Wicked Wednesday — A Gift of Advice

She generally gave very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it). Lewis Carroll

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it. Agatha Christie

Advice gets a lot of bad press. What is the best gift of advice you’ve received? How old were you when you got it? Did you pass it on to anyone else?


My grandfather, whom we called Poppa, about thirty years earlier in his late 30s. He looked exactly the same except for white hair!

Edith: When I was starting ninth grade, and young for my class (that is, still half teen, half kid), one day after school I’d been trying to fly a kite in front of our house. I was sitting on the curb with a hopelessly tangled ball of string. My father’s father, Allan Sr.,  was living with us at the time for about nine months (until he died suddenly) – and I loved having him with us. He was coming back from his constitutional, as he called his walk and saw my plight. I probably said I was just going to cut it all off and give up. He said, “If you start something, Edie, finish it.” I took it to heart, untangled the string, and have carried that lesson with me ever since. And yes, I tried to pass it on to my sons.


Jessie: Like most writers, there was a point on my road to being published when I was querying agents. Like most other writers, I discovered it was a pretty miserable experience. By the time I had received my seventh rejection letter in six days I was starting to feel a bit discouraged. My husband called me to ask how things were going and I confessed it was starting to be a pretty hard slog. He said something to me I remind myself every time I start to lose heart “Chin up, pen down”. If I ever get a tattoo that will probably be what I choose. There is even an app to try out a tattoo before you commit to anything permanent!

Barb: The day I turned thirty a group of women from work, including Nancy Fohl and Kathy Schiff, took me out to lunch. I have no idea what was going on in my life that day, but I do know as a young mother I often felt completely discombobulated. I’d just get a project at work under control and then my kid would get an ear infection. Or my kid would sleep through the night but then the car wouldn’t start. And so on. It was always something. Anyway, I told my lunchmates this, and said something like, “I just wish things would settle down for awhile.” Nancy Fohl said, “It’s never going to settle down. What you’re describing is life. Now that you’re thirty, it’s time for you to know the truth.” And then Kathy said, “It’s only because you’re a WASP that you ever believed things could be under control in the first place. You need to get over that now.” I admit there are still times when I crave routine, no surprises, everything under control, but now I remind myself life doesn’t work that way for anyone and it gives me what I need to keep going.

Liz: When I was a still pretty young, probably a teenager, someone (I don’t even remember who at this point) told me that you can never please everyone and you shouldn’t waste time trying. That the only person you really needed to make happy is yourself. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, because you know, as a teenager I wanted everyone to like me, be proud of me, etc. I wish I had listened back then. Instead I had to learn it the hard way over the past few years. I think this is probably the most important piece of advice ever.

Sherry: I was in 9th grade and getting ready to enter high school. My mom sat me down and told me if I really wanted to enjoy high school I should participate in a lot of activities. I took that advice to heart and did as much as I could. The two most valuable experiences were being involved in school plays and the yearbook. Plays gave me confidence and the yearbook taught me how to work with a group and how to be organized. I’ve carried that advice about being involved throughout my life and because of that have met many wonderful people. So here is my senior picture and the list of activities that went along with it.

I confess I’m pretty stunned to see intramurals in there because I was not athletic. Someone must have forced me to do something!

Julie: Best piece of advice I’ve gotten? One of them is from Hank Phillippi Ryan, when my first book was about to be published. “Enjoy every step of this. Enjoy every moment.” That’s good life advice too, as it turns out.

Readers: Please share the one piece of good advice that has stuck with you.

Wicked Wednesday — A Gift of Kindness

No act of kindness, not matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop

This time of year one’s thoughts are often on gifts. What is a gift of kindness that you’ve received? Did it come from a stranger, a friend, or a family member? How did you react?

Liz: I’m so blessed to have so many awesome friends. This question makes me think of last year when I was going through a tough time and my Wicked sisters and their significant others stepped up to help me in so many ways–with the blog, with holidays, with advice, and just always being there for me in every possible way. I will always be thankful to all of you for that and everything you do!

