Thinking Thoughts

By Julie, hoping spring will spring soon in Somerville

Crime thoughtsEarlier this year I went to a book event for The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout, a terrific book by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman. In my day job, I run a small in size but large in scope nonprofit, so the topic was (is) of great interest to me. One of the steps I have taken since is to meditate for a few minutes every day, a practice that had been recommended for years. Thanks to the Calm app, it has been a very interesting process. I am much more aware–of my feelings, of the weather, of the taste of food, of whether or not I am hungry, of my thoughts in general.

I am a bit alarmed by how often my mind wanders to crime.

I am working on two books this year, and need to keep characters, settings, and crimes separate. I am committed to the cozy genre, so I am looking for crimes off the page, but that leave an impression. I’ve also subscribed to Acorn TV, and am inspired by  British, Australian, and New Zealand “cozy” characters and mysteries. Midsomer Murders, while fitting the genre, is over the top in the crimes (and the acting). I love the heightened reality of that show, Rosemary and Thyme, Mr. & Mrs. Murder, Agatha Raisin, and The Brokenwood Mysteries and other series in that vein.

The wonderful characters, inventive murders, and close knit community settings are my go to these days. But all of these are set in small villages, and I live in a city. I am very much a city girl. But meditation has cleared some of the muddle of my mind, and helped me look at my city with fresh eyes. It has also, as I mentioned, made me aware of where my mind drifts.  I see the small pockets of village life in Somerville, and my imagination kicks in gear. A block of eclectic shops in Union Square, some of which have been there for years, many of which are undergoing facelifts. What stories will those walls tell?  gather here, a place that encourages knitting, sewing, and other crafts. Crafters, as we all know, are a treasure trove of instruments that can be employed in devious ways,  and strong personalities.  Davis Square, the the movie/concert hall in the center of a bastion of wonderful restaurants. Date night gone wrong? The bike path, a lovely place to walk, run, or ride your bike all the way to Bedford. So many mysterious places to explore.

My imagination has been in overdrive. My mind wanders to crime, no matter who I am with. It does make it a bit dicey when folks don’t know I am a mystery writer, and likely puts some folks off. Granted, meditation probably shouldn’t heighten awareness of mysterious pursuits, but it has been a side effect of my new practice. I’m sure I’m not the only person constantly plotting dastardly deeds.

Am I?

A Dress Dilemma

Jessie: In NH where there is a foot of snow still on the ground. 

calligraphy-678690_1280Next month all the Wickeds, along with hundreds of mystery readers and writers will descend on Bethesda, MD for the Malice Domestic Conference. One of the highlights of the conference every year is the banquet where the Agatha Award winners are announced. This year, for the first time, one of my books has been nominated. The first thing I did when I received the call informing me that Whispers Beyond the Veil had been nominated was to jump up and down and to scream like a game show contestant. Once I had calmed down enough to remember to breathe, I realised I would need to think about what to wear.

Almost every time I attend a banquet I wear the same thing. I have a serviceable, unwrinklable black dress which I wear with a chiffon bolero jacket and whichever jewelry strikes my fancy. And red lipstick. I always wear red lipstick. But I found myself wondering if I ought to shop for something new in honor of the occasion. I decided I really should make an extra effort so I started looking around. Distressingly, nothing whatsoever has caught my fancy.

Everything is either too short, too long, too flouncy, too lacy or worst of all, sleeveless. Why are almost all cocktail dresses sleeveless? I have not noticed such an abundance of strikingly beautiful upper arms to warrant the near extinction of sleeves. Could sleeves make such a difference in profit margins? How much time and extra fabric do they really require?  I can only conclude there some sort of conspiracy between dressmakers and the diet industry.

It makes me wish, just for a moment to find myself back in the Victorian era, when Whispers Beyond the Veil is set. I would likely have had a dressmaker to assist me or even have had sufficient skills of my own to make a gown  myself. Then I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive in a time when I can wear something other than a floor length dress.  Which makes me ask myself if I am overthinking it all. Do I really need something new? Does anyone ever remember what anyone else wears? Especially if what one keeps wearing is a simple black dress?

So, dear readers, what do you advise? Stick with what I own already? Keep looking? And if you advise continuing to shop, do you have a suggestion for a store that sells dresses with sleeves?

Agatha Nominees for Best First 2017

Julie here, hoping this blizzard was the last for New England.

