A Wicked Welcome to Barbara Wallace

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, in Connecticut where the rain is coming in buckets–or at least it was when this post was written…

Today my guest is my friend, Barbara Wallace. If you read romance, you’ll know her as the author of a whole lot of wonderful books. She’s recently dipped her toe into the cozy mystery pool. Here’s what she has to say:

Genre Jumping Isn’t So Easy

I’d written almost twenty romance novels for Harlequin before I decided to tackle my first cozy mystery. The Suburbs Have Secrets was the book of my heart that I longed to write. I’d been in love with mysteries since I was a little girl and discovered my mom’s Agatha Christie novels.

Making the jump from romance to mystery would be easy, I thought. After all, I had the skills needed to craft a solid novel.

  • The ability to create memorable, well-rounded characters? Check.
  • The knack for crafting snappy dialogue? Check
  • The capacity to weave a complex and intriguing puzzle and resolve it in a satisfying fashion?

Ummm, maybe?

When it comes to short contemporary romance, which is what I write for Harlequin, the story focuses on the romantic conflict between the characters. What’s happening on the page is far less important than the emotional tension between the hero and heroine. Be it running from a potential killer or traipsing through the vineyards of Tuscany, “How will they get together?” is the main question.

Mysteries as you know, are a horse of a different color.  You readers don’t just require a plot. You require puzzles that unfold piece by piece, hint by hint. Cozy mystery writers must manage a cast of distinct characters who spend their time on the page dropping clues and red herrings like bread crumbs, and make sure the information doesn’t flow too fast or too slow.

What’s more, they must know what their characters are doing off the page as well.  If Detective Dan Bartlett is investigating Paul Paretsky’s alibi while my protagonist, Sadie McIntyre, is off breaking into a neighbor’s house, I need to know it even if that information never makes the page.

With romance novels, writers can fly by the seat of their pants. Since the characters drive the story, we can drop our hero and heroine into a situation and see what happens. Try that in a mystery novel and you end up with an unreadable pile of mush. I know. I tried it on my first pass.

Fortunately for me, I had a fantastic editor. With her help, and much work, I turned my pile of mush into something I’m truly proud of.

So what’s the lesson here?  Writing cozy mysteries is hard. Oh, and make sure you have a really good (and patient) editor.

The first book in the new Sadie McIntyre Mystery series, The Suburbs Have Secrets, is a combination of Murder She Wrote and Desperate Housewives. Sadie McIntyre is a New England real estate agent with a secret.  When she gives a drunken Marylou Paretsky a ride home one rainy night, she has no idea it will be the last time anyone sees Marylou alive. The following morning, Marylou is found dead at the bottom of her staircase, the victim of foul play. 

Who killed Marylou? Was it her philandering husband? His lover? Or one of the residents Marylou was blackmailing? In a town where everyone has a secret, the list of suspects is endless.

Can Sadie find Marylou’s killer before her own secret becomes public and shoots her to the top of the suspect list? Or will the killer find her first? 

Available now on Amazon.

Bestselling, award-winning author Barbara Wallace specializes in sassy, smart novels known for their emotional depth. Since her debut in 2009, she’s gone on to publish nearly 20 titles with with Harlequin Romance and Entangled Publishing to world-wide popularity. A life-long Yankee, Barbara lives in New England with her husband, their son, two very spoiled self-centered cats (as if there could be any other kind) and a very catered-to rescue pup.

Guest Linda Lovely

Edith here, writing from north of Boston, where fall has finally hit. Our guest today is the multi-published Linda Lovely.  Bones to Pick, the first mystery in herFINALBonesToPickfrontCover new Brie Hooker Mysteries series, releases in a few weeks! To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed ARC now or an ebook after the book comes out to one commenter here today. Take it away, Linda.

Wicked Research for Wicked Villains

This blog’s Wicked Cozy Authors title echoes my belief that the best cozy mysteries have plenty of wicked seasoning. Just because a novel eschews profanity, graphic violence and sex doesn’t mean the heroine (or hero) won’t confront a multitude of deadly dangers engineered by wicked, ingenious villains

A mystery’s heroine is most memorable—and heroic—when she faces scary villains. This requires some wicked research. The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), held each August at a real police academy, offers hands-on experiences that writers can use to create haunting villains and plausible plots. WPA instructors are the same ones who train police in everything from firearms and non-lethal weapons to drones and crime scene investigation. Outside experts also explore subjects like bioweapons, forensic psychology, gangs, and private investigation techniques.

