Footloose

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the rain is pelting down.

above-1839587_1920Are you an enthusiastic traveler? Or do you prefer to stay closer to home where things are familiar? Did you feel one way about travel in the past and now are of a different mind?

Until a few years ago I was not a cheerful tourist. I dreaded the flights, the packing and the feeling of never quite knowing where I was or how things were done in an unfamiliar locale. But I married a man who gives absolutely no thought to throwing a few things in a bag at midnight to be on a long haul flight to Asia the next morning. I truly wanted to be a breezy jetsetter like he is, but the fact was, I was not.

Eventually, I sat myself down for a chat about it and asked whatever bits of one’s brain send out the sorts of worried signals mine always broadcast about travel, what was the real problem. It turned out it was one of longstanding.

My family moved several times when I was a child and as I was an extremely shy kid I absolutely loathed the upheavals. New friends, new environments, new school cultures. The goodbyes. Wondering if you will ever make it back. All of it left me in knots. Travel, on a subconcious level at least, felt the same. Even the packing and lugging things about.

As soon as I uncovered the reason I was so worried every time the opportunity to buzz off across the globe came up I was able to chat with myself about all the ways travel was not the same as moving house. I convinced myself with ease that a passport, a credit card and an age of majority make all the difference.

So, this weekend I am flying off to Scotland to visit one of my children. We have a place to stay for five nights but the rest of the trip is up in the air. The only two things I know for sure are that I fly back out of London and that I am really looking forward to going.

Readers, do you love to travel? Where is your favorite place to go? If not, why not?

The Annual Wicked Retreat

It’s that time of year again – the Wickeds are going on retreat, starting today. This year, we’re changing things up a bit and heading to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to stay at Barb’s famous former B&B. We’re planning a lot of fun, food, and drinks – and of course, work. So, Wickeds, what do you hope to accomplish this year?

Edith: I might still be polishing Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery number one, due June first. But I might start plotting (did I, a Pantser, just use the PL-word?) and writing Quaker Midwife Mystery number four, since that’s next on the schedule. Conversation with the Wickeds is high on the agenda, as always, and I hope to get a Canva tutorial from Julie and Sherry, so I can get over my graphics ineptitude. Can’t wait!

Sherry: I hope to get some plotting done too — yikes, Edith maybe the others are converting us! I will be working on book six which has a possible title of For Whom The Belle Tolls. I love our late night late night chats when we are settled down with a glass of wine. See you all soon.

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Animal socks Liz brought each of us to the retreat one year! Guess whose foot is whose…

Liz: Hoping to get a bunch of words written in the second Cat Cafe Mystery, as well as a plotting session for book seven in the Pawsitively Organic Series. And some quality time with my besties…

Jessie: When I am writing I’ll be working on the second book in my new Beryl and Edwina series. Liz and I also plan to demonstrate interactive plotting/ brainstorming/ book noodling for those Wickeds who are not quite convinced about the upside of plotting ahead. I hope to convince at least one of them that premeditated crimes can be as much fun as those that are crimes of passion!

Barb: I’ll be finishing up a short story and getting it to my writers’ group. I also hope to make good progress on two synopses.

Julie: I have copy edits due next week for Theater Cop series book one, A CHRISTMAS PERIL. Pages are printed out, and I will be doing another read through and some final tweaking. I also just finished a draft of Theater Cop series book two, tentatively titled WITH A KIISS I DIE. I want to do a read through so I can get it to my first reader, Jason Allen-Forrest. I also want to talk to Edith and Liz about this juggling two series business. Plus, wine.

Readers: What do you like to accomplish when you go away from your everyday routine? Do you have a list, or prefer just chilling? And if we’re a little slow on responses to comments today, it’s because many of us are traveling north!

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The Juggling Act

By Julie, looking forward to a long weekend writing

Dear Readers, do you like hearing about our writing or publication process? If the answer is no, I am so sorry. You’re not going to love this post. But if the answer is yes, buckle up. I’m appointing you all my accountability partners.

I have two books due this year–one on August 1, one on December 1. I spent January plotting them both.  I set up a schedule. I put my plots in Scrivener, and started on the second book in my Theater Cop series (the one due August 1). I hoped for a pre-Malice finish of the first draft. Missed it by a week, but hit it on Sunday. With A Kiss I Die (working title) is clocking in at 75,000 words so far. I am determined to give both manuscripts time to breath, so I can read them with fresh eyes. Trust me when I say this isn’t my norm, so I am happy I met this first self imposed deadline.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

What I neglected to add into the schedule was the arrival of copy edits and proof pages. Both have been done for Chime and Punishment, which will arrive in bookstores on August 1. I got the copy edits for A Christmas Peril, my first Theater Cop book, which will be published September 8. They are due next week, and then the proof pages will come in. According to my schedule, the book that is due December 1 should be started soon so that a draft is done while I am working on With A Kiss I Die (working title) edits.

