Out of Print

By Liz, enjoying the still-warm weather!

A couple months ago, a former co-worker from my reporting days called to tell me that one of our former editors was retiring. I’d known the day would come eventually, but I couldn’t imagine the Norwich Bulletin newsroom without Marilyn in it, working nights to put the paper out.

She’d been there the day I walked through the door eleven years ago, new to town and hoping for a reporting job. They didn’t have a position at the time, but they gave me some freelance work. Marilyn edited those stories, and I got used to her calling me an hour or two after I turned in my story, asking clarifying questions or suggesting a different way of phrasing something. I remembered thinking I better have my grammar up to speed, because there was no way Marilyn was letting me get away with any mistakes.

When I was hired full-time, I was on general assignment for a few months. I did all kinds of stories, from features to local news to education. General assignment also meant that during the local elections, which was two months after I started the job, we had to do “man on the street interviews.” These were my least favorite assignments – basically walking up to random people on the street to ask them what they thought about the candidates or the issues. Sometimes it was easy to find people. In some of these smaller towns, not so much. I remember stalking a liquor store one day just to find people. And let me tell you, they didn’t like my questions standing between them and their after-work activities. But we had to have at least seven people from each town. On this particular day, I had six quotes. That final person was eluding me. And that was after nearly seven hours of this. I called the newsroom and told her my dilemma. She was adamant about the “one more quote.” But before I could hang up and use a few of my signature curse words to describe the situation to the inside of my car, she got really quiet (so our managing editor wouldn’t hear her) and gave me the phone number of a friend in that town she kept on standby and told me to call her, that she’d give me a quote.

That was Marilyn. She pretended to be tough, but she always had the reporters’ backs. (She used to bake for us too. I remember one Halloween where I nearly ate myself sick off the cookie platter she brought in for us.)

Then, after a couple months on the general assignment beat, I got the main city beat. Which was exciting at the time. There was a lot going on, lots of development proposals in town and political dramas (although by today’s standards it was nothing) and it was a chance for me to learn a lot about myself. This was the first job I had after moving from New Hampshire to Connecticut after a really difficult time, and I’d lost a lot of self-confidence along the way. To be there for such a short amount of time and get the premier beat was exciting, and it also reminded me that I was good at what I did. I could earn–and keep–people’s trust. I was a good writer. I was even giving my competition a run for her money, and she’d been on this beat for a decade and had sources I hadn’t even met yet. I made new friends. I got my confidence back. Marilyn was a big part of that. She wasn’t overly exuberant with praise, but you knew if she was pleased with you. You also knew if she wasn’t, and nobody wanted that!

I remember nights sitting in the halls outside city council meetings at all crazy hours, typing furiously while I was on the phone with Marilyn, who was editing in real time. The buzz of all that was undeniable. Exhausting, but exhilarating. Marilyn was a fabulous editor, and she believed in repetition to keep us from making the same mistakes again and again. For example, I heard in my sleep for many years the AP Style guidelines about time, date and place (in that order) for an event. I will never, as long as I live, forget it. Or any of the other lessons Marilyn taught me, grammar or otherwise.

I had lunch with her last week, and I made her laugh when I told her I still heard her voice in my ear when I was editing something at work. I am still adamant about AP Style, even though I get a lot of blank stares when someone at work asks me why I wrote something a certain way and I explain. It doesn’t matter. I know it’s right.

We spent a lot of time rehashing the good old days, and all the crazy times we had in that newsroom. She told me how many former reporters from her many years at the paper had gotten in touch when word spread about her retirement. She seemed surprised that so many people would reach out. I wasn’t. She touched a lot of lives.

Surprisingly, she seems ready to retire and find another adventure. I never thought she’d let go of that life, but like she says, it’s changed so much. Small town papers have a low survival rate these days, and they’re operating on maybe a quarter of the staff they used to have. It was all getting to be too much.

And she seems content knowing she ran the city desk with an iron fist and had a grammatically correct influence on so many people’s lives in the process. But more than that, she lived and breathed the news, and she cared about all of us. Even the ones who drove her crazy. And that’s not something you find at every job.

I hope her retirement has a lot of happy headlines.

Readers, do you have a former colleague or someone else who greatly influenced your life?

Wicked Wednesday: Santa Claus Stories

purringFriends, we are still celebrating Liz Mugavero’s Purring Around The Christmas Tree release. A reminder about what the book is about:

To the townspeople’s delight, the annual lighting of the tree is a spectacular success. Unfortunately, Santa pulled up in his sleigh, DOA. At first Stan is sure it’s Seamus, her boyfriend’s uncle, inside the red suit. But the victim turns out to be an employee from the town’s Christmas tree farm. Rumor has it the deceased was a mean drunk with a soft spot for feral cats. Stan has no idea why he was dressed as St. Nick—or why he’s dead.