Full disclosure: I’m a five-year member of the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) “family.” I handle registrations, coordinate the Golden Donut Short Story contest, and help with varied organizational details. I volunteer because the program affords me—and fellow crime writers—invaluable opportunities to pick the brains of experts and get the details right.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOver the years, the WPA has given me the chance to fire a Glock and an AR-15…feel the tension of making a split-second, shoot-don’t-shoot decision…learn to free myself from a larger assailant…ride in an ambulance with a paramedic…handcuff a suspect…join a SWAT team in clearing a building…wear a duty belt…swing a baton. And the list goes on.

Once I’m home, these experiences weave their way into my cozy mysteries. In Bones To Pick, the first novel in my Brie Hooker Mystery series, Brie’s recall of her dad’s story about gangbangers hiding  weapons saves her life. (Though Brie’s dad is a horticultural professor, he’s also an aspiring crime novelist who attends the WPA each summer.)

In the second Brie Hooker Mystery, which I recently turned into my editor at Henery Press, the heroine flies a drone to gain key information. While Brie doesn’t pack heat, the villains she faces do. So I tap weapons’ knowledge gained at WPA to describe their firearms. Insights into police procedures, CSI techniques, autopsies, poisons and criminal proceedings also figure in how Brie interacts with law enforcement and the legal system.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In the real world, amateur sleuths seldom prove the innocence of a loved one, solve a cold murder case, uncover fraud, or thwart a radical group’s attempt to rig an election. However, authors can make any of these plots more plausible by weaving in accurate criminal behavior and crime-fighting details.

Writers who can’t attend a WPA can look to information sources in their own backyards Options include ride-alongs with local police and online and in-person programs hosted by Sisters in Crime. Speakers at my Upstate South Carolina SinC chapter’s meetings have included K-9 officers, DAs, judges, detectives, US Marshalls, FBI agents, crime scene investigators, ATF officers, paramedics, bank fraud investigators, and even psychics.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe best part? I’ve yet to meet an expert who wasn’t willing to answer my questions. I’ve gained insights into experiences well outside my day-to-day existence. It’s also allowed me to make friends with people from many walks of life. Yes, research improves books, but it also enriches the researcher’s life.

Linda Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and advertising copy. Her blend of mystery and humor lets her chuckle as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her new Brie Hooker Mystery series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. While her new series may be cozy, she weaves in plenty of adrenaline-packed scenes to keep readers flipping pages. LindaHeadshot

She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She’s the award-winning author of five prior mystery/suspense/thriller novels. To learn more, visit her website: www.lindalovely.com  

Readers: Which expert has helped you in some area of your life? Writers: Who is the quirkiest expert you’ve called on in the name of research? Remember, she’s giving away a signed ARC now or an ebook after the book comes out to one commenter here today.

Welcome Back Sara Rosett!

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

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

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

Dream vacation destination?

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

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

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

Favorite mystery/thriller movie?

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

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

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

What’s one talent you wish you had?

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

M&Ms or Godiva?

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

Favorite time of Day?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Guest: Wendy Tyson

This is Edith, wondering what New England will give us for weather next! And happy to BitterHarvest fronthave the talented Wendy Tyson back as my guest. Her newest Greenhouse Mystery, Bitter Harvest, came out this week, and to celebrate she’s giving away an audiobook (on CDs) of the book to one commenter today. Wendy was kind enough to consent to an interview, so let’s go (my questions are in boldface)!

You wrote a darker standalone, plus the Allison Campbell series for Henery, about an image consultant. I haven’t read either the standalone or the series, but even the series seems a bit darker than the cozy Greenhouse Mysteries. Do you prefer one style over the other?

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction—from small-town cozy mysteries to great, sprawling international thrillers and everything in between. The Greenhouse Mystery Series is very dear to me because I love organic gardening, and I feel passionate about the regenerative farming movement. Plus, I’ve fallen quite in love with some of the characters.  And these days, when you turn on the news and you’re constantly confronted by some tragedy or another, it’s nice to return to a place that’s welcoming and just a little isolated from some of the world’s misery (even if that place is fictional). That’s how I feel about Winsome, PA, the setting of Bitter Harvest.

That said, I also enjoy writing darker mysteries and thrillers. These books provide a different kind of outlet as a writer, and it’s exciting to sink into an edgier, more complex novel. I guess the answer is no, I really don’t prefer one over the other. I like to think there is the flexibility for me to write and publish both.

Our readers are always curious about our writing schedules and habits. Do you have a day job in addition to writing fiction? When and where do you write your mysteries?

