Three New Maine Clambake Books to Come! (And a Giveaway!)

by Barb, sitting in her front porch in Boothbay Harbor, Maine on the most gorgeous day

I’m thrilled to announce that Kensington has asked me to write three new Maine Clambake Mysteries after Book 6, Stowed Away, coming December 26, 2017. And, bonus for me, and I hope for you, there will also be a second Christmas-themed novella. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to tell more stories about Julia Snowden, her family and their friends and Busman’s Harbor, Maine.

In September, 2014, when I announced books four through six, I thought I knew what those books were about. You can read my descriptions here. The first two, Fogged In and Iced Under did get written, though the title of Fogged Inn changed slightly. The third book, Elvered After did not.

The original plan was to set three books during the tourist season–Clammed Up, Boiled Over, and Musseled Out–and three in the off season. But then I had the chance to write my first Christmas-themed novella, “Nogged Off,” and that made three Maine Clambake stories that took place in the fog, ice, and snow. So my editor at Kensington, John Scognamiglio, and I decided we needed to get back to sunshine and lighthouses and clams with book six.

Kensington also felt that most people wouldn’t know what elvers are, and when they discovered they’re tiny, transparent baby eels, it wouldn’t help the book’s appeal. (Not to mention, what would be on the cover?) I, on the other hand still love the story. Did you know that the elver fishery is the second largest by revenue in Maine? That opposite of most sea animals, eels go to the salt water of the Sargasso Sea to spawn and return to the fresh water of Maine’s rivers to mature? That a Mainer with an hard-to-get elver license and a place on a river to fish can make a year’s income in nine weeks? That the elvers are sold to eel farms in Asia to become sushi and other delicacies? That elvers are worth $350 a pound and the business is transacted in cash, so people are walking around the docks with tens of thousands of dollars in cash in their pockets? Plenty of reasons to kill someone, right?

But I’ll reluctantly put the elvers aside for now to explore other aspects of life on the Maine coast. And try to answer some burning questions, for example…

  • Are Julia and Chris going to make it?
  • Will the Snowdens rebuild Windsholme, the mansion on their private island?
  • Will Julia’s mother’s extended family be in more books?
  • What’s up with Julia’s father’s family? Don’t they live in Busman’s Harbor? Are we ever going to meet them?
  • And Chris’s family. Why does he never talk about them, even when asked directly?

I know some of the answers, but not all of them, and I can’t wait to find out.

I do know what’s in the holiday novella, which is my current WIP, but I’m not telling!

Readers: Do you have any feelings about the burning questions above? Is there anything you’d like to say about what you hope happens in the Snowden family saga? Let me know and one commenter on the blog will win a Snowden Family Clambake tote bag.

There are also three chances to win a tote bag offered in my newsletter, where I announced the new contract today. If you’d like to sign up for my (very occasional) e-mails, you can do so here.

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Boxing Day Book Pairings

book-birthday-hoorayThis week the Wickeds have a double celebration–Barbara Ross’s Iced Under and Liz Mugavero’s Custom Baked Murder are both being released on December 27. A pair of celebrations made me think about book pairings. Wickeds, what would you suggest folks eat or drink while reading your books?


Sherry:
I’m so excited to read the final versions of both of these books! If you are reading any of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale books I’d recommend Italian food (maybe pizza) and a glass of Chianti. Sarah loves to eat at DiNapoli’s Roast Beef and Pizza. The food feeds her tummy and the DiNapoli’s feed her soul.pizza

Edith: That depends on the series, of course. If you’re having brunch at Robbie Jordan’s country store restaurant, you could have a Bloody Mary or a mimosa with your baked French toast or your western omelet. Cam Flaherty in the Local Foods mysteries would recommend a good local IPA with your Irish beef stew. Meanwhile, back in 1888, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll of course goes strictly non-alcoholic, so pour yourself a cup of hot tea and munch on a gingersnap while you read!

Barb: I hope everyone has a chance to put their feet up and relax today. On Boxing Day the servants relaxed, but since so many of us are our own servants…As for pairings, with Eggnog Murder–why, eggnog, of course. No need to fear (he, he, he). With the Maine Clambake Mysteries, I usually recommend a local beer, for example from the Sea Dog or Shipyard brewing companies. But Iced Under takes place  in the dead of winter, so maybe readers won’t feel like something frosty. Go with a hot chocolate or a nice cuppa tea. Sounds lovely. I think I’ll go do so myself.

