Wicked Wednesday-4th of July Memories

NEWS: Mary Lou H is the winner of Mulch Ado About Murder! Check your Inbox or Spam folder, Mary Lou. And congratulations!

called-to-justiceJessie, In NH, dreaming of warmer weather!

Edith’s latest release, Called to Justice, opens on Independence Day. Which got me thinking fondly of the 4th of July which happens to be one of my favorite holidays. So, Wickeds, do you have any special memories of our nation’s birthday?

Barb: I, too, love 4th of July. I love barbecues with friends and family, parades, and fireworks. I have many happy memories of 4th of Julys past, from childhood to last year. Our front porch in Boothbay Harbor offers a fantastic view of the town fireworks, which are set off over the water. For the last several years, both my kids, their spouses, and my granddaughter have been with us, which makes it extra special. I especially love that my granddaughter shares my love of fireworks.

Edith: When my sons were growing up we had a one-acre back yard. On the 4th of July we’d invite everyone we knew and fill up the place, sometimes with more than a hundred friends. Kids jumped on the trampoline or splashed in the kiddie pool. Adults played horseshoes and volleyball. We set African rugs around on the grass for lounging. People brought sides or desserts, we grilled meats, and a keg of beer flowed under the big shade tree. It was a splendid way to gather community for a relaxing celebration, although I don’t miss the work it took to pull it off!

Liz: When I was a kid, we used to have family cookouts for the 4th. It was a big deal to have lobsters. My grandfather loved them and he would devour every piece that he could, right down to the icky green stuff. It wasn’t my thing, but I’ll always remember how happy he was sitting at the picnic table eating his lobsters and watching us play on the swing set.

Jessie: There is a Fourth of July parade that goes right past my house every year. There are antique cars, kids on bikes decorated bikes and the town fire and rescue vehicles. It is organized by volunteers and has a very small-town, nostalgic feel to it. The parade route is so short that they often go around twice. Ahh, village life!

Sherry: One of my most interesting Fourth of July experiences is when we were flying from Miami to Boston on a flight that left at 8:00 pm and landed around 10:00. For almost the entire flight we could see fireworks displays from above. It was so beautiful and we even saw part of the Boston celebration.

Barb: Sherry–I had a similar experience one year on the ferry from Provincetown to Boston. It was wonderful!

Julie: I adore the 4th of July. I have a ton of fond memories, including one year at Old Orchard Beach.  But my favorite thing to do is to watch the Boston fireworks, whether from my house (I can see them through my living room windows) or down on the Esplanade, which is very crowded but stunning. My favorite time was when my friend Mary was in town on the tour of Mama Mia (she played Rosie), and they were going to sing at the Pops concert. Knowing how much I love the holiday, she invited me to be one of her special guests! It was beyond thrilling, and a memory I will treasure forever!

Readers: Do you have a favorite Fourth of July memory?

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Meeting Myself

Edith here, half high (no, not THAT kind of high…) and half exhausted north of Boston.

My eleventh mystery officially released on Saturday. Called to Justice is my second Quaker Midwife Mystery and I’m delighted by the reviews and cheers it has received so far. Any regular reader here knows that my tenth mystery came out only two weeks ago, and I was confronted with how to celebrate two books (under two names in two series from two publishers) at once.

So I held a double launch party at my fabulous local independent bookstore, Jabberywocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday night. To top off the celebration, I’ll give away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

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Owner Sue Little is super supportive of local authors and readers everywhere. When I mentioned I wanted to interview my alter ego Maddie Day  – and vice versa – she thought it was a great idea.

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With Sue Little

I found an Indiana cap, and brought my Quaker bonnet. I baked gingersnaps from the late 1800s (Fanny Farmer helped with the recipe) as well as Kahlua Brownies Robbie Jordan might serve in her country store restaurant (recipe in Flipped for Murder). I assembled a few door prizes. And I wrote up a number of questions for Maddie and me to ask each other.

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The audience kept building. I spied local writer pals, a bunch of Quakers, fans I’d met at previous library events, and more.

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Writers Connie Hambley, Mary Schaefer, Nancy Langmeyer, me, Laurie Mendoza, and Holly Robinson

My darling son JD helped dole out raffle tickets.

I’d started speaking when two Wicked Cozys slipped in – Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross, having battled traffic all the way up from the Boston area (we three slipped out for a drink and a late dinner afterwards, too).

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It was one of the more fun launch parties I’ve held. People seemed to like the alter egos talking to each other.

