Stick With The Wickeds Contest

Don’t Forget To Vote Today!

thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3Sherry, here and I’m delighted to be giving away a book and a vintage Thanksgiving postcard to someone who leaves a comment on the blog! You can take your pick of one of my three Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries — Tagged for Death, The Longest Yard Sale, or All Murders Final! Thank you so much for being a part of our blog! All commenters will also be entered in the Fan on a Stick contest.


Once again, The New England Crime Bake is almost here. Since all the Wickeds are going to be able to attend, we are once again running a contest to take one of our readers with along with us, well, sort of. You will attend on a stick.

Dru peaks over Craig Johnson's shoulder to watch the line dancing.

Dru peeks over Craig Johnson’s shoulder to watch the line dancing.

In the past we’ve taken Dru Ann Love, Barb Goffman, and Mark Baker. This year’s Guest of Honor is the amazing William Kent Krueger.

Here’s how it works: Just leave a comment on this blog post by midnight PDT to be entered into the drawing. If you are chosen as the winner all we’ll need from you is your photo in jpeg format and a list of five authors attending this year’s Crime Bake whose autograph you would like us to ask for on your behalf. After Crime Bake we will send your autographed stick self to you. Good luck!

Wicked Wednesday: Dru Ann on Stick at Crime Bake

The fabulous book blogger and cozy mystery reviewer Dru Ann Love won our contest to accompany the Wicked Cozies to Crime Bake on a stick. (You can find Dru’s blog here and on Facebook here.) We’re happy to report that Dru Ann had a wonderful time. In fact, you could say she was the Belle of the Ball.

Here are but some of the photos of Dru-Ann-on-a-Stick at the New England Crime Bake.

Dru Ann arrives at Crime Bake and finds Robin Templeton, Liz Mugavero and Sheila Connolly at the bar.

Dru Ann arrives at Crime Bake and finds Robin Templeton, Liz Mugavero and Sheila Connolly at the bar.

Next Dru Ann spots guest of honor Craig Johnson talking with Julie Hennrikus.

Next Dru Ann spots guest of honor Craig Johnson talking with Julie Hennrikus.


Sherry and Jessie are so glad to see Dru Ann!

Sherry and Jessie are so glad to see Dru Ann!







Roberta Islieb aka Lucy Burdette is so happy to see Dru Ann!

Roberta Isleib aka Lucy Burdette is so happy to see Dru Ann!

Shari Randall is surprised to see Dru Ann at Crime Bake.

Shari Randall is surprised to see Dru Ann at Crime Bake.








Dru Ann gets her sheriff's badge.

Dru Ann gets her sheriff’s badge.


Dru Ann talks with author Vicki Doudera.

Dru Ann talks with author Vicki Doudera.








Dru Ann visits with author James Hayman.

Dru Ann visits with author James Hayman.

Dru Ann stops by to see the mock crime scene room and solves the case.

Dru Ann stops by to see the mock crime scene room and solves the case.










After seeing so many authors it's time for lunch.

After seeing so many authors it’s time for lunch.









Dru finds Barbara Ross.

Dru finds Barbara Ross.

Then Dru runs into Barb's husband Bill Carito!

Then Dru runs into Barb’s husband Bill Carito!










After a quick cup of coffee Dru decides it's time to get ready for the banquet.

After a quick cup of coffee Dru decides it’s time to get ready for the banquet.










Dru hopes to do some line dancing in her red boots.

Dru hopes to do some line dancing in her red boots.

On the way to the banquet Dru stops to have a drink with private investigator and author John Nardizzi.

On the way to the banquet Dru stops to have a drink with private investigator and author John Nardizzi.

Julie Hennrikus makes sure Dru has a cowboy hat for the banquet.

Julie Hennrikus makes sure Dru has a cowboy hat for the banquet.










Dru peaks over Craig Johnson's shoulder to watch the line dancing.

Flat Dru Ann and Flat Craig are looking for Flat Stanley to go have a drink.










Dru shows off her bareback riding skills.

Dru shows off her bareback riding skills.

Time for the banquet.

Time for the banquet.




It's time to partee!

It’s time to partee!

Dru stops by to say hi to Hank Phillipi Ryan

Dru stops by to say hi to Hank Phillippi Ryan


Sheriff Edith, Dru Ann, Shari Randall, and Kim Gray!


Sheriff Edith cuffs Dru. What was the crime?


Dru and the girls party down.


All the Wickeds, regular guests, and fan Dru Ann!


After a long day Dru is happy to go to bed.

