Guest Post- Tina Kashian!


Breaking News! The winner of Tina’s giveaway is Kay Garrett! Kay please contact Tina at to receive your book!

Jessie: In New Hampshire, hunkered down under a foot of fresh snow!

I had the very great pleasure of meeting the sparkling and lovely Tina Kashian last year at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast at the Malice Domestic conference. We began chatting, as one always does when surrounded by other mystery enthusiasts, and during the course of conversation we realized we shared a publisher. So, of course, I asked her to visit here at the Wickeds as soon as her book was out. The time has come so I hope you will join me in welcoming her here today! 

I love to cook, but I wasn’t born a good cook. It’s a skill that I’ve practiced and grown to Hummus and Homicide - Final Coverenjoy. I also love all different types of cuisine—Mediterranean, Italian, Chinese, and a good American cheeseburger. My mother, on the other hand, was a talented cook. She could taste a dish, then replicate it without a recipe. My parents owned a restaurant for thirty years and food was an important part of our family. I’d often come home from school to the delicious aromas of simmering grape leaves, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, and shish kebab.

But I am more like my heroine in my debut cozy mystery, “Hummus and Homicide.” Lucy is the only person in her family who can’t cook. Her mother, Angela, is a chef, and her father, Raffi, grew up knowing how to grill the perfect shish kebab. Since returning home to Ocean Crest at the Jersey shore and her parent’s Mediterranean restaurant, Kebab Kitchen, Lucy is determined to learn how to prepare a meal. She’s receiving cooking lessons from her mother. We’ll see how it goes…

As for me, I have fond memories of watching my mother in the kitchen. I’d stand by her side with a pen and paper in hand and scribble detailed notes. She never used a recipe. I’d ask, “How much of that?” She’d say a handful or a pinch. It drove me nuts! Our handfuls were not the same. Years later, my mother passed away. When I try to prepare her dishes, they never seem to come out just like hers. Maybe it’s the memory I’m holding onto more than the taste of the food.

Tina Gabrielle Author PhotoBut I am writing down my recipes for my two young girls. No more handfuls or pinches of anything. If my girls decide to make a dish, then I’d like them to have a recipe to follow.

I’m excited about the release of “Hummus and Homicide.” I also had great fun coming up with the other titles—Stabbed in the Baklava (September 2018) and One Feta in the Grave (February 2019). All the titles are puns on food and reflect the light and funny feel of the cozy mysteries.

So, readers, what is your talent or favorite hobby? Did you have to work at it or was it natural? Please comment for a chance to win a copy of “Hummus and Homicide.” Ebook or print (U.S. only). Your choice!

What’s Next for Sarah Winston?

Karen Surprenant is the winner of a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer. Watch for an email from me Karen! Thanks to all who left a comment. I wish I could give you all a book!

Last week for the release of I Know What You Bid Last Summer I wrote about the idea behind the book. Today I want to tell you what is coming up for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. Next February my sixth book in the series, The Gun Also Rises, comes out. Here is the back cover blurb:


 A wealthy widow has asked Sarah Winston to sell her massive collection of mysteries through her garage sale business. While sorting through piles of books stashed in the woman’s attic, Sarah is amazed to discover a case of lost Hemingway stories, stolen from a train in Paris back in 1922. How did they end up in Belle Winthrop Granville’s attic in Ellington, Massachusetts, almost one hundred years later?


Before Sarah can get any answers, Belle is assaulted, the case is stolen, a maid is killed, and Sarah herself is dodging bullets. And when rumors spread that Belle has a limited edition of The Sun Also Rises in her house, Sarah is soon mixed up with a mobster, the fanatical League of Literary Treasure Hunters, and a hard-to-read rare book dealer. With someone willing to kill for the Hemingway, Sarah has to race to catch the culprit—or the bell may toll for her . . .

Kensington does such an amazing job with the back cover copy! I’m always so grateful. When my editor, Gary Goldstein, and I were tossing around ideas for this book I suggested a book sale and he suggested a Hemingway like character and a stolen valuable book. While I was researching I came across the true story of early Hemingway manuscripts being stolen. They were never found. Click here for more about this fascinating story. Incorporating this bit of history in my novel was so interesting.

