makes people tick. So those festive parties or holiday family dinners are the perfect opportunity to observe. Like most writers, we’re fascinated with people and what makes them do the things they do. Some of the best drama can be found during a family holiday gathering.

Like who thought it was a good idea to bring six extra people to Thanksgiving? And is that guy with your brother’s daughter a boyfriend or just a friend? And does your uncle really think no one sees him packing up all that food to take home for later?

The truth is we always have way more food than we need, so the six extras really didn’t matter. and no one cared that Uncle Martin was packaging food for later. We just would have liked for him to wait until after we’d eaten. And, of course, your extremely blunt sister will find a way to ask niece Maggie about the boyfriend status. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Family dynamics play a big part in our stories. Our two amateur sleuths, Caro and Mel, are cousins and there’s a feud over a family heirloom of sorts. As a result, they’re not speaking to each other. It’s partly a misunderstanding and partly just good old-fashioned stubbornness. In Caro and Mel’s case, their feud causes them to make some occasional bad decisions and things get a bit complicated. Dare we say, a bit of family drama?

Now because we write mysteries, there are also some others who make bad choices with much more serious consequences. And ultimately to unravel the whodunit, Caro and Mel have to figure out what makes the potential suspects tick. What makes people do the things they do.

Back to those holiday dinners. No murders in our respective families. And everyone is on speaking terms with each other, for now anyway. It’s true, our china doesn’t always match, and sometimes the centerpieces are homemade (and look it), but at the end of the day, the food is always tasty, the conversations energetic, and there’s plenty of love to go around. And if there’s drama? Well, friends and family beware. You just might end up in our next book!

What about your family get-togethers?  Are they more the picture perfect kind of gatherings? Or are yours more like ours, imperfectly perfect in their own way?

Readers: We’d love to hear your stories. What was your best or most disastrous family gathering?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installment (book nine) is Barking with the Stars and The Dogfather (book ten) is in the works.

They love to hear from readers and would love to connect with you via their website at: sparkleabbey.com or you can also find them on: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

The Element of Surprise — Welcome Guest Mary Angela

Welcome, Mary Angela! Mary writes the Professor Prather cozy mystery series. Passport to Murder is the second book in the series. She is giving away a copy to a commenter! Join us in welcoming Mary!

You know the holidays are coming when you buy a new outfit for your Elf on the Shelf. Recently, I purchased one for our elf and her friendly reindeer because “Come on, Mom. They’re a team!” my girls argued. ’Tis the season for waffling mothers, and if there’s one month my kids can talk me into anything, it’s December. They could ask for a chimpanzee right now, and I’d wonder if the zoo was offering a rebate.

Even if you don’t have little kids at home, you’ve probably heard of the Elf on the Shelf. Pinterest has entire boards devoted to this miniature menace: he writes messages, hides in weird places, and often gets trapped. Thankfully, our elf, Cheery Cherry, isn’t nearly as crafty. Sometimes she’s downright lazy after a long day of being creative. Still, she’s a big fan of board games and candy canes and, of course, reindeer. Actually, now that I think about it, the elf and I have a lot in common. First of all, we both fly around the house during the holidays making people happy. Second, we devote much of our time to leaving surprises.

It’s one of the best things I get to hear my readers say: the ending surprised me. I had no idea. I thought it was insert-the-name-of-a-would-be-murderer. It’s like unwrapping a gift every time I hear those words. Human beings are creatures of habit. We get up, we go to work or school, and we go to bed. Rarely does anything shake our routine. It’s no wonder my kids race down the stairs, even on school days, to see what that crazy elf has done. It’s the same reason they race down the stairs on Christmas morning and the same reason we race to the end of a novel: it’s fun to be surprised.

Mysteries should be anything but predictable, and like the elf, I work very hard at creating the element of surprise. It’s the feature of the mystery genre I enjoy most. After teaching English for many years, I love writing a good plot, an afterthought in some of the literary works I teach. My novels are filled with viable suspects and, much to the chagrin of elves everywhere, no tricks. Although I enjoy surprising plots (the Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is my absolute favorite example of this), I always play fair with my endings. I know readers enjoy being surprised, not cheated, by a plot twist. A lump of coal might describe an ending that disappoints. As a reader, I’ve been there. Expecting a sweet treat, you find yourself frustrated by a character who hasn’t been mentioned in the last twenty-six chapters. Oh Christmas miracle! Where did this person come from? Maybe an elf made merry with the pages.