Sherry: Five or six years ago we met a friend of our daughter’s and her family at a hotel in DC. It was a really hot day so my husband dropped us off and went to find a parking spot. (The hotel parking was ridiculously expensive.) We had a great afternoon. Bob said the car was parked near the National Zoo so we climbed up the hill toward the zoo. He soon realized we’d gone to far so we reversed directions and started walking up and down side streets. Did I mention it was hot out? Elizabeth and I sat on a stone wall in front of someone’s house to take a break. A woman pulled up in her car and asked what was wrong. We explained the situation and she offered to drive Bob around to look for the car. She asked where we were from and when we told her northern Virginia, she laughed. She said usually lost people were from some place far away like Minnesota. They found the car and now Bob snaps a picture of a nearby intersection when we are out and about.

Barb: When I worked as a freelance title examiner my old law firm hired me to serve a supoena. Which was ridiculous. I don’t know why they asked me and I don’t know why I said yes. Anyway, the person I was supposed to serve lived in a brand new condominium complex back in the days when the idea of condominiums in the suburbs was very new. So here I was, this anxious young girl wandering around this complex where none of the streets were marked and none of the townhouses had numbers and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Then, a older mailman appeared out of nowhere and asked me if I was lost. “You lookin’ for one of them pandemoniums?” he asked. “I’ll show ya.” As we walked along he asked me why if I was doing this, I wasn’t studying to be a lawyer. I told him I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a writer, but it was very hard to do and very hard to make a living. “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “The cream will always rise.” Then he deposited me at the front door of the place I needed to be and walked out of my life.

Edith: Wow, Barb – and it did! Kindness: in 1998 I lived with my husband and sons, ages 10 and 12, in the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa for a year. My husband had to go to Guinea for two weeks and there’s only one flight a week. While he was gone I came down with typhoid fever despite having been immunized and was the sickest I have ever been. I spent my days in the embassy infirmary. The mothers (one Dutch, one American) of two of my sons’ friends picked them up from the International School, fed them, brought them home to sleep, and took them for a weekend day, too. Our cook made me soup. And gradually I got better. Jeanine, the American mom, invited us for Thanksgiving dinner and I’ve never been more grateful. (And I have just reconnected with her on Facebook!) Below Jeanine now and me in Burkina Faso in 1998 with another Edith, an old friend from grad school days.


Julie: Well, my dear Wickeds, I am teary reading your posts. I have been blessed by kindness often in my life. On favorite writing memory was my first Sisters in Crime New England meeting. Hallie Ephron was president, and the meeting was at her house. I was a wreck. My friend Mary and I went together to the meeting, and sat in the car until a few people came in. I had seen Dana Cameron at Malice, and had read her first Emma Fielding book. I saw her in the line for food, and mentioned that I’d liked the book. She thanked me, and then asked me about my writing, and what my WIP was about. She made me feel like a real writer.

Readers: Please share your memory of someone being kind to you.

Wicked Wednesday–Thankful It’s Over

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win an ARC of I Know What You Bid Last Summer by Sherry Harris along with a glasses case and cleaner from Kensington Publishing leave a comment below.

Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing. I love having written.” Much as I reject the notion that the writing process itself can’t be joyful, or exhilarating, or inspired, I do have days when I understand how she feels.

That feeling applies to other projects as well. Wickeds, telling us about a project you just loved having “done.”

Edith: Cleaning my office? I dislike doing it so much I rarely really do a deep clean or even a superficial tidy. But I love it when it’s done, everything clean and clear and put away. Of course I love when a book is done. But it’s such a long process,  I love almost all the stages of the process, and I always have another book started, so it’s not such a finite thing to be glad it’s done.

Jessie: I love having finished a knitting project. I keep track of most of them on the social media website Ravelry and am always inordinately pleased with myself when I can post that I have completed a work in progress. Why I am eager to finish working on a pastime I love bafffles me but it is true every time!

