Guest- Kay Finch

News Flash: Dianne KC is our winner from yesterday. Congratulations, Dianne! Check your Inbox for an email from Alyssa.

Jessie: In NH where the weather is feeling like summer!

Several years ago I met the lovely and gracious Kay Finch where I have met so many fellow mystery writers over the years: Malice Domestic. We were seated at the same table at the Berkley Prime Crime dinner and she was a charming dinner companion. It is with great pleasure that I welcome her to the Wickeds today! Take it away, Kay!

Untitled-3My Split Personality

I recently enjoyed signing my third Bad Luck Cat mystery, The Black Cat Sees His Shadow, at Murder by the Book, Houston’s wonderful mystery bookstore. We had a fabulous turnout, and I signed dozens of books. Great day for a writer, right? I had fun, but I also have to admit that I enjoy being in the audience at a book signing more than I enjoy being in the spotlight. The truth is – a writer needs to have a split personality.

You might think the hardest part of writing a novel is the writing itself. Yes, the writing is a huge and time consuming and seemingly never-ending project. When someone tells me they want to write a book, these thoughts cross my mind: “Don’t start. Writing is like an addiction. You won’t be able to stop. You won’t have any free time. It’s much easier and more fun to spend your time reading.” But as hard as writing the book is, as far as I’m concerned that isn’t the hardest part of being an author.

When my first mystery was about to come out, I wished I could hire someone to stand in for me. A person who enjoys sitting alone in a room and writing a book is not the same person who relishes the marketing aspect of writing. I naturally choose to do things that keep me from being noticed. My natural instinct to remain anonymous began when I was a little girl. In the privacy of my bedroom, I wrote short mystery stories. No one knew about them except me. For fear someone might see the stories one day and read them, I decided to burn the pages. Today, that sounds ridiculous and embarrassing. To little me, it made sense.

I might sound like a semi-recluse, but I’m not. I work full-time as a family law paralegal and deal with many people who have more quirks than I do. I enjoy meeting people at book signings and other events once I get there. My personality is seriously split. I’m not only an author, I’m also speaker, paralegal, wife, grandma, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend. And don’t forget – I’m a little piece of each of my protagonists, too.

Readers: I’m happy to give away a copy of The Black Cat Sees His Shadow. To enter the contest, leave a comment about your favorite childhood pet and I’ll pick a random winner at noon tomorrow. Good luck!

Kay Finch

Kay Finch

Kay Finch is the National Best-Selling Author of the Bad Luck Cat Mysteries, Black Cat Crossing, The Black Cat Knocks on Wood, and The Black Cat Sees His Shadow. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division. Kay lives with her husband and their rescue pets in a Houston suburb. Visit the author at kayfinch.com.

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.

Wicked Wednesday — Adding Romance in Mysteries

we-love-our-readersfebruary-giveaway-1We are having a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Jane and one from Sheila.

All of our books have at least some romantic elements. When thinking about your series, did you have a plan in mind for what kind of relationship your protagonist would have? Has it been an integral  part of your series or a subplot? Has anything surprised you about the relationship? Any other thoughts about the role of romance in mysteries?

Liz: I didn’t really have a plan for Stan (ha, I love saying that) other than I knew she was dating a jerk when the series opened, and I knew she needed to find a “really great guy” somewhere along the way in Frog Ledge. I had a vague idea of Jake and the pub, but as I got into the stories, he and his family became a major part of the story. Stan works with one of his sisters and the other is the resident state trooper, so she’s been thrust into another set of family dynamics to navigate as her romance moves along. It’s been fun to write. As far as the role of romance in mysteries, I do like having a romantic subplot, but I don’t like when they overshadow the mysteries themselves. I mean, dead bodies are why we’re here, right?

Jessie: All of my books have featured romance so I know it’s in my subconscious but it isn’t at the top of my mind. That being said, I’m always delighted when I see how it unfolds. I think the relationships between characters are what makes readers return to a series over and over again. It certainly can’t be less true for the romantic storyline than those involving friendship or family. Some of my favorite scenes in all of my books have been surprising doses of romance. I agree with Liz however, that when writing mysteries the romance should not be the most important part.

DeathOfAmbitiousWomanFrontBarb: Someone once said, “Most mystery authors would rather have their protagonist kill someone than kiss someone.” That may be an exaggeration, in cozies our amateur sleuths rarely blow people away, but for me, just barely. The main character in my first mystery, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was happily married–and that was the point. Unlike so many professional sleuths with tortured personal lives, I wanted to show a happy home life as my idol Ruth Rendell had done in her Wexford series. But I realized in the writing that did cut off many sources of tension and I looked forward in the Maine Clambake Mysteries to writing a main character who was younger and single. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a triangle, because I get impatient with those when they go on too long. And I didn’t want every man she met to fall for Julia, because that really drives me crazy. Now I’m to the point where Julia and her boyfriend Chris need to move forward or move on. Don’t know yet which it will be!

