A Favorite Thing

By Sherry — I’m melting in the summer heat

I originally wrote about this on my SherryHarrisauthor.com website a couple of years ago. But I was dusting today and thought maybe you all would like this story too.

One day when I was wandering around an antique store in Concord, Massachusetts I found the beautiful little jar below. I loved it for two reasons — it was blue and white and it said Boston on it. I knew I would live in the area forever and thought it would be a wonderful keepsake.

IMG_2667This side of the jar reads: MAGDA TOILET CREAM, C.J. Countie G CR, CHEMISTS, BOSTON, U.A. — other jars say USA but the S on mine has disappeared.

I decided to use the jar in the third book of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries , All Murders Final. I wanted to find out more about the jar so I did some research (thank you Google). Boy, was I surprised! There was a jar similar to mine on Etsy and the seller provided a lot of information — you can view the full post here. I had always thought the lid said Counti of Boston with a little extra flourish by the word “Counti”. In reality Countie is the family name of the company that manufactured Magda Toilet Cream. Here’s a picture of the lid:

IMG_2669 The Esty site provided this information: One of the Countie family members was kind enough to contact me and offer more information about this beautiful jar. Here’s what she told me:

‘My Grandfather Francis’ two Uncle’s John and Charles started this business in the late 1800’s. They called it MAGDA toilet cream. They were Chemists in the beauty business and developed this wonderful cream. Beacause it was in such demand, Cheeseborough Company, which is now Pond’s bought the formula and called it Pond’s Cold Cream. They used the porcelain jar back in those days because of it’s lower cost. Pond’s Cold Cream

IMG_2670This reads: Ah, Exquisite Communion of rare blossoms (Isn’t that so perfect?)

IMG_2671And this one reads: A dainty luxury for me skin. (I love that!)

I’ve done some more research since I wrote the first post.

The National Museum of American History has one, but it’s not currently on display. Click here for the link.

There are eight jars for sale on eBay and range in price from $26.75 to $199.00. I paid $10 for mine. (I’m almost tempted to by another one!)

There are two for sale on Esty. Both are around $150.00.

Most sites date these from the mid to late 1800s to the early 1900s.

Readers: What small thing do you have that you treasure?

Confession

By Sherry — I’m looking forward to seeing all of the Wickeds tomorrow at our annual retreat in Maine!

I announced my new Chloe Jackson Redneck Riviera series here on April 18th.

But as you might have guessed from the title of this piece, I have a confession to make. I vacillate between joy and terror as I start on this new adventure with Chloe. For some reason when I started writing the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries, Sarah came to me almost fully formed. I knew where she lived, what she drove, how she felt about life.

Chloe is a bit more of a mystery to me. Instead of popping into my head like Sarah did, she’s holding bits of herself back. I know she was a children’s librarian in Chicago until she moved to the Emerald Coast to keep a promise to a friend and help his grandmother out at her beach bar. I knew the grandmother didn’t want her there, but Chloe was raised that a promise made was a promise kept.

Two weeks ago I was down at the Redneck Riviera visiting my mom and doing some research. (Isn’t that convenient?!) The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The Gulf of Mexico was at its show offy best. The emerald color of the water against the white sand couldn’t have been more beautiful. Digging my toes in the sand as the cool water washed over my feet felt like a bit of heaven. I knew that Chloe would feel the same way.

My friend Clare and I went out on a research trip  — going to a few beach bars and talking about the new series.

First, we stopped at the Whale’s Tail in Miramar Beach, Florida. If you click here you can go to their website and checkout live beach cam. I’ve eaten there fairly often (the view is amazing and we saw dolphins) but didn’t know until Clare told me that there was a bar underneath the restaurant. It’s pretty plain but maybe the perfect spot for the Seaglass Bar.

Next we headed to the small town of Grayton Beach to go to the Red Bar. There’s another bar/restaurant there. It’s not right on the beach but only a block away. It’s one of those places that’s crammed full of interesting things. And just in case you wonder what was in that Bloody Mary there were green beans, olives, banana peppers and of course celery.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And finally we stopped at The Other End — a bar on Destin harbor. It’s a cool little place with an Airstream as its building. But I think I want something more permanent for The Seaglass Bar.

None of these was the perfect bar but I think I can incorporate bits of all of them into the Chloe books. Then there are so many other decisions. Where does she live? What does she drive? What is her family like and where are they? More on all of this another day.