Sherry: Jessie, finishing a knitting project must be so satisfying because you immediately have something to show for it. I’ll go with getting Christmas cards finished. First, I have to confess I haven’t sent any out for two years and that I hope to this year. It’s on the list with three writing projects I’m working on so fingers crossed. The cards have been in the back of the closest waiting for me to haul them out!

Barb: It won’t shock any of the Wickeds to hear the project I’ll be most thankful to be done with is–moving! My goal has been to be finished unpacking with everything set up and arranged by December 21, and it is going to be right down to the wire. The last room left is my study and that’s going to be huge challenge. Wish me luck!

Julie: I love teaching, but I hate grading. We’re in the final stretch of the semester, and I’m behind, which I hate. But the project I assigned is huge, so it is going to take me hours. Worth it in the end, but think of me this weekend.

Readers: Tell us about a project you loved having finished–or simply say hello.

Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for Our Animal Friends

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz leave a comment below.

Regular readers know Liz Mugavero as our lead animal lover, but many of the Wickeds do have or have had pets–or other meaningful encounters with animals. Wickeds, tell us about a current or past relationship with an animal.

BirdyTrottingEdith:  I’m firmly in the cat camp, and each of our cats gets a role in one of my series. We currently have only Cristabel and Preston because my dear Birdy died last summer, the cat on the cover of every Country Store Mystery. He was a fostered kitten whom I got when he was twelve weeks old back in 2003, and he acted like a kitten for the next fourteen years. Always curious, always dashing through an open door like it was an illicit activity. I could NOT keep him off the kitchen counters. He loved to be petted, to be hoisted up to ride on a shoulder for a while, to sleep in even the tiniest of cardboard boxes. Miss you, Birdman!


Sherry: Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows Lily. I often post pictures of our morning walks. Lily is the first dog I’ve ever had. Before we got her I said I wasn’t going to be one of those people who wouldn’t take her to a kennel when we traveled and I also said she wouldn’t be allowed on the furniture. Ha! She went to a kennel once and got sick so she’s never been back. We’ve been fortunate to have friends and neighbors we could trade pet care with! And it wasn’t long before she ended up on the furniture too. She was a great antidote when our daughter was a teenager. We might all be mad at each other but we all loved Lily. I didn’t know how much I would fall in love with her.


Liz: Wow, how do I pick just one? Everyone knows how much I love Shaggy, so I’ll spare you the repetition of that. Instead I’ll tell you about a really special kitty named FerrisFerrisFerris was a stray who ended up at the shelter I was working at years ago in New Hampshire. He’d narrowly escaped a kill shelter, and had been living on the streets eating from garbage cans. He was prickly and fresh and I fell in love with him. He had SUCH an attitude, and major trust issues. I remember one of the first nights after he’d moved in. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about me (plus, he bit sometimes). I woke up and found him sitting inches away from me, just staring. I thought – if I move the wrong way he’s going to bite my face off! But he didn’t – and I guess after that he decided I was trustworthy. We became best buds after that. Like me, he loved potato chips and was famous for climbing inside an open bag to eat them. Which I can totally respect…I lost him in 2011 to spinal cancer, but his memory definitely lives on.

Jessie: I am sorry to have to mention it but I have allergies to both dogs and cats. Also rabbits, a great number of plants and a bunch of foods. Fortunately, I am not allergic to birds and so for many years I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of Miss Kim, an African Grey parrot with a sharp eye and a curious nature. She loved to ride around on my shoulder as I moved about the house and was always good company. She passed away about ten years ago and I still find myself calling “goodbye” to her as I about to leave the house on errands or “good night” as I mount the stairs to head for bed.

Barb: Jessie, I love the image of you calling, “good-bye,” to an empty house. I’ve had cats, but I have to say we are much more dog people. I grew up with a mutt called Tiger, a collarless puppy who followed my dad home from the park. When my kids were three and six, my sister-in-law showed up with Jessie, a mostly golden lab puppy. Years later, after she had her own children, she apologized for that little maneuver. When Jessie died, my son was a junior in high school, but my daughter was still in middle school. “Oh, Dad,” she said, batting her very thick eyelashes, “the house is so empty when I get home.” I said, “No, no, no, no. The kids will be off to college and we’ll be rushing home from work to let out a dog.” Then guess what happened? And then guess what happened? Nonetheless, we all loved MacKenzie.

