Get to Do

Jessie: In NH where it is finally warm enough to wear dresses.office-3154815_1920

I am on deadline. June 1 to be exact. I love deadlines and I hate them. The constant pressure of the clock ticking away in my ear, the calendar pages that seem to whip by in a whirl feel oppressive half the time. The other half of the time it feels like the universe has taken me firmly in hand and demanded I behave like a professional adult.

I have always been at my writerly best when under time pressure. As a high school student I would often write papers due in the afternoon during the lunch period. It clarified and focused my thoughts and I think I enjoyed the frenzied pace such a strategy demanded.

Now although my writing projects are far more complex and cannot be left to the day before I still find I thrive on writing at a rapid clip. I love to set audacious writing goals and to challenge myself to reach them each day. I love dashing each morning into the story and galloping furiously along until I’ve met my projected word count, especially if I am worried that I can’t do it.

But despite the pleasure I take from working that way there are some unexpected consequences. My usually tidy office is heaped and piled with delayed decisions and unfinished tasks. Emails go unanswered. I switch off my phone. The interior of my fridge is a sad, echoing sort of place. I don’t always make it out of my pajamas before noon. Which brings me to the final pleasure of writing with single-minded focus: the get to do list. 

Every time a deadline is drawing near I start keeping a list of all the things I am itching to do just as soon as it passes. The fact that I cannot seem to get to some things makes them seem all the more interesting. The trip to the grocer, steaming the wrinkles out of the new duvet, updating my website. All these things and more take on the air of forbidden fruit. Not only do I get to write the way I prefer but I end up looking forward to those tasks I would consider mundane under most circumstances and would likely put off doing them. It is all a little crazy. It is a little slice of heaven.

Readers and writers, do you love or hate deadlines? Do you keep get to do lists?

 

 

Bridging a Knowledge Gap

News Flash: Ginny JC is the winner of Nancy Herriman’s book! Please check your inbox.

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the snow is finally getting to me. 

playing-cards-1252374_1920I love writing historical mysteries and I think some of that love might be because I have always loved reading books written during the golden age of mysteries. With their sprawling English manors, tidy cottage gardens and house parties in the country, their charms never seem to fade for me.

I envsion the afternoon teas, croquet on the lawn, flamboyant hats and the sound of motorcar tires crunching on the gravel drives all in vivid detail. I smell the scent of roses wafting through the French doors on a warm afternoon. I feel a silk scarf flutter out behind me as I steer down a country lane in an antique automobile. These sorts of book have always transported me to places and times with ease except for one thing. Bridge.

I can see a table with four players seated round it. I can see cards on the table. And that is where things get fuzzy. I know score is kept and I believe it is written on paper but I am not sure if any old pad will do or if there are special bridge score sheets. I am fairly certain it is played in pairs and that the teammates sit opposite each other.

I’ve read enough Agatha Chrisite mysteries and E.F. Benson novels to know that someone plays “dummy” and that the game is somehow divided into rubbers. I realise betting on games makes things more exciting and that there are tricks and there are trumps. Beyond that, I am at a loss.

I feel like this is a gap in my knowledge and I am wondering if I need to correct it. I must confess, I am not an eager gamer in any way. I don’t generally play board games or card games or even sports. I feel a bit daunted about trying to learn the game from lessons on Youtube or the internet but I don’t know that I know anyone who plays.

Despite my lack of experience with Bridge my latestest characters, Beryl and Edwina have expressed an enthusiasm for it. They play for low stakes and without a cut throat attitude but they seem determined to do so in each book. I am not sure how it keeps happening but they insist on inviting friends and acquaintances over for an evening of bridge and cocktails. They have gotten me in over my head.

So readers, I am wondering if any of you play Bridge and if so, would you be willing to give me a few pointers about what I need to include in my books in order to write convincingly without needing to spend countless hours online? Beryl and Edwina would be very grateful!

Guest Post- Tina Kashian!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restrictions

Congratulations Kristin Shandler! You are the winner of the giveaway from Krista Davis! Check your email for details!

Jessie: In New Hampshire, where the birds are starting to sing.

IMG_0003On Friday I received an unexpected package in the mail. My son decided the weather was favorable and volunteered to walk to the post office. When he returned he was bearing a lumpy envelope from my publisher.

I ripped it open expecting dust jackets for my second Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder Flies the Coop. Instead, I found five copies of the audiobook of the first Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder in an English Village. I was stunned and thrilled. This is my first audiobook and the good people at Recorded Books entrusted the job  of bringing it to life in an audible format to the acclaimed actress and voice professional Barbara Rosenblat.

