Wicked Wednesday: Marching in SinC

Edith here, on March Wednesday number four. All the Wickeds are members of Sisters in Crime, and among us we have three past presidents of the New England chapter (Sheila, Barb,and Julie) and a current president (Edith).  In addition, Sherry is President of the Chesapeake chapter where Kim is also a member, Julie serves on the National board, Jane and Jessie are current board members of the New England chapter, and Liz is a former board member.

National is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and the New England chapter is hosting a gala luncheon this Saturday, with many of our chapter luminaries attending. We are so fortunate to have an active, thriving advocacy organization supporting us, pushing for a more equitable distribution of reviews, award nominations and publishing contracts, and spreading information on all aspects of writing and making it as an author.

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So let’s talk about what Sisters in Crime has meant to you over the years, both when you were getting started and now.

Liz: Sisters in Crime is the reason I’m published, plain and simple. If I hadn’t had that network and made those connections, I wouldn’t have been part of the group who received the opportunity to write a proposal for our now-agent, John Talbot – the proposal that became the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries. And that’s just one part of it. The members of Sisters in Crime are truly my tribe, and I’m grateful to know them all.

The Wickeds all met through Sisters in Crime!

Edith: Same here, Liz. Not only from the connections I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned through our fabulous New England chapter, but I also wouldn’t be published if not for National. I’m a long-time member of the Guppies (Great Unpublished) online chapter. I learned so much about the publishing field, about writing a query letter, about finding a small press, and about supporting each other. I stayed on even after I was published because it’s still a source of much shared knowledge. National also puts out an invaluable monthly compilation of links to articles about the field and of contract announcements from members, and does yearly initiatives to further our mission.

Sherry: The night I met Julie at the Malice banquet in 2005 she told me “you have to join Sisters in Crime and the New England chapter when you move to Massachusetts.” A couple of months later we moved and I joined both. Those two actions have been like the stone dropped in the middle of the lake that keeps rippling out in widening circles of friends and opportunities. By joining I found my tribe — people who understand the weird stories swirling in my head. I  wholeheartedly believe that it’s the only reason I’m published. When we moved back to Virginia I joined the Chesapeake Chapter and I’m honored to now serve as their president. Who knew that chance meeting would be so life changing? Thank you to those who started SinC and those who keep it going. I’m forever indebted.

Nancy Parra, Leslie Budewitz, Jessie Crockett, Sheila Connolly, and Julie Hennrikus at the fabulous SinC Hollywood conference last April.

Barb: I first joined the New England chapter back in the 90s, when I was the newsletter editor. (Back when the newsletter had to be laid out in Quark, printed, folded, put in an envelope, and stamped.) I took a long hiatus when I wasn’t writing, then finally produced a short story that got an honorable mention that was presented at Crime Bake, where I sat at a table across from Julie, and…the rest is history. Novel writing is a difficult skill to master, and the publishing business is inscrutable, so between the two, becoming a published mystery author is a difficult hill to climb. I couldn’t have done it without the classes and support I found at SinCNE.

Jessie: I agree with everyone else about how much SinC has helped to make a writing career possible. If it weren’t for the Guppies I would not have heard about the publisher who published my first mystery, Live Free or Die. If it weren’t for SinCNE I would not have had the opportunity to work with my agent. If it weren’t for the mentorship and education provided by SinC I would not have had the skills or the savvy to take advantage of either opportunity. I am deeply indebted to this organization and cannot recommend it enough to other writers.

Julie: I echo my friends raves about Sisters in Crime, especially the New England chapter. I went to my first Malice in 2001 or 2002, and my friend stood in line to send her books back. She started chatting up Dana Cameron, who was then the Vice President of SinCNE. Dana said “you must join”, so Regina came back and informed me that we had to join. So we did. My first meeting was at Hallie Ephron’s house. I was a wreck, but she was very nice, as was everyone else. We grew out of house meetings a few years later. Not only would I not be published, I would not have my wonderful community if I had not joined this organization. I was pleased to serve on the board of SinCNE for a number of years, and to be serving on the national board. It is an amazing group, and highly recommended for folks at any stage of their crime writing life.

