In The Middle

By Sherry — another rainy day in Northern Virginia

Marci Konecny is the winner of the Sarah Winston books! Thanks to all of you who stopped by! I used to draw the winner.

Usually no one wants to be in the middle, but I am and here is why I’m so happy to be.

Tagged for Death mech.inddThe second anniversary of the release of Tagged For Death was last Friday, December 2nd (look for the celebratory giveaway at the bottom of the post). And this anniversary made me reflect on where I’ve been, where am, and where I’m going. I started thinking about all of the people who helped me along the way – too many to list here but I do want to mention some pivotal moments.

My first writers conference run by the Cambria Writers Workshop was in Monterey, California where I received gentle criticism and lots of encouragement.

I also attended the now defunct Seaside Writers Conference run by the faculty of the Florida International University’s creative writing department. I learned so much about structure and passion for writing. Plus I met some wonderful local writers.


You meet the nicest people at Malice. Here I’m with Dru Ann Love, Aimee Hix, Shari Randall, and Kathryn O’Sullivan

Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland was life changing in so many ways. (I gave them a shout out in the acknowledgements of Tagged For Death.) I also made a lot of friends there and met Julie Hennrikus who told me about the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Crime Bake and of course became my dear, dear friend.

When I joined the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crimes Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette), and Hank Phillippi Ryan were the head honchos of the chapter. They are all amazingly generous to me and so many other writers.

Crime Bake gave me a chance to meet authors, agents (lots of rejections), and pre-published friends.

seascapeSeacape run by Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib, and S.W. Hubbard (the year I attended). Never has so much learning and opportunity been packed into less than forty-eight hours. But even more important were the friendships that were formed. I met Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, Barbara Ross, and Kim Gray that weekend – Wicked Cozy Authors wasn’t even a twinkle in our eye then. I also met Ramona DeFelice Long, and Christine Hillman who is from Australia – both are amazing women and writers.

Then of course there’s Barbara Ross who thought of me when agent John Talbot asked her if she knew anyone who could write a series about garage sales.


Photo by Meg Manion Silliker

And there are my dear Wickeds. What would I do without all of you?!

When I moved back to Virginia I joined the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime and found another group of people who encourage and support me in so many ways.

I’m also very grateful to so many friends, readers, bloggers, and reviewers who are with me on this journey.

So with all this talk of the past why did I title the post “In The Middle”? I realized I get to help other writers now. It is so much fun! And I have had such gracious examples of how to do that from people who have helped me in the past and continue to help me now.

There are so many ways to help other writers. Sometimes it’s reading a manuscript and making suggestions. Or it’s saying to someone my agent is looking for someone to write a series. It could be an introduction, just an encouraging word, writing a blurb for someone, or telling people to join Sisters in Crime.

A few weeks ago I did a panel on getting published with Maya Corrigan and Kathryn O’Sullivan at the Barnes and Noble in Fairfax, VA. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd. We ended up talking to a man for quite a while after the panel and encouraged him to join Sisters in Crime.

Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones who took the selfie!

Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones who took the selfie!

Last weekend was the Chesapeake Chapter Mystery Extravaganza where chapter members who’ve published a book or short story during the year get a couple of minutes to talk about their work. While I was up at the podium talking I spotted someone in the crowd and thought that guy looks familiar. I started racking my brain to figure out why (I think I kept talking while that was going on).

Then I realized it was the man from the Barnes and Noble panel. I had a chance to speak with him after the event was over. His eyes lit up and he said he’d written eight chapters since the panel. That he’d put off grading papers (he’s a high school psychology teacher) and doing things around the house to write. Seeing his enthusiasm warmed my heart.

Being in the middle is a wonderful place to be.

threebooksReaders: Who have you given a hand up to?

I’m giving away a set of all three Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries to one reader. Leave a comment for a chance to win.




One Wicked Year

Today the Wicked Cozy Authors celebrate one year of blogging, and what a year it’s been.i-And-Streamers-At-A-Party Each of us is telling you about another’s accomplishments, plus the occasional low point we’ve managed to get through. We have much to celebrate!

