A Wicked Excellent Retreat

by Julie, still basking in the glow of hard work, good food, and wonderful friends

A WICKED EXCELLENT RETREATSix years ago Jessie, Barb, Edith and Liz had newly minted contracts, and decided to get together for a weekend to figure out what that meant. The next year Sherry had a contract, and she and I were invited to join the weekend retreat. That weekend the Wickeds were born. We got the blog up a few weeks later, in time for Liz’s release, followed shortly by Edith and Barb.

My contract came through shortly thereafter, and the six of us have been gathering for this 48 hour retreat ever since. Some years have been mostly about writing. This year the focus was on the business of being a Wicked. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t laughter, great food, lots of wine, and fabulous conversations. There was all of that, and more. But five years into this community that we all cherish, we had conversations about how to continue to build, celebrate our successes, support one another through deadlines, and navigate the twists of turns of life.

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We are six very different women, with different points of view. We don’t always agree, but we do always listen to one another. Over these six years we’ve become friends, certainly. We’ve also come to respect one another enormously, respect our paths, and offer advice when asked for it.

This year we helped each other plot, met up with Lea Wait (who’s new book Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd comes out tomorrow!), talked about an editorial calendar for the blog, had a conversation about the book business that lasted the better part of a morning, shared new skills with each other, created some new work flow for the blog, and wrote down releases and deadlines through 2019. My mind is whirring, but I’m excited about the conversations, and rejuvenated by spending time with my friends. I know you will all love these new ideas, which we’ll be rolling out this summer.

One personal note–as I mentioned earlier, I did not have a contract when I joined the blog. I will forever be grateful to these women for inviting me on board, lifting me up along my journey, and becoming dear friends. We’ve been figuring out the best way to be Wickeds along the way, and are so grateful to you, dear readers, for coming along with us.

Readers, do you go on retreat with friends? Tell us about it in the comments!

Wickeds, what did I miss in my recap?

Murder on Cape Cod Cover Reveal!

News Flash: Sheila Golding is the randomly selected winner of the author apron! Congratulations. Sheila, please send your mailing address to edith at edithmaxwell dot com and I’ll get the apron out to you.

Maddie Day here, otherwise known as Edith, at Barb’s Boothbay Harbor home with all the other main Wickeds on our annual retreat, and boy, is it ever lovely.

I’m using one of our occasional Saturday posts to share some exciting news. The preorder page for Murder on Cape Cod, complete with a special exclusive edition cover, is finally ready over at Barnes & Noble. This is book one in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, due out December 18, and I’ve been waiting to show you all this cover for a while. I’ll celebrate by sending one commenter a special author apron!

Here’s a little about the series, but you’ll be hearing more about it in coming months.

The series is set in the quaint fictional Cape Cod village of Westham, which is replete with a salt-water taffy shop, craft distillery, gourmet ice cream store, fudge shop, nautical-themed gift shoppe, bakery and cafe, sushi restaurant, lobster shack, and indy bookstore. The shops are bookended on each end by churches, with the town hall, library, and police and fire stations in the middle. Many of the proprietors are members of the Cozy Capers book group – a group that reads and meets to discuss one cozy mystery every week – as are the almost-due-to-retire police chief, the head librarian, and the town clerk. Unfortunately, murder starts popping up in and around the town’s shops.

Mac Almeida is our protagonist, a wiry thirty-six year old with short black curls, who owns and operates Mac’s Bikes, a bicycle repair and rental shop serving locals and tourists alike.  She lives in a tiny house behind the store. Her parents reside in the UU rectory, her half-brother and his little daughter live in a local lighthouse, and her baker boyfriend is just down the road, too. I’ve loved setting up these new characters and this fictional town.

So are you ready for the cover? Ta-da!

MURDER ON CAPE COD with sticker 1.5

I love it! As you can see, Murder on Cape Cod is an exclusive deal with Barnes & Noble for the first year, but after that Kensington Publishing will re-release it on all platforms. My agent and my editor were both excited about the unusual arrangement, and who was aprontenpercentI to say no? The books will have seaside-based recipes and lots of intrigue. Oh, and murder – on the bike trail in this book!