But wait there’s more!

Book seven, Let’s Fake A Deal, will come out in July 2019. I don’t have the official back cover copy yet. But Sarah has her hands full. She is just about to open a garage sale she’s throwing for two new to town hipsters when the police show up. They received a tip that everything she’s selling is stolen. To further complicate Sarah’s life a good friend from Fitch Air Force Base is implicated in a murder. As Sarah investigates she wonders how to prove both she and her friend are innocent before they both end up in jail.

And finally!

I’m delighted to be able to say this out loud! Kensington has asked me to write two more Sarah books! Titles and publication dates to be announced. I’m really excited about the ideas for both books. Thanks so much to all of you who have supported this series!

I’m giving away a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer to someone who leaves a comment.

Readers: Had you ever heard the story of the stolen Hemingway manuscripts?

Wicked Wednesday–The Best Trip

One thing the Wickeds have in common–we love to travel. Planes, trains, airplanes, and ships. I know it’s like choosing your favorite child, but give it up Wickeds–best trip evah. Give us a description that will make us drool with envy.

And there it is....General Sherman Tree himself. One giant tree.

Edith: I have traveled extensively, and have lived abroad in some pretty unusual places (can you say Ougadougou?). But if I have to pick one best trip, it would be taking my sons, 18 and 21 at the time, to Sequoia National National Park where I grew up camping every summer with my parents and siblings. The air is clear and pungent with evergreens. The giant Sequoias are majestic and drop dead gorgeous. The trails we used to hike on, the snow-melt creek we swam in, the night sky alit with zillions of stars in their constellations – I got to share it all with my children. And they loved it.

Liz: Barb, visiting you in Key West is right up there! But I have to go with London. It’s such a cool place, and I felt really at home there. Over the course of two visits last year, I did a Jack the Ripper tour – which was awesomely creepy! – and ate amazing Indian food, visited a boat-turned-bookstore parked in a channel and manned by a sweet dog, spent a lot of time in Neal’s Yarde at bookstores and organic shops, and took the tube everywhere. It’s nice to visit with a local, too, so you get to do different things. I really loved it.

Sherry: It’s so hard to choose, but I have to agree with Liz about London. We went a few years ago and it was a dream vacation. London was everything I hoped for and more. I almost wept when I was in Westminster Abbey. So much history! We also spent a fun day in Paris.

Jessie: I agree with Sherry! It is really tough to choose! I cannot decide between a trip IIMG_0007 took to Iceland in 2016 for the Iceland Noir conference or the visit I had with my son in Scotland and England last spring. I loved Iceland for the wind and the terrain and the lilt
of the language. I adored wandering through the streets and tow paths of Oxford, the alleys of London and Edinburgh, the twisting roads of Thame and the shoreline of St. Andrews..

Our window

Barb: I asked this question but it was almost impossible to decide. My husband, daughter and I had a wonderful trip down memory lane discussing which one to choose. I’m going with our 2014 trip to Paris. A friend of ours does an apartment swap every summer and couldn’t use the last two and a half weeks, so Bill and I took it. The apartment was a beautiful, huge place with views of the Musee D’Orsay and the Seine. Everyone said August would be awful, but the weather was perfect and Parisians have system of rotating vacations so every neighborhood has an open boulangerie, patisserie and grocery. We spent long days wandering through the city, and tracking down offbeat attractions. We loved it!

JAH Camel Ride 3-23-2010 11-23-30 AMJulie: I love to travel, both in the US and abroad. I’ve taken a couple of river cruises which were wonderful, but I have to say that my 2010 adventure is my favorite memory. I had always dreamed of going to Egypt, and I finally got a chance with a group of folks from Harvard. We had an Egyptologist traveling with us, and had regular lectures. There aren’t many folks who you can climb into a tomb with, and happily sit for forty-five minutes while the details of the space arJAH at the Great Pyramid 3-21-2010 1-55-35 AM 3-21-2010 1-55-35 AMe explained in great detail. One of the highlights was a three day cruise down the Nile. One of the best prep books I read was Barbara Mertz’s Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt. As Elizabeth Peters, her Amelia Peabody series is one of my favorites, and I thought about them while I was there. I’ve had other wonderful trips, but Egypt was a dream come true.

