The Superpower of Fun

By Julie, in disbelief that it is going to be in the 50’s today


FunThis time of year is always a bit of a blah for me, and this year is no different. In fact, because of a bout with the flu, I’m feeling more blah than normal. And retrospective. My gratitude list, which is long, wasn’t doing the normal job of getting me out of my slump, so I decided to reboot a bit, and shift my lens.

Last week I went to a presentation on the most recent Culture Track study. Part of the presentation has been sticking with me all week. It was about the prime motivating factors for participating in culture. (The definition of culture is also shifting, which is fascinating.) These are the top five reasons their data pointed to:

5. Learning something new
4. Feeling less stressed
3. Experiencing new things
2. Interest in the content

And the number one reason people indicated motivated them to participate in something cultural?

Having fun.

Earlier this year, I went to the memorial service for a wonderful Boston actor, Tommy Derrah. One of Tommy’s mantra’s was “if it isn’t fun, don’t do it.” Tommy’s ability to find the fun in everyday is part of his legacy, and one of the reasons he will be greatly missed, but not soon forgotten. I’d already been thinking about that phrase, and what it means to me, and then I learned that fun is a prime motivator for a lot of folks.

That doesn’t mean don’t work hard. That doesn’t mean that the work has to be light-hearted all the time. I had fun going to Hamilton, hardly the happiest of stories and a musical that makes me ugly cry at the end every time I listen to it. But the experience of seeing it onstage gave me joy, a complex expression of fun.

I’ve been thinking about my own life. How do I shift from blah to fun? How do I ensure that my legacy will be “she had fun, and helped others have fun”? How do I shift to finding joy even in the tough times? How can I lighten up a bit, and enjoy the ride more?

What about my work? Certainly the cozy genre means that fun is part of the contract we make with our readers. Even when we take a darker turn, satisfaction for the reader is one of our goals. Is satisfaction another expression of fun? I think perhaps it is.

Lately I’ve been noodling a slightly darker suspense story. I’m writing down the ideas as they come to me, while I continue to work on the two novels I have plotted already. I’m wondering–will writing something new be fun? I acknowledge that the process will be challenging, but will I find it fun?

More precisely, if I don’t find it fun, why would I put myself through it?

As a middle-aged, cranky Yankee, I have undervalued fun. I see that now. My mid-February pondering leads me to the question–can I reframe, and find the fun?

I’m going to give it my best shot.

How about you, dear readers. Do you have fun? If you could do something fun right now, what would it be?



2017 Was A Wicked Good Year for the Wickeds

2017wickedreleases (1)Friends, it occurred to us that we hadn’t properly celebrated our 2017 titles. Better late than never! We’re going to list titles and the names we wrote them under here, and will also put it on our site.

How many of these books and stories did you read?


Cat About Town by Cate Conte

When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day

Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

A Good Day To Buy by Sherry Harris

A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus

Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes

Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell

Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell

Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero

Iced Under by Barbara Ross


“Murder in the Summer Kitchen” by Edith Maxwell, in Murder Among Friends: Mysteries Inspired by the Life and Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (Post Mortem Press)

“The Unfortunate Death of Mrs. Edna Fogg” by Edith Maxwell, in Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical (Wildside Press)

“An Ominous Silence” by Edith Maxwell, in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017 (Level Best Books)

“Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody” by Barbara Ross, in Noir at the Salad Bar (Level Best Books)

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.


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.

A Christmas Carol by Any Other Name

by Julie, decking the halls in Somerville

In 2010 I spent the month of December discussing versions of A Christmas Carol every day. (You can see the posts here.) As you know, my book A Christmas Peril is about a theater company deep in the weeds of a production of A Christmas Carol. One of my nieces mentioned looking forward to A Christmas Carol binge watching over Christmas break. She then asked me which version was my favorite.

I couldn’t answer her. But I can, sort of, narrow it down a bit. Here is a list of my “will watch in the next ten days” list of Christmas Carols in no particular order:

scroogeScrooge, 1970
I saw this movie on a field trip (maybe with the Girl Scouts), and the hell scene scared the heck out of me. As an adult, it is easily on my top five. It is a musical, Albert Finney is wonderful, and is fairly true to the story. It isn’t Christmas unless my family breaks into a “Thank You Very Much” chorus.

1984 Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol, 1984
George C. Scott was a sublime Scrooge. The scene where he jumps on the bed makes my heart burst. The story is dark, and sad, in many ways, and this version is that.