After an action packed weekend Dru is happy to go to bed.

Readers: Did any of you spot Dru Ann at Crime Bake? Who’s up for going on a stick to Malice Domestic?

There’s More than One Cowboy at the Crime Bake Rodeo

IMG_1149By Sherry Harris

Craig Johnson is the guest of honor at Crime Bake this year. Reading his books and watching Longmire has made me reminisce about the six years I lived in Cheyenne. I might not have lived on a ranch but I’ve been to more than one. I might not have roped a cow but I’ve been to the rodeo. I know about jackalope, buckle bunnies, and chinook winds. I’ve been to Chugwater and heard their band.

Traffic Jam Wyoming Style

Traffic Jam Wyoming Style

Through a series of life events I ended up living in Cheyenne. Elevation: 6062 feet (higher than the Mile High City – Denver) Population: 50,000 or thereabouts when I lived there. To an Iowa girl it was a lot of shades of brown, antelope, tumbleweeds and yes cowboys. I learned to two-step at the Cheyenne Club. I threw myself into the Frontier Days activities the last full week of July every year. You might be a city slicker but you can’t help but find a little bit of cowboy in you when you live in Wyoming.

Wyoming isn’t for the weak of heart. The wind blows hard across the state and grit often ends up in your mouth. I learned to hang on to the car door when I opened it because the wind might have ideas about what it wants to do with it. My mom called me one morning when the windchill was 70 below — she lived in Florida. “Do you have to go to work?” she asked. The answer was yes. I worked for a financial planning company and the market was open. Life in Wyoming goes on windchill or not.

Jackson Hole, WY

Jackson Hole, WY

I missed trees and made friends. I worked my way up the corporate ladder. I wore suits not boots. I traveled around the state Rock Springs, Pinedale, Jackson Hole, Sheridan, Buffalo, Casper. All so different so beautiful in their own way. I met and married my husband in Cheyenne.

You can't let a little snow stop you from grilling.

You can’t let a little snow stop you from grilling.

It snowed mid May one year, it snowed mid September. I don’t remember a Halloween while I lived there that it didn’t snow. Trick or Treat at the mall was a big deal because kids could take their snowsuits off and show off their costumes.

IMG_1157One snow storm was particularly bad. My husband and I had been visiting his parent’s in Idaho. The storm chased us all the way across the state, big flakes flew by as we kept the dark, rolling clouds in the rearview mirror. Gates closed behind us on Interstate 80 as they shut it down. We made it home, barely, before the storm hit. The next three days Bob drove his old International Harvester four-wheel drive around town picking up my coworkers as the town dug out.IMG_1156

IMG_1163I’ve been through whiteouts, a tornado, a 100 year flood in Wyoming. And hail. Cheyenne is the start of a section of the country known as “Hail Alley”. But the sun shines almost every day. It warmed my car so much in the winter I’d have to take my winter coat off before I got in or I’d fry. The skies are large, vast.

I was very active in the community: served on boards, ran marketing campaigns for various causes, I even taught an adult learning class at the community college. You might be thinking this hardly makes me a cowboy. But a few days before we left Cheyenne to move to Los Angeles I received this certificate from then Governor Mike Sullivan saying I’m a bona fide Cowboy.IMG_1128

Readers: Do you have a little bit of cowboy in you?

Wicked Wednesday: What Do You Read When You’re Writing?

stack of booksThe discussion is age-old. Some writers say they can’t read, or can’t read in their genre, when they’re writing. Others say, “If I had to give up reading in order to write, I’d give up writing.”

Wickeds, do you read when you’re writing? If not, why not? If so, what do you read? Is your reading restrained in any way?  Does it make a difference whether you’re writing a first draft or doing a polish? When do you read for research?

Inquiring minds want to know.

TanaFrenchLiz: Love this topic! I find reading depends more on my overall mood than what I’m actually working on. Since most of what I read is mystery/crime, it varies between cozies, thrillers and other types of crime. That said, I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I would like…but that’s really the only limitation I have when it comes to reading. I can read any fiction, any time. I read for research as the need arises, or as the mood strikes. Sometimes I veer off into the world of business books, but I quickly return to my beloved mysteries.

Right now, I’m catching up on my cozies – recent releases from my fellow Wickeds and a Natural Remedies Mystery I’m blurbing. Next up – the new Tana French book. Can’t wait!