Edith: My conference roomie Liz Mugavero launched Kneading to Die, which was nominated for an Agatha award for Best First Novel (results to be announced May 3)! She turned in and celebrated the launch of A Biscuit, a Casket, and also turned in book three, Icing on the Corpse, (today!) despite a few struggles. She started a really cool new day job last June, too. She received good feedback from an agent on a thriller she’d written before the Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food series, and will be doing revisions this summer to see if she can find a home for it. [Edith: LizShaggyI’ve read a few scenes from it and loved it, so fingers crossed, Liz!] She spoke on panels at Bouchercon, New England Crime Bake, and at a bunch of other library and Sister in Crime NE events (many with Shaggy the adorable schnoodle). And she survived the year! That’s a high, for sure.

Liz: Highs and lows are a part of life, right? Barb Ross had some incredible highs this year, from launching Clammed Up to great acclaim – it’s nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice, Best Book of 2013–Amateur Sleuth, as well as an Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel! – to turning in Boiled Over, coming May 6. The same day as the audiobook of Clammed Up, in fact. barbandviolaShe also celebrated the release of Best New England Crime Stories: Stone Cold (with co-editors Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast and Leslie Wheeler) in November, co-chaired the New England Crime Bake (Liz: which was fabulous!) and spoke on an also fabulous food panel at Bouchercon. And let’s not forget her short story success: her story “Bread Baby,” which appeared in Best New England Crime Stories: Stone Cold, was nominated for an Agatha for Best Short Story. (Liz: Is this an accomplished lady, or what?). Personal highs? Aside from making lots of new friends in the world of traditional mysteries, Barb became a grandmother for the first time to the fabulous Viola. Unfortunately, Barb also lost her mom during this time period. And all our hearts ache for her loss. As she so eloquently says, it’s the alpha and omega of life. But still so tough.

Jessie: We all have Sherry to thank for starting this blog in the first place. I guess that’s no real surprise since Sherry is one of those people who just has a genius for getting people together and making them feel great about the experience. When we first started this blog Sherry had signed a contract to write the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series but wasn’t able to announce her news publicly. She was hard at work writing the first book, Tagged for Death and turned it in on November 14. Now she’s working on the second in the series. Sherry traveled quite a bit this year too. She returned to New England  and joined the other Wickeds for two different writing retreats in Old Orchard Beach and she attended Crime Bake in Dedham, MA. Her wanderings took her to the other coast as well, where she appeared on the IMG_3472Deadly New Voices panel at her first Left Coast Crime conference, something she describes as “a fabulous, fun experience”. She also says “One of the best things about this year was building this blog with these amazing women and getting to know them all in the process”.  I’d say we are all lucky to know Sherry too!

Sherry: I had to pop in here and say while I may have had the idea for the blog, there wouldn’t be one without the rest of you. I’d still be thinking about it. You all jumped in, got it going and taught me how to blog.

Julie: A year ago (was it only a year?) Edith made the leap to full time writer. So much has happened since then. Her first Local Foods mystery (A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die) came out to positive reviews, including being on the Edible Boston recommended summer reading list. ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part was finished on time, and is coming out on May 27, already getting rave reviews. She just submitted book #3, Farmed and Dangerous, to her editor.


Edith in San Franciso at Borderlands Books, with her author-uncle’s sweetie, a cousin and his wife, a former coworker, and an exchange-student friend from Brazil, 1970!