When my publisher informed me several months ago tha they had sold the audio rights to the book I was delighted. This was my first experience with an audiobook being made from my work and I was eager to expand my horizons. I also loved the idea of people who prefer to experience stories in this way having a chance to try my work.

But here’s the problem: as much as I am delighted that the audiobook exists and am so appreciative that such a lauded professional has been willing to apply her talents and skills to a version of my work that has been evaluated as a wonderful expression of the book, I can’t bring myself to listen to it. I put all five copies on a shelf in my office and they have been staring me down all weekend.

The thing is, I know exactly how Beryl and Edwina sound in my head. They are talkative and generous women and neither of them holds back about what is on their minds. When I write the books it feels almost like I am a court reproter taking down what the witnesses have to say rather than that I am the one generating the stories. I plot my books so I know I was involved but it still feels like channeling rather than creating. I can see these women and hear them so clearly that I have a bit of trouble remembering that we haven’t actually met on the physical plane. Which brings me to my reluctance to listen to the audio version.

The fact is, I am scared to do so. I am afraid that if I hear the way another artist interprets how they sound I won’t be able to hear my version anymore. I worry that the voices I have come to recognize and the companionship I have enjoyed when commiting their stories to paper will evaporate into the thin air if I permit another version of them into my consciousness.

I may be worrying for nothing but I have decided that I cannot risk it. I have determined that the only thing to do is to give away four of the copies and to let my husband listen to the fifth. Maybe my kids will do so too. I am delighted to provide it with pride of place on the shelves in my office that I have set aside for the varying versions of my work. And I am content to leave the listening to others.

So dear readers, tell me, what self-imposed restrictions do you create for yourself? Writers, do you worry about anything altering the way your characters sound in your head?

I am choosing a subscriber to my newsletter to win a copy of the audiobook. If you sign up before the February newsletter goes out next Sunday your name will go into the hat! Good luck and if you win, let me know how you like the way it turned out!

Cover Reveal-Murder Flies the Coop!

GIVEAWAY WINNERS: Congratulations Sheryl Sens and Kara Leigh! You each won a copy of Murder in an English Village! Please email me at jessie@jessiecrockett.com with your mailing address so that I may post them off to you this week!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where my head is spinning from the rapid changes in temperature!

The writing life involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for ideas and characters to form in the mind. Waiting to hear from agents and editors. Waiting for reviews to come in. Waiting for the release date for a book.

But there are things that keep me from going stir crazy while I am doing all that waiting . I write the next book or research a new series. I have also learned to celebrate all the milestones along the way, which is what I am doing here today. I am absolutely delighted to tell you that the cover and back matter for my second Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Flies the Coop is available to share! I have loved working on this series and spending time with the two protagonists and have been chomping at the bit to post a cover reveal here on the Wickeds.

 

Here is the back cover copy:

One would hardly call them birds of a feather, but thrill-seeking American adventuress Beryl Helliwell and quietly reserved Brit Edwina Davenport do one thing very well together—solve murders . . .
 
Sharing lodging in the sleepy English village of Walmsley Parva has eased some of the financial strain on the two old school chums, but money is still tight in these lean years following the Great War. All of Beryl’s ex-husbands have proven reluctant to part with her alimony, which is most inconvenient.
 
So when the local vicar—and pigeon-racing club president—approaches them with a private inquiry opportunity, the ladies eagerly accept. There’s been a spot of bother: the treasurer has absconded with the club’s funds and several prized birds.
 
Beryl and Edwina hope to flush out the missing man by checking his boardinghouse and place of employment at the coal mine. But when they visit the man’s loft, they find their elusive quarry lying in white feathers and a pool of crimson blood, stabbed to death—the only witnesses cooing mournfully.
 
After a stiff gin fizz, the ladies resume their search for the missing funds and prized birds—and now a murderer. Beryl and Edwina aren’t shy about ruffling a few feathers as they home in on their suspects. But they had better find the killer fast, before their sleuthing career is cut short . . .

Murder Flies The Coop

Readers, I would love to know what you do to keep your spirits up while waiting for things in your lives. Writers, how do you deal with the long tail of publishing? I would love to celebrate my cover reveal by sending a copy of the first Beryl and Edwina Mystery, Murder in an English Village to two commenters who post today!

 

Favorite Things

bird-107802_1920

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the ground is covered with snow and the birds flit merrily round the feeders throughout the day.