Readers: Who has been to Cape Cod and what do you love about it? If you haven’t, what’s your favorite waterside place to visit (or live)? I’ll send one of you an author apron!

Four Wickeds and Lots of Friends in Portland, Maine on April 10

by Barb who is packing up in Key West and preparing to head north too soon

On April 10, from 7 to 9 pm Jessie, Liz, Edith, and Barb will be at an exciting event in Portland. Maine. Co-sponsored by Print Bookstore and Kensington, the evening is billed as a Cozy Mystery Author Palooza. The event will be held at at local brew pub. Partner vendors will provide delicious beer, drinks and snacks. You can get all the details on Print’s website here.

Rising Tide Brewing
103 Fox Street
Portland, ME 04101

The authors coming include

Anne Canadeo, author of KNIT TO KILL
Maddie Day, (Edith Maxwell) author of BISCUITS AND SLASHED BROWNS
Devon Delaney, author of EXPIRATION DATE (out 4/24/18, pre-orders available at the event)
Kaitlyn Dunnett, author of X MARKS THE SCOT
Jessica Ellicott (Jessie Crockett), author of MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE
Sally Goldbenbaum, author of MURDER WEARS MITTENS
Leslie Meier, author of BRITISH MANOR MURDER
Liz Mugavero, author of CUSTOM BAKED MURDER
Carlene O’Connor, author of MURDER IN AN IRISH CHURCHYARD
Barbara Ross, author of STOWED AWAY
Misty Simon, author of CREMAINS OF THE DAY
Lea Wait, author of TIGHTENING THE THREADS

We’d love to see our New England peeps there!

So Wickeds, a brew pub is an unexpected place for a cozy mystery signing. What the most unusual author event you’ve participated in–place or any other factor?

Julie: I so wish I could be there to cheer you all on! What a wonderful event, and a great lineup! As to my most unusual place–I need to get on this. So far they’ve been pretty standard, but I aspire to sign in a brew pub, so there’s that. I expect tons of pictures my friends!

Edith:  Probably my most unusual event was my dual launch of Called to Justice (written as Edith Maxwell) and When the Grits Hit the Fan (by Maddie Day). I had my two personalities interview each other at a local indy bookstore. It was fun and the audience loved it. And if you don’t get enough great beer at our Portland event, come to my launch party on April 11 in Amesbury! Please see my web site for details.

Jessie: Several years ago I did a murder mystery night event at Zorvino Vineyard in Sandown, NH. The organizers had invited several mystery authors to play roles in the event along with a bunch of seasoned actors. It was a ticketed event and part of what was included was a signed copy of a book by one of the authors. There must have been over two hundred mystery enthusiasts in attendance. I got to play the victim!

Barb: This question caused my mind to travel over a lot of venues. Hard to believe I’ve been at this for 7 and 1/2 years. What I saw was a whole lotta libraries and bookshops, and the occasional auditorium, theater or classroom.No place unusual. I think one of the most unusual things was after my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was published. When I showed up for a library visit, there was a lovely display with my photo and bio–and no book. “I’m sorry, your book was stolen,” the librarian reported. I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered!

Sherry: Have a fantastic time in Portland! The strangest was the time a bookstore put me in the children’s section and I had to keep telling parents not to buy my book for their children. Last week the Centreville Regional Library set up an event for me at the Winery at Bull Run here in Virginia. It was a lot of fun.

Liz: For my very first book launch for Kneading to Die, I did it at The Big Biscuit, the pet bakery in Massachusetts. These are the wonderful people who supply me with recipes for the books. It was such a fun experience – dogs and people abounded, and there was even a doggie cake for Shaggy and her friends. One of my favorite times ever.

Readers: What is the most unusual place you’ve been to or done a book talk?

Wicked Wednesday: Biscuits and Slashed Browns

BiscuitsToday we are celebrating Maddie Day’s Biscuits and Slashed Browns release! A reminder about the book:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

In honor of the newest Robbie Jordan adventure, let’s talk about breakfast, Wickeds. What is your favorite “eating out” breakfast?