Edith traveled–a lot. She was on panels at Malice Domestic, California Crime Writers Conference, Bouchercon, the New England Crime Bake, and Left Coast Crime on top of many bookstore and library appearances. Not one to rest on her writing laurels, Edith also had her historical mystery short story “Breaking the Silence” published in Level Best’s  Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, and the story won an Honorable Mention in the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction contest. Tace Baker, Edith’s alter ego, finished Bluffing is Murder, which will be released in late fall this year by Barking Rain Press. AND she worked on another book which is close to her heart. All of this while real life happened, including a dear friend passing away. Me and Julie Crime Bake 2013

Sherry: Getting to interview Julie was special for me since she is the first of the Wickeds I met — read about that in my networking post. Julie’s big writing news this year is that she became a new woman! Julianne Holmes will be making her debut in 2015, writing the Clock Shop Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime. This year, Julie is writing the book, which is due in September. There will likely be blog posts about that. She also started her second one-year term as Sisters in Crime New England president (from now on they will be two year terms), and joined the national board of Sisters in Crime. And this year she is really excited to be the co-chair of the New England Crime Bake. Her other lives (as the Executive Director of StageSource, and an adjunct faculty member at Emerson College) also kept her busy.

Jessie Crockett holding DRIZZLED TO DEATH! How thrilling is that?

Jessie Crockett holding DRIZZLED TO DEATH! How thrilling is that?

Barb: So many wonderful things have happened for Jessie since last May 1. She released Drizzled with Death which went on to become a national bestseller. She turned the second manuscript in her Sugar Grove series, Maple Mayhem on time despite kids being home for summer break as the deadline loomed. She sold the German rights to her first mystery, Live Free or Die, which will be releasing in Germany in time for Christmas this year. Jessie attended Bouchercon for the first time along with all the other Wickeds except Sherry, who attended on a stick. She had a wonderful time back in November serving as a panelist at Crime Bake for the first time.  (Barb: Jessie’s too modest tell you she’s the hostess with the mostest who hosts the Wicked annual retreat, so I will. She’s an amazing host and organizer who makes the retreat the highlight of the Wicked calendar.) Jessie’s met a lot of new booksellers, librarians and readers over the past year at book events and other sorts of talks. She especially enjoyed being a presenter at the New Hampshire Writers’ Day Conference. Even with all that fun in mind, she says creating and maintaining this blog with the Wickeds has been the most enjoyable experience of the year. Sheila Connolly

We are very lucky to have two wicked awesome monthly columnists. Sheila Connolly joined us in July and her column appears on the first Monday of each month. Sheila has three ongoing and very successful series, plus several recent standalone novels. What’s next, Sheila?


Kim and Julie

Kim and Julie

Kim Gray started writing The Detective’s Daughter column in January. You can find it on the third Tuesday each month. In it she shares her stories of growing up with her father, a detective in Baltimore City. Kim won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers for her novel Ghost of a Chance.

So we’re all thrilled and challenged by our year together. Delighted to have found a support group, and delighted for each others’ successes. Part of the thrill has been getting to know you, our cherished readers. Please keep stopping by and let us know what kinds of posts you’d like to see in the future. Be well, and keep reading!

The Agatha Best Short Story Nominees

by Barb
I know it seems impossible, but still waiting for spring on a cold, rainy day

It all started with Leslie Budewitz and the great blog post she wrote about the Agatha-nominated books for Best First Novel. I thought it was such a good idea, I “borrowed” it and blogged about the Agatha-nominated Best Contemporary Novels over on Maine Crime Writers.

Today I’m going to continue a good idea and blog about the Agatha-nominated Best Short Stories. As a lover of short stories, and one of the co-editors of an annual anthology of crime stories, it’s easy for me to share my enthusiasm about these wonderful tales. There are links to all the stories here on the blog. My best advice is, try them, you’ll love them!

The Agatha Awards honor the “traditional mystery.” That is to say, books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie as well as others. The are given in six categories: Best Contemporary. Best Historical, Best First, Best Short Story, Best Nonfiction and Best Children’s/Young Adult. The winners will be announced at the 2013 Agatha Awards banquet to be held at the Malice Domestic conference on Saturday, May 3, 2014.

And the Agatha nominees for Best Short Story are published in 2013 are:

“Evil Little Girl” by Barb Goffman

Don't Get Mad Get EvenBarb Goffman has not one, but two stories nominated for Agatha Best Short. Both appear in her powerhouse collection Don’t Get Mad, Get Even: 15 Tales of Revenge and More, published by Wildside Press.