I am an inveterate list maker. I have lists of knitting projects, recipes to try, movies to watch, tasks to finish. I have a Ravelry account for my knitting, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video queues and a recipe box on Epicurious. Amazon’s Echo helps me to wrangle my grocery lists.  I pin all sorts of visual lists to my Pinterest boards.

But although I am always up for digital lists of all sorts I find myself scribbling lists on sticky notes and in whichever notebook I have to hand. Writing lists by hand allows me to indulge in my passion for fountain pens as well as for notebooks and papers and I always enjoy encountering lists I had made in the past. They serve as a diary of sorts, a kind of snapshot of a moment in time and often remind me of things I had forgotten.

Just this week I was planning a gathering for friends and needed to sort out a menu so naturally I reached for a pen and paper to start a list of menu ideas. I grabbed a notebook I keep in my nightstand drawer, a little A5 number with a cheerful Hello Kitty cover that my husband brought back for me from China a couple of years ago. As I thumbed through looking for a fresh page my glance fell on another sort of list entirely and one I cannot for the life of me remember writing, or even my reason for doing so.

It seems to be a list of favorite things. Just reading it over made me smile so I thought I would share it with you. Here are a few of the items listed:

  • Bento boxes
  • Fair Isle Socks
  • Vintage convertibles
  • Cardinals
  • Silk scarves
  • High ceilings and long windows
  • Fountain pens
  • Champagne
  • Brick sidewalks
  • Cashmere
  • The Atlantic
  • Fireplaces
  • Extravagant hats
  • Window boxes
  • Sparkling glassware
  • Louis Armstrong music
  • Plump goldfish

So what I am wondering dear readers is what would be on your list of favorite things? Do we have any shared loves? Writers, do you scribble down lists here, there and everywhere too? Does any of it ever make it into your writing?

Guest Victoria Thompson and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the leaves have mostly rattled off the trees and the winter birds have returned to the feeders.

Today it is my  very great pleasure to welcome Victoria Thompson to the blog! I met Victoria several years ago at Malice Domestic. She is as charming and personable in life as she is in her writing.

 Victoria Thompson is the author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series. Her new book, City of Lies, is the first in her new Counterfeit Lady Series, which releases on November 7. To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed hardcover copy to one commenter here today (US entries only).

ThompsonVictoria-CityofliesLooking for Inspiration…

I’m very excited that City of Lies will finally be released into the wild! I’d been wanting to write a second historical mystery series for a long time, and I’d been doing a lot of research on the early twentieth century, hoping for inspiration. During that process, I learned a lot about the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and I realized that when my own mother was born, women didn’t have the right to vote in America! It was that recent! I also learned that many women endured beatings and imprisonment to earn females the right to vote. I’d never heard about this in history class, and no other women I spoke with had either. I wanted to tell this story, but how could I make it more interesting than a dry history lesson? That’s when I decided to add a less than honest heroine, a dashing hero, and a dastardly villain.

Every woman wears a mask…

Every woman has, at one time or another, hidden who she really is in order to get along or get ahead. Elizabeth Miles has made a career of it, however. As a con artist, her job is cheating rich and greedy men, but when she cheats the wrong man, she ends up running for her life.

Elizabeth finds temporary safety by getting herself arrested with the Suffragists who have been demonstrating outside the White House for months. This gets her away from Thornton for the moment, but she and the other women are sentenced to three months of hard labor at a workhouse were they are starved and abused. Much to her own surprise, Elizabeth bonds with these women and learns to respect them while they are imprisoned, and she emerges a new person.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire…

Elizabeth may feel like a new person, but Oscar Thornton still wants to kill her. How can she escape him and still keep her secrets? Because her new friends would lose all respect for her if they knew who she really was, and the man she has come to love can’t even bring himself to tell a lie. How can she trick them into helping her pull off a con that will save her life without losing everything she has learned to value?

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Elizabeth’s experiences in City of Lies are based on real historical events that happened in November of 1917, exactly 100 years to the month when the book is being published! In 1917, society was changing, and women were fighting to be taken seriously, to be valued, and to have a seat at the table. A hundred years later, women are still fighting for the very same things. Elizabeth lived in exciting times and so do we. I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures, which are not so very different from our own.

 

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Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Victoria Thompson photoSeries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder in the Bowery, was a May 2017 release. City of Lies is the first book in her new Counterfeit Lady series, a November 2017 release from Berkley. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.