Friends, are you a member of Sisters in Crime? What does the organization mean to you?

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Wicked Wednesday: Marching Out of Step

Edith here, on the Ides of March. But instead of talking about seers’ warnings, assassinations, or the start of civil wars (which Caesar’s killing kicked off), let’s talk about one way in which we have always marched out of step with our peers, with the rest of society, or with our families. I take it as a positive trait when a person is out of the ordinary, but it can also cause problems, even bullying. Sometimes we need a great deal of strength to keep our heads up and march to the drummer we feel led by, not that of everyone around us.

Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drum

Sherry: Thinking over this topic made me realize what a middle of the road person I am. I reached out to some long-time friends to ask them  if they thought there was any way I’d marched out of step with my peers. They had nothing. I’m just a normal, middle-aged woman, who lives in the suburbs, dresses conservatively (other than the occasional animal print), and loves my family and friends. I know, I know, I’m boring. Wait — I married a younger, shorter man — strictly against social norms. There you go.

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Liz: What a great topic. I’ve always been just a bit out of step in so many places – especially my family! We just didn’t see eye to eye on most (important) things. But I find that even in my day job, while I enjoy the people I work with, I seem to think just a bit differently than most other people. Not surprisingly, it’s the few creative folks in the environment toward whom I gravitate. So I’ll blame it on having a creative brain. Or really, maybe I’m just weird?

Edith: I think I’ve pretty much always been a little out of step. I was always the shortest and youngest in my grade (yay, Bob Harris!), and felt a great injustice that I wasn’t asked to carry the books (with the boys) from the book room. As a young adult, I rejected social norms of women’s beauty (all that shaving, all that makeup, all those heels). In some sense I was in step with my (early 1970s) cohort, but pretty much out of step with the rest of society. And I have other examples. But I like Liz’s analysis of blaming it on the creative brain. Or maybe we’re just weird?

Barb: It’s hard to see my own life through any prism that tells me what was usual and what was un. I did what I did. I came to a variety of crossroads and took the path I thought was best based on what I knew at the time. Sometimes I was right, sometimes wrong. My sense is that’s the way it is for most people. I was never consciously swayed by fears or hopes about what other people would think of my choices, but my parents’ very American, very middle-class values are wound tightly around my soul, so I’m sure they play a part. I guess the most unusual thing I’ve ever done is write that novel I kept talking about.

Julie: As I get older I realize that I have chosen my own path for my entire life, though quietly. I have always been a daydreamer, for example, and just assumed everyone else was. Not so, I came to realize. My daydreams, alternate realities, were part of the forming writer’s brain. I work in the arts, and am surrounded by folks who create the beat of life. I’m thrilled to be along for the ride–marching out of step helps me notice who else is in the parade, what the scenery looks like. It also makes me aware of who isn’t keeping up, so I can lend a hand.

Jessie: I found this to be a difficult topic. Painful even. Those who have met me as an adult  may find it difficult to believe, but as a child and a teenager I always felt completely out of step. My family moved very often in my early years and I always felt like an outsider with every new school, each new town. I was excruciatingly shy and found the experience harrowing every single time. I became entirely used to the idea that others belonged and I was foreign. As an adult I have settled down in one place for many years but still find that I often think of myself as an observer on the fringes. Fortunately, a witnessing role on the outskirts is a perfect place for a writer to be!

Edith: I’m sorry to have proposed a painful topic, Jessie. We moved our kids twice to West Africa (but then back to their home town after a year), and I saw how excruciating it was for my shy, introverted son. I’m so pleased you have found your one place now, and that you can use your observer role to such good ends – being a brilliant writer. And I love how we are all different from each other on this topic, and yet have found common ground in our friendship and our writing goals.

Readers: How do you march with the rest of your cohort, your culture, your peers, and where have you struck out on your own path? Has being out of step – or in step – been easy, painful, useful?