Vermont Respite

Vermont

I do! I’m an attorney and I work full-time as a consultant at a mutual fund company. (I practice ERISA law. Bonus points for Wicked readers familiar with that area of the law.) I have a husband, three sons, and three dogs, and I split my time between Vermont and Pennsylvania. Life is hectic, but writing provides me with the quiet time I need to recharge. Making time for writing isn’t always easy, though.

A schedule? I get up early—around 5:30 am—and write every day before work, until about 7. If I’m up against a deadline, I’ll also write during my lunch break. I try to reserve evenings for my family and for any social media/marketing I need to do. That all sounds very disciplined, doesn’t it? The truth is, while I do stick to that schedule, it’s often not enough to meet my deadlines, and so I tend to be a binge writer. I write for hours during family vacations, on my days off from work, at soccer and lacrosse tournaments, in waiting rooms. I’ve learned the art of writing wherever and whenever. To do that without sacrificing family time, I integrate writing with my life. This means I can write at the kitchen island while the boys do homework or play and a meal is simmering on the stove. I’ve had to learn to block out distractions. (If only I had mastered that skill in college!)

I know you are an avid gardener, as is Megan Sawyer, your Greenhouse series protagonist. What’s your favorite crop to grow, and which give you the most problems? (I’ll add my own answers after yours!)Yard mico farm Tyson

Red peppers are a favorite crop. We plant red bell peppers and Hungarian peppers, and we eat the bells like apples (the kids love them). Peppers grow very well in our climate. Potatoes do as well, and we generally have excellent crops of red and Yukon potatoes. Homegrown potatoes are delicious—earthy and flavorful, even without butter.

Most problematic? That changes to some extent every year. Last summer, we had a tough time with tomatoes (another favorite crop), and mid-way through the summer our basil died for no apparent reason. The year before we had more tomatoes than we could possibly eat, and fresh, fragrant basil until well into fall. We almost always get aphids on our spring kale and spinach eventually…something you learn to live with when you’re planting an organic garden on a small piece of property.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

E: Oh, man, broccoli was such a pain. It’s good to plant, because it’s healthy and doesn’t mind cold weather. But when the cabbage moth lays its eggs in the head and you’re in the kitchen getting ready to chop one up for your dinner and there are MOVING CREATURES hidden in the florets? Gah! Forget it. I’ll buy broccoli at the farm stand. When I was selling my own produce, the tiny holes the flea beetles chew in arugula and other leafy green crops was a big pain but not harmful, just cosmetically unpleasing. But I love growing my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes every year. I used to start those from seed before hardly anybody knew about them – now all the garden centers sell seedlings.

Bitter Harvest takes place in the fall. Here in New England more and more family farms are putting up hoop houses and nurturing crops like hardy greens all winter long. Do you try to grow year round? 

Absolutely. We were inspired some years back after reading Eliot Coleman’s book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, and my husband built an unheated hoop house and low tunnels in our yard. It’s been a little bit of heaven to go out into a snowy yard and pick fresh spinach or kale. We’ve also grown arugula and pak choi in the low tunnels with decent success.

E: I’ve seen Coleman speak! And still own my copy of Four Season Harvest.

Other than writing about murders and growing food (and being a wife, mom, and dog owner…), what else do you do for fun in your “free” time? Believe me, I’ve been there except for the dog part, which is why I put free in quotes!

Free time…you’re right, there isn’t much left over. I love, love, love to travel. The entire part of a trip, from planning to execution, is great fun, and we’ve managed some interesting trips over the last five years or so. We drove to Montana from Pennsylvania one summer, another summer we did a “road trip” through parts of Western Europe and

Corfu, Greece

Corfu

Slovenia, and we spent three weeks in a house on the Greek island of Corfu a few years back. These trips provide family time and writing time, and I find that a new locale always offers novel ideas and a fresh perspective. Aside from travel, I enjoy hiking and swimming with my kids, especially in our adopted state of Vermont.

Since this year is Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary, tell us how the organization has benefited you and helped you along as an author. Are you active in any chapters?

I value Sisters in Crime and the networking opportunities it provides. I’ve met so many inspiring authors through the organization, and I’ve learned a great deal about marketing and the writing industry in general. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers, and I’ve been an editor and columnist for their two publications, The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins. I highly recommend that new and aspiring authors join SinC or ITW or another writing organization. Absolutely invaluable.

What’s one thing hardly anyone knows about you? 