Liz: Stan spends a lot of time at Izzy’s coffee and gourmet chocolate shop, either eating or drooling over the pastries while sipping a fancy flavored latte. So I would highly suggest getting out of the house with Custom Baked Murder, heading to your favorite coffee shop and sitting in a comfy chair with your favorite drink and a decadent chocolate-something muffin. Or maybe a cheese Danish. Or a steaming hot cinnamon bun. Sheesh, I’m getting hungry….

Jessie: Maine in 1898 was a dry state. In Whispers Beyond the Veil, protagonist, Ruby Proulx lives at her aunt’s hotel for Spiritualists in Old Orchard where the spirits available are the disembodied, rather than alcoholic, sort. A tall, cold glass of lemonade would be a great beverage to enjoy while reading this book. Considering its coastal setting, you can’t go wrong with a lobster roll. Or Pier Fries!

Julie: The Sleeping Latte has great coffee drinks, and Nancy Reed specials. This time of year, I’d suggest an eggnog latte and a molasses cookies. You know the kind of cookies that bend when you pick them up, and are wicked chewy? Yes, those!

Friends, any book and food pairings you’d like to share?Save

Wicked Wednesday — Holiday Disasters

Eggnog Murder CompWe are celebrating the release of Eggnog Murder and are so happy for Barb who has a novella in this book. Hers is titled Nogged Off, and it appears with novellas by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis. Here’s the blurb for the collection: With the fireplace crackling, the tree twinkling, and the carols humming, few things in life are as picture perfect as Christmas in Maine—until murder dampens the holiday spirit. It must be something in the eggnog . . .

EGGNOG MURDER by LESLIE MEIER
When a gift-wrapped bottle of eggnog—allegedly from the Real Beard Santa Club—proves to be a killer concoction for a Tinker’s Cove local, all Lucy Stone wants for Christmas is to find the murdering mixologist who’s stirring up trouble.

DEATH BY EGGNOG by LEE HOLLIS
Food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell has never cared much for Bar Harbor’s grouchy town librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. But after the Scroogy senior has a fatal—and suspicious—allergic reaction to supposedly non-dairy eggnog, it’s up to Hayley to ladle out some justice.

NOGGED OFF by BARBARA ROSS
Julia Snowden’s tenant Imogen Geinkes seems to be jinxed. First, her poorly named “Killer Eggnog” gives all her co-workers food poisoning at the holiday party, then her boyfriend’s body shows up in Julia’s moving truck as she’s headed back to Busman’s Harbor. Now Julia has to get moving to catch the cold-hearted culprit.Cozy up with a glass of eggnog and enjoy the spirit of murder and mystery in a Yuletide treat perfect for those winter holidays . . .

Wickeds, have you ever had a holiday disaster, or do you know of one that happened to a friend?

Edith: Nothing as disastrous as those eggnog mishaps, but once we didn’t give the turkey enough time to defrost. It took forever to roast, so long that we went ahead and ate all the side dishes and were too full for the  meat when it was done! At least nobody died from eating it, though…

Sherry: That’s funny Edith! We have Christmas Eve traditions that we usually follow, early church service, pizza for dinner, followed by going out for a drive to look at Christmas tree lights. One year when we were living in Florida, we’d just returned from our Christmas drive, and Bob built a fire. I was watching the flames and noticed them reflecting in the door. Then I realized it wasn’t a reflection but actual flames outside. Before we left on the drive Bob had put ashes in a paper bag and set them outside by a bush. You can figure it out the ashes were still hot (no he was never a Boy Scout) and set the bag on fire which set a bush on fire. We quickly put it out and fortunately nothing worse than a scorched bush and a bruised ego (Bob’s).