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Wicked Wednesday: Marching in Parades

Edith here, with the second of five Wednesdays in March. Today let’s talk about our youthful experiences marching in parades. Were you in marching band in high school, either with an instrument or as part of the pep squad? How about with your Scout troop or sports team? If you never marched in a parade, did you sit on the curb and watch? Do you like to take in the Macy’s or Rose Parades on television as an adult? Dish! Bonus points for a picture or two of you marching.

Liz: I’ve never been a big parade marcher. The one and only time I did – under duress – was when I worked for a chamber of commerce and we had to march in some holiday parade in the freezing cold. Luckily my coworker brought us shots of brandy… That said, I did love watching Mardi Gras parades when I used to visit New Orleans often. I’d much rather watch than participate!

Edith: I marched in my town’s Camellia Parade from my Brownie years through junior high in Girl Scouts, and then in my high school’s drill team.

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I loved putting on the uniform and lining up. (Can you spot me in the front row? Third from right…) As an adult, despite being a pacifist Quaker, I still love watching small town parades with bands marching with military precision, goofy Little League teams in their uniforms, and decorated floats. At Bouchercon in New Orleans last October I had a ball walking in the Second Line parade down a wide boulevard despite the rain – and the the music was definitely not militaristic. I even got a photo with Sara Paretsky at the end!

Jessie: My village holds a Fourth of July parade every year that marches right past my house. It is a small parade with a very short route. In fact, the route is so short the marchers go around twice! Charming!

Barb: The most recent parade I went to was for the opening of the Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s Flag Football Association Tournament. (Wow, that’s a mouthful.) Our friend, author Lucy Burdette was a speaker, along with distance swimmer Diana Nyad. When it came time for the parade, Diana got to ride in the convertible, but Lucy marched behind a sign that said, “Lucy Burdette, Famous Author,” which we, her entourage, found hilarious for some reason. But Lucy was ever the good sport.

Sherry: I love the picture of Lucy! The only time I’ve been in a parade was during college. My sorority made a float with a fraternity. It was a big purple (school color) camera made out of tissue paper stuck in chicken wire. If anyone ever asks you to do that run! A friend and I rode on the float pushing down a button pretending we were taking pictures. It was fun. I have always loved marching bands.

Readers: How do you feel about parades? Love watching them or hate they way they clog up your town’s streets? Have you marched in a parade as an adult or a child? Tell us your story!

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Wicked Wednesday: March Into Spring

Edith here, and it’s March! Not sure quite how that happened so fast this year, but let’s

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

March, from Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

march through our Wednesdays together this month. Today I want to know how each Wicked plans to march forward into spring. Many of us have been pretty much holed up during the winter, ignoring the weather and doing some concentrated writing. But spring will launch later this month. How do your work habits change in the spring? Do you get itching to plow both the ground and the fertile soil of your imagination? Do you start working out on your porch or taking more sunny plotting walks? What one step will you take differently this month?

Liz: I’m so excited it’s almost spring! The biggest difference this month for me? I’ll have turned my book in so won’t be working on a crazy deadline while trying to do a million other things! Seriously, this entire winter has been crazy and I’m not sorry to see it go (well, I’m never sorry to see winter go). But I think once I catch up on a few things, I’m going to get myself onto a more serious writing schedule. Probably early in the morning, maybe outside if I can manage it. I’ve let a lot of my routines go during a difficult few months, and need to get them back.

Edith: We’re all pulling for you, Liz! For me, I’m just looking forward to taking any steps. I’ve had a tough first month  post-knee surgery, and when I tried to do a slightly tiny bit longer slow walk on the weekend it really messed me up. But I find all the light in the sky, the sounds of birds again, and the crocuses and daffodils poking their green shoots up out of the cold ground inspiring and stimulating. I know I won’t be able to garden again until the weather really warms up, so I’m going to use that inspiration to finish a first draft this month, and hopefully be able to march lots better before April, too. I’m also, of course, marching toward my double release – When the Grits Hit the Fan on March 28, followed closely by Called to Justice on April 8!

hydrangesSherry: It’s been spring most of the winter here in Northern Virginia. My hydrangeas are leafing out, windows have been open, and I’ve spent a lot of time outside. I’m starting out March with my mom and family in Florida celebrating her 90th birthday today. After that I’ll be gearing up for the release of A Good Day To Buy (shameless self promotion warning — it’s available for pre-orders right now) on April 25th. It’s always an exciting and nerve-racking time!