Meanwhile, Seamus, a jolly Irishman who comes to America every December to visit his pub-owner nephew, is nowhere to be found. Could he just be off on a Boston bar crawl? Or is something more sinister under the tree? Seamus was supposed to be dressing up and posing for pet pictures with Santa at the shop, but the dogs and cats might have to find another lap to curl up in if Stan doesn’t solve two mysteries soon. Or murder might be the only thing under the mistletoe this holiday . . .

The question this week–Wickeds, do you have a Santa Claus story you want to share?

Jessie: Huzzah, Liz! When I was a small child my mother would read me the story The Jolly Christmas at the Patterprints every year on Christmas Eve. It was the story of a family of mice who end up with Santa dropping into their cauldron of soup hanging over the fire. Quite the kerfuffle ensues. I now read it to my own children every Christmas Eve.

Edith: Congratulations, Liz! I can’t wait to read this new installment. When I was growing up we always read the old standard “Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve, and I continued that tradition with my sons. The poem has so many perplexing words and concepts for a child. “Threw up the sash” always made me feel a little queasy, as if Santa had eaten the sash to a dress and then vomited. And for years I thought he put a finger INside his nose – not a foreign concept at all to kids. Here are my sons (at 11 and 14) getting almost too old for the tradition.

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Sherry: Yay, Liz another new book! When my daughter was in second grade we were stationed in Florida and my husband traveled a lot. There was a movie on the Disney Channel that Elizabeth and I had watched about the tooth fairy. One night after I put her to bed, I sat in the family room reading. Elizabeth came out, put her hands on her hips, and said, “Tell me the truth is there a tooth fairy?” I told her no there wasn’t. She lectured me about lying and stomped back off to bed. A few minutes later she repeats the process, but this time asks about the Easter Bunny. Another lecture, more stomping. I sat there dreading what might come next, wondering why Bob was never home for these things. Sure enough Elizabeth comes back out, places her hands on her hips, and glares at me. “I don’t even want to know about Santa Claus,” she announced. Then she twirled around and went back to bed.

Barb: Congratulations, Liz. I LOVE your cover and can’t wait to read this new addition to the Pawsitively Organic Pet Food Mysteries. I love Christmas, and pretty much everything around it. My husband’s father’s family has a party every year on the Sunday closest to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Santa comes and gives each kid a small gift to tide them over to the big day. I loved this tradition when my kids were small, and my granddaughter has participated the last few years. (With, I admit, mixed results.)

Julie: First off, HUGE congratulations Liz!! So happy for you!! When I was growing up, my father always took us shopping and out to lunch one day around Christmas, likely to give my mother some time to catch up with the holiday. One year, when we were really little we went to meet Santa. This Santa was tiny, thin, and had horn rimmed glasses. We would have nothing to do with him, insisted that this was NOT Sand, and my sister started weeping. So my father, who was always quick with a story, told us that we were right. It wasn’t Santa. It was too close to Christmas, so he sent two elves down to stand in for him. There were actually two elves in the suit. WHEW. Childhood memories were saved.

Liz: I love these stories! Thanks so much for sharing them, guys! And for celebrating my release with me! xo

How about you, dear readers? Any Santa stories you want to share?Save

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Six Books Later!

By Liz, enjoying the last taste of summer weather while launching a Christmas book!

So, wow – today is the release of Purring Around the Christmas Tree, the sixth book in the Pawsitively Organic Mystery Series! Six books!? How did that even happen?

When I first started writing this series, I had a picture of Stan, a picture of Jake, a few ideas about supporting characters, and my lovely little town of Frog Ledge. And definitely the town green.

At the time, although I knew I had at least three books ahead of me, those pictures didn’t project that far into the future (i.e, book two). I knew I wanted Stan to have a meaningful character arc – who doesn’t want that for their characters? – but I really didn’t know at the time what it was.

But, as we know, our characters often end up writing their own stories. I wrote in an earlier blog post about how Stan’s relationship with her family took over unexpectedly. And then those relationships took on a life of their own. Her mother and sister ended up becoming major parts of Stan’s life – despite her best efforts – and therefore, major parts of each book.

While those relationships still have a huge effect on Stan and her character arc, she’s done a lot of growing on her own. She’s forged new relationships, developed her confidence, built a business from the ground up, made mistakes, made friends, made enemies. She’s fallen in love and adopted a new family, and had to learn how to interact with them – the polar opposites of her own family. She’s rescued pets and learned just as much from them as the people in her life. She’s made a name for herself in her community and become indispensable, not only to the key people around her, but to the town and its residents, both human and furry.