This time of year should be filled with mystery, magic, and happy surprises, like being invited by the Wicked Cozy Authors to guest post on their blog. Thank you so much for having me today, ladies, and thank you readers. It’s a gift to be in your company.

Readers: Do you like surprises? Do you have a favorite?

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather cozy mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. For more information about Mary or the series, go to MaryAngelaBooks.com.

 

Restoring Holiday Joy — Welcome Back Guest Barbara Early

If you like holiday reads don’t miss Murder on the Toy Town Express a Vintage Toyshop Mystery by Barbara Early! Barbara is giving away either a paperback of Death of a Toy Soldier or hardcover of Murder on the Toy Town Express to one of our readers! Welcome back to the Wickeds, Barbara!

Something about the holiday season seems to just generate work. Maybe it’s because I’m not at the top of my game right now, recovering from a nasty bout of infections, five courses of antibiotics, and oral surgery. And trying to promote a Christmas book. Or maybe I’m just getting old. But thinking about all that “needs” to be done between now and December 25th makes me want to cuddle up in my warmest pajamas, climb into bed, and hide my head under the covers until January.

Notice the word “needs” in quotes? When I hit that word, I had a personal epiphany—and yes, I know I’m mixing my holidays. How much of my burgeoning to-do list literally “needs” to be done? Do I need to bake cookies? Do I need to put up all my decorations? Do I need to attempt every cute reindeer craft I see on Pinterest? Do I need to kill myself making the holiday just as magical, plus a little more, than any Christmas I remember?

Cue the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I’ve been emancipated from Christmas slavery.

I don’t have to do anything. I suddenly had a glut of free time on my hands. I could spend more with friends and family. Or I could make a cup of instant hot chocolate, prop my feet up, flip on the Hallmark Channel, and watch heartwarming holiday flicks right up until the big day. Or better yet, read a nice Christmas mystery. Sounded good to me.

But…

And when that little voice sounded, I knew I had to put down the remote and the e-reader and listen.

But…decorating the tree can be fun. And it was true. Putting all the decorations on the tree, making it pretty: it can almost become a form of creative play, much like coloring a picture at the kitchen table. I’ve always been a “Spoonful of Sugar” kind of girl, so stepping back and turning work into a game makes sense to me. Before long, the tree was up.

Because of a couple of very naughty cats, we’ve stored all our fragile and heirloom ornaments, and for the past few years I’ve been putting up a fun vintage toy tree, that goes with my Vintage Toyshop Mystery series. Here’s a video if you’d like to see it. https://youtu.be/ReiIUBYecb0

I still haven’t decided if I will do any more decorating, but I’m going to be careful not to put any the trappings (fitting word) of Christmas on my to-do list. I will not mark holiday success by check marks on a piece of paper. Instead, I can declutter my Christmas using the same one-question method people now use to declutter their homes: does it bring me joy?

For example, baking cookies. Does it bring me joy?

Okay, eating cookies brings me joy, so I might need to whip off a batch of my favorites. Seeing my husband’s face when he realizes I’ve made his favorite also brings me joy. And the smell of fresh baked goods in the house is cozy and comforting. But do I need to make all the different kinds I often make? I certainly don’t need to be eating them!

Setting up the Christmas village. Does it bring me joy? Some, but maybe not enough to warrant lugging three huge totes up the stairs, at least not this year. Maybe next year I’ll set them up in the shape of a Christmas tree. Oh, that could be fun!

Readers, what brings you joy during the holidays?

Bio: Barbara Early earned an engineering degree, but after four years of doing nothing but math, developed a sudden allergy to the subject and decided to choose another occupation. Before she settled on murdering fictional people, she was a secretary, a school teacher, a pastor’s wife, and an amateur puppeteer. After several years living elsewhere, she and her husband moved back to her native Western New York State, where she enjoys cooking, crafts, classic movies and campy seventies television, board games, and posting pictures of her four cats on Facebook. She writes the Vintage Toyshop series and the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries (as Beverly Allen).

http://www.barbaraearly.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraEarly/

https://twitter.com/BarbEarly

My Christmas Tree Obsession — Guest Ellen Byron

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron leave a comment below.

