Wicked Wednesday-Treasures

heirloom-454464_1920Jessie- In Maine, thinking about the past and about family

I recently popped into a local vintage shop and got to chatting with the owner who mentioned many of the delightful items on offer came to him when families offered the contents of a deceased relative’s home. As I looked around I couldn’t help but think of family heirlooms and the things I have inherited from loved ones. So, Wickeds, do you have any special possessions you have received from your own families? 

Liz: I have my grandfather’s pocket watch. I always remember him having one in his shirt pocket when I was little, and it was a true gift to be able to have this keepsake of his.

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I also have his wedding ring that my mother had created into a heart shape that I wear on a chain.

Edith: I have my grandmother Dorothy Henderson Maxwell’s travel diary from when she drove across country in 1917, and her future husband, my grandfather Allan B. Maxwell’s diaries from when he was fourteen and fifteen. These are immense treasures for their detail of daily life on these adventures. And I just discovered I also have the diary of Allison Maxwell, Allan’s father, from 1868!

Poppa and Allison's diaries

Jessie: I have a tiny little brass fire extinguisher that my great-grandfather kept on his lobster boat. When my husband and I bought our place in Maine my mother gave it to me to put on display. I love it!

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Barb: I have so much stuff from family, I had a hard time deciding what to show you all. I finally settled on the couch below. I picked it because it has been, in its quiet way, so much a part of our lives. It belonged to my father’s mother’s parents. They were interior decorators, so I always figured it was an order someone forgot to pick up. I have photos of me standing in front of it in New Rochelle, New York in the 1950s. I remember it well from my grandparents apartment on East 36th Street in New York City in the 60s. During the 70s, on my wedding day, I posed in front of it at my parents’ house in Kingston, Pennsylvania. During the 80s through the 2000s, it was at my parents’ house in Dallas, Pennsylvania. My son and my nephew were assigned to sit on it during Christmas morning present opening, so we have tons of photos. It’s really uncomfortable, which is why no one ever sits on it unless we have a full house. The last person who reupholstered it for my mother said it was meant to go in a front hallway where it would only be sat on briefly to put on or take off galoshes. I’m so happy my house in Portland, Maine has an out-of-the-way nook where it can live and where it will only be sat on during the largest of parties. The needlepoint pillows on it, (l-r) were made by my great-grandmother, my mother, and my grandmother respectively.

Julie: I have a few treasures. One is the clock that was on the hanging shelves in my grandmother’s living room. Even more treasured are the recipes and knitting patterns I inherited. She wrote notes in margins, and every time I see that handwriting I smile. Another treasure is a hutch my father made for me. It is Shaker style, and built to be a corner hutch. A family heirloom that will be passed on for sure.

Sherry: Like Barb, I have a plethora of treasures to choose from. Some I include in the Sarah Winston books like the rocking chair that was my great grandfathers and her love of vintage postcards comes from the ones I have from them. One of the things I love is a gyroscope I found in their basement. It’s in the original box with the original string and instructions. You can’t see the price in the photos but it say it was fifty cents on the bottom of the instructions. I’m not sure how old it is. But maybe Sarah should find one at a garage sale!

Readers, how about you? Do you have any special family treasures?

The Detective’s Daughter – Beaches

Kim in Baltimore enjoying the summer weather.

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Summer is my favorite season. That’s right, I enjoy the heat, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the sunny mornings spent strolling through the farmer’s market choosing the freshest vegetables, and lazily reading in my yard in a lawn chair listening as the ice-cream truck drives by with its music and bells chiming. But most of all I love the beach. FullSizeRender_1

From the first summer of my life until I was twelve years old, my family spent our summers on the shores of New Jersey in Atlantic City. My mom would take us out onto the beach in the morning and our afternoons were spent visiting the shops along the boardwalk. Pop-Pop was never far behind, trailing after us to be sure we were safe. We had our own security detail!

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Once, Pop-Pop spent an entire morning searching the beach for a tooth my sister lost. He was more upset than she was when he came back empty-handed. In the evening we went to the Steel Pier to see the diving horses and listen to music.FullSizeRender_2

 

Family vacations have always been important to me. I have carried on the tradition of going to the beach. Each year since my children have been born we have traveled, even if only for the weekend, to the beach. Living in Baltimore, we are fortunate to be within a three hour drive to beaches in Delaware and New Jersey as well as Maryland. I was not able to contain myself to the east coast, though, and have taken my family – by train – to beaches in Chicago and San Francisco as well. We have visited as far south as  Cocoa Beach and Miami Beach and went up north to Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

 

FullSizeRender_3However many beaches I’ve visited, Rehoboth Beach has become my favorite place to relax. I love the bookstore and the coffee shops and the easy living of the place. You’ll find me there at least one weekend a month during summer. I think I may need to go there now!

 

 

 

Dear Reader,

Do you enjoy the beach? What is your favorite thing to do during the summer months?

 

 

Beach Bound

Jessie: In Maine preparing for another trip!

puerto-rico-3400019_1920By the time this post goes live I will be well on my way to the beach. Not the sugar fine sand of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, my usual summer haunt but rather the balmy waters of San Juan, Puerto Rico. My beloved husband has a business trip to the island and kindly invited me to join him.

It is a bit of a last minute trip and I had to scramble a bit more than usual to prepare. I decided to channel one of the sleuths from my lastest series and throw myself into the adventure with Beryl Helliwell’s spirit of unrelenting spontinaity. I picked up a new sundress and a lightweight white shirt to be better prepared for a far more tropical climate than is found on the coast of Maine, even at the height of summer.

This morning I stocked the fridge for our house-sitters and briefed them on the proper care of my garden and window boxes. I ran a quick load of laundry and made a quick packing list. I filled my favorite fountain pen with ink and tucked it, along with my current notebook and my iPad into a safe spot in my travel bag.