She’s more sure of herself now than when she was a corporate big shot with a fancy title and an expense account behind her. And it’s because she’s followed her own path, listened to her own voice and created a life she loves. She’s happy in Frog Ledge, no matter how many murders throw a monkey wrench in her plans. She has her little house,  Jake’s pub, and Izzy’s cafe when she needs a safe place. She’s even got a back-up job as a news reporter if she ever needs one.

As I head into the seventh book in the series, I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. She’s become one of my closest friends, and it’s been a blast watching her create herself.

I hope you’re all enjoying her journey as much as I am. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Readers, what’s your favorite part of Stan’s personal journey?

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Happy Double Launch Day!

By Liz/Cate and Julie/Julianne

Woo hoo! We have lots to celebrate today! It’s launch day for Chime and Punishment, the third in  Julianne Holmes’ Clock Shop Mystery Series, and Cat About Town, the first in Cate Conte’s Cat Cafe Mystery Series!

Picture of Cate Conte's CAT ABOUT TOWN and Julianne Holmes's CHIME AND PUNISHMENT with the caption DOUBLE LAUNCH DAY

To commemorate this huge day, Julie and I are going to discuss a few of our favorite topics: Cats, writing, and maybe even cafes and clocks. So let’s start with the nitty gritty writing stuff – Julie, what was it like to write the third book in this awesome series?

Liz, it was wonderful to revisit Orchard, Massachusetts and talk more about the adventures of Ruth Clagan as she works on getting the clock tower in the Town Hall. It was important to me that folks could read this as a stand-alone, but that folks who have read Just Killing Time and Clock and Dagger could revisit with familiar characters and see what happened on some arcing stories.

Liz, what was it like for you to create a new series? Was it easier or more fun this time around?

You know, I wouldn’t say easy…it’s harder to start from scratch, I think. The Pawsitively books have a cast of characters I’m so familiar with at this point, it’s easier to imagine them in their little town, going about their business. But there’s something to be said for jumping into a whole new world and a new character’s head. I wrote this book in first person instead of third, which was different, and it actually seemed a bit easier, which was surprising to me. But I really did slip right into Maddie James’s head, and found her voice right away. And I loved writing about her cat rescue antics!

So Julie, speaking of cats…what’s your fictional furry friend up to? Does Bezel have a big part in the book?

Bezel always has a role in these books, though Ruth spends most of this book out of the shop, and Bezel is an indoor cat. The importance of Bezel is the love she and Ruth have established. Bezel grounds Ruth. Speaking of cats, tell me about the cat on the cover your new book!

The infamous Junkyard Johnny! The cat on the cover happens to be the fictional version of my real life cat of the same name, JJ for short. In the book, Maddie finds JJ in the cemetery, but she figures he could very well have lived in the junkyard, so it works. In the real JJ’s case, he was living in a junkyard in New Hampshire when he was rescued. An interesting fact about the real JJ – he’s on Prozac because of his hatred for fluffy cats!  Poor Tuffy, who’s the inspiration for Nutty in the Pawsitively series, would get beat up all the time. So JJ had to get some help for his behavior.

And last question for you Julie – you must’ve visited a few clock shops when researching this series. Tell us about your favorite, and why!

The Clockfolk of New England have been my go to clockmakers. Last year, David Roberts took me up to a clock tower to help me really understand how they work, and what it feels like to be in the tower. I have also visited the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol CT. WONDERFUL place to be inspired by clocks.

Your last question Liz, tell us about the business Maddie James runs. We’re all going to be spending a lot of time there–give us the inside scoop! Is it based on a real place?

So, cat cafes are real things, but mine is going to be very different from the ones you’d find on an urban streetcorner, which is where they usually live. The way the cafe comes to life plays out during the first book, so I don’t want to give too much away just yet. But I hope you love it!

Julie, this was so much fun! So happy to be sharing launch day with you. Readers, are you looking forward to these two books? We hope so!!

Moments of Nature

By Liz, who’s been writing so many blog posts her head may explode soon…

You guys. The launch of Cat About Town is a week away, and I’ve been doing so many guest blogs I have no original thoughts any longer. Usually when I’m at work and that happens, I try to go out for a walk and clear my head.

So I’m going to share a few moments of nature from some of my and Shaggy’s recent walks, and hopefully they will clear all our heads! Or at least, I hope you enjoy them.

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Swans enjoying the river.

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Some people call them weeds, but I love dandelions!

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A view from the top of our walk.

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The nearby beach.

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Ducks enjoying the water.

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Fearless chipmunk.