Here’s a little bit about the book: Maggie Crozat is home in Cajun Country during the most magical time of the year. But the Grinch has come to stay at the Crozat Plantation B&B, and he’s flooding travel websites with vicious reviews. Maggie ID’s him as rival businessman Donald Baxter –until Baxter is found stabbed to death. With her detective boyfriend sidelined as a suspect, Maggie must catch the real killer or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noel for her.

Welcome back, Ellen!

I’m obsessed with Christmas trees. I’m such an inveterate ornament collector and crafter  that my husband once made me pare down my collection because I had a dozen boxes taking up an entire shelving unit in the garage. I got it down to six boxes… but I couldn’t stop collecting so I’m back up to twelve. (Shhh!! Don’t tell him!!)

I can trace this obsession back to when I was twelve years old and my mother announced that we would no longer have a Christmas tree. She’d begun working to help out the family finances and didn’t have the time or energy for it.  Give up the family Christmas tree?! Oh, hell to the no. I told my parents if they bought one, I’d take over decorating and un-decorating it. They agreed to this deal, and a Christmas Tree Commander-in-Chief was born.

I was so proud of my decorating skills that I occasionally submitted photos of the final product to Christmas tree contests in women’s magazines. I never won, which I assumed was because the contests were fixed; there was simply no way my talent with tinsel could go unrewarded. I kept trees up way past their expiration date. When I was in my twenties and living in Manhattan, I left the tree up for so long that by the time my roommate and I took it down the five flights of stairs from our apartment to the street for disposal, it had shed every single needle. That’s not hyperbole. It took me hours to sweep those stairs.

 

Ornaments are the perfect souvenir when you travel, so I collected them on every vacation. I made them, too. My last batch was a salute to my Cajun Country Mystery series and the state that inspired it.

 

Sometimes I still hang the Mardi Gras beads I caught in college – I went to Tulane in New Orleans – from the tree branches.

With college tuition looming and disposable income a thing of the past, I’ve cut back on both collecting and crafting. But I do have one project I can’t give up. It was a wonderful gift from friend and fellow needlepointer, Ruth Behling, who knows me so well.

 

It’ll make a nice ornament, don’t you think?

Readers, do you collect holiday ornaments? Comment to be entered to win a copy of my newest Cajun Country Mystery, A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called her new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, “superb.” Body on the Bayou won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and made the USA Today Bestseller list. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles; published plays include the award-winning Graceland; TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots. Ellen lives in Studio City with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.

 http://www.ellenbyron.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/

https://twitter.com/ellenbyronla

Readers: Do you have a holiday (any holiday) decoration that you are obsessed with?

 

 

 

My Worst Christmas Ever — Guest Donna Andrews

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of How The Finch Stole Christmas by Donna Andrews leave a comment below.

Join me in welcoming Donna Andrews the prolific author of the Meg Langslow Mystery series. She is here celebrating the recent release of How The Finch Stole Christmas. Here is a little about the book:

Meg’s husband has decided to escalate his one-man show of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol into a full-scale production with a large cast including their sons Jamie and Josh as Tiny Tim and young Scrooge and Meg helping as stage manager.

The show must go on, even if the famous—though slightly over-the-hill—actor who’s come to town to play the starring role of Scrooge has brought a sleigh-load of baggage and enemies with him. And why is Caerphilly suddenly overrun with a surplus of beautiful caged finches?

How the Finch Stole Christmas! is guaranteed to put the “ho ho hos” into the holidays of cozy lovers everywhere with its gut-bustingly funny mystery.

