Agatha Nominees for Best Contemporary Novel 2017

Hi Barb here. Since the nominations were announced, the Wickeds have hosted this year’s Agatha Award nominees for Best First Mystery, Best Short Story, and Best Historical. Today we’re bringing you the nominated authors for Best Contemporary Novel.

The Agatha Awards, given at Malice Domestic, honor the “traditional mystery,” and this year’s nominated novels span the length and breadth of the category–from cozy to edgy, amateur sleuth and professional, female protagonist and male, series mystery and standalone. I’m excited to be on this list with some of my favorite authors.

Agatha Award Nominees Best Contemporary Novel for 2016:

Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Here’s our question for the nominees: Did you know at the outset that your main character was strong enough to carry a book/series? How did this character change as you got to know him or her better?

Ellen Byron: I didn’t know for sure if my protagonist could carry a series, but I knew she had to. I was too in love with the fictional world of Pelican, Louisiana – and the real world of Cajun Country – to stop writing about it after one book. What I find exciting is how I’m always discovering new things about Maggie Crozat. A friend who was trying to wrap her head around the amateur sleuth angle of my series once asked me, “Does she see things other people miss because she’s an artist and very visual?” To which I replied, “She does now!”

I’m currently working on the fourth Cajun Country Mystery, and Maggie just shared she’s an only child, and was lonely growing up. This came as news to me because originally I gave her a brother, but then put him on the back burner because he didn’t contribute to the story. I always thought he’d come back someday, but Maggie has spoken. She’s declared herself sibling-free. I feel so close to her that sometimes I forget she’s not real. Those are the moments when I think, “Hmm, might be time to go back to therapy.”

Catriona McPherson: Oh, I wish this was a series! I miss them all now that the book’s done, even though it took me a while to get to know Jude – my heroine – well enough to write about her with confidence. I knew she was a librarian and she lived in London, but I wrote and wrote and couldn’t get the essence of her. She was flat, while all the other characters came to joyous life around her.

Then one day I was writing a scene in the dusty, disordered bookshop where the story takes place and the thought of all the dirt and mouse-droppings and dust-mites was making me feel itchy. Suddenly, I got that tingly feeling (different from the itching) and I knew that Jude was a cataloguer who’d given up working on the desk with the general public because she’s a germaphobe and the way people treat library books distresses her too much. I used to work in a public library and I know this from bitter experience. Worst bookmark I ever found in a returned book? Bacon rind. Anyway, germaphobe Jude came instantly alive and the book was plain sailing after that.

But it’s not the start of a series. The story of Jude, Lowell the bookshop owner and the irrepressible pregnant nineteen-year-old Eddy is done. Unless I think of another one . . .

Louise Penny: Initially my main characters were going to be the artist couple, Clara and Peter Morrow.  But as I thought about it more, I could see that while strong secondary characters, making them the center, the core of the series simply would not work, for all sorts of reasons, primary that I was afraid readers, and I, would tire if they had too much of them.

The other reason was that the head of homicide seemed so fully formed when he first appeared and I realized he was the one I needed.  Gamache could hold the series together, and that would allow the secondary characters to shine without the burden of carrying the series.  But he needed to be someone whose company I would enjoy, perhaps for years.  And so I made him a man I would marry, since this is, in effect, a marriage.  As it turns out, far from creating Armand Gamache, I actually transcribed him.  Gamache is inspired by my husband, Michael.

Barbara Ross: When I go back now and look at the original proposal for the Maine Clambake Mysteries, it’s amazing to me how much of Julia Snowden was there. Her family was there–her mother, sister, pain-in-the-neck brother-in-law, and niece were there, as was the still acutely felt absence of her late father. Her parents’ unusual marriage between a summer person who lived on a private island and the boy who delivered their groceries in his skiff was there, too.

This last was particularly important to me, because I am not and would never claim to be a native Mainer, so I needed to be able to write with the perspective of someone on the outside looking in. In her view, her parent’s marriage has left Julia forever on the outside, belonging to neither tribe in her resort town. (Her sister Livvie, on the other hand, doesn’t feel that way at all. Which is something that fascinates me, how people can be brought up by the same parents at more or less the same time, yet experience their circumstances utterly differently.)

But there was huge thing I didn’t know at the beginning–how Julia would act and react when put in a series of extraordinary situations. While I had a sense of her character, there was no way to know until those scenes were written. In that sense she continuously reveals herself to me.