The area has a definite Southern feel with the heat, sweet tea, and drawls. I started using “you all” while I lived there after a life time of “you guys” that is part of my Iowa roots. The area attracts tourist, Midwesterners, spring breakers. A mix of old/young, South/North, that creates a clash of cultures. I know all of this is fodder for the books.

So I’m excited to learn more about Chloe and scared at the same time.

Readers: Does anyone have advice for me? How do you handle new characters? How do you face your fears?

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal for The Gun Also Rises

Kristin 5chadler is the winner of a copy of one of my books. Kristin watch for an email from me! Thanks to all of you who entered!

It’s always exciting to see your next book up for pre-order. I’m especially excited about The Gun Also Rises because it uses a real bit of history as part of the plot. But more on that on another day.

 

Here’s the blurb for the book:

TO RECOVER A PRICELESS MANUSCRIPT . . .
 
A wealthy widow has asked Sarah Winston to sell her massive collection of mysteries through her garage sale business. While sorting through piles of books stashed in the woman’s attic, Sarah is amazed to discover a case of lost Hemingway stories, stolen from a train in Paris back in 1922. How did they end up in Belle Winthrop Granville’s attic in Ellington, Massachusetts, almost one hundred years later?
 
WILL SARAH HAVE TO PAY WITH HER LIFE?

Before Sarah can get any answers, Belle is assaulted, the case is stolen, a maid is killed, and Sarah herself is dodging bullets. And when rumors spread that Belle has a limited edition of The Sun Also Rises in her house, Sarah is soon mixed up with a mobster, the fanatical League of Literary Treasure Hunters, and a hard-to-read rare book dealer. With someone willing to kill for the Hemingway, Sarah has to race to catch the culprit—or the bell may toll for her . . .

Thank you to the amazing team at Kensington for the great cover and back cover copy! And in case you missed it Kensington also did a fantastic job on Julia Henry‘s (it’s stunning) and Liz Mugavero’s (it made me laugh) new covers. Click on their names for a link to their posts. All three of our books come out on January 29, 2019! We will be celebrating here on the blog!

Readers: Fess up — do you ever buy a book based on the cover? I’m going to give away a copy of one of my books (your choice) to someone who leaves a comment!

 

Ah Malice Domestic

By Sherry — I’m home recovering from the lack of sleep and all the fun at Malice

Malice Domestic is the annual conference for fans of the traditional mystery. The first time I went was in 2003 as fan and hopeful writer. I was amazed by the crime fiction community then and continue to be now. I didn’t know a soul at that first conference. I stood in line at the restaurant for lunch and the woman in front of me turned and asked me to join her and her friend. It turns out that she was the prolific writer Lee Harris.

I have talked often about meeting Julie Hennrikus at Malice and how that changed the trajectory of my writing life. I gave Malice a shout out in the acknowledgements of my first book, Tagged for Death. For me Malice is all about connecting with people – seeing old friend and making new ones.

Here are Jessie and Edith with Rhys Bowen getting their certificates for their Agatha Best Historical nomination.

I don’t get to see the Wickeds very often. While it may seem like we are running over to each other’s houses for tea every other day, the truth is we are spread out all over the place. And poor me – I’m the farthest away. So Malice is one of the three or four times a year that I get to see them.

Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones

This year I was on a panel, Murder in New England, with friends Shari Randall and Julie Hennrikus  — how lucky is that? The other panel member was writer Leslie Meier who writes the Lucy Stone mystery series. I confess when I saw her name on the list of panel members I went total fan girl, but managed to maintain my cool on the actual panel.

Some people you only see long enough to give them a quick hug. Others you are lucky enough to sit down with for a chat. And some people you see photos of and wonder how you never managed to glimpse them!

 

This year my publisher Kensington gave away books. I sat by Debra Goldstein. Her new book, One Taste Too Many, doesn’t come out until December 18, 2018, but she passed out bookmarks. Then she said to each person, “I only have a bookmark, but Sherry has a great book you can get.” Did I mention how generous the crime writing community is? Oh, and Debra’s book is available for pre-order.

Attending the Sisters in Crime breakfast and the New Authors breakfast is always fun but oh so early when you’ve stayed up late so you don’t miss a minute of talking to someone. I keep campaigning for New Authors cocktail parties but no one listens to me. I confess I was a bit late to the New Authors breakfast but got to hear most of the authors. The short interviews are always a lot of fun. Here are just a few of the many wonderful debut authors:

Then there is getting to meet people you’ve only known online. The banquet, the Agatha Awards… Aw, heck, I could go on and on about how wonderful Malice is, but I’m guessing you get the point.