Fred and GingerJulie: Sherry came to visit last weekend, and met Fred and Ginger (and took this picture). I adopted them a year and a half ago. They were rescued from a house in Stamford CT, both have feline AIDS, and were tough to place in a home. Ginger (top of the picture) was feral. Nevertheless, and despite the fur all over the house, they are great company, get along well, and have settled in. As a matter of fact, Ginger is resting her head on my lap as I type this.

Readers: Tell us about an animal in your life–or simply say hello for a chance to win.

Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for the New England Crime Bake

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win an advance copy of Edith/Maddie’s Biscuits and Slashed Browns, leave a comment below.

The 2017 New England Crime Bake was last weekend. As New England based authors, all the Wickeds have written about how grateful we are to the Crime Bake for what it’s added to our careers and our lives.

Wickeds, tell us a story about something that happened at Crime Bake this year that taught you something about craft, the writing community or yourself! Photos are a bonus.

Edith: I went to a great master class on Research given by author and professor of criminal justice, Frankie Bailey. I picked up some excellent tips on new sources I hadn’t thought of.


I also held a Sisters in Crime New England board meeting over breakfast, and am so grateful for these authors from six states who make our chapter the best one around. SINC National president Kendel Lynn joined us, too, and offered perspectives on what the umbrella organization is up to.


I had so many other stellar moments, including hanging out with the Wickeds, visiting with friends like Ramona DeFelice Long, Kim Gray, and Dru Ann love, drinks with some of the Guppies, a Seascape reunion photo, and being asked to sit at the “head” table at the banquet along with Guest of Honor Lisa Gardner. Here she is holding one of the centerpiece vases of paper flowers, all made by hand by Crime Bake co-chair Sharon Daynard!


Barb: I took an excellent master class, too, A Map in the Wilderness, Unsticking Your Plot with Cinematic Structure with Ray Daniel. I did three manuscript reviews for unpublished authors–the best manuscripts I’ve ever seen while doing this. For two of them, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to say.

From left: Kim Gray, Karen Cleveland, Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, one of our revered instructors, Hallie Ephron, Sherry Harris, Dianne Herlihy, Barbara Ross, Ramona DeFelice Long

A group of us who had all attended Seascape in ’09 had a mini-reunion.

The banquet was a lot of fun. Great food!

I moderated a panel called Conflict! Conflict! Conflict! (Fortunately, nobody got hurt.) And I taught a Sunday class called, “Four Lies People Will Tell You about Marketing Your Novel.” The best part of Crime Bake is always the people. It’s like old home week.

From Left: Barbara Ross, Paula Munier, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Karen E. Olsen

Jessie: I learned the most from a stellar presentation by our own Barb Ross on Marketing. It was just like Barb to take a topic that is routinely overwhelming and typically dry and to turn it into a comprehensive, accessible and very funny seminar. I was so grateful for her expertise and her willingness to share it. Thanks, Barb!

Sherry: Ditto, what Jessie said. It was a wonderful class. I learned a lot at the master class on suspense by Lisa Gardner. I love all of those little moments of grabbing some time with an old friend and making new friends. It was also fun to discover one of my daughter’s high school friends was working at the hotel.

Liz: Triple ditto! I thought Barb’s presentation was fabulous and there were many terrific points that everyone could take away. She’s great at breaking things down into pieces that everyone can understand. And overall, it was a great conference. This is always my favorite mystery con and this year didn’t disappoint!

Julie: I moderated two panels, both with EXCELLENT panelists which made my job easier. I was on the committee, so I have a slightly different perspective, but my favorite moments were solo acts by three fabulous women. Lisa Gardner, the GoH, gave a wonderful pep talk at lunch about why it is so great being a writer. Susan Reynolds did a Friday night talk about firing up your writer’s brain (she wrote a book on the topic) that I started taking notes during (which tells me how great it is). And Barb’s talk on Sunday really was wonderful. We all know how wonderful she is, but she really blew me away.