Then there will be launches of Chime and Peril. Two series, two names, one woman.

How lucky am I that I have the great good fortune of juggling all of this? Very, for sure. Even luckier because Liz (aka Cate Conte), Jessie (aka Jessica and Jessica), Sheila (aka Sheila, but with many series), and Edith (aka Maddie) have been down this path before, and I can learn from them. The imagination part isn’t the difficulty. It is the switching gears to the publication process that makes my head spin.

2017 trading cardThis weekend I will be working on the Theater Cop series, books one and two. Here’s the printed copies. Very soon there will be post its, sheets of paper, and highlighter marks marring both manuscripts.

So, dear readers, this is where I need your help. Would you mind if I keep you up to date on this journey over the summer? Will you help keep me honest? I’ll post updates on Twitter and Instagram, let you see how it is going. Next month I’ll tell you the story of the trading card I created, including the picture of me.

I will send you some updates on Instagram and Twitter, and I’ll check back next month.

Dear readers, should we lay odds? Am I going to keep to my writing schedules? Or am I going to go off the rails and be writing for Thanksgiving?

Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Poets

Happy Wednesday! Continuing the theme of “what are we reading that isn’t mystery fiction,” let’s talk poetry today, Wickeds. Who’s your favorite poet, or what’s your favorite poem and why?

Liz: I’ve been super into Mary Oliver lately. I discovered her years ago with her famous poem The Journey and lately I’ve been devouring her work. Wild Geese keeps coming up lately – one of her standards, but seems so relevant for me right now. I think she’s such a master at weaving life and nature into one concept. (As you can see, I like to mark my favorites!)

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Edith: Mary Oliver is one of my favorites, too. “The Summer Day,” with it’s stunning, clarion-call last line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I also love many of Billy Collin’s poems, particularly when I can hear him read them himself in his regular, almost deadpan voice. “Purity” is a wonderful poem for authors, about his favorite time to write, and how he goes about it. Here’s the first part:

My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I got about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.

Sherry: I confess I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it usually isn’t on my radar unless someone posts a poem. I tend to like New England poets like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Here is my favorite poem of hers. I had it posted on my bulletin board for years starting in high school:

Not In Vain

by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Jessie: When I was a small child I received a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein which I loved for its silliness and its wisdom. I love it still. Here’s one of my favorites:

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS

The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

Barb: In honor of Key West, I’m including poet Elizabeth Bishop. (Though I would note that three other poets mentioned in this post have connections there. Robert Frost spent part of eighteen winters, Shel Silverstein lived there, and Billy Collins lives there now.)

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Julie: Like Sherry, I am not a huge poetry reader. But my friend Ruth Polleys makes me reconsider it. She has an MFA in poetry, and wrote a remarkable blog called “All That Can Happen in 1000 Days”. (A line from Our Town.) Part memoir of an extraordinary time in her life, part poetry journal. Very raw.  I’ve been trying to talk her into doing something with it for a couple of years. Her passion for poetry is contagious, and her talent is real. I’m going to say that Ruth is my favorite poet. (PS, if you are going to read the blog, start from day one. It is a journey.)

Edith: These are all so wonderful. I must include one more, which I had on my wall for many years, by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Readers: Share your favorite poet or poem!

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How I Trick Myself Out of Procrastination – Guest Cheryl Hollon

Liz here, welcoming back our good friend Cheryl Hollon. (We always love when you come to visit, Cheryl!) And today, she’s talking about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart – procrastinating. I definitely need to try some of her methods below…

If procrastination is my weakness, ingenuity is my strength. I have a lot of tricks to get me out from under those time-wasters that eat into my productive writing time. You know what I mean, like Facebook, where you’re only going to check on a few of your friends. Then, whoosh! It’s been two hours.

Meeting my publisher’s deadlines is a serious matter. My engineering career demanded unfailing compliance with project milestones to keep our government on schedule. I treat my writing business with the same attitude.

However, lofty intensions don’t keep me from wandering off the path, so I’ve adopted some little tricks to keep the words flowing onto the page. The first approach is to have a set routine each morning for starting the day. I am more or less on complete autopilot until I’m sitting at my computer out in my writing shed.