AndGrantYouPeace-final-4Edith: I find I have such little time for reading, if I didn’t read while I am writing, I’d never read. I certainly read for research both while I’m creating and while I’m polishing: Whittier’s biography, or the history of Brown County, Indiana, for example. But I also read cozy mysteries, New England-based police procedurals, suspense novels. They don’t seem to interfere with my writing or revision process, other than making me look more closely at my own work to make sure it’s as clear, lyrical, and deeply drawn as I can make it.

Right now, in final revisions on one book and starting revisions on another, I’m fittingly sitting in Maine reading Kate Flora’s new (Portland, Maine based) Joe Burgess mystery, And Grant You Peace.

longmireJulie: I try to read while I am writing. BUT I find that the ability to just read, and not dissect, is gone while I am writing. For example, I am reading the Longmire books in preparation for Crime Bake. Craig Johnson is the Guest of Honor, and I am going to interview him at lunch during the conference. First paragraph, my “oh he writes in first person. Wonder how this works in a long series…” kicks in. It is hard to turn the writer off.

Edith: Agree with you on the dissection habit, Julie. It’s given me no patience for poorly written books. There isn’t enough time in the universe to read a book I see glaring writing errors in – point of view hops, too much telling not showing, and so on.

Jessie: I used to only read non-fiction when I was working on first drafts. I was really concerned about unintentionally matching the tone of what I was reading in my own work. As time has passed my confidence in my own voice has gotten stronger and I no longer worry about what I read. Like Edith, I read a lot of books for research and I do tend to read those voraciously whilst creating a first draft.

At any given time I am in the midst of several books. I get a little panicky if I don’t have at least a few books waiting in the wings. As a matter of fact, I bought a house next door to a public library partially influenced by that concern. Currently, I am part-way through a Swedish crime novel, a book about the relationship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle and a book on the history of the tarot.

truthbetoldBarb: If I couldn’t read while I’m writing, it would be a close and agonizing call, but I would probably give up writing. Reading, after all, was my first love. Being a professional writer does crowd your reading time. There are books for research and books for blurbs. If you’re moderating a panel or conducting an interview at a conference, as Julie is, you’ve got a lot of books to read. Somehow or another it all piles up. But to be my best and happiest self, I have to read books I love, books that I wish I could have written. Kate Flora (I love the Joe Burgess novels, too) has a tradition where she allows herself to read anything she wants between Christmas and New Years. I’ve taken this tradition and expanded it (I’m a slow reader) to anything I want between the New England Crime Bake (Veteran’s Weekend) and New Years. It’s the ultimate luxury. Up this year will be Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, Craig Johnson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and (fittingly) Kate Flora.

IMG_1012Sherry: Of course I read when I write. I read lots of thrillers and mysteries. The only thing I try to stay away from is any book that has a similar theme to mine. I agree with the other Wickeds that reading good books makes me a better writer and makes me work harder. Right after I read an early copy of Clammed Up I had the opportunity to write the proposal for the garage sale series. I loved Barb’s character Gus and I think he influenced my character, Angelo. The good news is when I told Barb, she was surprised and didn’t think I’d copied Gus. Angelo is quirky in his own way.

Readers: What’s your take? If you’re a writer, do you read while you’re writing? If you create other kinds of art, can you absorb art by others while you’re creating?

Wicked Wednesday: SINC-Up

Sisters in Crime is sponsoring a September SINC-Up, to spread the good word about good books and their authors. They suggested a few questions, so we’ve selected one for this one and one for the following week. Part of it is also to link to another author’s or authors’ blog, so each of us is doing that, too. The guidelines are here, if you’d like to take part. Just be sure to tweet your link using the hashtag #SinC-up or #SinCBlogHop and include @SINCnational.

The question for today is:

Which male authors write great women characters? Which female authors write great AndGrantYouPeace-final-4male characters?

Edith: I love Kate Flora‘s Joe Burgess. Also Susan Oleksiw‘s Joe Silva. Both of these police officers are human, fully drawn, conflicted men I could like (a lot) in real life, and they don’t spend much (if any) time commenting on women’s legs and boobs. And I’m holding off on answering the first part, because my stupid brain is refusing to cooperate! Or more likely, it’s that I don’t read male authors much because they don’t write great female characters. But I’m glad to be proven wrong by the rest of you, readers included.

For those of you who love to eat, my SINC-Up this week is the  Mystery Lover’s Kitchen blog – new recipes by mystery authors (including regular Wickeds contributor Sheila Connolly) every day!

Jessie: While not a mystery author, I believe Wally Lamb writes women incredibly well. In fact, while I was reading She’s Come Undone I kept turning to the author photo to try to convince myself the author was not a woman. In the mystery world I think Alan Bradley of Flavia de Luce fame does a wonderful job crafting an authentic voice for a young girl.