Jessie: I don’t have a specific favorite place for breakfast. What I do favor is breakfast in beautiful hotels. I love to sleep in and then head down to a restaurant in the hotel about an hour before they stop serving. I like to ask the waitstaff for a carafe of coffee and then let them know they needn’t worry about me any further. I sit with a notebook and a stack of postcards and nibble and people watch. It is a bit of a travel ritual for me. I’ve done it in Orlando, Vegas, San Francisco, NY, China, Iceland, Brazil, and in the U.K.

Sherry: Jessie, that sounds like a fabulous way to spend a morning. Congratulations on the new book, Edith. I love to order something more complicate than we would make at home. Sigh, with my cooking skills that’s almost anything. It’s a great time to try something new, especially regional dishes. I have to say I tried fried toast in England and it wasn’t my favorite!

Barb: I love diners. For any meal, really, but especially for breakfast. My two favorites in Portland are Becky’s and the Miss Portland. Favorite orders: Omelet with cheese, ham and onions, or blueberry pancakes with syrup and bacon. I’m making myself hungry just typing this.

Liz: I love diners too! And I especially love when I find a diner that has food I can eat 🙂 Omelets are usually my go-to, with mushrooms and spinach, and home fries. And coffee. Lots of coffee!

Julie: I love breakfast, and could happily eat it for every meal. I am an Eggs Benedict fan. I usually order it, since I never make hollandaise sauce at home. Lately, the S&S (a favorite local spot) has expanded on my go-to with Eggs Oscar. Poached eggs on potato pancakes, topped with asparagus and crabmeat. And, of course, the sauce. So. Good. That said, I’m also a pancake fan, and if I’m in a diner I always ask about the special.

Edith: Thanks for helping me celebrate, Wickeds! For breakfast out, I often order crispy  hash browns, which are so hard to make at home, with a fried egg. Like Julie, though, I don’t make hollandaise sauce at home, and I once had a California Benedict with avocado to die for.

Readers, help us celebrate this book birthday by sharing your favorite breakfast!

Guess Which Wicked

Hello friends!

On this very snowy and cold day in New England, we have a game for you! Each Wicked gave us a clue to the picture they shared. Guess which is which! We’ll post the answers on Saturday.

WCA GUESSING GAME

Liz: These have helped get me through long days of baking!
Barb: An appropriate Christmas gift.
Sherry: What I love to do on Saturdays.
Edith: Spied this in a certain Indiana country store.
Jessie: Purchased purely in the name of research!
Julie: Part of a theme.

History, Mystery, Macavity, and Nominees!

Edith here, writing on a lovely late summer day from north of Boston.MysteryReadersInternational

I am hugely honored to have Delivering the Truth, my first Quaker Midwife mystery, nominated for a Macavity Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel this year. The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot. Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in four categories.

A month from today we will already know who among the fabulous group of nominees is the winner (the award winners are announced on October 12 during the opening ceremonies at Bouchercon) – but we’re all winners just to have received the nomination. I wanted to introduce each of the nominees to you today.

I asked Susanna Calkins, Lyndsay Faye, Catriona McPherson, Ann Parker, and James Ziskin to share their favorite/quirkiest historical tidbit they learned while writing their nominated book, where they learned it, and how they worked it in. Going alphabetically, let’s start with Susanna – although she also writes the furthest back in time of any of us.

author photoSusanna Calkins: The first image that came to me, when writing A Death Along the River Fleet, was that of a distraught woman running across a bridge. I didn’t know who she was or where she was going but I wanted her on a bridge. Unfortunately, the London Bridge–the only bridge to cross the Thames in 17th century England—had been rendered virtually inaccessible after the Great Fire of 1666.

After studying 16th century maps with a magnifying glass, I located the Holborn Bridge, which crossed the mysterious “River Fleet,” a river rarely identified on modern maps. The River Fleet—once a river great enough to carry large Roman ships—had become by the 17th century an “uncovered sewer of outrageous filthiness.”  Moving through the Smithfield butcher markets, traversing Fleet Street, and emptying into the Thames, the river had become the Londoners’ dumping ground for animal parts, excrement, and household waste.  In other words, the perfect backdrop for murder.

death along the river fleet_MECH_01.indd

Bricked over in early 18th century, the River Fleet today is considered one of the great hidden rivers of London. Try to find it! But hold your nose.