Liz: I’ve always been a klutz. It’s been a ongoing joke in my family forever. Once when I was about 10 or so my mother gave me the very important task of giving me the honors of carrying the dessert down the stairs to where we were having one of our bigger celebrations. Of course I tripped, and a ginormous bowl of strawberries went flying down the stairs, leaving red smears on the walls and ceilings. Of course, I fell too, but the major concern was for the strawberries.

castlegrayskullBarb: When my son was three and my daughter six months, we were traveling out the Mass Pike toward my parents’ house in Pennsylvania. Between all the baby equipment and the Christmas presents we had a soft vinyl carrier on the car’s roof. Around Auburn, MA, I said to Bill, “What is that strap flapping next to your window?” He pulled over, and I will never forget the look on his face when he inspected the roof, looked back at me, and said, “It’s gone!” It was the era of He-Man and all my son wanted for Christmas was Castle Grayskull. He had a new baby sister who he’d been excellent about and we really wanted to grant his one fervent wish. Castle Grayskull was in that roof carrier and I knew there wouldn’t be another to be found before Christmas for love or money.

At the direction of a kindly state police trooper we went to the highway maintenance building, where the four of us huddled like the most pathetic little family ever. The guys heard our sad story and went out to look, and lo and behold, word came back, they had found it by the side of the highway! They soon brought it back to us. Castle Grayskull was wrapped in clothes and unharmed. We were so relieved we hadn’t caused an accident. I remember it as one of our best Christmases ever. Castle Grayskull is still in my basement, along with all the He-men, waiting for my granddaughter.

Julie: Who can top the Castle Grayskull story? After my grandfather died, Thanksgiving became my holiday with my grandmother. We went to Maryland the first year, but the traffic was hideous, so we started the tradition of celebrating together. The first year I tried to cook dinner for her the turkey wasn’t completely defrosted. Grandma was due at 2. My roommate panicky called her mother, who talked us through getting the bird defrosted. Dinner was served by 4. My uncle had sent along a bottle of wine, and Grandma was thrilled to not have to cook, so all was good.

Jessie: Once when one of my sisters was first married she invited my husband and me to dinner at her new apartment during the holiday season. She had gone to a great deal of trouble and even went so far as to make eggnog from scratch. She knew how much I loved it and she poured me a large serving in a tall, clear glass. The taste of it was delicious but my attention kept being drawn to the strange way the contents seemed to be being squeegeed down the inside of the glass. It was not something I had ever noticed in a glass of eggnog before and when I reached the last swallow the reason became clear. The recipe had called for the egg yolks to be separated from the whites and while she had thoroughly blended the yolks into the cream, the entire quantity of whites had manged to remain a seaprate and distinct mass; first acting as an invisible, floating glob in my glass and then, most unfortunately, in my mouth. To this day, I never pour a glass of eggnog without a shudder of suspicion.

Readers: Have you ever had a holiday disaster?

Writing Novellas–Introducing Eggnog Murder

by Barb, slipping into a holiday mood early this year

Eggnog Murder CompToday is release day for Eggnog Murder in hardcover, ebook and audiobook. The large print edition is coming in early December. Eggnog Murder is getting some great reviews, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly!

The book is a collection of three holiday novellas set in Maine. The other stories are by well-known cozy authors Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis. So, while yes, my story is about Julia Snowden, and it does take place chronologically between Fogged Inn and Iced Under; it’s a novella, not a novel.

What is a novella? Kensington defines them as between 25,000 and 35,000 words, or one third to half the length of a typical cozy. I thought it might be fun today to ask the authors what writing a novella was like and how they approached the task.

leslie-meierLeslie Meier is the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty Lucy Stone mysteries and has also written for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She is currently at work on the next Lucy Stone mystery. Readers can visit her website at www.LeslieMeier.com. Leslie’s novella is titled “Eggnog Murder.”

Leslie: Because I tend to write short, I enjoy writing novellas. They’re more satisfying than a short story, because you can do more with character development and plot, and because they’re shorter than novels, you can move things along at a brisk pace. You can pack a lot into a novella, and you don’t have to muck about with all those descriptions of people and settings. In fact, it’s almost as if you can leave out the stuff that most readers just skip anyway!

I don’t really have any advice for writing a novella, but I can tell you what I do. I always outline my books, and for a novel I build my outline with 20 chapters. For a novella, the outline is for 10 chapters. That said, I can’t say that they actually take much less time to write, because the shorter work needs to be tighter and often needs some heavy revision. So if I have any advice, it’s to take time to revise and polish up that novella and make every word work.