Readers: Tell us about a particular experience at a meeting or conference, or simply say hello.Save

Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for Books

Thankful for Our Readers:  The Wickeds’ November giveaway continues. For a chance to win A Christmas Peril, by our own J. A. Hennrikus, leave a comment below.

One of the things all who read this blog have in common is a love of reading and books. Books can be friends when we’re lonely. They can open up a wider world for us when we are stuck in one place. They can sooth and distract us during times of stress. They can stimulate our minds, open our imaginations and make us think about people and places in new ways.

Wickeds, tell us a story about a time a book was particularly meaningful to you.

Liz: When I was in grad school, I read Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys. It’s a book about a family that imploded after something happened to one of the children. It was one of her best books, and one of the best books I ever read – one of the few that I would re-read. It’s so raw and emotional and is such a great window into the way family tragedies happen and how things affect people. Makes me cry every time.

poisonwoodEdith: When I lived in Burkina Faso for a year in 1998-99, it was difficult time for me personally on all kinds of fronts. My sister sent me The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is set in tropical central Africa and I was in the arid west, but the writing, the storytelling, the depth of characters – Kingsolver let me lose myself entirely to the story, for which I was grateful. She writes so thoroughly in four different characters’ voices, the reader knows instantly in whose voice a particular chapter is, and I learned from that. Thank you, Ms. Kingsolver.

Sherry: When I was going through a rough period in my life I came across Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky. It is the first in her amazing V. I. Warshawski series. V.I. is a strong, independent woman who also has a vulnerable side. I thought if she can be strong and independent so can I. Fortunately, I didn’t come across any dead bodies, no one beat me up, and no one set me up. But V. I. helped give me the courage to face life full on. A couple of years ago, I met Sara at Malice Domestic and got to thank her in person.

Jessie: This is such a great question! I’m not quite sure how anyone survives life without books. Certainly how one would survive childhood! When I was six my appendix ruptured in the situation ended up being very complicated. The surgeon was not certain I was going to survive the ordeal. While I was in the hospital recovering my mother read to me every night from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I thought it was so delightfully funny that I couldn’t help but laugh which unfortunately tore at my surgical staples.  The book was so wonderful that having them replaced was worth the pain. I think knowing the world was full of as much magic as books provided gave me a great deal of incentive to  make a full recovery.

Julie: I love this question. During the summer of 1990 I was running the box office for the Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment exhibition at the ICA. On my commutes, I read The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I would also read it during breaks in the box office. Soon other folks were reading it as well, and I had to leave it there once I was done so that everyone could keep reading. I remember my sister (hello nepotism) wouldn’t leave until she finished it, so she sat on the floor of the box office sobbing. I loved Pat Conroy’s writing. He painted water colors of emotion with words. Just an amazing book, and memory.

Barb: These stories are terrific and you’ve called out some wonderful books, too. I remember vividly turning the last page of Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and sobbing and sobbing because the book was over, because I couldn’t live in that world anymore, and because I could never again read that story for the first time.

Readers: For a chance to win A Christmas Peril, tell us about a time in your life when a book was particularly meaningful or just say hello!




Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for the Odd Couples

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win Murder in an English Village leave a comment below. Tell us about an odd pairing in your life–or simply wish Jessie the best with this new series!

We’re celebrating the launch of Jessie’s series debut in the Beryl and Edwina Mystery series from Kensington, Murder in an English Village.

Here’s the blurb:

As friends, the boisterous and brash American Beryl couldn’t be less alike than the prim and proper British Edwina. But as sleuths in an England recovering from the Great War, they’re the perfect match . . .

1920: Flying in the face of convention, legendary American adventuress Beryl Helliwell never fails to surprise and shock. The last thing her adoring public would expect is that she craves some peace and quiet. The humdrum hamlet of Walmsley Parva in the English countryside seems just the ticket. And, honestly, until America comes to its senses and repeals Prohibition, Beryl has no intention of returning stateside and subjecting herself to bathtub gin.