Hank Phillippi Ryan: That is such a great question, because it made me examine my choices, and realize I hadn’t asked myself that question at all.

When I began the Jane Ryland books with The Other Woman, that started with a plot. And forgive me, here is a tiny bit of backstory: I had been reading about Governor Mark Sanford, who told his wife and constituents that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail “when he was actually off with his mistress. And I started thinking about why anyone would be the other woman. It’s so destructive in every way. So someone was quoted as saying “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”

And I thought: that’s my book.

So I needed a main character to tell that story. And it couldn’t be my first series character, Charlotte McNally, because the story was too big and textured for first person.
But I knew she would be a reporter, a tough, strong, curious, honorable, caring reporter.
And a reporter’s life is all about the search for the next big story. That is natural! So once I decided on “reporter,” it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But the fabulous part is how she came to life! Jane Ryland is 33-ish, when the book starts, so 64 year-old me, at the time, could not really draw on my experiences at that age, since that was a million years ago. That made me channel her through a different time…how that age would behave now. And I love how she showed up on the page! Confident, and not self-centered, and a little fearless when it comes to asking questions. Sometimes I am too worried about what other people think, and I was delighted to say she is somehow less timid than I am.

SAY NO MORE has her tackling a very difficult and sensitive subject. Not only testing her responsibilities as a journalist, but her emotional capabilities when dealing with victims and perpetrators of campus sexual assault. She turns out to be compassionate, and caring, and I love how she weighs her responsibility to the subject of her story with her responsibility as a journalist.

Yes, I know I wrote it, but you can’t MAKE a character do something they wouldn’t do. That’s when I know the plot is driving the story, not the character. Jane lets me know when I am doing that—it comes across awkward and “written.” And I think, oh, that’s Hank, not Jane. So when I am lucky, Jane reveals herself to me on the page, and I am so proud of her in SAY NO MORE. (Well, eventually.)

Readers: What do you look for in a character to carry you through a book–or series?

Ellen, Catriona, Hank and I will be at Malice at end of this month. If you’ll be there, we’d love to have you attend our panel, “Simply the Best: Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees,” moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons on Friday at 1:00 pm. (Or honestly, come talk to any one of us at any time.) Louise, we’ll all be thinking of you!

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Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery 2017

Edith here. Last week we hosted the Agatha nominees for Best Short Story and Best First Novel. Today we’re lucky enough to have the nominees for Best Historical Mystery! Jessica Estevao (otherwise known as Jessie Crockett) and I, also nominees, are delighted to welcome D.E.Ireland (also known as Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta), Catriona McPherson, and Victoria Thompson to the Wicked Cozys. Here are (imagine me wearing my Oscar Ceremony gown here) the nominated books, in author-alphabetical order:

  • Jessica Estevao: Whispers Beyond the Veil
  • D.E. Ireland: Get Me to the Grave on Time
  • Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth
  • Catriona McPherson: The Reek of Red Herrings
  • Victoria Thompson: Murder in Morningside Heights

First, Jessica asks: In which time period do you set your books and how did you come to choose that era?

WhispersbeyondtheveilJessica:A few years ago my family purchased a vacation home in Old Orchard Beach Maine. By the end of our first summer there I knew I wanted to start a mystery series set in that town. The biggest question was when it should take place. After all, in a town as steeped in fascinating history as Old Orchard, a writer is spoilt for choice!  are So, I decided to begin at what was the beginning of the town’s real fame, 1898 when the original pier was built.  Between the cultural shifts, the technological developments and the architecture it proved to be a fertile time period to explore!

DE: Our Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins series features the main characters from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, and begins mere weeks after the action of the play concludes. We couldn’t have chosen a better historical setting than 1913 London. Although the Edwardian era technically ended when King Edward VI died in 1910, the four years between his death and the outbreak of war is a fascinating mélange of old world traditions coming up against an upheaval in politics, culture and technology. In other words, a perfect time in history for an iconoclastic phonetics teacher to partner with a former Cockney flower girl turned lady. But a lady who demands to be regarded as an equal.