What I haven’t done is look for things to do other than strolling the beach or exploring the streets of Old San Juan. As much as I am someone who loves to travel, I admit, Puerto Rico had not been on my radar and I feel slightly ill-prepared. Usually some weeks before a trip to a new destination I will start following businesses, tourist organizations, places of interest and locals on Instagram. I download apps for my phone of local points of interest, metro maps, public transportation etc… Since I almost always travel with only a small backpack I ruthlessly plan what to pack well ahead of time.

So, dear readers, I turn to you. Have any of you been to San Juan? To other points of interest in Puerto Rico? Do you have any suggestions about places or experiences not to be missed? Any restaurants to die for? Any museums or cultural activities to be sure to see/ participate in? Any and all recommendations would be appreciated!

Readers, have you been to Puerto Rico? D you like to go off on last minute trips or are you more of a planner? I will send one commenter an ARC of my next Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Flies the Coop!

 

Mary Feliz: Making a Memorable Entrance

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

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

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

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

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

Secondary Characters

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

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

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

Golden Retriever Puppy Driving Car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Erickson: When the Not So Cozy Gets Cozy

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re the wrong sex!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pops

“Pops” mostly from Overwatch

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

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

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

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

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

Wicked Romantic

balloon-1046658_1920Jessie: In Washington D.C. thinking fond thoughts of my beloved.

Today is my wedding anniversary and my thoughts naturally have turned to romance. I know I like a bit of romance in the books I read and the ones that I write and I wondered if the rest of you do as well? 

Julie: I do like the romance, especially as a reader. As a writer, I’ve learned from all of you that pacing is important. Really important. Keep it going, but don’t frustrate everyone. I loved writing about Ruth and Ben’s relationship in my Clock Shop series. I am figuring out Sully’s romantic path in my Theater Cop series. She has a couple of options, but is also a strong single woman. In my new series, Lilly Jayne is a widow. There may be romance at some point, and there is an interesting next door neighbor, but for the first three books Lilly’s romance is with life, and embracing it again.

Mommyand me

With my mom about ten years ago

Edith: Yes to both, and happy anniversary to you and the dark and mysterious husband (who must be delighted that Brazil is going strong in World Cup competition). I’ve written conflicted relationships and ones that go more smoothly, but in the end I want my protagonist and important supporting characters to be happy in love. One of my favorites was giving Cam Flaherty’s widower great-uncle Albert in the Local Foods Mysteries a new sweetie – who turned out to be my late mother, Marilyn Muller! She never got to read any of my books, and I so love including her on the pages. Romance in the assisted living residence: it’s never too late.

Liz: Happy anniversary, Jessie! I do like a little romance in books – especially crime fiction, where the rest of the world we’re in is so dark. I’ve had fun with Stan and Jake’s relationship in my Pawsitively Organic series, and in a twist unplanned even to me, Stan’s mother also found love in a small town. Romance can definitely add a nice flavor to the story.

Sherry: Happy anniversary! I’ve always love a side of romance dating back to my early reading of Phyllis A. Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart. I’ve enjoyed the twists and turns in Sarah’s love life. Most of them were unexpected. Seth? Never planned on him even having a name, let alone continuing on through future books.

Readers: Romance in your mysteries, yay or nay? Are there any you’ve read that didn’t work for you?

Wicked Wednesday- Fireworks

Jessie: In the nation’s capital for the holiday!

new-years-eve-1953253_1920Happy Independence Day to all our readers! Not only is it a day to remember the founders of our nation, it is also a day to attend parades, host barbecues and to wear red white and blue. Many Americans end the day  stretched out on a blanket watching a dazzling display of fireworks.

What I wondered was whether or not all of you love fireworks or if you prefer to give them a miss?

Edith: I do love the wonder and awe of fireworks, even though at root they celebrate wartime. In my town they are held across from a big hill that is town land, a former farm. Everybody heads up there, many on foot, and bring picnics. Afterward the road back into town is closed to cars and we all walk home. It feel wonderfully old-fashioned, which is why I had to stage a murder during the 1888 fireworks in Called to Justice, Quaker Midwife Mystery #2 – which is on sale right now!

Barb: I love fireworks, too. Because of technological advances, they’re one of the few things that are just as magnificent now as I remember them as a kid. The fireworks in Boothbay Harbor take place over the water in direct line of sight from our front porch, so we don’t even have to leave home to view them. I included fireworks over the harbor in Boiled Over, the second Maine Clambake Mystery.

Sherry: I love fireworks, but hate the crowds and the traffic. So I guess I like them if they are easily accessible. But since our sweet Lily hates them this isn’t the best week for us.

Julie: I love fireworks, but will confess that the noise gives me more pause than it used to. That said, I can see the Boston fireworks from my living room window, and enjoy having my family over so we can have a picnic indoors and enjoy the show. I’ve also seen the fireworks at Old Orchard Beach, and that was wonderful.

Jessie: I adore fireworks! I love the colors and the surprise of what sort of formation will light up next. I love the sparkle and the finale. We never went to them when I was a child and I always wished that we had. Now, as an adult, our house in Old Orchard Beach is within easy walking distance of the beach where they are set off every Thursday night. If it doesn’t rain I go every week. It has become a tradition I have loved sharing with my own kids!

Liz: I like them if I choose to go to a fireworks display. I confess, I don’t like it much when people set off random fireworks in neighborhoods, which seems to happen more often than not over the years! Shaggy and the cats don’t love the noise, either, so I always feel bad for them. But not to sound like a party pooper – I think when done right in a proper show, they are amazing.

Readers, do you love to attend the fireworks? If so, where are your favorites? If not, do you have another way you like to celebrate Independence Day?