Last year I had the thrill of having Just Killing Time nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel. My fellow nominees and I became good friends during the run up to Malice Domestic, and did a small blog tour. Sherry did the same thing the year she was nominated. We’re thrilled to give a wicked welcome to this year’s nominees.

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Today they are going to answer the question who would play the main characters in the movie or TV show made from your novel?

Alexia Gordon, author of Murder in G Major (Henery Press)

Gosh, that’s a difficult question. Truthfully, I don’t know. I could see Thandie Newton or Zoe Saldana as Gethsemane. Maybe Richard Harrington (from the Welsh TV series Hinterland) as Eamon. A member of a book club that discussed Murder in G Major suggested Kerry Washington as Gethsemane.

When I watch movies and TV shows I forget (on purpose) who’s “starring” in the role and focus on the character being portrayed. For instance, Hugh Jackman isn’t Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, he is Wolverine. Hugh Jackman ceases to exist for 120 minutes. Consequently, I’m pretty good with characters’ names but I’m pretty bad with actors’ names. Not what any actor wants to hear but I mean it as a compliment. It takes talent to convince a rational adult that you’re someone who doesn’t really exist.

I have this fantasy of WGBH Boston or BBC America turning my books into a series and holding an open casting call. Hundreds (oh, why not, thousands) of unknowns would line up to audition and the casting directors–the people who cast Midsomer Murders or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (David Suchet was brilliant as Poirot)–would discover the new “it” actors.

Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan), author of Design for Dying (Forge)

This is a tricky one. Can we name the 1930s actors who could play our characters instead, because that’s when Design for Dying is set? No? Very well.

Let’s start with Lillian Frost, the toughest casting call for one reason: the role has to be played by an actress good enough to make us believe she’s terrible. It’s Lillian’s lack of skill in front of the camera, after all, that chases her out of pictures. She’s also got to be resourceful, kind, and look stellar in period wardrobe. On second thought, it’s not so tough, especially if you’ve seen Brooklyn. The Oscar-nominated star of that wonderful film Saoirse Ronan would be perfect as a young woman making a new home for herself in a strange and distant place. We know from Captain America that Chris Evans can sport vintage attire, and he’s got the low-key charm of Detective Gene Morrow down pat.

We considered plenty of names to play Lillian’s partner in sleuthing, legendary costume designer Edith Head, and settled on the wild card: pop provocateur Lady Gaga. No, really. It’s not only the resemblance. Gaga has blazed her own trail in show business, developing a distinctive persona and ensuring that everyone knows her name. Just like Edith did decades earlier.

Oh, and the 1930’s version? Priscilla Lane, Dennis O’Keefe, and Mary Astor.

Nadine Nettmann, author of Decanting a Murder (Midnight Ink)

Although a fun question, it’s always a tough one. One of the main characters in Decanting a Murder is Detective Dean, who I describe as tall with slicked back blond hair. While I didn’t have a specific actor in mind for this role when I wrote it, I watched some recent work of Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I think he would be great as Dean. I’m also a fan of Jason Lewis, from Sex and The City, as he has the stoic look that Dean carries, as well as Ryan Kwanten from True Blood. Though, I wouldn’t mind a brand new actor to play the part. It’s always great to see new talent.

As for the main protagonist, Katie Stillwell, I purposefully don’t describe her in the book as I want the reader to identify with her and perhaps put themselves in her shoes. So I’ll hold back on any potential actresses and let readers decide who they would like cast in that role.

Cynthia Kuhn, author of The Semester of Our Discontent (Henery Press)

All of the following not only “look” the part but have something else that makes them seem like strong contenders. (The age of the actor may not align perfectly with the age of the character in these choices, but that’s where the magic of the movies comes in, right?) And now, without further ado: for Lila, someone like Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Connelly, who have played strong characters who sometimes fumble (with amusing results) in certain situations; Reese Witherspoon or Kristen Bell for Calista, either of whom could capture the poet’s quirkiness; Paul Rudd has the right blend of earnestness and laid-back vibe for Nate; Michael Ealy seems like a perfect match for the confident and determined Francisco; and Armie Hammer has the charming, smooth qualities of Tad.

Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta (Minotaur)

I’ve gone back and forth about who I would cast as Kelsey McKenna, but right now Cristin Milioti from How I Met Your Mother and Fargo is my top pick. (I’m sure she’d be thrilled to know that she’s even being considered for the part—ha!) Her deadpan delivery and comic timing won my heart as the Mother in How I Met Your Mother, and I really, really want her to have a role where she doesn’t have a terminal disease.