About “Evil Little Girl” Barb says:

I went to a wonderful sleep-away camp in Connecticut as a kid. I remember the smell of the grass, the songs, the sports, the friendships…That was the world I wanted to recreate for “Evil Little Girl.”

You can read the complete short story “Evil Little Girl” by clicking here.

“Nightmare” by Barb Goffman

Barb’s second Agatha-nominated story is “Nightmare.”

About “Nightmare” Barb says:

Sometimes I wake up in the night hearing voices in my head. Characters fully developed, telling me their story. On good nights, I get up, grab a pen and paper, and write down what they say. That is how “Nightmare” was born.

You can read the complete short story “Nightmare” by clicking here.

The Hindi Houdini by Gigi Pandian

Fishnets the Second Guppy Anthology“The Hindi Houdini” debuted in Fishnets: The Second Guppy Anthology, published by Wildside Press.

About “The Hindi Houdini” Gigi says:

In “The Hindi Houdini,” magician Sanjay Rai, aka The Hindi Houdini, solves a locked room mystery at the Napa Valley winery theater where he performs. A magician and escape artist, Sanjay chose the moniker “The Hindi Houdini” because it paid homage to his Indian heritage and his favorite illusionist—and because he liked the rhyme better than Hindu Houdini.

You can read the complete short story “The Hindi Houdini” by clicking here.

The Care and Feeding of House Plants by Art Taylor

Ellery Queen“The Care and Feeding of House Plants” was published in the March/April 2013 issue of Ellery Queen Magazine.

About Art Taylor, Ellery Queen says:

Art Taylor is becoming one of the most distinguished short-story writers of his generation. Since his debut in 1995, he’s sold nearly three dozen short stories, several of which have received critical recognition.

You can read the complete short story “The Care and Feeding of House Plants,” by clicking here.

Bread Baby by Barbara Ross

Best New England Crime Stories Stone ColdI am thrilled to have my story “Bread Baby” in such distinguished company. “Bread Baby” was included in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold published by Level Best Books.

Here’s how I describe “Bread Baby.”

“Bread Baby” somehow combines an Oprah-like figure, a powerful cartel of Manhattan executive assistants, and tantawawa, bread figures made by the Andean Indians and offered to their ancestors on the Day of the Dead.

You can read the complete short story “Bread Baby” by clicking here.

I can’t wait for next week and our panel at Malice Domestic (9:00 am Saturday in the Lalique Room.)

Wicked Wednesday: STONE COLD

RTBookReviews* * * * *

Breaking News! Before we get to today’s post about Stone Cold, we have some breaking news.

Barbara Ross’s book, Clammed Up has been nominated for an RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award. Barb’s in the Amateur Sleuth category along with four other great authors. You can check out all the nominees here.

* * * * *

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

We’re celebrating the release of the latest Level Best books anthology, StoneColdFrontCoverBest New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold. Barb is one of the editors and has a story in this year’s collection. Edith does, as well, and she and Julie have appeared in several past anthologies, too. Wickeds with stories in the collection, tell us a bit about yours.

Edith: In 1888 a fire destroyed much of the world-renowned carriage industry in the northeastern Massachusetts town of Amesbury. In my Stone Cold story, “Breaking the Silence,” Isaiah Weed is killed in the blaze, a young man from the Quaker meeting that seventeen year old Faith Bailey and (the actual) John Greenleaf Whittier attend. After some sleuthing, Faith uncovers the arsonist and prevents him from doing further damage.

Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse (photo by Ed Mair)

Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse (photo by Ed Mair)

Writing short is hard, and I love it. Every word has to count. Superfluous characters have no place. This story came to me last winter after I read a news clip about the Great Fire of 1888 in the small city where I live. I thought of a young Quaker woman walking to Friends Meeting on Sundays on the same streets as I do. As I walked, I created Faith’s family, her motivations, and her aspirations. And I added John Greenleaf Whittier as a mentor and a familiar soul.