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After my script was done, I read a short first scene from each book, and then entertained lively audience questions.

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Afterwards? Wine, dessert, and signing books, of course.

And if anyone not local to north of Boston wants to order a signed copy of Called to Justice, please consider doing it via Jabberywocky! Just make sure to request a signed copy in the comments when you check out.mulch-ado-about-murder

Readers: Thanks to everybody for helping me celebrate! Which authors have you helped celebrate launches – or wished you had? Writers, favorite launch parties? Tips and downfalls? Remember, I’m giving away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

A Tour of the Key West Cemetery

by Barb, back in New England, where the cold and gray have me pining for Key West

The cemetery in Key West is a spot most tourists visit. It’s best known for its above-ground graves, like in New Orleans, and the light-hearted epitaphs of some its inhabitants, including the tombstones that say, “I told you I was sick,” “I’m just resting my eyes,” “If you’re reading this, you desperately need a hobby,” “I always wanted a little plot of land in Key West,” and “Devoted fan of singer Julio Iglesais.”

The cemetery was founded in 1847, after the previous burial grounds were washed away in a hurricane, though some of the graves, brought there from the earlier cemeteries, are older. Containing approximately 100,000 graves, more than three times the living population of Key West, the still-active cemetery is the only game in town, the final resting place for people of all religions, races, occupations and classes.

In addition to the regular walking tours, three times a year, the Historic Florida Keys Foundation offers a “Cemetery Stroll,” as a fundraiser. Living interpreters, often with a connection to the dead, tell the stories of some of the people buried there. Bill and I took one of those tours in March. There are so many interesting people buried in the cemetery, you can take these tours multiple times.

Here are just a few of the fascinating people whose stories we heard on our tour..

Sandy Cornish

Sandy Cornish was born a slave in 1793. In 1839, he was able to buy his freedom for $3000. His emancipation papers were burned in a fire that swept through the wooden buildings of the city of Port Leon in the Florida panhandle where he lived and worked. Unable to prove his status as a free man, when slave traders tried to take him to the market in New Orleans, he gathered a crowd in a square in Port Leon and publicly maimed himself, cutting his Achilles tendon, stabbing himself in the hip with a knife, and cutting off a finger. Worthless as a slave, he and his wife Lillah, whose freedom they had also purchased, moved to Key West. They founded a farm and orchard on the land where our rented house now stands and prospered, becoming one of the wealthiest couples in the city. Sandy Cornish founded the Cornish Chapel of the AME Methodist Church. The church houses a thriving congregation today.

The exact location of Sandy Cornish’s grave in the Key West Cemetery has been lost to history, so a memorial was recently erected. The story of Cornish’s life was told by well-known local singer Wilhelmina Lopez-Martin, who sang the intro and the outro.

William Curry

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William Curry arrived in Key West penniless from Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas in 1837. He died as Florida’s first millionaire. He had many enterprises, but made the bulk of his fortune wrecking, salvaging goods from ships that wrecked in the treacherous waters of the Keys. This is how many early Key West fortunes were made. You can tour and even stay in The Curry Mansion, which is a Bed and Breakfast today.

On the Cemetery Stroll, William Curry’s story was told by Clinton Curry, a distant relative who still lives in Key West.

The Watlington Family Plot

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Captain Francis Watlington and his wife Emeline raised their nine daughters in the house that is now the Oldest House Museum in Key West. Though Key West stayed with the Union in the Civil War, Captain Watlington joined the Confederate Navy. After the war, he lived principally in New York City, though he returned to Key West in his final years to be nursed by his youngest daughter, Lily, who had similarly cared for her mother and two of her sisters. She died in 1936. Earl Johnson was the last descendant to live in the house until his death in 1972, meaning the house was continuously lived in by one family for around a hundred and forty years.

The Watlington family’s story was told by Karl Reutling, a docent and historian at the Oldest House.

The Adderlys

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George and Olivia Adderly immigrated separately from the Bahamas in 1890 and married soon after. They purchased land on Vaca Key which is now part of the City of Marathon. They built their home out of tabby, a kind of concrete made by burning shells to extract the lime. Incredibly the home still stands today, despite hurricanes and the punishing tropical climate, and you can tour it. The Adderlys attracted a Bahamanian community around them that thrived on sponge-fishing. When Henry Flagler built his railroad to Key West and needed a right of way over the Adderly land, George Adderly, a literate, but otherwise unadvantaged black man, went toe-to-toe with the richest and most powerful man in Florida, and demanded a station stop at Vaca Key in return. Flagler acquiesced.  The stop meant the men of the little settlement could more easily move their sponges to market in Key West, while the women made money selling garden produce and baked goods to rail workers and travelers at the stop.