Of course, Eliza Doolittle may have learned to speak and act like a lady in the earlier Victorian era, but her prospects for respectable employment would have been limited. But 1913 is a perfect time for Eliza to become a teacher like Higgins, allowing her to help others to better themselves as she has done. While Shaw made Higgins something of a careless misogynist, we’ve let readers occasionally glimpse a warmer side to the arrogant professor – all thanks to a newly independent, modern Eliza. We are also far less inclined to rush Eliza into marriage with her ardent suitor Freddy, as Shaw intended. Instead, we decided our characters need to take full advantage of these tumultuous and exciting years before the war. It is a new, uncertain century, one suited for a pair as rebellious and resourceful as Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.

Edith: My choice of era came about accidentally. I had moved to Amesbury , Massaschusetts in 2012, having bought a modest home built for the textile mill workers in 1880, but I had been in the area and a member of Amesbury Friends Meeting (Quaker) since 1989. In April of 2013 I read a local newspaper article about the Great Fire of 1888, which burned down many of the factories which made Amesbury’s world-famous carriages. A few days later I was walking to worship on Sunday morning, as Friends have over the centuries in Amesbury, and a story popped into my head about a 17-year-old Quaker mill girl who solved the mystery of the arson. (Historically it wasn’t arson, but hey, I write fiction.) After the short story was published in a juried anthology, the characters and setting refused to go away, so I invented the mill girl’s aunt Rose, an independent midwife.

As it turns out , 1888 is a really interesting time to write about! So much is in flux – electricity and telephones are starting to come in but aren’t widespread, midwives still predominate but physicians are starting to edge into the birthing world, and even women’s clothing is changing with the new emphasis on bicycling and physical fitness, leading to looser garments and fewer corsets.

Catriona: I don’t really set mine in a real historical era. Dandy Gilver lives in a corner of our culture that’s half the 1920s (eek – except I’m up to 1934 now!) and half the Golden Age of British detective fiction, where gently-born amateur sleuths solved murders. It’s never happened in real life, but in between the wars in the UK it seems normal.

MorningsideVictoria: The Gaslight Mysteries are set in turn-of-the-century New York City.  The series starts in 1896 and the most recent, MURDER IN MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, is set in 1899. Oddly enough, the original concept was generated by Berkley.  They did that a lot in the early days at Berkley Prime Crime.  My agent called me one day to tell me she’d just had lunch with a Prime Crime editor who was looking for someone to write a series set in turn-of-the-century New York  City where the heroine was a midwife.  My agent thought of me, since I’d recently written a book set in that time period and I had been putting mystery subplots in my historical romances for a while.  They sent me their ideas for the series.  I liked some of them and threw out a few others.  Then I realized that my midwife, Sarah, would need a male cohort, preferably someone who would logically be solving murder mysteries, so I created Police Detective Frank Malloy. Berkley had suggested that Sarah be a poor relation of a rich family, but I made her the rebellious daughter of a rich family, which would give her entré into all levels of society.

My new series, The Counterfeit Lady Series which launches in November, starts in 1917.  I purposely chose this era because so much was happening in the world at that time.  Women were demonstrating for the right to vote, which finally came in 1920.  The US had just entered World War I.  The flu epidemic that killed millions is looming on the horizon.  Most importantly, for both my series, the issues people were concerned about then are the same issues we are concerned about today, which makes these books a lot of fun to write.

Great answers! Now, how about this one from me (Edith):

What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done as research for your series? How about the hardest or most risky?

Jessica: This past summer I spent several days in Lily Dale, NY which is the world’s largest Spiritualist enclave. It dates to the Victorian era and was a delightful place to work and to conduct research. I atttended open air platform readings by a wide variety of mediums. I attended talks, visited the library and booked a private consultation with a medium. All in all it was a fascinating trip and it taught me a lot about what it would be like to live and work in the fictional world I have created for my characters to inhabit.

FinalGetMeToGraveFullCoverDE: Although learning about the Edwardian era is always fun, neither of us have done anything hard or risky regarding research for this particular series. However research was responsible for the plot of the first book in our series, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, where a Hungarian linguist blackmails his students. In the process of researching Pygmalion, we discovered Shaw later wrote updated versions of the play, including screenplays and revisions to the 1912 text. One of the revised versions of Pygmalion contains a scene between Higgins and this Hungarian language expert, who boasts that he makes all his students pay, “and not just for lessons.” Voila! Researching Shaw’s revisions gave us our first murderer, with a motive already provided.