Barb: Happy birthday to your mom, Sherry. She is one of the Wickeds’ most stalwart fans. Like Liz, I should be turning in my book soon, the sixth Maine Clambake Mystery, Stowed Away. Then, for some insane reason, this spring I’m doing eight appearances in five weeks. Four are conferences that require pre-registration: the Maine Crime Wave, Malice Domestic, Muse and the Marketplace, (where I’m teaching a class, Four Lies People Will Tell You about Marketing Your Novel ) and the Massachusetts Library Association Conference. Four are at bookstores. Various combinations of the Wickeds will be at all of the bookstore events, and we’ll all be together in Nashua, NH on April 19 and in Bethesda, MD the Thursday night before Malice. For those of you who are coming in early for the conference, we’d love to see you there! You can always find my events on my website here. It’s going to be a crazy spring, but I’m very much looking forward to it.

Jessie: Unlike the rest of you I have no plans. Living in northern New England teaches you that spring will break your heart. Just when the daffodils poke their heads up through cold cracks in the earth a foot of snow covers them and makes you wonder if you’ll see them again. So I don’t plan for spring; I prefer to sneak up on it when it isn’t looking. I ease out through the door on a sunny day and perch gingerly on the porch swing to eat my lunch in the warmth of a sunbeam and hope not to jinx things.  I peek at the lengthening days with the barest of glances so as not to scare them off. I whisper to my family the first time I notice there is no frost on the grass in the morning. I’ll make plans come summer.

Julie: This winter has let us taste spring a couple of times, and I am forever grateful for that. Last week it got close to 70. Delightful. Of course, here in New England once it hits 40 we take off our hats and scarves and unzip our coats. I have a lot to work on book wise, but can’t wait for windows to be open.

Readers: What changes for you with the onset of spring? How do you march differently?

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Romantic Gestures — What Does Your Protagonist Think?

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We are having a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Liz and Edith.

Last week we talked about romance in cozies and this week we focus on how it impacts our protagonist. Is your protagonist a romantic? Is there someone special in her life who is? Has your protagonist created a romantic moment or has the love in her life? Was it a big thing or a little thing? How did it impact them?

Edith: What great questions! How our protagonists react to things like romance is just as called-to-justiceimportant as what she carries in her handbag and what’s in her fridge. I will focus on my midwife Rose Carroll. I built the romance into book one. Despite being a practical independent midwife, she’s a romantic, too, but she’s conflicted about committing to David Dodge because of a painful (highly abusive, actually) experience when she was a teenager. There’s a very romantic scene in Called to Justice (out April 8!) where David takes her in his buggy out to the wide Merrimack River on a full moon night. (“The full moon splashed a silver path from the distant bank across to ours.”) You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

custombakedmurderLiz: Stan Connor came to Frog Ledge with a token boyfriend. She’d totally forgotten what it was like to really feel in love or even romance. In fact, she snickered at all the sappy love stories or songs when she heard them and chalked it up to unrealistic people who would eventually find their bubble burst. Then she met Jake McGee. Once she’d lost the loser boyfriend, it took them a couple of books to get things right, but Stan has now turned into one of those people who sighs over love songs, delights in sappy movies, and generally thinks her life is better because of Jake.

Sherry: Sarah has had a rocky romantic life since she is A good Day to BuyCoverrecently divorced in the first book Tagged for Death. In the third book, All Murders Final!, she does go on one romantic date with Seth Anderson to the historic Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. And Sarah does like to be wooed. It was fun to go to the Wayside Inn with the Wickeds in December after our Books and Bagels event in Sudbury. The pictures below are from the Wayside Inn. The one on the left is the tavern.