I don’t own an e-reader. While I applaud the advent of the e-book, and I see the great value of e-readers for so many reasons, I’m hopelessly attached to paper books. My husband built me a wall of bookshelves, and even so we don’t have enough room for them all. I love the smell, the feel of a new book, the comfort of an old favorite. I am addicted. (There, I admitted it for all the world to see.)

You could do a lot worse with addictions, my friend! What’s next for you on the writing front?

My fourth Allison Campbell Mystery, Fatal Façade, launches on June 13, 2017. I just turned in Seeds of Revenge, Greenhouse Mystery No. 3, and that comes out in late 2017. This year promises to be a busy one!

Readers: Who has an e-reader and who doesn’t? How do you feel about gardening? Favorite vacation travel story? Remember,  Wendy is giving away an audiobook (on CD) of the book to one commenter today.

In Bitter Harvest, Megan Sawyer should be shouting from the barn roof. Washington Acres survived its first year, the café has become a hotspot for locals, and Winsome’s sexy Scottish veterinarian is making house calls—only not for the animals. But as summer slips into fall and Winsome prepares for its grand Oktoberfest celebration, beer isn’t the only thing brewing. When the town’s pub owner is killed in a freak accident, Megan suspects something sinister is afoot in Winsome—but no one is listening. As nights grow longer and temperatures chill, Megan must plow through Winsome’s fixation with autumn festivities to harvest the truth—before another dead body marks the season.Wendy Tyson

Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs.  Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.

Making Food

Tuesday News Flash: Barbara Kay and Cynthia Balevre are the winners from yesterday’s post! Check your inboxes, ladies, and congratulations.

Edith here, north of Boston, where the flower garden is mulched and the vegetable
garden planted, at last. To celebrate, I’m giving away an ARC of Murder Most Fowl AND one of Grilled for Murder to two comm2011-05-02 18.50.31enters (one book each) today!

As you must know by now, I write two contemporary cozy series that involve a lot of food. Cam Flaherty grows it in the Local Foods Mysteries and Robbie Jordan cooks and serves it in the Country Story series. The books include recipes, of course (and the latest two books come out on the same day next week!).

Right now I’m tweaking the recipes for Mulch Ado About Murder, the fifth Local Foods book, and I thought I’d share how I come up with my recipes. I love cooking, and I’d like to say I come up with new dishes out of thin air – but I don’t, usually.

For example, in Mulch, which takes place at the end of May, Cam and her visiting parents eat dinner at the real Throwback Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire,  not too far from where I live. We’ve eaten there a couple of times, and in the summer they have tables and chairs outside on the patio. Cam orders the kale and couscous salad I had there, so I thought I’d have to make up a recipe for it. Instead, I emailed one of the two women who own the IMG_3224place and asked Nicole Carrier if the cook would share the recipe for my book, assuring her that no one dies from eating it or gets murdered at the brewery. I could almost hear the laugh in Nicole’s reply. She was happy to share, but didn’t have an exact recipe. Instead she just listed the ingredients for me. I said I could work with that, and did!

Jake Ericsson, the volatile chef/boyfriend from the first couple of books, makes a reappearance in Mulch. Cam takes her parents to his restaurant, The Market, and Jake brings them desserts on the house, including his special Swedish cheesecake, Ostkaka. For that I went to Google, and then tweaked the recipe until I came up with a version I liked.

IMG_3211

Because locavores are such a big part of the Local Foods books, I try to have most of the recipes feature ingredients that are available locally. The latest book, Murder Most Fowl, takes place in March. Ugh – local produce in March in New England? But Cam and her friend Lucinda visit an Irish pub for Saint Patrick’s Day and have Irish Beef Stew with Stout. Half the ingredients – potatoes, carrots, onions – could have been stored from last fall’s crop, so that works, and the beef she could get from a local farm, too.

Irish Beef Stew with Stout

In the Country Store Mysteries, the recipes in the books are usually breakfast and lunch items, because that’s what Robbie serves. It’s been fun to come up with dishes like apple-spice muffins, a colorful cole slaw (recipe in Grilled for Murder), and turkey sliders on homemade buns with a special sauce.

IMG_0797

The cole slaw recipe I adapted from one my Quaker friend Bill Castle makes for the Salvation Army dinner we Friends put on every summer. I didn’t think cole slaw for a hundred would be that popular in a cozy mystery, so I cut it way, way down. Still yummy.