As to women writing men well, I feel unqualified to answer. I’d like to think the protagonist in Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants rings true for men. The men in that book with smaller roles felt vivid and believable to me too.

For a blog recommendation I’d like to mention Dru’s Book Musing. She has regular guests, giveaways and reviews. Check it out for yourself!

AlexanderMcCallSmithBarb: For a man who writes women well, I’m going with Alexander McCall Smith. From Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, to Isabel Dalhousie to the horrid little girl Olive from the 44 Scotland Street series, they all ring, in some cases hilariously, true. Smith is generous toward all his characters, no matter what their foibles, which is an inspiration to me.

longwayhomeOf course, women have written male detectives from the beginning, from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot to Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey to P.D. James’ Dalgliesh to Ruth Rendell’s Wexford. Continuing in that tradition, I have to give my shout out to Louise Penny. Her Gamache has that larger than life edge that makes him a great protagonist, but I often find her portrayal of Jean-Guy Beauvoir most affecting.

Great blog recommendations, Edith and Jessie–two of my faves. I can’t let this first round go by without mentioning the Jungle Red Writers, who have, in one way or another, inspired all the Wicked Cozys.

Edith: Agree about Alexander McCall Smith! Love the Ladies Number One Detective Agency books.

Liz: Harlan Coben does a great job writing women. He’s spot on every time. I just listened to the audiobook of Hold Tight and while he does a great job in all the characters’ heads, the female protagonist is amazingly well done, as are the secondary women characters he writes in this standalone.

As far as women writing men, there are so many to choose from! I do love Julia Spencer-Fleming‘s Russ Van Alstyne in her long-standing series. These books are hauntingly captivating, and while the plots are terrific, it’s the characters that drive the books.

Along with the three blogs above, I also love Killer Characters, a fun blog spanning a wide range of authors including our own Jessie Crockett with a regular gig. All posts are written from a character’s perspective. Check it out!

Sherry: I love J.A. Jance’s J.P. Beaumont series set in Seattle. He’s flawed and authentic. Craig Johnson does a great job portraying Victoria Moretti and other women in his Longmire series. I’m so excited he will be at Crime Bake this year. Barbara Ross also blogs on the great Maine Crime Writers blog. It is about so much more than Maine and crime writing!

Julie: Late to the party, but jumping in. I always liked Robert B. Parker’s women, especially Susan. In thinking about it, it may be seeing her through Spenser’s eyes, but she had such an impact on the series. As for a blog to hop to, the Cozy Chicks are a very fun group!

Readers: add your response!

The Voice

By Sherry Harris

The Voice is a reality singing competition on NBC. The premise is that judges build teams only through listening to a singer without being able to see them. In writing a reader hears the characters voices and after reading Barb Goffman’s collection of short stories, Don’t Get Mad Get Even, I wanted to talk to her about voice and where her unique voices come from. Thanks so much for joining us today Barb!

BarbgoffmanWhat do you think voice is? What creates it? 

Voice is attitude. I don’t mean that a character has to have an attitude (be rude), but a character with a strong voice has thoughts and feelings that make her jump off the page instead of lying there flat.

Voice is one of the hardest things for a writer to learn. Point-of-view, in contrast, is technical and can easily be taught and learned (easy of course being a relative term). The importance of using strong verbs to convey action is another concept easy to show and understand. But voice—I once had a teacher say that your writing either has a voice or it doesn’t, that there’s no manual on how to create voice. I don’t know about that. I think everyone has a voice, some people just don’t know how to show it. And it’s hard to learn how to give your characters their own voice if it doesn’t come naturally, but all hope isn’t lost. A writer can develop her voice. My best suggestion for doing so is to read writers who do it well, writers whose characters feel as if they are alive in the room talking to you. Read and read and read and maybe your own voice will find its way out, too.

What comes first the voice or the character?

It’s hard for me to separate the two. A character without a voice isn’t developed. But if I had to choose, I’d say voice. I’ll often suddenly hear a voice in my head, a snippet of dialogue or monologue, and I’ll think, Ooh, she sounds interesting. But I don’t know who she is yet or what her story will be. All of that will develop based on the attitude (see above) of the character’s voice.

Do you prefer first or third person narrators?

I prefer writing in first person. It comes naturally to me. That said, I’ve written fiction in third person, too. I have an unpublished novel in third person and an unfinished story in third person. I hadn’t even realized I’d been writing the story in third person until I was a couple pages into it. First person and third person don’t have to be that different if you’re writing in close third person, so that we’re in the main character’s head. If done correctly, the reader shouldn’t even notice which narrative device you’re using.