A similar serendipitous moment occurred in our second book, Move Your Blooming Corpse. Because the novel opens at Royal Ascot in 1913, we knew the real life Harold Hewitt would run onto the racetrack and be trampled by horses – in a copycat of Emily Davison at the Derby. While creating a colorful cast of suspects who would attend this deadly Ascot race, we learned Harold Hewitt survived being trampled and was sent to a mental hospital. Soon after, Hewitt escaped and was never captured. This true event allowed us to make Hewitt one of our murder suspects. We’ve never been happier to discover how correct Mark Twain was when he wrote, “truth is stranger than fiction.” All it took was a little research to prove it.

Edith: The most fun has to be riding in a real carriage (buggy, actually) drawn by a real horse on real outdoor trails. I wore my long linen skirt and hung on tight. The side of the carriage are low, there are no seat belts, and it’s bumpy! I fully understood what women as old as me and with knees as creaky as mine went through to relieve themselves in the middle of the night back then.

Called to JusticeIn one of my past lives as a childbirth educator and doula, I did attend a number of births, first as an observer and then as a support person (but not a midwife – I never wanted the responsibility a midwife carries). I know firsthand the risks of any birth, as well as the normal, healthy process that it is in the absence of risk factors. It wasn’t dangerous to me personally to be part of the miracle of these births, but I was present at more than one where things went seriously wrong due to no fault of the caregivers or the birthing mother. Those experiences have enriched my fictional descriptions of childbirth, both easy and otherwise.

 

Catriona: I’ve never put myself in danger. But fun, now? The way I do research it’s a 7b98a5ff-fdcb-478d-b41c-62517b4f7e22stretch to call it working. I go to castles, palaces, manor houses and various other stately piles in Scotland and I ask awkward questions until one of the docents demands to know why. Then I reveal that I’m writing a book (and produce an earlier one to prove it). And without fail, at that point they fetch an enormous bunch of keys and take me to my favourite place – “round the back”, aka the attics and dungeons where the public don’t get to go.  Bliss for a nosey parker!

 

Victoria: Funny you should ask. I did one thing, completely inadvertently, that really helped with my Gaslight research into what a midwife does.  I arrived at my daughter’s house for the birth of grandchild #3 to discover that, after two C-sections, she intended to have a natural home birth with a midwife and a doula. My duties included a trip to the hardware store for an adapter so we could fill the inflatable tub for a water birth (which didn’t happen) and keeping the two older boys, ages 6 and not-quite 2, occupied during her labor.

We were all present when Keira Jane made her dramatic entrance into the world and when she didn’t realize she was supposed to start breathing right away. A little oxygen and an unnecessary visit from the fire department paramedics set her on the right path, though, and I got way more information than I needed about how a midwife works.  I even got to see a placenta up close and personal (while the midwife explained its function to my oldest grandson and the younger paramedic) and watch as my oldest grandson cut the cord. Was it fun?  Oh, yes, when it was all over.  Was it hard?  Let’s just say explaining the situation to the 911 operator while my newborn granddaughter turned blue was pretty difficult.  Was it risky? Not for me, since I didn’t actually have heart failure and it all turned out fine. Keira is now 7 and just as feisty as you’d expect. I’ll never forget the 911 operator asking me if she was breathing, and when I looked over the midwife’s shoulder to see, Keira was staring up at me, all pink, as if to say, “What’s all the fuss about?”

Thanks, ladies. See you all in Bethesda at the end of April! Below, left to right: Catriona McPherson, Victoria Thompson, Sharon Pisacreta, Meg Mims. You can find Jessica and Edith in the Wicked Cozy banner.

Readers: What era do you like your fiction set in? What risks would you take – or not take – in the name of research?

Guest: Catriona McPherson

Edith here, so pleased to welcome the talented and prolific Catriona McPherson back toCatrionaEdith the blog! She’s got a new Dandy Gilver out, The Reek of Red Herrings, which I can’t wait to read, and she’s telling us how she came up with the story today. Plus she offers a chance at a fabulous giveway and a free short story.

Take it away, Catriona.