Readers: Tell us about your best trip–where did you go and why was it the best?

Welcome Back, Carol Perry

Hi all. I’m overjoyed to welcome back Friend of the Blog Carol Perry. The sixth book in Carol’s Witch City Mystery series has just come out and she has some thoughts about setting–and wardrobe. Take it away, Carol.

Carol will give away a copy of It Takes a Coven to one lucky commenter below.

Release of a new book is always exciting—and the thrill never gets old! It Takes a Coven is Book # 6 in my Witch City Mystery series for Kensington. Thank you, dear Wickeds, for inviting me here today. The story this time involves a brand new kind of a witch hunt in Salem. With witches dropping dead before they even come out of the proverbial broom closet, and thousands of crows darkening the skies, Lee Barrett’s best friend River fears she might have somehow unleashed a terrible curse on the old city. Aided by a talkative crow named Poe and her clairvoyant cat, O’Ryan, Lee sets out to investigate, and finds that casting light on the wicked truth can be one killer commitment!

Carol Perry, Gulfport

Those of us who write cozy mystery series learn with the very first book that the setting of our stories almost becomes one of the characters! Whether the action takes place in Barb’s Busman’s Harbor, Maine, Liz’s Frog Ledge, Connecticut, Cheryl Hollon’s St. Petersburg, Florida, my Salem Massachusetts or Lillian Jackson Braun’s Pickax, Moose County (400 miles north of everywhere,) readers quickly become familiar with each venue . They’ll walk with the people we’ve invented to populate our city/town/island/ along our selection of streets/trails/alleys. They’ll visualize the food in our variety of restaurants/kitchens/food trucks and consider the beverages in the coffee shops/bars/ soda fountains we choose for them.

They’ll know the names of our protagonist’s favorite shops, how she’s furnished her house/apartment/cottage, and just where the library/movie theater/art gallery/school is located. Hopefully, after a while, our readers will see our fictional locale the way we do.

Those of us who have set our stories in real places have the freedom to insert buildings/parks/rivers where there actually aren’t any, while those who’ve invented make-believe places are free to pop real buildings/parks/rivers into the manuscript any way they like. One of the joys of writing fiction is the freedom to move people, places and things around in time and space however we choose! In the Witch City books I use real streets and real places like the Hawthorne Hotel, the Salem Willows, Dube’s, Gulu-Gulu, Crow Haven—however, there is no WICH-TV, (But shouldn’t there be?) There is no Trumbulls Department Store either. (It’s based on Brown’s of Gloucester where I was ad manager long ago.)

Of course we get to dress our characters too. (Lee Barrett likes vintage jewelry, designer handbags and all the shoes and boots she can afford.) That got me thinking about a recent invitation to speak about writing to local women’s club later this month. It’s their annual Book Luncheon and everyone is asked to come as a favorite book character. Should I borrow Jesse’s hat and go as Beryl? Don apron, cap and black bag and be Edith’s wonderful Rose Carroll? Get a giant magnifying glass and be Nancy Drew? I think I’ve decided on Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone’s trademark black turtleneck and jeans. Easy. I won’t have to buy or borrow anything!

Readers: How important is the setting of the book to you? Writers: Please tell us about your selection of settings. Or just say hi for a chance to win a copy of It Takes a Coven.

Cozy Cats and Authors

Recently Fellow Wicked Edith wrote a great post in defense of genre books, which some cluless people consider less important than so-called literary fiction, You know, those books that the critics adore and review all over the place but that only 137 people in the world read. I might be exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean. I’d like to think cozy writers like us have as many readers as they do, but most of them do not review for The New York Times. Many of you readers responded in defense of genre, and we thank you!

But if you walk through one of the increasingly rare chain bookstores, you will quickly see that some genre books share certain consistent characteristics. Like romances where on the cover everybody’s clothes seem to be falling off. Or, during that time when chick lit was popular, every cover for it was pink, with a pair of very long legs (no body) and stilettos.