This year my Malice experience was extended for a bit because author Leslie Budewitz came home with me. We yakked until the wee hours and then got up at 5:30 to get Leslie to the Metro station for her flight home. Boo-hoo – why do you live so far away Leslie? And now it’s all over for another year. I’ve gotten some sleep (including a two hour nap Monday morning) and am now recharged and renewed.

I hope if you’ve never been to Malice that you get to go some day. It’s special. They give out scholarships to people who might not otherwise be able to attend. Here is the contact information: MaliceAngels@comcast.net

Readers: Is there a place you go to see old friends and meet new ones?

 

Exciting News!

By Sherry — I’m in Bowling Green, Kentucky today for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest!

I am so excited to announce that I am writing a second series for Kensington – the Chloe Jackson Redneck Riviera series. The setting is in the panhandle of Florida and the town is a fictional version of Destin, Florida. The area is known as the Emerald Coast, LA – lower Alabama, and yes, the Redneck Riviera.

Why am I setting a book there? My parents used to winter on the Emerald Coast and eventually moved to Destin in 1991. My husband was stationed there in the early 2000s. We lived in the area for almost three years. When we left our daughter said “yes, ma’am, no sir,” called her gym teachers coach, and we all ended up talking slower and saying “y’all.” It’s hotter than the blazes in the summer, people hold open doors for you even when your halfway across the parking lot, the beaches are the whitest, softest I’ve ever been to, and the water is a stunning shade of green.

It’s even beautiful on a rainy day!

Here is a bit about the series from the proposal I turned in:  

There are some promises you hope you never have to keep. Thirty-year-old Chloe Jackson made such a promise to her friend Boone Parker before he left for a deployment in Afghanistan. When he didn’t come back, Chloe packed her bags to go help Boone’s grandmother, Vivi, run her Seaglass Bar on the white sand beaches of Destiny, Florida. Destiny is in the panhandle of Florida which is also known as the Redneck Riviera and LA — Lower Alabama. Destiny has four seasons – snowbirds, spring breakers, summer people, and the month and a half in the fall where it’s just the locals.

Chloe won’t miss the cold winters of Chicago, but giving up her job as a children’s librarian just about broke her heart. However, her late father had told her a promise made must be a promise kept. It’s the code Chloe has always lived by.

Chloe thought Vivi would be grateful for her help — she’s anything but grateful. Because what could a children’s librarian who has never mixed a drink add to her business? However, Vivi quickly realizes that Chloe’s past as a children’s librarian gives her a unique ability to handle unruly customers and employees.

Destiny is a town that grew too fast. Greedy developers made shady deals while lining the back pockets of the town council. Resources – police, utilities, and roads – are strained as is the environment. Rich people don’t want the locals to have access to the beach and fights about the mean high tide are ongoing. Harley riding local doctors don’t like the Speedo wearing foreigners coming to town.

Will Wade has owned the Briny Pirate restaurant next door to the Seaglass for thirty years. The two buildings are so close they might as well share a wall. When a Seaglass customer is hungry Vivi calls in an order and someone from the Briny Pirate runs it over.

Cast of Characters:

Chloe Jackson – is a thirty-year-old former children’s librarian who moves to Destiny, Florida to help her college friend’s grandmother run her bar on the beach.

Vivi Slidell – has run Seaglass Bar on the beach in Destiny for the past forty years long before the sleepy fishing village became a tourist hot spot. Vivi doesn’t think she needs help from anyone. She’s grieving the loss of her grandson whose support meant more to her than she ever realized. Vivi is reluctant to accept help from anyone and especially a Yankee who shows up every day unbidden.

Joaquin Diaz – the handsome bartender, a fisherman by day, who ladies flock to see. Overworked, Joaquin seems to be the only one who is happy that Chloe has arrived.

Will Wade – owns the Briny Pirate restaurant next door and has been in love with Vivi for thirty years. Will is a cranky native who doesn’t like how tourists, land developers, and northerners have ruined the once quiet beaches.

I hope you will join me in this new adventure!

Readers: Have you ever been to the Redneck Riviera? If not what is your favorite beach town? I’m at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest today, but will stop by as possible!

 

 

 

Chance Meetings

Sherry here in Northern Virginia where the weather can’t decide on a season

When I look back on my life I think of how much of it came down to chance meetings.

Meeting my husband is right up there. We both happened to be at the same place for a few hours. If not for that, we wouldn’t have met.