Susanna Calkins writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical mysteries, featuring a chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice (Minotaur/St.Martins). Holding a PhD in history, Susanna currently works at Northwestern University. A native of Philadelphia, Susanna lives outside Chicago now with her husband, two sons and a cat. She is delighted to be nominated for the Macavity alongside Ann, Catriona, Edith, Lyndsay, and James.

lyndsay1Lyndsay Faye:

I try to hold to a hard and fast rule with my historicals, which is that if the protagonist doesn’t care about the tidbit, that narrator won’t mention it.  But sometimes my copyeditors nail me on fascinating subjects just as a way of double checking.  Like guess what I learned during editing Jane Steele?

Pet doors have existed from at least the 14th century.

When your copyeditor asks, “Author, please confirm pet doors existed in 1837,” the author feels a momentary rush of overwhelming how in God’s holy Jesus H. Name will I do that followed by at least twenty minutes of ashen existential despair.  After those twenty minutes and some serious headdesking are over, however, you find via none other such venerable source as Wikipedia that 14th century author Geoffrey Chaucer referenced pet doors in “The Miller’s Tale.”JaneSteele

An hole he foond, ful lowe upon a bord
Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at the hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the last he hadde of hym a sighte.

Following a discovery along these lines, your inclination is to laugh your face off because in the Great Jeopardy Game of Life, both you and your copyeditor can now be superstars.

Lyndsay Faye has been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Dilys Winn Award, and is honored to have been selected by the American Library Association’s RUSA Reader’s List for Best Historical.  She is an international bestseller and her Timothy Wilde Trilogy has been translated into 14 languages. Lyndsay and her husband Gabriel live in Ridgewood, Queens with their cats, Grendel and Prufrock.  During the few hours a day Lyndsay isn’t writing or editing, she is most often cooking, or sampling new kinds of microbrew, or thinking of ways to creatively mismatch her clothing.  She is a very proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, the Baker Street Babes, the Baker Street Irregulars, Mystery Writers of America, and Girls Write Now.  She is hard at work on her next novel…always.

 

Catriona McPhersonCatriona McPherson: The best historical nugget I discovered writing The Reek of Red Herrings is the best bit I’ve ever discovered in the course of all twelve books.

I was reading about the wedding customs of the Aberdeenshire fisherfolk in the 1930s and I happened on the explanation for the best man and best maid (maid of honour). Get this: the bride and groom, inevitably prominent during their wedding, might well attract the notice of . . . the devil! If Old Nick’s looking for souls to steal, the buzz around a bride makes her tempting. The best man and best maid are decoys.

And, since the devil is – by anyone’s reckoning – a bit of an odd duck, with strange tastes, the herring fisherfolk made doubly sure the happy couple were protected by also 7b98a5ff-fdcb-478d-b41c-62517b4f7e22including a worst man and worst maid, with dirty hair and sooty faces, dressed in old clothes and odd boots.  You can just about see the connection to sacrificial scape-goats, can’t you?

As to how I included the research in the book . . . my female detective and her male counterpart needed to infiltrate the wedding party. Guess what roles they took.

Catriona McPherson is the multi-award-winning author of twelve Dandy Gilver historical mysteries and six contemporary stand-alones. She lives in California.

AnnParkerAnn Parker: One of the tidbits I picked up, fairly late in drafting What Gold Buys, involved who-did-what when it came to preparing a body for burial in 1880.

It all started when I was searching the internet for photos of 1880s-era embalming tools for my fictional undertaker. I stumbled across this news article about mortician James Lowry, who was preserving “the history of embalming”: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140924/DM07/140929575

The article was great, but I needed more. I started digging, tracked Mr. Lowry down on Facebook (yeah, I did), and sent him an out-of-the-blue inquiry, asking if he would be willing to talk about the embalming trade circa 1880. He responded, kindly, graciously, and quickly. In our subsequent phone interview, he explained embalming was refined in the 1860s during the Civil War and medical physicians not undertakers performed embalming until the first embalming school opened in 1883. What?? I had assumed What_Gold_Buys_Coverundertakers did the embalming, much like modern morticians. Visions of mad last-minute rewrites set in. However, Mr. Lowry saved me from despair, noting that in the late 1870s, some undertakers began forming “alliances” with embalming surgeons, adding that art to their skills set. I perked right up, thinking I can work with this! And I did. Whew. I’m forever grateful to Mr. Lowry, for saving me from that particular assumption about the past.