And cozies have small furry animals on the cover. Why? There is a practical reason: if you see a book with a puppy or kitten or both from across the room, you can be pretty sure that the book is a cozy. That makes it easy for readers to find them (and buy them, we hope). So who decides on the cover design? The publisher, of course. We may write them, but often that’s the last control we have over them. And publishers generally know what sells books—it’s their business.

But recently I’ve been asking myself, which comes first? The cute animals or the story? And why do I care? Because I’m a cat magnet. I’m not exaggerating—these cats started appearing long before I started writing, most often when I travel (and no, I do not travel with a handful of cat treats in my pockets). I even have the pictures to prove it.

o 1998, Raglan, Wales, with my husband and daughter: we were touring Welsh castles (there seem to be a lot of them, mostly ruined) and I sat down on a bench to admire what was left of the castle somewhere out in the country. A cat showed up and sat next to me.

Cat Raglan

o 1999, Ireland, with my daughter: we stayed at a pleasant B&B south of the Shannon airport. They had cats. Lots of cats. I ended up clutching a tiger kitten (no, I did not bring it home with me).

Cat Abbyfeale

o 2011, Ireland, travelling with a friend I had met online through genealogy: we stayed at a small hotel in Dublin, across from Christchurch Cathedral. We toured the church, and then, since it was a nice day, I sat down on a bench outside the church and people-watched. So of course the official church cat showed up, crawled under my coat, and went to sleep.

Cat Dublin

o More recently we stayed at a nice rental in Union Hall, in Cork—a place that I picked, sight-unseen. We pulled into the parking area and I said, “look, there’s a cat.” And looked again, and there was another cat, and another—I think the final count was six. One took a particular liking to me and watched through the kitchen window.

Cat Union Hall

Those are just the cats I can remember (and that someone managed to take a picture of). I don’t recall that any dogs got quite so chummy. Cats seem to like me. I know, there are lots of cats and many are outdoor or feral cats and not particularly friendly. In fact, a lot of them run away and hide, or at least maintain a safe distance. But me they sit on.

But there may be a logical reason why cats appear on all those cozy covers. I wrote recently that we nice respectable ladies on this blog write about killing people, which seems odd when you think about it. But putting an appealing friendly pet on the cover signals that we aren’t bad people, that we are trustworthy, and that small animals like us–they send a message in shorthand. Not only are the fuzzy creatures a code for “cozy” but they signal that all will turn out well in the book.

What about you? Do you automatically reach for the book with the cat or dog on the cover?

Welcome Guest — Lillian Bell

The winner of Lillian’s book is Kimberly. Watch for an email from her!

I’m so happy to introduce Lillian Bell to the Wicked family! I first met Lillian at Left Coast Crime when we were on a panel together. Her big smile and sense of humor won me over immediately. A Grave Issue is the first book in the new Funeral Parlor Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books. Here’s a little bit about her book:

After an on-air gaffe goes viral and jeopardizes her career, journalist Desiree Turner retreats home to Verbena, California for some peace and quiet. She begins working one of the quietest jobs around: presiding over funerals for her great-grandfather’s funeral parlor. But the action seems to follow her as a fistfight breaks out between neighbors Rosemarie Brewer and Lola Hansen at one of the first funerals she’s in charge of running. It exposes a nasty dispute and Rosemarie’s husband, Alan, is found murdered shortly after.

Lola’s husband, Kyle, is immediately arrested. Desiree, whose own father’s death was devastating, has always viewed Kyle as a second father. Determined to clear his name, Desiree jumps head first into the investigation and quickly discovers that Alan had several unsavory habits at his job and in his personal life, including putting assets into his mistress’s account to hide them from Rosemarie. People murder for money and love all the time, and there’s no telling who he offended just enough to push them over the edge.

Desiree is looking in all the right places, but she better catch the killer fast before they come for her next in A Grave Issue, the clever series debut by Lillian Bell.

Welcome, Lillian!