My Worst Christmas Ever

I wish I could tell you what year it was, and how old I was when my worst Christmas ever happened. Old enough that I still had utter faith in the omniscience and omnipotence of Santa Claus, that’s all I know. Nor can I remember what toy it was that I wanted with such fierce intensity that I knew I’d just die if I didn’t get it. But when I realized–

I’m getting ahead of my story. I should explain that by the time this particular Christmas rolled around, our family holiday rituals were established. My brother and I woke up early—probably before dawn—but we knew the rule was that we waited until our parents, who slept in a downstairs bedroom, came to the foot of the stairs to call us to see what Santa had brought. I don’t remember if my brother and I consoled each other during the endless wait by complaining about how terrible it was to have parents who slept so late or if we stayed in our separate rooms pretending to sleep . . . pretending we weren’t going crazy from the wait.

Finally Mommy and Daddy would appear, and we’d race downstairs. There would be presents, and then breakfast, and then a short drive to my maternal grandparents’ house for more presents, followed by Christmas dinner. The only thing children love more than ritual is a ritual filled with good things like presents, candy, and food.

That fateful year I woke up even earlier than usual. My brother wasn’t up. It wasn’t even light. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to know if Santa had brought me . . . whatever it was.

So I got up and crept down to take a peek.

Santa hadn’t come. Our stockings were still limp and empty. Beneath the tree were only the few wrapped presents that had come by mail from out of town relatives—no bounty from the North Pole.

After my initial shock, I came to the awful realization that both my brother and I must have done something truly awful for Santa to ignore us so completely. I had no idea what it could be. The few minor transgressions I could think of didn’t seem to warrant such stern punishment.

I slunk back upstairs in utter misery and crawled under the covers.

My parents probably wondered if I was sick when they came to rouse me and my brother that morning. Why would any child be so hard to pry out of bed on Christmas Day? Since the ritual required that we all enter the living room at the same time to see what Santa had brought, my brother couldn’t go in without me. And since I assumed my parents hadn’t peeked, I knew they didn’t yet know the magnitude of our naughtiness. But as soon as they saw the stark, bare living room, they’d know something was wrong, and they’d begin figuring out what it was we had done.

I finally steeled myself to face what I assumed would be the inevitable parental disappointment and the ensuing interrogation. I trudged downstairs.

Never had I seen a room so overflowing with presents. The stockings were about to burst from the candy and trinkets. And whatever it was that I’d coveted so passionately was front and center on my side of the present trove.

Santa hadn’t skipped us after all, I realized. We weren’t on his naughty list. He’d just come really, really late.

My worst Christmas ever. And maybe, once it was all over, also my best Christmas ever. I think I appreciated that year’s presents a lot more than the presents in years when I took it for granted that of course Santa would be coming.

But I never went down to peek again.

Readers: What was your worst Christmas ever?

Cover Reveal — Guest Dianne Freeman

We are happy to welcome debut author Dianne Freeman to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Our Thankful For Our Readers giveaway is an ARC of I Know What You Bid Last Summer, a vintage postcard, and a Snowden Family Clambake tote bag from Barbara Ross! Dianne thank you for being with us to share your cover!

As a debut novelist, every step in the publishing process is new and exciting. Today I’m excited to share my cover for A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, and I can’t thank the Wicked Cozy authors enough for hosting my big reveal.

Here it is:

It makes me smile every time I see it. Here’s a synopsis of the story:

Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.

No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old life make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive and anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.

While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end.

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mom introduced me to the works of Edith Wharton and Agatha Christie when I was quite young and I read them over and over. Thus, my love of mysteries and the late Victorian era. Wharton’s world was full of elegance, and manners, and rules—lots of rules. Anytime a character stepped a toe out of line and broke a social code, they met with a tragic end. That seemed—harsh. Surely it was possible to bend a rule here and there. Maybe have some fun or solve a mystery?

I back-burnered that idea for 30 or so years until I retired from corporate America and took up writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, I realized my true love was fiction. A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is the first in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series and is the result of my lifelong desire to write a fun whodunit in Wharton’s world of the late 19th century. And, of course it had to include an independent main character, with a knack for solving crimes. Thanks for sharing my big day!

Readers: Frances enlists the aid of her best friend and her handsome neighbor to help solve a crime. If you were an amateur sleuth, who would you want as your partner (real or fictional)? Here is the prize package:

Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing, and the endless summer. She and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona where you can find her indulging in a good read, or hard at work on the next Countess of Harleigh mystery.

Website: https://difreeman.com/ FB: Dianne Freeman Author Twitter: @difreeman001