Let me say right now how much I loved Barb’s story in Stone Cold, “Bread Baby.” It’s a really well told story, with beautiful details and several twists. And congratulations on the RT nomination! Awesome.

tanta-wawa-4Barb: Thanks Edith. And right back atcha. “Breaking the Silence” is a terrific tale–which won an Honorable Mention for the Al Blanchard Award, btw. I’m very proud of “Bread Baby,” which combines an Oprah-like figure, a cartel of powerful Manhattan executive assistants, clues found in a bakery and a knitting shop, and tantawawa, bread figures made by the Andean Indians to honor their ancestors on the Day of the Dead.

Jessie: I love short stories and admire the people who write them so much. I don’t write short stories. I find them intimidating. Crafting one seems to me to be like packing everything you need for a three month voyage in a carry-on bag. Every word, every character has to work so hard to earn their keep. Bravo to everyone who can pull that off!

Liz: First, kudos to all the authors in Stone Cold! I love short stories too, and have had a couple non-mystery ones published. I have started a few that I intend every year to finish and submit to Level Best, but so far I have not accomplished that. Maybe in 2014! Wickeds – keep me honest here!

Barb: Laughing, Jessie! And since you know me, you know that packing for a three month journey in a carry-on bag is exactly the type of challenge I love–ergo, short stories. I have a lot of favorite mystery short story authors–Ruth Rendell, Robert Barnard, but my favorite of all is literary short story author Alice Munro. When she won the Nobel Prize this year, I was jumping up and down in my study.

Sherry: Last time I tried to write a short story I wrote a novel. But because of the Level Best Books I started reading short stories again several years ago. I admire the creativity of short story writers. I have a new appreciation of the different voices and plots a short story author has to come up with. After I finish my manuscript I look forward to diving into Stone Cold!

Julie: Level Best anthologies were my first publication credits, and I am still thrilled by the honor. I find writing short stories to be challenging, and either write really short (1000 words) or novels. Can’t wait to dive into Stone Cold–I bought two copies and downloaded it as well.

Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold is available from Amazon in trade paperback and for Kindle, and can be ordered from Level Best Books or from your favorite bookstore.

Everybody: Do you have a favorite short story? Do you find writing short easier or harder than writing a book? Which short story author do you love to read?

Wicked Good Reads: Crime Bake Authors

We’re all headed to the New England Crime Bake tomorrow. Here are some of the books we’re planning to read by authors attending the conference. Tomorrow we’ll try to post live, and will do a report on Monday. Stay tuned!evil-days-new-lg

Edith: I plan to acquire, have signed, and read as soon as possible both Jessie’s Drizzled With Death, since I’m late on that one, and Julia Spencer-Fleming’s new Through The Evil Days. I love her series and can’t wait to dive in.

Liz: Me too, Edith! I finished Drizzled With Death on a recent business trip and loved it – now I just need Jessie’s signature. Love Julia Spencer-Fleming and the Clare/Russ series also. And, I have Daniel Palmer’s Stolen in my to-be-read pile also.

stoneColdcoverSherry: I’m looking forward to reading the Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold anthology by Level Best Books. It’s a book full of short stories set in New England. Perfect reading for those long winter nights! I am also looking forward to A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry (aka Toni L.P. Kelner).

Barb: I need two, too. Katherine Hall Page’s The Body in the Piazza and Linda Barnes The Perfect Ghost. I’ll also be reading Through the Evil Days. I love that series.

Jessie: There are three that I am itching to acquire, complete with autographs: Lucy Burdette’s Topped Chef, Michael Nethercott’s The Seance Society and Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The Wrong Girl. It looks like a great season for reading!

Julie: I am moderating a panel on YA mysteries, and really enjoyed reading the books. They included Peter Abraham’s Echo Falls series (Down the Rabbit Hole is the first one), Kate Burak’s Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things, Beth Kanell’s Cold Midnight, and Kim Harrington’s The Dead and Buried.