My first trick is to open my writing-in-progress document. Then I sprint for one hour without checking e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. This is the most powerful tool in my box of tricks. The second trick is that when I complete my sprint, I can work the Times Mini Crossword Puzzle ( https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords/game/mini ). The reason I choose the mini puzzle rather than the grown-up version? It takes me less than five minutes to solve.

After that, I get some administrative tasks done. But, here’s how I limit my time: I use an hour-glass. It should be called a half-hour-glass because it takes thirty minutes for the sand to run out.

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Throughout the day, I use various other rewards. Lunch is a big one, so is another cup of coffee. Sometimes, it’s a piece of candy or a chilled Coke in a glass bottle. Basically, whatever it takes to get me to my word target for the day.

What are your tricks?

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Each book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series highlights a particular skill within the broad category of glass art. Savannah Webb will teach and participate in each skill area exploring and expanding her knowledge of the craft, along with her assistant, Amanda Blake. As a subject matter expert consulting with the St. Petersburg Police Department, her close associations within the art community and the unusually keen observation skills of her apprentice, Jacob Underwood, combine to solve crimes. Edward Morris, boyfriend and the British owner of the pub next door, fills out the investigation posse with more than moral support accompanied by coffee and scones. The craft topics for the third book in the series are etching glass and slumping glass to make dishware.

The cover art for Etched in Tears (Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #4) is an image of my favorite museum with the magnificent droopy bench in front. That’s where the body is discovered, so as research, I had to slump myself over the bench to see if it was feasible. I considered it a triumph to get strange looks at an art museum that specializes in surrealism.

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My husband, George and I have a glass studio in a freestanding cottage behind our house and we enjoy making promotional gifts for my blog tours. For this book, I will be giving away all sorts of etched items: wine glasses, pendants, earrings and maybe some beer steins.

You can read more about Savannah in Etched in Tears, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries, published by Kensington Books. Available for pre-order at your favorite book vendor. It releases on November 28, 2017.

About Etched in Tears:

When a famous glass artist is murdered at his own exhibit, deadly secrets are put on display, and it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb to see through a killer’s cover.

Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images into his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.

Meet the author:

Author Hollon Photo

Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art.

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Cover Reveal–Stowed Away

It’s time for the cover reveal for Maine Clambake Mystery#6, Stowed Away!

The book is already up for pre-order on Amazon here.

I’m very excited about this cover which incorporates many of my suggestions, including the lobster holding the engagement ring. Here’s the Pinterest board I linked to when my editor asked for cover ideas. It’s spring again in Busman’s Harbor as you can tell from the strawberries and asparagus.

Here’s the description from the back cover.

it’s June in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and Julia Snowden and her family are working hard to get their authentic Maine clambake business ready for summer. Preparations must be put on hold, however, when a mysterious yacht drops anchor in the harbor—and delivers an unexpected dose of murder . . .
 
When Julia’s old prep school rival Wyatt Jayne invites her to dinner on board her billionaire fiancé’s decked-out yacht, Julia arrives to find a sumptuous table set for two—and the yachtsman dead in his chair. Suspicion quickly falls on Wyatt, and Julia’s quest to dredge up the truth leads her into the murky private world of a mega-rich recluse who may not have been all that he seemed . . .

Readers: What do you think? Do you like the cover? Would you pick up the book?

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Opening Lines – The Abandoned Flip-Flop

It’s opening lines day! Wickeds, how would you start a story about the photo below?

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Sherry: A clue! If only I’d just stopped there because I’ll never be able to un-see what followed.

Julie: At first I thought it was abandoned. Then I realized it was still attached to the foot, and that the owner had been buried upside down. That wasn’t the only secret I found that day, in the alien ship landing site.

Barb: I ran into the mangroves as fast as my legs could carry me, losing my flip-flops one at a time.  I ran and then I swam until I couldn’t hear the dogs.

Jessie: Brent knew Kayla prided herself on her scavenger hunting prowess and that she would jump at his offer to host one for her birthday. He was certain she would be the first to find the flip-flop and when she did he would be there waiting for her.

Edith: Ginnie had said she would leave no trace of her victim. Yet there it was, for all the world to see. But I was better than Ginnie, and when I found her, I wouldn’t leave any blue flip-flop behind.

Liz: I thought I’d been so careful, but after all my digging and dragging of the body, I returned to the place where I’d entered the woods and found her flip-flop.

Readers: Give us your opening lines!

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