Coleslaw

When I learned that a friend from grad school (whom I haven’t seen in decades) is now the Original Grit Girl, who grinds corn every week into grits, polenta, and cornmeal, I had to order some. And when I made the Creamy Grits with Cheese on the grits bag, I knew I wanted Robbie to serve it. Luckily Georgeanne Ross gave me her permission to use the recipe in book three, When the Grits Hit the Fan. Mmmm.

CheesyGrits

Biscuits and gravy are big in southern Indiana, but Robbie also offers a vegetarian gravy option. I tapped my sister Janet, a vegetarian since college long ago, for her thoughts on that. She worked for several years as a cook at a Vipassana retreat center, Insight Meditation Society, out in western Massachusetts. Their miso gravy is delicious!

And then there are the failures. My Quaker Midwife Mysteries don’t include recipes, but when Delivering the Truth came out, I appeared on a bunch of blogs and wanted to share a few 1888-era recipes. I found a reference to a recipe for small sweet buns called Sally Lunns in the Woman’s Exchange Cookbook from the late nineteenth century.

SallyLunnKingArthur

It called for sourdough starter, which I have. A picture (above) from the King Arthur Flour site shows pretty puffy rolls. Mine? Flat and eggy and just awful. I did not use that recipe in a blog post (and I’m not showing you the picture, either…).Grilled for Murder

Murder Most FowlSo readers, where do you get your recipes? Do you adapt and tweak, or follow the instructions to the letter? What’s your favorite breakfast or lunch dish? Remember, I’m giving away an ARC of each of my two new books to commenters!

Guest: Marla Cooper

Edith here (on vacation but still doing a little work). Let’s extend a Wicked Welcome terror in taffeta book cover
to debut author Marla Cooper!
Her debut mystery, Terror in Taffeta, comes out next week, and she’s giving away a hardcover copy to one commenter. Let’s hear about the book first:

Kelsey McKenna has planned out every detail of her client’s destination wedding in San Miguel de Allende. But what she hadn’t planned on was a bridesmaid dropping dead in the middle of the ceremony. When the bride’s sister is arrested for murder, the mother of the bride demands that Kelsey fix the matter at once. Although Kelsey is pretty sure investigating a murder isn’t in her contract, crossing the well connected Mrs. Abernathy could be a career-killer. Before she can leave Mexico and get back to planning weddings, Kelsey will have to deal with stubborn detectives, late-night death threats—and guests who didn’t even RSVP.

Isn’t a wedding planner just a perfect protagonist for a murder? Take it away, Marla!

Thanks for having me, Edith. What a fun month this has been—including appearing here on Wickeds! My debut novel comes out on Tuesday, and as you can imagine, the last few weeks have been crazy. (According to a quick internet diagnosis, I am apparently “feeling all the feels.”)

Last week, my friend Cori Arnold posted the following quote on Facebook:Image 1 - quote

I immediately replied that yes, that was exactly what it was like. After waiting two years, my novel will finally be released into the world, and in a way I feel like I’ve been holding my breath the entire time, waiting to see if my joke is funny. Especially during that year or so when almost nothing seemed to be happening at all, and my non-writer friends were like, “So, is your book out yet? Is it ever coming out? Is this some kind of practical joke only writers understand?”

So here’s where I was two years ago. I had just completed my manuscript, and I headed off to Left Coast Crime in the hopes of learning everything I possibly could about getting a book published. While I was there, I bought an orchid that we now refer to as the Magical Image 2 - orchidBlossoming Oracle.

That sucker lasted for months. It had several stems full of tightly packed buds that blossomed oh-so-gradually, and it reminded me of my experiences at Left Coast Crime and everything that was ahead of me. It was still going strong when I found my agent a couple months later, and even a few weeks later when we started sending the manuscript out to different publishers.
As I started getting rejections back, a few of the blossoms started to drop, but I didn’t freak out. After all, I was in it for the long haul. The orchid wasn’t in any hurry to give up, and neither was I. Then a few more flowers fell. And a few more rejections came in.

At some point, I jokingly told my husband, “Maybe I’ll sell my book right when the last flower drops.” There were still enough blossoms left that it seemed reasonable, and he agreed that that’s pretty much exactly how it would go down, because we have a tendency to validate literally any banana-pants thing the other person says. (I believe this is the secret to a good marriage.)

Not long after, the orchid had dropped all but one blossom, which was wilted and looked like it would fall if you exhaled anywhere within a three-foot radius. (Yes, it was full-on pathetic to look at, but dang it, I was committed to finding out if I, in fact, had a magic orchid.)