Ann Parker pens the award-winning Silver Rush historical series, featuring Leadville, Colorado, saloon-owner Inez Stannert—a woman with a mysterious past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. http://www.annparker.net

ZiskinJames Ziskin: The favorite tidbit I’ve used in my books is the IBM Selectric type ball. And I had to wait five books for it to be invented before I could slip it in. The Selectric came out in late summer 1961, which disqualified the first four Ellie Stone mysteries. They all take place before that date. Patience paid off in the end. Here’s how Ellie puts the type ball to good use in tormenting her nemesis at the paper, Georgie Porgie (CAST THE FIRST STONE, February 1962):

“Since August of the previous year, the IBM Selectric had been the talk of the newsroom back in New Holland.selectric But Georgie Porgie was the only reporter who got one. And that was a waste. He could barely type his name with one finger. I’d exacted my revenge on several occasions, though, through subtle and not-so-subtle means. Whereas in the past I’d had to pry the green plastic letter covers off the different keys and switch them around to create confusion, the Selectric’s “golf ball” type element meant I could simply remove it and hide it. Or drop it from the fifth-floor window into the street to see how high it HeartofStonewould bounce. Other tricks included switching the American type ball for a German one that had come with the machine. It usually took George a paragraph or two before he realized ßomething was öff.”

 

James Ziskin is the author of the Edgar-, Anthony-, Barry-, Lefty-, and Macavity-nominated Ellie Stone Mysteries. Heart of Stone is a finalist for the 2017 Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel.

Delivering the TruthCoverEdith Maxwell: Since I’m a nominee, too, here’s mine.  While I was researching the series, I wondered how I could find out about police procedure in 1880s New England. I struck out at the Massachusetts State Police museum, and my local detective didn’t know where I could learn about it.

PoliceManualCoverI reached out to author Frankie Bailey, who is a college professor of criminal justice and also writes killer mysteries. She suggested I look for a book called The Massachusetts Peace Officer: a Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and Other Civil Officers, published in 1890. Sure enough, I found a reprint on Amazon. The manual includes all kinds of little case studies and all the regulations a twenty-first-century author could ever dream of.

One of my favorites rules, which I have now used in several Quaker Midwife mysteries and short stories, is that an officer making an arrest is required to touch the arm or shoulder of the person he is arresting. Bingo! Such a small thing, but I think it’s the kind of historical detail that brings stories to life. And the sort of detail each of the nominated authors include in their novels.

So, readers: Which of these fantastic authors have you read? Anyone have fun historical tidbits of your own to share?

Cover Reveal – Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Edith, with some delightful news, and a giveaway!

I have, that is, Maddie Day has, a cover for Book Four in the Country Store Mysteries. The book is called Biscuits and Slashed Browns, and it takes place during maple sap season in Brown County, Indiana. The book releases January 30, 2018. It is, of course, available for preorder wherever books are sold, and preorders really help the author. I’m giving away an apron and a signed cover flat to one lucky commenter today (US aprononly)!

Here’s the cover blurb:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

So, without further ado, I present the cover:

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Don’t you love it? We have the bottles of syrup, the sugaring-off shack, the sap buckets, pancakes, biscuits, a little March snow left on the ground, even the slashing knife.

And on the bench sits Robbie’s cat Birdy. For those of you who didn’t hear, this Birdy is modeled on my real-life cat Birdy, and he died on June 6, just a few weeks ago. I miss him terribly, and am comforted that he’ll live on in this series.

BirdywithFLIPPED

Birdy, the cat in the Country Store Mysteries – literally, in this case!

Readers: To win one of my Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day aprons–which I save for extra-special giveaways–and a signed cover flat, tell me in the comments section what’s your favorite thing to eat using maple syrup. Pancakes? Maple sugar candy? A mapletini? Oatmeal? Maple bars? Dish, gang.