Many of my dear friends from our military days are friends because we chose and/or were assigned to live in unit A and not unit B on a different section of the base. One of my friends, Nancy, and I had a lot in common even though I was older and grew up in Iowa and she grew up in California and, yes, was younger. We both had worked for financial planning companies, Nancy in Colorado Springs and me just up the road in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We had almost identical Dansk dishes – white with blue rims. We both loved antiques and all things blue and white. We both loved yard sales and spent many a happy hour while we were stationed in Los Angeles heading out on Saturday mornings to hunt for treasures.

And then there is my chance meeting with Julie Hennrikus. We sat at the same table at the Malice Domestic banquet in 2005. I often think how different my life might have been if we’d been seated at different tables. My family was moving to the Boston area that summer. Julie, being Julie, told me I had to join the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime (an organization I knew nothing about) and go to Crime Bake. That singular meeting opened up a whole new world to me and blossomed into so many friendships and opportunities. Maybe, eventually, I would have found Sisters in Crime on my own, but maybe not.

This made me think about chance meetings in fiction. Sarah met CJ by chance when she was defying her mother who told her to stay away from military men on the base near their house. Sarah met Seth when she went out for a drink alone, raw and lonely because of her recent divorce.

And that got me thinking about the difference between chance and coincidence.

One definition of chance in Merriam-Webster is: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings

Merriam-Webster defines coincidence as: the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection

Another dictionary said coincidence is: a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances

So chance is more haphazard and coincidence is a bigger event with some connectedness.

I’ve heard many writing instructors say that your book shouldn’t have more than one coincidence in it – if any. Do a search of “coincidence in writing” and hundreds of articles pop up. I often call Barb Goffman, my independent editor and friend, to ask if she thinks this or that is too big of a coincidence. Sometimes the answer is yes (then the rewriting begins) and sometimes the answer is, “yes but if you did this, is won’t be a coincidence.”

I find it interesting that we accept coincidences in life but not fiction. I find it fascinating that chance plays such a huge role in our lives.

Readers: What role has chance played in your life? How do you feel about it in fiction?

What’s Next for Sarah Winston?

Karen Surprenant is the winner of a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer. Watch for an email from me Karen! Thanks to all who left a comment. I wish I could give you all a book!

Last week for the release of I Know What You Bid Last Summer I wrote about the idea behind the book. Today I want to tell you what is coming up for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. Next February my sixth book in the series, The Gun Also Rises, comes out. Here is the back cover blurb:

TO RECOVER A PRICELESS MANUSCRIPT . . .

 A wealthy widow has asked Sarah Winston to sell her massive collection of mysteries through her garage sale business. While sorting through piles of books stashed in the woman’s attic, Sarah is amazed to discover a case of lost Hemingway stories, stolen from a train in Paris back in 1922. How did they end up in Belle Winthrop Granville’s attic in Ellington, Massachusetts, almost one hundred years later?

WILL SARAH HAVE TO PAY WITH HER LIFE?

Before Sarah can get any answers, Belle is assaulted, the case is stolen, a maid is killed, and Sarah herself is dodging bullets. And when rumors spread that Belle has a limited edition of The Sun Also Rises in her house, Sarah is soon mixed up with a mobster, the fanatical League of Literary Treasure Hunters, and a hard-to-read rare book dealer. With someone willing to kill for the Hemingway, Sarah has to race to catch the culprit—or the bell may toll for her . . .

Kensington does such an amazing job with the back cover copy! I’m always so grateful. When my editor, Gary Goldstein, and I were tossing around ideas for this book I suggested a book sale and he suggested a Hemingway like character and a stolen valuable book. While I was researching I came across the true story of early Hemingway manuscripts being stolen. They were never found. Click here for more about this fascinating story. Incorporating this bit of history in my novel was so interesting.

But wait there’s more!

Book seven, Let’s Fake A Deal, will come out in July 2019. I don’t have the official back cover copy yet. But Sarah has her hands full. She is just about to open a garage sale she’s throwing for two new to town hipsters when the police show up. They received a tip that everything she’s selling is stolen. To further complicate Sarah’s life a good friend from Fitch Air Force Base is implicated in a murder. As Sarah investigates she wonders how to prove both she and her friend are innocent before they both end up in jail.

And finally!

I’m delighted to be able to say this out loud! Kensington has asked me to write two more Sarah books! Titles and publication dates to be announced. I’m really excited about the ideas for both books. Thanks so much to all of you who have supported this series!

I’m giving away a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer to someone who leaves a comment.

Readers: Had you ever heard the story of the stolen Hemingway manuscripts?