The Copp AuthorsLee Hollis is the pen name for a brother and sister writing team. Rick Copp is a veteran film and television writer/producer and also the author of two other mystery novel series. He lives in Palm Springs, California. Holly Simason is an award-winning food and cocktails columnist living in North Carolina. You may visit their website at www.LeeHollisMysteries.com. Lee’s story is titled, “Death by Eggnog.”

Holly (one half of the team behind author Lee Hollis): Writing a novella for Eggnog Murder was great fun in my opinion. First of all we were so excited to be asked to contribute a story to Eggnog Murder with Leslie Meier and Barbara Ross that I’m not even sure that I knew what we were writing for a couple of days!

We love using the holidays in our books so this was already a great beginning for us. We basically used the same process writing the novella as we do writing our Hayley Powell Food and Cocktail Mystery series except this time we were given the murder weapon “eggnog” so we checked that off our list.

Rick is always thinking ahead and when he knows what the title will be he already has an idea forming in his head about how the story will go. Then my favorite part is when we decide who will be murdered and who the murderer will be. Rick has the best imagination and comes up with great murder plots. I, on the other hand, am so food and cocktail obsessed that as soon as we have our plot I start scouring my recipes because we like the recipes to go along with our storyline or the season that it is set in.

I found that writing a novella was a bit easier than writing novel length because it was just a shorter version of the stories we all ready write. I have a tendency to go on and on when I write so writing a novella helped me choose my words more carefully and try to come to the point a bit quicker then usual.

This was a wonderful opportunity for us and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we can do another holiday novella with these two authors again very soon. Hey, Easter is right around the corner and I love chocolate and have some wonderful chocolate recipes.

barbhead4Barbara Ross: My story is titled, “Nogged Off.” I was excited about writing a novella because my novels are always too short and my short stories are always too long. I realized right away that I needed to think about structure. Was I going with a traditional mystery novel structure, with a victim, a pool of suspects and an investigation, or was I going more with a short story structure–a setup and a twist? I decided on short story structure because I thought it would be more fun.

Because it was the holidays, I wanted to tale to be a little lighter and wackier than my Clambake mysteries tend to be, but nonetheless to include a murder and its consequences. I don’t outline, but I had a great starting point, a fabulous eggnog story someone had told me years ago. (More on this in a future blog post.) I started writing and hoped the length would be right. In the end it was and I really loved writing a novella.

Readers: How about you? Do you like novellas and the prospect of sampling multiple authors in one collection, or do you prefer to stick to novels?

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And the winners are…

 

toteandeggnogFor the An Unexpected Accessory: And a Giveaway blog on Monday, congratulations to Mary McD who was selected by Random.org from 94 entries to win the Snowden Family Clambake tote bag and the Arc of Eggnog Murder with novellas by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross.

We’ve reached out to Mary via e-mail and her prizes will soon be in the mail!

Death Among the DoiliesFor the Tracing Inspiration with Mollie Cox Bryan blog on Thursday, the winner is Kelly Braun for a copy of Death Among the Doilies. Kelly message us your email on the WCA Facebook page and we’ll put you in touch.

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An Unexpected Accessory: And a Giveaway

by Barb, just back from a beautiful week at the Jersey shore and headed back to Maine

I love it when serendipity happens. Don’t you?

Back in July, Liz Mugavero started a Wicked Wednesday thread here on the blog titled, “What’s in your Character’s Purse?”

totebagI really liked the question, because it was one of those things I had thought about without thinking about it, you know? The question of what my main character Julia Snowden would use as a purse had come up in Clammed Up, the first book in the series. I decided Julia would throw the things she had to carry around with her in an old Snowden Family Clambake tote bag. Julia’s mother Jacqueline had run the gift shop at the clambake for many years, and it seemed natural the shop would offer such a thing.

I thought it would be fun if there was a picture of the tote bag for the blog. So I went on a site that offered custom printed bags and I designed one. Just for the photo, for the blog, mind you. I wasn’t going to order any. I didn’t even price them.

goodiebagsWhy did I know where to find such a thing, you ask? Because for my daughter’s wedding the welcome bags were little, tiny L.L. Bean-style tote bags, which felt appropriate to Maine.