As for the supporting roles, there’s only one that I can picture perfectly, and that’s Mrs. Abernathy. Now, I’d probably get outvoted because she’s slightly more “mature” than the role calls for, but Susan Sullivan (AKA Castle’s spitfire of a mom) would be the perfect choice to play the Mother of the Bride in Terror in Taffeta. I had so much fun writing the demanding Mrs. Abernathy, and I can perfectly picture Susan Sullivan delivering lines like, “Put your shoes on, girls. This is a wedding, not a hoedown!”

BIOS

Marla Cooper is the author of Terror in Taffeta, an Agatha and Lefty nominee for Best First Mystery and book one in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries. Her second book, Dying on the Vine, is set in the California wine country and comes out April 4. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, from advertising copy to travel guidebooks to the occasional haiku, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her series. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. Learn more at www.marla-cooper.com.

Alexia Gordon has been a writer since childhood. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiers July 2017. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas, she listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at www.missdemeanors.com. AlexiaGordon.net

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches English at MSU Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has visited wine regions around the world, from France to Chile to South Africa, but chose Napa Valley as the setting for her debut novel, Decanting a Murder. The next book in the Sommelier Mystery Series, Uncorking a Lie, releases in May 2017. Chapters are paired with wine recommendations. NadineNettmann.com

Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Happy Cruel Winter Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to Sheila Connolly. Her fifth County Cork Mystery, Cruel Winter, is cruelwinterout!

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan’s small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan’s pub. But now she’s stranded in a bar full of patrons–and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder. Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan’s reviews the facts and theories about the case–and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

To celebrate, I (Edith) decided to make one of Sheila’s many Irish recipes from her other group blog, Mystery Lover’s Kitchen. She’s over there most Fridays sharing dishes, both savory and sweet, that she has concocted. I’ve adapted the following recipe slightly, but what follows isn’t too far from her Feb 7 post of three years ago. As you can see, I didn’t have Irish whiskey, but figured I couldn’t go too far wrong with using bourbon, instead.

Irish Chicken and Cabbage

Ingredients

1/2 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  minced
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 T dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
2 cups shredded cabbage
1-1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade/canned/from a bouillon cube)
Sheila’s twist—a tablespoon or two of Irish whiskey (Edith’s substitution—an equal amount of bourbon)

irishchickingred

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie pan and dredge the chicken pieces in it, shaking off the excess.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Tuck the garlic cloves, carrots, onions and rosemary around and between the chicken pieces. Lay the cabbage in an even layer on top and season with salt and pepper.

Mix the whiskey into the broth and pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables. Cover the contents of the Dutch oven with its oven-proof lid, or with foil (press it against the contents to make a fairly close seal), then place the pot in the oven and cook for 75 (remember, the heat is low). Peek once or twice and baste the top with the pan juices.

irishchickTo serve, place a piece of chicken on the plate and spoon the vegetables and sauce over it. I urge you to check Sheila’s original recipe for pix of the entire process and for the few ingredients I left out (because, oops, I didn’t have them in the house).

I wanted to serve the dish with new potatoes steamed and then lightly sauteed in olive oil and herbs – except somebody in my house used the last potato and didn’t put them them on the shopping list. So instead I made quick whole-wheat soda biscuits. Which went almost better with the dish than the potatoes would have.

Readers: Who has read the County Cork series up to now and can’t wait to get your hands on this one?  [Me! Me!] Anybody been to Ireland and, if so, what was your favorite meal? Your favorite Irish pub near where you live?

Guest: Wendy Tyson

This is Edith, wondering what New England will give us for weather next! And happy to BitterHarvest fronthave the talented Wendy Tyson back as my guest. Her newest Greenhouse Mystery, Bitter Harvest, came out this week, and to celebrate she’s giving away an audiobook (on CDs) of the book to one commenter today. Wendy was kind enough to consent to an interview, so let’s go (my questions are in boldface)!

You wrote a darker standalone, plus the Allison Campbell series for Henery, about an image consultant. I haven’t read either the standalone or the series, but even the series seems a bit darker than the cozy Greenhouse Mysteries. Do you prefer one style over the other?

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction—from small-town cozy mysteries to great, sprawling international thrillers and everything in between. The Greenhouse Mystery Series is very dear to me because I love organic gardening, and I feel passionate about the regenerative farming movement. Plus, I’ve fallen quite in love with some of the characters.  And these days, when you turn on the news and you’re constantly confronted by some tragedy or another, it’s nice to return to a place that’s welcoming and just a little isolated from some of the world’s misery (even if that place is fictional). That’s how I feel about Winsome, PA, the setting of Bitter Harvest.