Wicked Cozy Herring

I never meant to write a Christmas book, but I’ve done it twice now. The first time I wanted to set a story at my detective’s country home in the back end of nowhere and I wanted to write about a circus. But why would a circus come to such an isolated patch? Well, it turns out that in the 1920s travelling circuses had to find somewhere spacious and cheap, with fresh water and rabbits for the pot, there to hunker down and see out the bad weather. They called it . . .

pic-1-winter-ground

This time, I wanted to set a story in an isolated village, with just one road in, where a tree falling in a bad storm could cut everyone off from the outside world. I found the perfect spot. The north coast of Aberdeenshire is home to a string of fishing villages with hair-raisingly steep roads leading down to a crammed jumble of houses and nothing but the wild waters of the North Sea facing you at the road’s end. Look!

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I knew it would need to be winter, to get the weather truly atrocious. And so for a while I thought the history of these fishing villages had handed me the lazy writer’s favourite gift: a small cast of characters – so much easier to manipulate than a multitudinous horde.

Because you see, for most of the winter – in fact, for much of the year – not all the villagers were actually there. The herring fishermen (most of the men, in other words), and the “herring quines” – the women who gutted the fish, packed them into barrels and salted them down – followed the herring’s migration: from the northernmost islands, round the mainland coast, across the Irish sea and down to England.

pic-3-herring-quines

 

I was raring to go. I had struck gold with the setting: a spaghetti tangle of tiny lanes, staircases so steep there were ropes to help people climb to their houses, dead ends disguised as cut throughs and cut throughs that looked like dead ends until you were pressed against the back wall.

And I had struck shinier gold with that legitimate excuse to keep the character list tiny.

Then, sitting in a reference library in Oldmeldrum, I struck platinum. I found a slim volume of local history that spoke of the one time of year when the herring boats came home: Christmas. And while all the lads and lasses were with their families for a change, what did they do? It makes sense when you think about it: they got married. Christmas was the wedding season.

And the wedding season of the herring-folk was pure dead bonkers. I read the slim volume with my mouth hanging open. By the time I left the library, my book was hijacked. No more small cast, no more locked room: this book was going to be an extravaganza.

I don’t want to tell you everything in case you read it, but let me just say the weddings took a week, every day with its own dedicated event (some sweet, some gross, all weird), leading up to the grand finale on Saturday night when the new bride and groom were tucked into their bed with a bottle of whisky and a loaf of bread (to keep their strength up) and spent the night with all their friends outside the bedroom door, shouting encouragement and cracking jokes. You can’t buy class, eh?

I found out the origin of the best man and maid of honour – I had never thought to wonder why these people existed; I certainly never suspected the devil was involved – and I found out about the worst man (and maid of dishonour?) too. I’d never even heard of them before.

Best of all, I discovered that one of the strangest traditions of the whole week-long jamboree still happens! There are videos on Youtube, filmed on the harbourside in the very village where my book is set.

Google ‘blackening the bride” if you don’t believe me.picture-4-book-jacket

And if I’ve whetted your appetite for schlock-Gothic goings-on in 1930s Scotland (I haven’t even mentioned the amateur taxidermy), see below for a gift and giveaway.

If you pre-order THE REEK OF RED HERRINGS between now and midnight on the 12th, I’ll send you an exclusive short story, set in Dandy Gilver’s house at Christmastime and enter you in a draw to win a bundle of all eleven novels. See here for details.

Readers: Have you ever been to Scotland? Did you know the word “quine” before today?

Catriona McPherson is the author of eleven novels in the Dandy Gilver series, featuring Dandy Gilver, her sidekick Alec Osborne, and Bunty the Dalmatian, set in Scotland in the 1920s and 30s. They have won Agatha, Macavity and Lefty awards and been shortlisted for a UK Dagger. The series is currently in development for television, at STV in Scotland. She also writes contemporary standalones, including THE CHILD GARDEN and QUIET NEIGHBORS, which have won two Anthonys and been shortlisted for an Edgar and a Mary Higgins Clark award. Find out more at www.catrionamcpherson.com.

 

 

 

 

Malice Memories with guest Annette Dashofy

WithAVengeance cover FRONTAnnette, thanks so much for taking time to stop by during the launch of With A Vengeance the fourth Zoe Chambers!

By the time you read this, Malice Domestic will have been long past. But as I’m writing this post, I haven’t even unpacked yet. Seriously. I need to do laundry. Later.

Wow. What a fabulous weekend.