And, a little fountain meditation. Don’t worry – it will straighten itself once you hit play!

 

 

 

Readers, what’s your favorite nature break? Tell us in the comments.

So Many Books…Part II

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAULA EMMONS! You are the winner of Linda Reilly’s book giveaway! Please contact: jessie at jessiecrockett.com with your mailing address!

By Liz, still trying to organize these darn books before I bring the next truckload here!

So last week I told you all about my angst sorting through my books. Now that they’re mostly sorted (I still have one bookcase at the old place that’s only about half done), it’s time to figure out how to set them up in their new homes (the bookcases I haven’t bought yet).

This part is kind of exciting, actually. I mean, I get to organize my books. What writer/book lover gets to say that? Usually we have so many they become towering piles of possible injury if a breeze blows past in the wrong direction. But all the sorting and donating has left me with just enough that I can now…organize. Theoretically.

I know, stop laughing. I swear I can do this. I’ve actually given it a lot of thought. I mean, do I set up a true To Be Read bookcase, and organize those books alphabetically? Nah, that wouldn’t work because the books are different sizes. Maybe by order in which I want to read them? Probably not, because that changes daily depending on my mood. Plus, if I did a TBR bookcase and then had to move the books to the other shelf when done, I’d have one bookcase that would be overflowing and probably collapse, while the other languished with extra space.

Oh, who am I kidding – I’d just go buy more books.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it by category, combining both read and TBR. First, I’ll have my self-help stash, with everything from Brene Brown to Louise Hay to the Crystal Healing Guide. That way, when I’m cranky or depressed or simply just losing my mind, I can go right to the place and figure out who best to help me. Wayne Dyer will always be at my fingertips, because he’ll be on the easy-to-reach shelf.  IMG_2282

Then I’ll have my cozy mystery selection, which is self-explanatory. I reach for these when I want to start a book and feel like I’m visiting old friends, or going to a new small town to make new ones. Then there’ll be my dark and creepy offerings – my Tana French and Dennis Lehane and Stephen King and all the other gut wrenching, frightening, psychological books that keep me up at night. I love this pile!

Then there’s the writer/research pile. All my books on how to write in all their post-it-noted glory. All my research books on the FBI and police and the mafia. My copy of The Artist’s Way. Basically, my working pile.

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Then finally, there’ll be the miscellaneous pile. The copy of A Tale of Two Cities I’ve had since high school that I can’t part with. Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking As Fast As I Can, which is awesomely hilarious. My Joyce Carol Oates books. You get the idea.

I have no idea if this will work – I end up buying books and stashing them somewhere just to put them away with a promise that I’ll reorganize later – but I’m going to give it my best shot. Of course, I need to buy those bookcases first.

Readers, do you organize your books in any special way? Do I sound OCD? Chime in!

So Many Books, Not Enough Bookcases

By Liz, still slacking after turning in my latest book…

I recently undertook one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had to do – cleaning out bookcases. A lot of them. About six, to be exact, counting the makeshift crates rigged up in my old home office to account for the overflow. And if it wasn’t for my iPad, there’d be a heck of a lot more to sift through.

It was an interesting process, though, for a couple of reasons. One, because I knew I needed to part with some of them. I want less stuff, and less clutter. And I knew I was holding on to some of them for the wrong reasons. Especially once I got into the bookshelves I didn’t frequent as much. See, I had this system. The little bookshelf in the dining room had my writing books, and a few special fiction titles. The tall shelf in the living room was my newer books, and ones I loved so much I needed to keep handy. These sometimes rotated, depending on how many new books I got. The medium-sized shelf in the bedroom had all the inspirational books (remember my obsession with self-help? Yeah, it filled a bookshelf). And so on.

So I started sifting them into piles. There was the I’ve had this for years and will never read it but I feel bad so I kept it pile. The Books From College and Grad School pile. The I Loved This and Will Keep it Forever Pile. The I’ve Read This Once and That was Enough Pile. The I Really Should Read This pile. The real To Be Read pile. Jeez, I think it took me longer to pack up my books than anything else I was moving.

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Still, the thought of getting rid of any book makes me hyperventilate a little. It took a lot for me to start creating a new pile – the Books to Donate pile.

But I did it. This past weekend, I took two huge boxes to my local library, which has a year round book sale. It made me feel good to know they were going to a good home, and would help raise money to keep people reading.

Did I mention I’m still not done? I’ve got two shelves to go through…which means I need to buy a couple of new bookcases. But I’m hopeful I can consolidate to two shelves.

Tune in next week, when I’ll tell you all about how I’m organizing my To Be Read pile!

Readers, how do you handle too many books? Can you part with them? Where do they go?