The Adderly’s stories were told by Key West City Commissioner Clayton Lopez and Phyllis LeConte.

Rosa and Mary Navarro

One of the most photographed graves in the Key West Cemetery are the mother and child angels at the graves of Mary and Rosa Navarro, which have recently been beautifully restored. The inscription on Mary Navarro’s statue says, “To the sacred memory of a brokenhearted mother.” The Navarros made their money in cigar-making and at the turn of the twentieth century, their interests took them to Manhattan. Rosa Navarro died in a fall from their apartment window when she was nine. Though her mother lived four years longer, she never recovered, following her daughter in death in 1907.

The Navarro’s story was told by Ron Wampler, and Diane Silvia, Executive Director of the Historic Florida Keys Foundation which is responsible for the restoration.

The stories in the Key West Cemetery, of fortunes made and lost in wrecking, farming, sponging, and cigar-making, of lives of triumph and tragedy, are the stories of the history of Key West. Even the tongue-in-cheek inscriptions I quoted at the top are a part of the irreverent atmosphere of the island. I’ve included just a few of the fascinating lives we learned about on the tour.

Readers: Do you ever walk in or visit cemeteries? What have you seen and learned?

[All photos in this post are by Bill Carito. If you like them and want to see more, you can friend him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bcarito and follow him on Instagram at billcarito and bill.carito.colorphotos.]

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Welcome Back Sara Rosett!

JHolden is the winner of Sara’s book! Thanks to all of you who entered!

I’m so happy to welcome back Sara Rosett! Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder is the TENTH book in her Ellie Avery Mystery series! I met Sara the same night I met Julie Hennrikus at the banquet at Malice Domestic in 2005. Sara had just sold her series to Kensington and we bonded over both being military wives.

Sara is giving away a copy of Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder! Leave a comment below by midnight Saturday EDT for a chance to win!

Dream vacation destination?

Anywhere in Europe. I’m not picky! I haven’t been to Prague and would loved to go there.

You’ve just won the lottery. What’s the first thing you do/buy?

This isn’t a physical thing, but I think I’d hire someone to clean my house. Having someone else clean for me would be true luxury.

Favorite mystery/thriller movie?

I love classic movies like North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief. A contemporary favorite is RED.

Favorite junk food? Chocolate. The darker, the better.

What’s one food you absolutely can’t stand? Cooked spinach. Raw spinach is great. Love it in salads, I just don’t like the soggy mess that it turns into when it’s cooked.

What’s one talent you wish you had?

I wish I could sing. I’m tone-deaf and clueless about most musical things.

M&Ms or Godiva?

Both please. I never set limits where chocolate is concerned.

Favorite time of Day?

I’m a night owl. I love curling up with a good book and reading past my bedtime.

Tell us a little about your book. Did an event or idea inspire the book?

Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder came about because I wanted to write a story set at an elementary school. I’d already explored many aspects of my main character’s life. Ellie is a military spouse, a professional organizer, and a mom. Other books in the series have focused on the military spouse and organizing angles, so I thought it would be fun to center the book on the school. When your kids are in elementary school, there is a high level of involvement—classroom parties, Field Day, and volunteering in the classroom. I wanted to write about those things and weave a mystery into the setting.

What’s your writing style? Outline or no outline?

Writing without an outline of sorts would be terrifying! I always have a plan with the major points the story will hit. Sometimes it stays the same; sometimes it changes a lot. When I’m writing a book, I write every weekday morning for a couple of hours. I start at the beginning and write through to the end before I go back and revise.

What do you wish you’d known about either the craft of writing or the business of publishing when you first started writing?

I wish I’d known how much publishing was going to change! If I’d had a crystal ball I would have been scribbling away, stock-piling stories for when the ebook revolution hit. I’ve learned a lot about being nimble and keeping an eye on the horizon in the last few years.

What’s up next for you? What are you working on now? 

I’m working on the draft of the seventh Murder on Location mystery, Death at an English Wedding, which is another series that I write. It’s set in England–(obviously!)– and I have the best time escaping to the misty green countryside in my mind when it’s blazing hot and humid where I live. It also gives me a reason to travel—research!

Sara Rosett is a bestselling mystery author. She writes the Ellie Avery series, the On The Run series, and the Murder on Location series. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books “satisfying,” “well-executed,” and “sparkling.”