IcedunderfrontcoverBarb: My amateur sleuth, Julia Snowden, is the product of a great romance–the marriage of a lonely girl who spent her summers on a private island and a local boy who delivered groceries in his skiff. Julia thinks her mother is the romantic and she is the pragmatist. I’m not so sure. Certainly Julia fell into the arms of Chris Durand when he appeared on her family’s tour boat to clear up some misunderstandings and confess his interest in her.

Jessie: There is at least a touch of romance in each of my series. That being said, none of my protagonists are romantics. They are all independent women with a lot WhispersBeyond_Fixgoing on in their lives whether or not they have a romantic partner. None of them are looking for romance; in fact, Gwen Fifield from Live Free or Die and Dani Greene from the Sugar Grove series are more interested in dodging matchmaking efforts by their friends and families.

Julie: Ruth Clagan is recently divorced in Clock Shop Mystery series, so she isn’t looking for romance. That said, Ben the handsome barber from next door is a dish, so there’s that. Her feelings for Ben throw her off a bit. She takes it slow, and finds it hard to trust. But did I mention that he’s handsome? Think Robert Redford in the early 70’s. That handsome. More chimeimportantly, he’s a good guy. That makes all the difference for her.

Readers: Do you have a favorite romantic moment from a book?

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Wicked Wednesday — Adding Romance in Mysteries

we-love-our-readersfebruary-giveaway-1We are having a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Jane and one from Sheila.

All of our books have at least some romantic elements. When thinking about your series, did you have a plan in mind for what kind of relationship your protagonist would have? Has it been an integral  part of your series or a subplot? Has anything surprised you about the relationship? Any other thoughts about the role of romance in mysteries?

Liz: I didn’t really have a plan for Stan (ha, I love saying that) other than I knew she was dating a jerk when the series opened, and I knew she needed to find a “really great guy” somewhere along the way in Frog Ledge. I had a vague idea of Jake and the pub, but as I got into the stories, he and his family became a major part of the story. Stan works with one of his sisters and the other is the resident state trooper, so she’s been thrust into another set of family dynamics to navigate as her romance moves along. It’s been fun to write. As far as the role of romance in mysteries, I do like having a romantic subplot, but I don’t like when they overshadow the mysteries themselves. I mean, dead bodies are why we’re here, right?

Jessie: All of my books have featured romance so I know it’s in my subconscious but it isn’t at the top of my mind. That being said, I’m always delighted when I see how it unfolds. I think the relationships between characters are what makes readers return to a series over and over again. It certainly can’t be less true for the romantic storyline than those involving friendship or family. Some of my favorite scenes in all of my books have been surprising doses of romance. I agree with Liz however, that when writing mysteries the romance should not be the most important part.

DeathOfAmbitiousWomanFrontBarb: Someone once said, “Most mystery authors would rather have their protagonist kill someone than kiss someone.” That may be an exaggeration, in cozies our amateur sleuths rarely blow people away, but for me, just barely. The main character in my first mystery, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was happily married–and that was the point. Unlike so many professional sleuths with tortured personal lives, I wanted to show a happy home life as my idol Ruth Rendell had done in her Wexford series. But I realized in the writing that did cut off many sources of tension and I looked forward in the Maine Clambake Mysteries to writing a main character who was younger and single. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a triangle, because I get impatient with those when they go on too long. And I didn’t want every man she met to fall for Julia, because that really drives me crazy. Now I’m to the point where Julia and her boyfriend Chris need to move forward or move on. Don’t know yet which it will be!