But Liz hadn’t just asked what the character’s purse was, she’d asked what was IN the purse. That gave me pause. I have always been a purse minimalist. When my kids were young, I used to joke, “I am the mother who never carries tissues.” Or Bandaids. Or chapstick. Or photos of her kids.

I think this is because I am an accessories minimalist generally. I have enough trouble keeping track of the essentials, believe me. When I was in seventh grade, the first year I carried a purse to school, everyday the period after my study hall there was an announcement on the PA. “Barbara Ross, please come to the office.” And then I would realize I’d left my handbag hanging off the back of a chair in the auditorium. Every. Single. Day. My husband would tell you this behavior now extends to my reading glasses, my car keys and my phone. He would be exaggerating when he said this. But not very much.

Over the course of the series, Julia has carried some mundane things in the tote bag, like Snowden Family Clambake brochures (Clammed Up) or her mother’s mail, fetched from the post office (Iced Under). She’s also carried some mystery clues, like a copy of an old photo and an insurance report (Fogged Inn) or a priceless diamond necklace (Iced Under).

But what does Julia carry everyday? I decided she was a little less minimalist than me, and gave her “a nylon wallet, sunblock or chapstick depending on the season, a bundle of covered rubber bands to pull back her hair if she’s on a boat or around food prep, and her smartphone, which works pretty well in Maine, except where it doesn’t.” Not a lot of stuff really. I can also imagine a paperback book and a toothbrush and toothpaste in a plastic holder, a hairbrush, business cards, pens and a small notebook.

toteandeggnogAfter I designed that tote bag for the blog, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I decided to order some for real to use for contests and such.

So that’s what I’m offering, dear readers. If you comment on this blog post before noon on September 1, you’ll be entered in a contest to win your very own Snowden Family Clambake tote, along with an Advanced Reader Copy of Eggnog Murder, the collection of three holiday novellas by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and me to be published October 25th.

Good luck!

 

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Novella Update

Barb, suffering away in lovely Key West. (Okay, not really.)

In August I announced that I was writing a Christmas novella for Kensington. At the time, I brimmed with optimism. Since my short stories are always too long, and my novels always too short, I thought the novella might be my natural home in the fiction world. In my blog post, I said I would check back in.

Since the novella is done and due on Friday, I thought this might be the time.

First things first, a cover reveal.

Eggnog Murder Comp

What do you think? I really like it. It fits with Leslie Meier‘s covers, and also quite nicely with the previous Christmas collections Kensington has published featuring Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine and Leslie. I am thrilled to be included, along with Leslie and Lee Hollis. I love the little skull floating in the eggnog cup.

I enjoyed working on the story very much. Before I wrote it, I read a bunch of Christmas crime novellas. They seemed to fall into two groups. Some authors used the structure of the traditional longer mystery–a victim, a pool of people with means, opportunity, and motive, and a sleuth who interviews them all and looks for clues to solve the crime. Other authors went a different route using more of a short story-like structure to write not so much a whodunnit?, but a whattheheckisgoingonhere? I went with the latter.

The most fun about the novella was that it was the first time in a long time that I wrote a book in the season in which it took place. This holiday season was crazy warm in in the east, even in Maine, and my story takes place in New York City and Busman’s Harbor during a more traditional early winter. So I couldn’t run outside to soak up the atmospherics, but I could run down the road to do research. Need a reminder of what L.L. Bean’s holiday decorations look like? No problem.

matchingpajamas21I loved incorporating the holiday traditions of my little town in Maine into the novella. For example, the Boothbay Harbor Pajama Party, when everyone gets up at six a.m. and Christmas shops in their pjs. (No kidding. I’ve written more about it here.) I incorporated other holiday traditions l’ve loved, including my cookie baking day and a festival of trees. Boothbay Harbor has one of these, but for the novella I borrowed liberally from the one Vida Antolin-Jenkins used to take me to on the naval base in Newport, RI when we were young mothers. Highly fictionalized, of course.

The length, 25,000+ words, a hundred or so pages, was, indeed, a natural one for me.

You’ll have to wait until next fall to tell me what you think, but I’m happy to be turning this tale in on Friday.