 Sara teaches what she knows through the How to Outline a Cozy Mystery course. She loves to get new stamps in her passport and considers dark chocolate a daily requirement. Find out more at SaraRosett.com and sign up to get a free ebook from Sara.

Readers: If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do/buy?

 

 

So Many Books…Part II

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAULA EMMONS! You are the winner of Linda Reilly’s book giveaway! Please contact: jessie at jessiecrockett.com with your mailing address!

By Liz, still trying to organize these darn books before I bring the next truckload here!

So last week I told you all about my angst sorting through my books. Now that they’re mostly sorted (I still have one bookcase at the old place that’s only about half done), it’s time to figure out how to set them up in their new homes (the bookcases I haven’t bought yet).

This part is kind of exciting, actually. I mean, I get to organize my books. What writer/book lover gets to say that? Usually we have so many they become towering piles of possible injury if a breeze blows past in the wrong direction. But all the sorting and donating has left me with just enough that I can now…organize. Theoretically.

I know, stop laughing. I swear I can do this. I’ve actually given it a lot of thought. I mean, do I set up a true To Be Read bookcase, and organize those books alphabetically? Nah, that wouldn’t work because the books are different sizes. Maybe by order in which I want to read them? Probably not, because that changes daily depending on my mood. Plus, if I did a TBR bookcase and then had to move the books to the other shelf when done, I’d have one bookcase that would be overflowing and probably collapse, while the other languished with extra space.

Oh, who am I kidding – I’d just go buy more books.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it by category, combining both read and TBR. First, I’ll have my self-help stash, with everything from Brene Brown to Louise Hay to the Crystal Healing Guide. That way, when I’m cranky or depressed or simply just losing my mind, I can go right to the place and figure out who best to help me. Wayne Dyer will always be at my fingertips, because he’ll be on the easy-to-reach shelf.  IMG_2282

Then I’ll have my cozy mystery selection, which is self-explanatory. I reach for these when I want to start a book and feel like I’m visiting old friends, or going to a new small town to make new ones. Then there’ll be my dark and creepy offerings – my Tana French and Dennis Lehane and Stephen King and all the other gut wrenching, frightening, psychological books that keep me up at night. I love this pile!

Then there’s the writer/research pile. All my books on how to write in all their post-it-noted glory. All my research books on the FBI and police and the mafia. My copy of The Artist’s Way. Basically, my working pile.

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Then finally, there’ll be the miscellaneous pile. The copy of A Tale of Two Cities I’ve had since high school that I can’t part with. Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking As Fast As I Can, which is awesomely hilarious. My Joyce Carol Oates books. You get the idea.

I have no idea if this will work – I end up buying books and stashing them somewhere just to put them away with a promise that I’ll reorganize later – but I’m going to give it my best shot. Of course, I need to buy those bookcases first.

Readers, do you organize your books in any special way? Do I sound OCD? Chime in!

Wicked Wednesday-Best Surprises

cute-18927_1280Jessie, in New Hampshire dreaming of spring!

As long as they are good ones, I love surprises. I wondered if the rest of you share my enthusiasm for them? Do you prefer to be on the giving or the receiving end of them? Which was the best surprise you were ever involved with?

Barb: I am laughing because I HATE surprises. My business partner would come into my office and say, “Tomorrow I am going to tell you something that is going to blow your mind,” just to give me time to get used to the idea. I hate interruptions, sudden changes of plan, curve balls, whatever. If you’re guessing that makes the world a difficult place for me to live in, you’re right. To you all fondly I say, “Get it together, people. Stick with the plan!”

Edith: How funny, Barb! I love making surprises for others, and getting them, too.  Two years QueenAnnie2015ago, my dear friend Richard asked a few of us to help him stage a surprise 83rd birthday party for his beloved wife, Annie (also a dear friend). We few shopped for balloons and party hats, put up a birthday banner in the bistro he had reserved (the ENTIRE restaurant), and wasn’t she surprised and delighted! I settled the tiara we’d bought on her head, handed out Mardi Gras beads to everyone else, and the party was underway. Richard passed away before her next birthday, but it was a great event. Surprises thrown for me I’ve usually gotten wind of somehow or other – except for Agatha nominations, of course, which are a stunningly nice surprise.

Sherry: My husband is constantly surprising me with the things that come out of his mouth. Ha, just kidding — love you, Bob. But he is a pretty funny guy. He surprised me when he told me we were being assigned to Los Angeles Air Force Base for our first big move after we were married. Especially since it was the only place that I’d said I didn’t want to move to — not that he really had any say in that. Don’t worry — it all turned out okay and we made great friends. After our daughter was born he gave me a beautiful necklace that I still wear almost every day. It was a lovely surprise.