Sherry Harris, Joyce Tremel and Annette Dashofy

Sherry Harris, Joyce Tremel and Annette Dashofy

Malice, for those of you who have never experienced it, is one big family reunion. Every year the family grows by leaps and bounds. The moment I walked through the hotel doors, I spotted Dru Ann Love charging toward me with her lovely smile and her arms open wide for the first of many hugs. Yeah. It’s like that. All weekend long. I’ve learned to start out at least fifteen minutes early to get from Point A to Point B because there will be many stops along the way for embraces and squeals of delight at seeing an old friend or meeting a new fan.

Last year I had been nominated (along with Wickedly Wonderful Sherry Harris!) for Best First Novel. I didn’t think it could get any better than that.

I was wrong.

IMG_8756This year, I went to Malice carrying the mantle of nominee for Best Contemporary Novel (for Bridges Burned). With fellow nominees like Hank Phillippi Ryan, Margaret Maron, Catriona McPherson, and Louise Penny, I went in with low expectations for a win, but with high expectations for breathing rarefied air. My Cinderella weekend. It was definitely that and more.

Does an author ever tire of having readers stop her in the hall to tell her how much they love her books? Or having readers and fellow writers whisper, “I voted for you!” as they scurry to the next panel? I think not.

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Looking back at the weekend, there are a lot of special moments that stick with me and keep the smile on my face. Some big, like Opening Ceremonies, sitting in the front row next to Guest of Honor Victoria Thompson, a fellow Pennwriter, whom I’ve long admired and adored. On my other side, none other than Best First nominee Julie Hennrikus herself! Then having my name called, walking up to collect my nomination certificate, and standing with Hank, Margaret, and Catriona for the photo. Let’s just say tears were very close to the surface.

IMG_8909Speaking of tears, Amanda Flowers’ sweet speech following her win for Best Children’s or YA Novel in which she shared emotional memories of her parents will also stay with me.

But there are those smaller moments. Quieter moments. The ones with no photos to document the occasion. Sitting in a corner catching up with a long time friend. Chatting one-on-one with a reader I’d just met, and with a wonderful pair of fans—a mother and daughter I met two years ago who have become my good pals. An unplanned Working Stiffs (my old group blog) lunch reunion. And of course, hanging out with all the Wicked Cozies!

Speaking of… You ladies rock! Congratulations to Julie and Edith on your nominations! I loved watching both of you bask in the limelight. And while none of us brought home the tea pot this year, here’s my biggest take-away from Malice Domestic 28. Those Cinderella moments don’t necessarily only happen once. Never take them for granted. But don’t completely count out the idea of starting a collection of those nomination certificates!

Who knows. One day we might add a teapot.

Readers: What dream are you waiting to accomplish?

Dashofy-1559 (534x800)Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, published by Henery Press, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and BRIDGES BURNED was an Agatha Award finalist for Best Contemporary Novel of 2015. Her latest release, WITH A VENGEANCE, is the fourth in the series.

Wicked Late Winter Reads

By Sherry

Okay, Wickeds we haven’t talked about what we are reading in a long time. This is perfect reading weather, so what are you reading and why did you pick the book?HauntedSeason

Edith: Right now, having finished an ARC of Catriona McPherson’s Quiet Neighbors (LOVED it) and Gigi Pandian’s The Masquerading Magician (also LOVED it), I’m reading G.M. Malliet’s new book, The Haunted Season. I scored the copy at the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, but I would have read it, anyway. I love the series. And now I can picture Grantchester as Max Tudor. ;^)

Jessie: I just finished Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. It was a great read and I just 24724228loved the cover!

Yesterday I started The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher. So far it has been really a great read.

Liz: I just finished Every Dead Thing by John Connolly. I’m a huge Connolly fan, and this one didn’t disappoint. I think it hit a world record for number of deaths, though! Next up – more Liane Moriarty. I absolutely loved Big Little Lies and now I want to read everything else she’s written. I think The Husband’s Secret is next!

indexSherry: I just finished What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan.  It’s great and Hank’s books just keep getting better and better! I also just read Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger — what beautiful writing. He’s going to be the guest of honor at Crime Bake this year so I wanted to read him before then. Now I’m reading the nonfiction book Story: Subsance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screen Writing by Robert McKee. It’s giving me a lot to think about.