For over three decades, Edwina Davenport has lived comfortably in Walmsley Parva, but the post–World War I bust has left her in dire financial straits and forced her to advertise for a lodger. When her long-lost school chum Beryl arrives on her doorstep—actually crashes into it in her red motorcar—Edwina welcomes her old friend as her new roommate.

But her idyllic hometown has a hidden sinister side, and when the two friends are drawn in, they decide to set up shop as private inquiry agents, helping Edwina to make ends meet and satisfying Beryl’s thirst for adventure. Now this odd couple will need to put their heads together to catch a killer—before this sleepy English village becomes their final resting place . . .

Everyone loves an odd couple. So Wickeds, I’m wondering are you a part of an odd pairing like the original Felix Unger and Oscar Madison? Were you influenced by a friendship like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s and the late Antonin Scalia’s? Have you written about a duo like Samuel Beckett and Andre the Giant? Tell us all..

Edith: Congratulations, Jessie! I truly can’t wait to read this debut. As for odd couples, I’ve had a few very tall good female friends (before Julie, that is). My dear friend Sarah, whom I met when we were both technical writers in the same hi-tech firm, used to have to start loping when I walked too fast for her. My short legs could go faster than her much longer ones. Fictionally, my teetotaler and religious Quaker midwife Rose Carroll has the very unconventional Bertie Winslow as her best friend (that is, sidekick). Bertie, a lesbian and the postmistress in town, rides her horse astride rather than sidesaddle and is irreverent and outspoken to Rose’s more conventional – albeit independent – behavior. I love that they can respect their differences and still be best buds.

Liz: Jessie, yay! So excited for you and this series. I always think of me and my friend Glenn as an odd couple. Some of you may remember Glenn from one of our Ask the Experts blogs – he runs a few funeral homes. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and mostly, we’re nothing alike. But our friendship has lasted through a long, strange journey and I know he’s one of the very few people I can call if I’m every seriously in trouble, and he’d be there in a second. Plus, we make each other laugh wicked hard – and I guess that in itself is enough!

Barb: Congratulations, Jessie. I am so excited about this book. I think of my former business partner, Carol Vallone, and me as an odd couple. Carol is the ultimate extrovert, a born salesperson, and person unafraid to ask for, and to fight for, what she wants for her business. She’s slim, and dark, and always beautifully turned out. I’m the insider who likes to figure stuff out, work with employees and people I know to make things happen, sit for long hours writing a speech or preparing a presentation. And I look like, well you all know. I’ve always believed that’s why our partnership worked, because we wanted and enjoyed different things, and made up for each other’s deficits.

Sherry: I’ll go with a fictional pairing — Sarah Winston and Mike “the Big Cheese” Titone. Sarah Winston spent half of her life as a military spouse. It’s a world of rules and order. To top that off her ex-husband CJ was also part of the Air Force security police and police chief of Ellington, adding more layers to her rule driven world. In All Murders Final! Sarah meets Mike, a man from the North End (the Italian section) of Boston. She knows he’s gotten off racketeering charges, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy. When she needs help, Mike helps but at a huge personal cost to Sarah. Mike is mentioned in the first two books, but comes alive in the third one. I love it when their worlds intertwine.

Julie: First of all, huge congratulations Jessie!! SO excited!! RE odd couples–I don’t know. I think of people who compliment me, or push me out of my comfort zone, but those differences make us better friends. Friends who are too much like me are boring. Not sure what that says about me.

Jessie: I think I have a thing for odd couples! My first book’s protagonist and her sister are opposites in most ways. In my Change of Fortune series my sleuth con artist/ psychic Ruby Proulx is nothing like the alternate viewpoint character, straight-laced policeman Warren Yancey. And now I’ve imagined Beryl and Edwina, a boisterous American adventuress and a genteel English country woman.  I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve often thought there are two vastly different sides to me and one or the other will come out to play depending on the circumstances. No matter what the reason, I do love odd couples!



Readers: Tell us about your odd-couple selves and your favorite fictional odd couple!