That said, I also enjoy writing darker mysteries and thrillers. These books provide a different kind of outlet as a writer, and it’s exciting to sink into an edgier, more complex novel. I guess the answer is no, I really don’t prefer one over the other. I like to think there is the flexibility for me to write and publish both.

Our readers are always curious about our writing schedules and habits. Do you have a day job in addition to writing fiction? When and where do you write your mysteries?

Vermont Respite

Vermont

I do! I’m an attorney and I work full-time as a consultant at a mutual fund company. (I practice ERISA law. Bonus points for Wicked readers familiar with that area of the law.) I have a husband, three sons, and three dogs, and I split my time between Vermont and Pennsylvania. Life is hectic, but writing provides me with the quiet time I need to recharge. Making time for writing isn’t always easy, though.

A schedule? I get up early—around 5:30 am—and write every day before work, until about 7. If I’m up against a deadline, I’ll also write during my lunch break. I try to reserve evenings for my family and for any social media/marketing I need to do. That all sounds very disciplined, doesn’t it? The truth is, while I do stick to that schedule, it’s often not enough to meet my deadlines, and so I tend to be a binge writer. I write for hours during family vacations, on my days off from work, at soccer and lacrosse tournaments, in waiting rooms. I’ve learned the art of writing wherever and whenever. To do that without sacrificing family time, I integrate writing with my life. This means I can write at the kitchen island while the boys do homework or play and a meal is simmering on the stove. I’ve had to learn to block out distractions. (If only I had mastered that skill in college!)

I know you are an avid gardener, as is Megan Sawyer, your Greenhouse series protagonist. What’s your favorite crop to grow, and which give you the most problems? (I’ll add my own answers after yours!)Yard mico farm Tyson

Red peppers are a favorite crop. We plant red bell peppers and Hungarian peppers, and we eat the bells like apples (the kids love them). Peppers grow very well in our climate. Potatoes do as well, and we generally have excellent crops of red and Yukon potatoes. Homegrown potatoes are delicious—earthy and flavorful, even without butter.

Most problematic? That changes to some extent every year. Last summer, we had a tough time with tomatoes (another favorite crop), and mid-way through the summer our basil died for no apparent reason. The year before we had more tomatoes than we could possibly eat, and fresh, fragrant basil until well into fall. We almost always get aphids on our spring kale and spinach eventually…something you learn to live with when you’re planting an organic garden on a small piece of property.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

E: Oh, man, broccoli was such a pain. It’s good to plant, because it’s healthy and doesn’t mind cold weather. But when the cabbage moth lays its eggs in the head and you’re in the kitchen getting ready to chop one up for your dinner and there are MOVING CREATURES hidden in the florets? Gah! Forget it. I’ll buy broccoli at the farm stand. When I was selling my own produce, the tiny holes the flea beetles chew in arugula and other leafy green crops was a big pain but not harmful, just cosmetically unpleasing. But I love growing my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes every year. I used to start those from seed before hardly anybody knew about them – now all the garden centers sell seedlings.

Bitter Harvest takes place in the fall. Here in New England more and more family farms are putting up hoop houses and nurturing crops like hardy greens all winter long. Do you try to grow year round? 

Absolutely. We were inspired some years back after reading Eliot Coleman’s book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, and my husband built an unheated hoop house and low tunnels in our yard. It’s been a little bit of heaven to go out into a snowy yard and pick fresh spinach or kale. We’ve also grown arugula and pak choi in the low tunnels with decent success.

E: I’ve seen Coleman speak! And still own my copy of Four Season Harvest.

Other than writing about murders and growing food (and being a wife, mom, and dog owner…), what else do you do for fun in your “free” time? Believe me, I’ve been there except for the dog part, which is why I put free in quotes!

Free time…you’re right, there isn’t much left over. I love, love, love to travel. The entire part of a trip, from planning to execution, is great fun, and we’ve managed some interesting trips over the last five years or so. We drove to Montana from Pennsylvania one summer, another summer we did a “road trip” through parts of Western Europe and

Corfu, Greece

Corfu

Slovenia, and we spent three weeks in a house on the Greek island of Corfu a few years back. These trips provide family time and writing time, and I find that a new locale always offers novel ideas and a fresh perspective. Aside from travel, I enjoy hiking and swimming with my kids, especially in our adopted state of Vermont.