WordsInMyHand_royal_hb.inddBarb: I have been reading The Words in My Hand, by Guinevere Glasfurd. It’s an amazing book about Helena Jans, a housemaid in 1600s Holland who became the lover of Rene Descartes and the mother of at least one child by him. The work is historical fiction, much of the record has been lost, though it does honor the facts that are known. One of the most intriguing questions–Descartes and Jans carried on a correspondence for years, but why was a housemaid in 1600s Holland literate in the first place? The book is only available in the United Kingdom, Germany and a few other countries so far, but I hope it comes out here because it is beautifully, beautifully written. It has been tearing it up in the UK, including being named January Book of the Month in the Times of London. The author, who lives in Cambridge, England, is a work friend of mine from a business totally unrelated to fiction writing, but I do remember when neither of us was published, walking around Manhattan wondering if it would ever happen.

Readers: What are you reading? How did you decide to read it?

 

Westward Ho — Julie and Sherry go to Left Coast Crime

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The view from our room!

Julie and Sherry were so excited to attend Left Coast Crime not only to spend some time with each other but it’s a fabulous conference. The weather was perfect and February is a great time to leave the northern tier and visit the West!

It didn’t take long to start running into friends!

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Sherry reunited with the women from her very first panel at LCC in 2014. It was a panel for debut authors and what an amazing bunch of women and writers.

Holly West, Sherry Harris Carlene O'Neil, Lori Rader Day and Martha Cooley

Holly West, Sherry Harris Carlene O’Neil, Lori Rader Day and Martha Cooley

Guppy Karragh Arndt left a message on the Guppy list serve that she wanted some pitch advice. We met her at the bar. Julie and Dru Ann Love gave her some great advice.

 

THE NEW AUTHOR BREAKFAST

 

PANELS

Julie and Sherry were both on panels, and enjoyed others!

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What to do between panels? Run outside and enjoy the warm weather!

So many fun things to do!

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THE LEFTY AWARDS BANQUET!

What a fun night! We sat at the table sponsored by Lori Rader Day and nominee Jim Ziskin.

 

THANK YOU PHOENIX!
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On Celebrating – and Going Nuts

Edith here, north of Boston until noon but in Indiana as of 5 PM.

I love these Wickeds. Isn’t this the best group, evah? It’s indeed a celebration to launch a brand-new series, and one close to my heart. Thank you, everyone – Wickeds, Accomplices, and readers – for helping me make this week a party! And since FLIPPED got as low as #49 (as of this writing) on the Amazon mystery amateur sleuths list (the best I’ve done so far with a novel), it’s really been a celebratory few days.

grilledformurderI am trying to remember to have fun. Really. But I’m going a little bit nuts. The Country Store Mysteries are on a seven-month schedule. That means…yes. As of last weekend, the first book wasn’t out yet. I had a deadline to return copyedits on the second book, Grilled for Murder. And I’m over halfway through writing the third book, When the Grits Hit the Fan. Then I have write a proposal for three more books in the series! Whew. Gulp. It’ll be fine, as Catriona McPhersosaid in her post earlier this year.

I’ve been the guest on all kinds of fabulous blogs in the last week – Jungle Red Writers, Dru’s Book Musings, Buried Under Books, Mystery Playground, and Club Hen House, to name a few – with more to come in the next couple of weeks. The work of writing the guest posts is done, of course, but I have to check in and reply to comments several times a day, and select giveaway winners sometimes, too.

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With Barbie last year in Brown County.

Later this week I’m heading to Indiana for a delightful but busy six days of book promotion. I’m on two panels at the Magna Cum Murder conference, a Barnes & Noble signing in Indianapolis, a library talk (which I haven’t prepared yet) in Evansville, a visit to Brown County where the series is set, and a Barnes & Noble signing in Bloomington (details for all events here). My Hoosier sister Barbara will be with me the second half of the trip, which will make it even better. And we’re going to have lunch with the Gingerbread Log Cabin competition organizers in Brown County – an event I included in Grilled for Murder!

Two days after I get back? New England Crime Bake! And I don’t have a costume for the British pub-themed banquet yet. Gah. Any ideas? IMG_2534

But really, it’s all good. A graphics-oriented friend helped me design new bookmarks that unify all my series, and I’m taking plenty on my trip to give away. You like ’em?

Now, back to the work in progress. I just keep telling myself, it’ll be fine.

Readers: any suggestions for not going nuts this week?