Sherry: I think I have a romance writer lurking in me. I think I’d rather kiss than kill and I adore a good love triangle. That said I had no intention of writing one when I set out to write the Sarah Winston books. What I did want to do was look at complicated relationships. In Tagged For Death, Sarah is put in a position that she has to help her ex-husband clear his name when he’s accused of murder. She thinks he’s a schmuck, but she knows him well enough to know he wouldn’t kill someone. After Sarah had a one night stand I wondered how to further complicate her life and that happened by having the one night stand be the DA that would be prosecuting her ex. It all just took off from there and a triangle was born.

Julie: I love romance in my mysteries. Writing the Clock Shop series I knew that I’d want Ben to be a potential for Ruth. I also knew that Moira and the Chief liked each other. But how to add the romantic tension, without going stale, or speeding up Ruth’s journey back to Orchard? She was, after all, recently divorced. I’m having fun adding the romance. That said, I suspect a future protagonist will be single and not speed into anything.

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith: A pattern developed in the first two books in both my Local Foods Mysteries and Maddie Day’s (my) Country Store Mysteries, where the guy I had set up to be the romantic interest just wasn’t working out and he wrote himself out of the books. Luckily, another prospect strolled in in each case, the state police detective in the farming books and a hunky local electrician in the Indiana series. I didn’t plan on either of these, but they seem to be working out. My 1888 Quaker midwife Rose Carroll starts out with a handsome doctor and she’s sticking to him – but other tensions present themselves, both from the clash in their faiths and from his high-society mother who frowns on Rose for a number of reasons. I do like romance in my mysteries. Almost all of us have or have had romance in our lives – it’s just part of the human condition. And if cozy/traditional mysteries don’t reveal the human condition, what do they do?

Readers: What do you think about romance in mysteries?

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Wicked Wednesday — Grateful To Our Readers

thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3

Liz here – my turn for a giveaway! Leave a comment today and get a chance to win a copy of Murder Most Finicky or an ARC of Custom Baked Murder! I’ll be giving away one of each. 

Breaking news: Congratulations Ginger Smith — you are the winner of the Stick With The Wickeds contest!

We all have a lot of things to be grateful and near the top of the list is our readers. So, Wickeds share a story of an interaction with a reader, be it a note, something that happened face to face, or something via social media that made you smile.

Edith: Here’s my most recent interaction, and one that makes the druge part of writing all worthwhile. On Saturday I was one of twenty authors at the second annual Ipswich Authors Fair. I had my book, bookmarks, newsletter signup sheet, and a pocket full of cough drops. One woman came up, introduced herself, shook hands heartily, and said she’d read all my series. ALL of them? I asked, gestured at the lineup of four series. “Yes! I love your mysteries.” She was so enthusiastic, and so excited to meet me in person, she totally made my day. And if I can add one more, briefly: another fan wrote me an email saying she brought my book to the hospital to get her through a week of recovery after surgery and reading my story helped her through it. That note made my day in a different way.

Liz: I love when I meet readers who want to share stories about their pets with me. Since animals are a huge part of my books, it’s so nice to connect with readers who also feel those soul connections with animals. Often people come up to show me pictures of their cats or dogs, or share a funny story. And when Shaggy comes to events with me, it’s even better. She’s the real star. People love to meet her – she makes everyone smile. I’ve had many readers say to me that my animals, either in person or on my Facebook page, make them happy. And it makes me feel good to share that with people.

Barb: I love the mail I get from readers. Here’s a part of a note about the third book in the Maine Clambake series, Musseled Out.

I read page 289 my eyes filled with tears, there was something personal and special on that page. Six years ago we lost my dad to cancer. I was a total “daddy’s girl” and loved the fact that my father loved taking these trips to Boothbay Harbor. My dad’s name was Bruce and I grew up in…Paris, Maine! So you can imagine how it took my breath away! In a very selfish way, I feel like you wrote the book just for me!

I actually wrote the scene she’s referring to for someone quite different– a man named Bruce whose apartment my husband I were lucky enough to stay in in Paris, France. I had heard through the grapevine that this Bruce was justifiably proud of his lobster eating skills. I’d always wanted to describe how to eat a lobster in one of the books, so away I went. The fact that it spoke so personally to this reader is the happiest of coincidences…and the magic of reading. Dear readers, we love to hear from you!