Since this year is Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary, tell us how the organization has benefited you and helped you along as an author. Are you active in any chapters?

I value Sisters in Crime and the networking opportunities it provides. I’ve met so many inspiring authors through the organization, and I’ve learned a great deal about marketing and the writing industry in general. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers, and I’ve been an editor and columnist for their two publications, The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins. I highly recommend that new and aspiring authors join SinC or ITW or another writing organization. Absolutely invaluable.

What’s one thing hardly anyone knows about you? 

I don’t own an e-reader. While I applaud the advent of the e-book, and I see the great value of e-readers for so many reasons, I’m hopelessly attached to paper books. My husband built me a wall of bookshelves, and even so we don’t have enough room for them all. I love the smell, the feel of a new book, the comfort of an old favorite. I am addicted. (There, I admitted it for all the world to see.)

You could do a lot worse with addictions, my friend! What’s next for you on the writing front?

My fourth Allison Campbell Mystery, Fatal Façade, launches on June 13, 2017. I just turned in Seeds of Revenge, Greenhouse Mystery No. 3, and that comes out in late 2017. This year promises to be a busy one!

Readers: Who has an e-reader and who doesn’t? How do you feel about gardening? Favorite vacation travel story? Remember,  Wendy is giving away an audiobook (on CD) of the book to one commenter today.

In Bitter Harvest, Megan Sawyer should be shouting from the barn roof. Washington Acres survived its first year, the café has become a hotspot for locals, and Winsome’s sexy Scottish veterinarian is making house calls—only not for the animals. But as summer slips into fall and Winsome prepares for its grand Oktoberfest celebration, beer isn’t the only thing brewing. When the town’s pub owner is killed in a freak accident, Megan suspects something sinister is afoot in Winsome—but no one is listening. As nights grow longer and temperatures chill, Megan must plow through Winsome’s fixation with autumn festivities to harvest the truth—before another dead body marks the season.Wendy Tyson

Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs.  Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.

A Wicked Welcome Back to Laura Bradford

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, dreaming of daffodils…

I’m super excited to bring Laura Bradford, a/k/a Elizabeth Lynn Casey, back to the Wickeds. I asked her some questions recently, and here’s what she had to say:

  1. Tell us about yourself.laura

I’m a mom. I’ve wanted to write since I was ten. I’ve had 29 books contracted since being diagnosed with MS in the summer of 2006.  I love—and I mean, love—to bake (and eat). And if I could only vacation to one place for the rest of my life, I would choose Disney World—I love the innocent joy and the way it lifts my spirits.

  1. Tell us about your series.

How about I tell you about two of them? 😉

silenceflans_front mech.inddFirst, some quick background on the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, before I get to talk of the latest book.

When the series begins with Éclair and Present Danger, Winnie Johnson (my protagonist) owns a bakery. It’s all she’s ever wanted to do with her life. But the rising cost of rent on the shop soon threatens everything. When she learns she’s been named in a good friend’s will, she thinks she has a chance to stay open. Unfortunately, she soon learns she wasn’t left money but, rather, an old vintage ambulance and a cat that hates the very sight of Winnie. Forced to close her bakery, Winnie is left wondering what she’ll do now. That is until she really looks at the ambulance and sees a way to reinvent her business.

The Silence of the Flans—book # 2—comes out March 7. In an attempt to help de-stress her new boyfriend, Winnie (my protagonist) offers to let one of his business students do a short stint with her Emergency Dessert Squad. The hope is that the hands-on time with a real small business can make the difference between graduating and not graduating for this troubled girl.

Jay (Winnie’s boyfriend) tries to warn her about this particular student. Renee (Winnie’s best friend and employee) tries to convince her to let her go within the first few minutes…but Winnie doesn’t listen.

It’s a decision that may very well derail her new business when the next customer ends up dead—poisoned by one of Winnie’s own desserts.

Now for another new series…

death-in-advertisingDeath in Advertising, the kick-off title in my new Tobi Tobias Mysteries, debuted last month. While the book can be purchased in a trade paperback size on line, the main focus is the e-book and it’s lower price. From a career standpoint, I pursued this contract as a way to get my work in front of the E-audience as the vast majority of my readers, to date, buy physical books. I, too, am a physical book reader, but I know that there is a segment of the population who isn’t. And by reaching them, I hope to grow all of my series.