When the opportunity to write a humorous cozy mystery that takes place in a funeral parlor arose, I jumped at it. It wasn’t until I tried to tell people about it, that I realized not everyone saw the possibilities. A funny book about deaths in a funeral parlor? I got more than a few polite smiles while people took a step or two back from me.

I blame my family  — my two sisters, in particular — for my morbid sense of humor. In times of great sorrow and stress, we make jokes and then laugh inappropriately. It’s generally unseemly and a little unattractive and has gotten us kicked out of more than one ICU, but it has also gotten us through some dark dark days. There’s only been one time I can think of that one of us (that would be me) made a joke so dark and inappropriate that the other two didn’t laugh. It’s kind of a badge of honor.

It’s not that we don’t respect death and the grieving process. We do. We’ve done our fair share. Possibly a little more than our fair share, to be honest. In fact, I think that’s why we make the jokes we do. There’s a well of sadness there that’s too deep. If we fell into it, we might not be able to climb out. Humor provides us with the rope we need to pull ourselves out of it.

That laughter is also a bit of defiance. Yes. Death is inevitable. As one sister often says, none of us is getting out of here alive. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the meantime, though. So we laugh in death’s face.

It also breaks the tension. We are an anxious set of people, my sisters and I. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but the three of us share both those things so it doesn’t really matter. Funerals and all the rituals around them put a strain on everyone. Nothing diffuses a burgeoning argument over what music to play or what food to serve or what to put in an obituary than a really terrible joke that is both horrifying and hysterical.

We use our laughter to honor people, too. We reminisce about the times the people we miss made us laugh. Okay. Sometimes we were laughing at them and not with them, but it still keeps them alive in our thoughts and hearts.

That balance between sadness and laughter along with a bit of defiance was what I tried to strike as I wrote A Grave Issue (and its follow-up If the Coffin Fits). I wanted my heroine to respect the people who were grieving and to take her job seriously, but I also wanted her to be a bit of a rebel and to be able to laugh at herself.

Readers: Does anyone else laugh inappropriately to get them through tough situations? What was the worst place you cracked up yourself or someone else?

Bio: Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. As Kristi Abbott, she is the author of the Popcorn Shop Mysteries published by Berkley Prime Crime. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr. Lillian lives and writes in northern California.


Once Upon A Time

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, making a last-minute switch on the post she was planning to write…

I had something else in mind to write about for today’s post, but having just come back from an event, I changed my mind. These days it takes a lot to really impress my jaded heart, but I’m happy to report I’ve found something!

You’ve all heard us show and tell how writers support one another (and truly, there is no other business I know of where competitors regularly assist each other to make their products better–and have loads of fun doing it). One of the ways we do this is by attending each other’s events if we are able. Because it can be a bit of a crapshoot whether readers will show up or not–I’ve had events where 60 people attended, and an event where a single, solitary soul came to see me–if I can go and make sure a friend will have at least one familiar face, I will do it.

So last night I went to an author reading at a place I have been hearing and seeing so much about: The Storyteller’s Cottage in Simsbury, Connecticut. Just the Victorian exterior was enough to make me long to see the inside.

And when I did? The place FAR exceeded my expectations. The interior is stunning, with gorgeous period décor and glorious original woodwork. But it’s the activities available that really got that aforementioned heart of mine racing. In addition to a number of writing classes and children’s programming, writers can rent out rooms, or even a whole floor, by the hour. I was practically salivating, thinking about grabbing a few writer friends and writing in the Jane Austen or Jules Verne Steampunk room for a few hours some Sunday afternoon. But wait, there’s more!

There are also two mystery escape rooms, with a third one being fitted out–and one of them is based on Agatha Christie. Honestly, it was all I could do not to ditch the readings downstairs and insist that the owner lock me in immediately. But delayed satisfaction is good for the character, right? So yet another reason to return.

The owner has thought of everything, including book groups like The Great British Baking Club, where participants read culinary mysteries and then bake in the gorgeous kitchen–um, where do I sign up?

So, in case you weren’t sure, I am highly recommending a trip to the Storyteller’s Cottage. Let me know if you go!

Do you know of any businesses that think outside the box in such an impressive way? Have you ever done a mystery escape room–and lived to tell about it?