As a reader, I’ll happily read both first person and third person. Again, if done well, the manner of the storytelling shouldn’t matter because I’ll be so engrossed in the character’s story (and head) that I won’t notice if the writer has used first person or third person.

It’s worth noting that some writers use an omniscient point of view. That’s a difficult thing to do well because it can make the reader feel removed from the main character. I’ve never written in the omniscient point of view.

What does each bring, does it depend on the story?

Again, I don’t think first person and third person have to be that different, so—for me—it’s not a matter that one type of story should be written in first person and another type should be written in third person. It’s whatever works for the author. Even when I write in third person, it’s in such a close third person, there should be virtually no difference to the reader. An example:

First person: I walked into the bookstore, and my heart drummed. Oh, my God. It’s him. My favorite author.

Third person: Jane walked into the bookstore, and her heart drummed. Oh, my God, she thought. It’s him. My favorite author.

don'tgetmadDo you use voice/narrators to fool the reader?

No. I’ve tried to fool the reader with word choices and what a main character says and thinks (and doesn’t say or think). Good examples of this approach are my stories “Volunteer of the Year” and “Ulterior Motives.” I’m not sure how to use a character’s voice to fool a reader if that character is one whose thoughts the reader is privy to. Even with an unreliable narrator, whose judgments and reactions might be skewed, the character is who he is.

How did your voice or in your case multiple voices develop? They’ve developed naturally from reading and writing. As many have said before: practice, practice, practice. I also am what I call a method writer (similar to a method actor). When I’m writing a character, I am that person, with all her background and issues and knowledge and fears. (Or at least I try to be.) So as a plot develops, I write what my character would think and feel in each instance because those are my actual reactions. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but that’s my process.

Did you model it on anyone or did you always hear your own unique voice? I generally don’t model my voice on anyone. I just let myself go on the page. I once had a friend tell me that no matter which of my stories she was reading, she could hear me saying the words. I hope that’s a good thing, that even though my characters are different, my unique voice shines through.

That said, sometimes I need to do a little research to get a voice right. For instance, when I wrote “An Officer and a Gentleman’s Agreement,” I was writing from the point of view of a narcissistic Army general. I couldn’t get the voice right, so I watched the movie “A Few Good Men,” in which Jack Nicholson played just such a character. Nicholson helped me get my voice right.

Whose voice do you admire? Wow. So many authors have voices that shine. Here are a few:

Janet Evanovich – Stephanie is funny. Her reactions are real with spot-on timing.

Laura Durham – The sidekick in her Annabelle Archer series, Richard, is so full of personality, I want more and more.

Spencer Quinn (aka Peter Abrahams) – The narrator in his Chet and Bernie series, Chet, is a dog. Quinn puts the reader in Chet’s head so we see Chet acting and thinking like a real dog, yet he’s also a great sleuth. Chet is a wonderful character.

Julia Spencer-Fleming – Her characters are distinct and really come to life. Her characters are also funny but in a quiet way, so that when a character says something funny, it can come out of the blue and literally make me laugh out loud.

Craig Johnson – Ditto everything I said about Julia Spencer-Fleming.

As you can probably tell, I admire writers who write humor. I love reading it and writing it myself, and I appreciate others who do it well. Some of my stories have touches of humor, such as “Have Gun—Won’t Travel” and “Christmas Surprise,” both of which are new this year, published in my collection, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.  I’ve written other stories with the goal of creating a funny mystery, including “Biscuits, Carats, and Gravy” and “Murder a la Mode.” Stories designed to be funny require a lighter touch and writing with a strong voice allows me to achieve that.

Barb Goffman is the author of the recently released short-story collection DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN (Wildside Press). Barb’s stories often focus on families because the people you know best are the ones you’ll most likely want to kill. Or at least that’s been her experience. DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN contains fifteen stories, ranging from funny to dark, and from amateur sleuth to police procedural. It has all of Barb’s award-nominated stories and five new ones. Barb has been nominated for the Agatha Award five times, and the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award twice each. Her story “The Lord Is My Shamus” (available in DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN) is currently up for the Anthony and Macavity awards, to be given out at the Bouchercon mystery convention in September. In her spare time, Barb serves as a co-editor of the Chesapeake Crimes series (Wildside Press) and as program chair of the Malice Domestic mystery convention. She’s an avid reader and a doting mom of a very cute dog. You can learn more about her and her stories at