One night, we went to dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and I got the following fortune:

You will soon be the center of attention. Look for good news.Image 3 - Fortune

And yes, I took a picture of it because I basically considered it a promise from the universe that I was going to get a book deal, probably the next day. Okay, maybe not, but just in case….

So after we got home from our meal of Szechuan chicken and shrimp with walnuts, we were sitting on the couch, and I heard the softest little plop from the corner of the living room.

Image 4 - orchid twoThe last blossom had fallen. Tim’s eyebrows shot up and he said, “It fell!” And then we both just giggled nervously as if to say, “Gosh, believing in the predictive ability of houseplants sure is silly!” and then I think we changed the subject. After all, I was almost guaranteed to be disappointed if I got too excited about my double-omen action.

The next morning, my agent called.

She’d sold my book.

Even as I’m writing this, I kind of can’t believe it, but why else would I have taken this picture of a near-dead orchid?

So, do I believe in signs? I’m willing to call the fortune cookie a coincidence, but the Magical Blossoming Oracle? Definitely a sign.

Which brings us back to today.

Even though I’ve known for over a year that my book was coming out on March 22, it still didn’t feel quite real to me. I mean, sure, I could see it listed right there on Amazon, and I was starting to get Goodreads reviews and everything, but still.

I guess after all this time, I still needed some convincing. But just the other day, I got the last and final sign that I needed: a copy of my book arrived in the mail.

Yep, this is happening.

Readers: If you had a Magical Blossoming Oracle, what would you want it to predict? Have you ever gotten an unmistakable sign? And how do you deal with anticipation? Remember, Marla is giving away a hardcover edition of the book to one commenter!

MCooper headshotMARLA COOPER is the author of Terror in Taffeta, a humorous cozy mystery about a destination wedding planner that is the first in a series. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her first novel. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. You can find Marla at www.marla-cooper.com, on Goodreads, or on Facebook.

 

On Being Grateful

Edith here, perched in my second floor office watching the sun come up, somewhere north of Boston.

Yes, I know everyone and her fourth-cousin-once-removed is going to write about gratitude and thankfulness this week. I, too, am feeling exceeding grateful, but some of the reasons are a bit quirky. I’m going to try to explain as only a language geek can.AmericanHeritage

The root of the words grateful and gratitude is the Latin grātus: “pleasing, favorable.” According to my favorite (and well-worn) American Heritage Dictionary, the Indo-European root for grātus is gwere: “to praise aloud.” Which makes gratitude directly related to the words agreeable, congratulate, ingrate, and ingratiate. It’s also related via Celtic to bard: “he [sic] who praises.”

MommyDaddyYoungvert2Since I left my day job to write fiction full time two and a half years ago, money has been tighter than when I earned a plush salary writing technical manuals in high tech companies. But that’s okay – I know how to live on a shoestring. So the first people whose praises I want to sing are my late parents. Daddy was a high school teacher and our mom stayed home with us four kids until we were in high school ourselves. We had enough, but life was not luxurious. And I had a very happy childhood. I’m grateful I know how to scale back and live simply (I’m also grateful for being a Quaker, a faith which also stresses living with simplicity).

Many writers have a spouse or partner who is their first reader, who provides a valuable sounding board and helpful comments. Mine? IMG_2281Doesn’t even read fiction. Has no idea what I’m doing, really. He’s a dear, and brilliant in many areas. Commenting on fiction is not one of them. So I could be upset by that and wish for something different. Instead I find it agreeable to be left alone to type away on my books. Hugh is glad I’m happy (and that I’m starting to bring in a bit more cash) and that’s enough.

I  hope I don’t sound like an ingrate when I say I’m grateful the muse continues to be with FirstDraftDoneme. Friday I finished the first draft of my eleventh novel. I’d hoped to have it done by the day before Thanksgiving. Instead the last ten thousand words just poured out. Plot problems resolved themselves. Suspense, tenderness, even killing in self-defense – it almost wrote itself. I’m not sure if this happens because I’m getting better at it from experience or if I’m just channeling some creative spirit out there. I know I would not be able to write three books a year if this didn’t keep happening, and I’m way grateful for that.

We Wickeds talk a lot about appreciating each other – because it’s so true – so I’m not going to go on too long. But singing the praises of my closest author pals and congratulating them on their many successes is one of my favorite things to do. So I guess that makes us all bards.

What about you? Anything negative in your life that is really a blessing? Whose praises would you like to sing? Also – Happy Thanksgiving a few days early to all! We’re all grateful for having readers come to our cozy blog.