Death in Advertising is the first book in what, for now, is a three-book series.  All three books will be out in this calendar year so there is no lengthy wait between visits with characters I hope you’ll come to love.

Tobi Tobias (my protagonist) is a fun character. She’s funny, quirky, and, at times, a bit self-deprecating. But she learns a lot about herself as she moves through the books. And her posse of friends—including an African Gray Parrot she pretends to hate—are an absolute hoot to spend time with.

  1. Candy corn. Explain.

I wish I could. I just know that the final day or two of a deadline has me consuming large quantities alongside many glasses of milk. The Brachs Corporation really should consider me as a spokesperson.

  1. You are a very prolific writer. How do you get so much done?

I’m not sure how prolific I am. I have eight years of college tuition to pay (I’m halfway through now!) and that’s quite a motivator to work, work, work if there ever was one.

  1. You’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. Which is your favorite book?

On the Banks of Plum Creek. It had everything—girl drama (Laura/Nellie), dramatic moments (leeches!) and everything else you could want in a good book.

Now that I’m thinking about that book, I’m realizing it’s time to do a little re-reading. J

  1. What’s next for you?

A few things.

*The 12th Southern Sewing Circle Mystery—Patterned After Death (written under my pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey) comes out in June.

*The 2nd Tobi Tobias Mystery—30 Second Death—comes out in July.

*I’ll be releasing the sixth book in my Amish Mysteries in late summer/early fall.

*The 3rd Tobi Tobias Mystery—And Death Goes To—comes out in December.

*Dial M for Mousse, the third Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery, will be out in January, 2018.

*And a brand new project I’m beyond excited about will debut in the summer of 2018, releasing first in trade with a mass market reprint.  I’ll share more on my Facebook Author page when I can.

Thanks for stopping by, Laura! Readers, what’s your favorite Laura Bradford or Elizabeth Lynn Casey book or series?

Friends, Dead Freds and Deadlines

Liz here, in book jail, but quite possibly on the verge of parole…

It’s been a long few months.

Seriously. I don’t mean to complain, but it really has. There’s been a lot going on in my world, and then at the end of January, I got a little surprise. I realized (thanks to my super-on-it-editor at Kensington) that I had screwed up. I thought my deadline for my next book was April 1, and I was meandering along towards it, doing my usual “I’ll do it later” thing. (Granted, this time I had a better reason for doing that than others, but still.) Anyway, I was wrong. Or delusional. Turns out the book was due March 1 instead.

Heart attack? Oh yes. With a few panic attacks thrown in. When I learned this, I had about half my word count completed, but my story itself seemed to have gone by the wayside. I was stuck in the middle, so I wasn’t progressing. I was procrastinating, because I was dealing with some difficult personal and professional experiences. I was already feeling like it was an impossible task.

So to lose four weeks felt like a bad joke.

But seriously – I had no time to wallow. I had to just figure out how to get it done. And of course, this is where the Wickeds came in.

It’s no secret around here that I’ve struggled with the whole plotting vs. pantsing thing. I write about it often, usually around a deadline when I’m once again reminded how plotting could’ve saved my sanity. This time, I had plotted. I even felt good about the plot. So to still be stuck was killing me.

And then Jessie stepped in. She FaceTimed me one afternoon and walked me through an  amazing exercise where I laid out my plot, told her where I was stuck, and we spent the next two hours re-plotting and brainstorming and generally untying all the knots I’d worked myself into. By the time we hung up, I felt better. I used her method of posting “Dead Freds” all over my wall into some semblance of an outline. Once I had all my scenes mostly laid out and where I wanted them, I started inputting them into Scrivener. img_1984

Then I started writing. And miraculously, I started making progress. This was the best exercise I’ve ever done – and I’m totally going to bug Jessie to do it again (and again!) for my next book(s).

When Sherry read the first few chapters for me, she pointed out a potential (huge) issue that I was able to fix fairly easily, before it turned into a big problem with the finished draft. As always, her fabulous eye is just what I needed. I replotted a bit, then started again.

And through it all, Barb, Julie and Edith have been cheering me on – Barb from her own cell in book jail, Edith through her knee surgery, and Julie through her always-busy life. It’s been hairy, but I think I’m going to do it. As usual, these guys saved the day. And put up with me at the same time. I promise I’ll make it up to you all…

Now let’s hope my editor likes the book once I finally get to The End!

Readers, what’s gotten you through a difficult time or an impossible deadline?