Sherry: I think I have a romance writer lurking in me. I think I’d rather kiss than kill and I adore a good love triangle. That said I had no intention of writing one when I set out to write the Sarah Winston books. What I did want to do was look at complicated relationships. In Tagged For Death, Sarah is put in a position that she has to help her ex-husband clear his name when he’s accused of murder. She thinks he’s a schmuck, but she knows him well enough to know he wouldn’t kill someone. After Sarah had a one night stand I wondered how to further complicate her life and that happened by having the one night stand be the DA that would be prosecuting her ex. It all just took off from there and a triangle was born.

Julie: I love romance in my mysteries. Writing the Clock Shop series I knew that I’d want Ben to be a potential for Ruth. I also knew that Moira and the Chief liked each other. But how to add the romantic tension, without going stale, or speeding up Ruth’s journey back to Orchard? She was, after all, recently divorced. I’m having fun adding the romance. That said, I suspect a future protagonist will be single and not speed into anything.

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith: A pattern developed in the first two books in both my Local Foods Mysteries and Maddie Day’s (my) Country Store Mysteries, where the guy I had set up to be the romantic interest just wasn’t working out and he wrote himself out of the books. Luckily, another prospect strolled in in each case, the state police detective in the farming books and a hunky local electrician in the Indiana series. I didn’t plan on either of these, but they seem to be working out. My 1888 Quaker midwife Rose Carroll starts out with a handsome doctor and she’s sticking to him – but other tensions present themselves, both from the clash in their faiths and from his high-society mother who frowns on Rose for a number of reasons. I do like romance in my mysteries. Almost all of us have or have had romance in our lives – it’s just part of the human condition. And if cozy/traditional mysteries don’t reveal the human condition, what do they do?

Readers: What do you think about romance in mysteries?

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Wicked Wednesday — Favorite Love Story or Couple in a Book

we-love-our-readersfebruary-giveaway-1We will have a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Julie and Barb.

Love must be in the air: last week our guest Carol J. Perry talked about famous mystery couples in books. The topic had been on our minds, too. There are a lot of great love stories out there. Do you have a favorite story? Or a favorite couple in a book?

Liz: I really love Clare and Russ in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries. While the mysteries themselves are great, it’s that relationship that keeps me coming back to these books. She does a great job of setting up the tension between the two of them and carrying it from book to book, and all the problems they encounter on their journey makes them even harder to put down.

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Annie and Richard a few years after they met.

Edith: Liz scooped me for a couple in books! Instead, here’s a story most won’t know. A woman in her sixties named Annie was leading a tour of Russia’s spiritual sites. A charmer her age was on the tour with his sister and cousins to recover from his divorce. Richard fell in love with Annie and she reciprocated. Tour over, he went home to Indiana, she to Massachusetts. After a few weeks of phone calls, he declared his intention to make a new life with her. These dear Quaker friends of mine were blissfully married for two and a half happy decades until Richard passed away – a year ago Monday.

Barb: Favorite couple? Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James from Deborah Crombie’s series. Also, Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I also love mixed gender sleuths with platonic partnerships, Elizabeth George’s Chief Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, and on television, Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson.

IMG_2836Sherry: I have to go with Joe and Betsy in the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. I know I tend to bring this series up a lot — the favorite from my childhood, but they are amazing. Joe and Betsy meeting in high school but not everything goes smoothly for them. One of the things I love about the series is that it follows Betsy from the time she is five until her wedding. I read a biography a number of years ago about Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. They were a fascinating real life couple and I’ve never forgotten their tragic story.

Jessie: I think my literary favorite is found in the Lucia books by E.F.Benson. Lucia and her dear friend Georgie are such a fascinating pair to watch over the course of the series. They start out as friends, are occassionally on the outs and then end up married, in the most platonic marriage I’ve ever read. And yet, through it all, they are perfect for each other and a complete delight to spy upon through the pages of the books.

Julie: I love Amelia Peabody and Emerson in Elizabeth Peters wonderful series. I’ve read Crocodile on the Sandbank  several times first as a reader, now as a writer. Even though she got them together at the beginning of the series, she keeps the romance and the adventure fresh. What a wonderful writer.

Readers: Do you have a favorite love story? Or a favorite couple in a book?

 

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