Liz: I love surprises! And I love surprising people, but I’m really bad at it. Mostly because I can’t wait to give whatever it is, or tell whatever it is, so usually it ends up going something like:

Me: I have a surprise for you, [insert name here]. You’re gonna love it. But You’re gonna have to wait until [insert milestone here].
[Name]: Cool. Do I really have to wait?
Me: Aww, no. I can’t wait. Here it is….

Jessie: I love pleasant surprises. The most recent fun surprise happened about a year ago when my husband was away on an extended business trip and I was feeling a bit down about it. My child who is in graduate school out of state arranged to fly in for a few days as a way to cheer me up. The youngest two were in on the secret and the three of them really enjoyed the look on my face when the older one walked through the door completely unexpectedly. It was wonderful!

Readers: Surprises – good, not good? Giving them, receiving them? When were you most surprised (in a good way)?Save

Guest- Linda Reilly and a Giveaway!

FryingShame cover artJessie: I met Linda Reilly some years ago at the Malice Domestic conference. She was preparing for the release of her first mystery and was full of infectious enthusiasm for writing and for the sometimes surprising world of publishing. It is with great pleasure that I welcome her to visit with the Wickeds today!

A big thank you to Jessie Crockett and the fabulous Wickeds—Liz, Barb, Edith, Julie, and Sherry— for inviting me here today!

Funny thing is, I’m still not sure how I got here. Like most writers, I loved making up stories as a kid. If I wasn’t putting them down on paper, I was dreaming them up in my head. I was in sixth grade when my teacher gave us a list of vocabulary words and told the class to use all of them in a story. Back then, cowboy shows ruled prime time, so I used the words in a cowboy story and turned it in. The teacher waited until the end of the school year to read each story aloud to the class—talk about dragging out the suspense! I was elated when my name was announced as the winner.

It wasn’t long after that when a neighbor introduced me to Agatha Christie. Her name was Helen, and she lived a few doors away from ours. I don’t remember why I stopped in to visit her that hot summer day (probably to get out of the heat), but there was Helen sitting on her screened-in porch, reading from a paperback mystery. She told me how she loved Agatha Christie, and then lent me a few of her books. At the time, I was still devouring all the Nancy Drews I could get my hands on. But after that day something changed. Agatha Christie became my new heroine, and I couldn’t read her books fast enough. How did she write such intriguing mysteries? Where did she get her ideas? How did she know so much about poisons and other deadly devices?

I’ve since decided that the universe was already working its magic that day, setting things in place, preparing me to write mysteries. And yet, decades would elapse before I got serious about it. In 1994, I began writing short mysteries and submitting them to Woman’s World. Several were rejected. Then one day a different-looking envelope came in the mail. It wasn’t the self-addressed envelope I’d been sending with my submissions. It was an envelope (gulp!) from Woman’s World, with my first acceptance for publication.

So that’s how it started, and how I ended up here. In between, I toyed with writing psychological suspense. Then in 2008 I read an unforgettable cozy, triggering the memory of those charming Christie mysteries. I knew that’s what I wanted to write. I can’t help wondering if things might have been different if Helen had never introduced me to Agatha Christie on that lazy summer day. Would I have discovered her books on my own? Would I be a cozy writer today? Only the universe knows.

Writing the Deep Fried mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime has been an absolute blast. And I have to confess: A FRYING SHAME, which is being released today, is my favorite of the three. Once again, restaurateur Talia Marby is up to her eyeballs in sizzling hot oil—not to mention murder. And if she doesn’t figure out who killed the winner of the Steeltop Foods contest, the wrong chef is going to be sent off to prison, wearing that dreadful shade of orange.

I’m thrilled to reveal that I have a new series debuting late this year. In December, Kensington’s Lyrical Press will be releasing ESCAPE CLAWS, my first Cat Lady mystery, in e-format with a print-on-demand option.

Readers, I have to ask you: Have you ever experienced a moment in your life that you believe changed your path forever? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts! I’m pleased to give away a signed copy of A FRYING SHAME to one commenter.

Linda author photo 1Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examinations, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, Linda lives in southern New Hampshire, where she loves solving mysteries of the cozy type. When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, she can usually be found prowling the shelves of a local bookstore or library hunting for a new adventure. Visit Linda online at www.lindasreilly.com or at http://www.facebook.com/Lindasreillyauthor