Jessie: I am so grateful to hear from readers who either live in New England or have moved away who tell me how much my books and the characters feel like home to them. Hearing from readers always makes my week. I still can’t believe I get to connect with people this way! Truly, it is a dream come true!

Julie: A reader wrote me the nicest Facebook message. She loved Clock and Dagger, and then went on to give specific examples of why. It made my day, and I told her so. Honestly, every time someone says they read the book, or leaves a review, I get really misty.

Sherry: I’m always amazed when someone takes time out of their busy lives to attend an event I’m at or takes the time to write a note. A young woman with a toddler drove from DC out to Fairfax to come meet me — if you know anything about the traffic in this area you know this was a big deal!

Readers: What has someone done that has made your day?

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Thankful For Our Readers Giveaway

thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3November is a time to be thankful for things and one thing we are thankful for is our readers. We love reading your comments from the funny to the poignant. When we started this blog we didn’t want it to be about just us. We hoped to celebrate our fellow authors, writers working on getting published, and readers. Thanks to all of you who stop by.

During November we will have a giveaway every blog day (Monday-Friday). All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog each day for a chance to win. Thank you so much for being part of the Wicked Cozy Authors!

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Who is Emily?

Edith here, north of Boston but delighted to be heading out of town soon for some down time

My good friend KB Inglee had casebookemilylawrencekbing__00633.1460751519.190.250a book published last spring, The Casebook of Emily Lawrence (Wildside Press). It is an intriguing, compelling collection of stories that reads like a novel. I wanted her to join us and talk about how this happened. She has impeccable history credentials, by the way, working as a living history interpreter in Delaware. She also graciously reads each of my Quaker Midwife Mysteries before I send them in to catch anachronisms and other errors.

KB is going to give away a copy of The Casebook to one lucky commenter here today. Take it away, KB!

Before I started writing Emily short stories I had read every Linda Barnes/Carlotta Carlisle mystery I could find. Carlotta is six feet tall with red hair. While I loved the detective dearly, I knew that if I were to write a mystery story my detective would be a small plain woman with dark blond hair. She would have two abilities: she could vanish into the woodwork, and people would find her easy to talk to.

smythsonianSomething else intrigued me about the Barnes stories: the sense of place. I could follow Carlotta on a map of Cambridge and Boston. I knew I would have that in my work, too. My mother worked at MIT Press and she gave me a series of their books with details of architecture in Cambridge. I spent hours looking for the perfect house for Emily and her friends. Like Carlotta, Emily had to live in Cambridge, though I had long ago moved away.

I thought the hard part of writing would be making up the characters. Actually that turned out to be the easy part. On one eight hour train trip from Boston to Wilmington, Delaware, I came up with a whole household of characters. Emily lived in a boarding house that I moved from Fayette Street to Dana Street, because Dana Street was where the trolley fair changed from five cents to seven cents. I filled the house with the appropriate things for the era, especially a square piano that belonged to…well, never mind.

I had no plot, no idea where I was going, only a house full of people that Emily met at the beginning of the book. I thought if I put the characters together they would write the story for me. They didn’t. I actually had to work hard at the plot. A member of my critique group constantly cries, “You need to put some story into this story.”

It was a long time before I realized that you can’t start a novel by introducing someone to a house full of strangers. Another critique partner pointed out that I had way too much “furniture” and that I should get on with the story. To this day I am far more intrigued by the furniture than the story. Three cheers for critique groups.

washingtonEmily became the hero of short stories when I reread the first novel and realized it was a series of stories rather than a single linear narrative. When I started writing about Emily she was 40 and had retired from the detective agency that she and her husband Charles ran. I thought the short stories I wrote were merely to fill in her history. I discovered that we were both better suited to short stories than novels. I now have maybe 100 short stories in various degrees of doneness.

I am not sure where any of my characters come from. I don’t know how much Emily is like me, but I know she is a lot like the person I wish I were. I discovered by accident that one of her jobs is to solve problems for me so I toss her into a situation to see what she does. Only after KB yes1I have finished the story do I realize that Emily was working through something that had been bothering not her, but me. I am more likely to model my behavior after hers than the other way around.

If I had her courage I would have been published much earlier.

Edith: Remember, one commenter today will receive a signed copy of the Casebook of Emily Lawrence!

Readers: Have you read other episodic novels? What’s your favorite historical fiction era? Stop by and ask KB a question!

KB Inglee’s short stories and episodic novel, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence, are set in America from the early colonial period to the end of the 19th century. She works as an interpreter at a water powered gristmill in Delaware and has cared for a flock of heritage sheep.