MuppetThe Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
This is SUCH a great version. Michael Caine is wonderful. Having Dickens tell the story is great. It stays true to the story, and keeps most of the important parts in the movie. Kermit is a perfect Bob Cratchit,  and Fozzie as Fezziwig? Could there be more perfect casting?

scroogedScrooged, 1988
All right, part of the reason I love this version is that it is such a pop culture time capsule. The TV version of A Christmas Carol they are working on is chock full of 80’s stars that have to be explained to kids, but add another layer of humor to the show. It is also very faithful to the theme of the story, though it does take liberties. Also, Bill Murray chews the scenery, and is so much fun to watch.

PS recordingPatrick Stewart’s VersionsPS filmI love Patrick Stewart, and have been fortunate enough to see him do his one man version of A Christmas Carol twice. It is because of that experience that his filmed version falls a little short for me, though it is very good. The CD of him reading the book is much closer to his stage version, and I can’t recommend it enough.

diva ccA Diva’s Christmas Carol, 2000
Do you remember the “Behind the Music” shows on VH1? In this Christmas Carol, Vanessa Williams plays Ebony Scrooge, a singer who left her girl group in the dust, and is a nightmare to work for. A ton of fun.

magooMister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962
This is not at all accurate (the ghosts are out of order), but it has a lot of charm. The songs are terrific–I’m surprised there hasn’t been a stage version of this using the songs. Or maybe there has been?

simA Christmas Carol, 1951
This Alistair Sim version is a favorite of many, so I include it on the list. I like it, but am also fond of the 1938 Reginald Owen version.

There are dozens of other versions, with Scrooge being played by Cicely Tyson, Henry Winkler, Barbie, Fred Flintsone, Mickey Mouse, and others. I discussed those, and others, on my blog 8 years ago. I’m a little surprised I don’t have a more recent version to critique. The story resonates right now in so many ways.

Friends, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

Late Fall Reading

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a mass market paperback copy of Eggnog Murder by Barbara Ross leave a comment below.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers! We hope you are spending the day exactly as you wish–with family and friends, eating a big meal and perhaps watching the games. If you are busy cooking or traveling, we hope maybe sometime over this long weekend you get a chance to curl up with a good book. Here are some suggestions.

Wickeds, what are you reading now that the days are short and the nights long?

housetreepersonEdith: I just finished our own Jessie (Jessica Ellicot)’s first Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder in an English Village. What a fun read. Now I’m reading Catriona McPherson’s latest standalone suspense novel, House. Tree. Person. Another knock-your-socks-off story from her. Next up is a belated read of Ray Daniel’s latest Tucker mystery, Hacked. The other stories in Snowbound, this year’s Level Best Books anthology (in which I also have a story). A book on Quaker history in New England. And the list goes on.

Liz: I have so many books stacked up in my TBR pile…but I’m going to dig into Fire Up Your Writing Brain by Susan Reynolds, one of my Crime Bake finds. I need to jumpstart my creativity these days!

Barb: I have Jessica Ellicott’s Murder in an English Village tucked into my bag to enjoy during my downtime over this long weekend. I can’t wait. For the novella I’m writing, I’m reading Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons at a New England Fiber Farm. You’ll have to wait to find out why.

Julie: I am in book jail this weekend (book due December 1, yikes!), but I have taken a suggestion from Susan Reynolds’s Crime Bake presentation, and am reading a book to inspire my brain–Walter Isaacson’s  Leonardo da Vinci biography.   At the rate I am going it will take me months to finish it, but there’s a long winter ahead.

Sherry: I just started reading A Christmas Peril by Julie! I read an early version long ago and love what she has done with it! Then after that I too am going to dig into Jessie’s Murder in an English Village. My neighbor just finished it and told me it’s fantastic. After that I can’t wait to read World Enough by Clea Simon. I’m in book heaven!

Jessie: I am currently reading Louisa May by Martha Saxton and also Murder and Mayhem in North London by Geoffrey Howse. Lately I have been in the mood for non-fiction but next up is Alice Hoffman’s latest, The Rules of Magic.

Readers: Tell us what you’re doing this Thanksgiving or what you’re reading this fall–or simply say hello to be entered in the contest.

Murder on the Orient Express Thoughts

by Julie, thinking about pulling out my winter hat in Boston

Friends and family have felt compelled to email and text me this past week. “Saw the movie today! Have you?”

“No,  Crime Bake weekend,” I’ve replied.

“Call me after you see it!”

Crime bake 8 selfie station

Channeling Poirot and his mustache

I am, you see, a bit of an Agatha Christie aficionado, and have strong feelings about Murder on the Orient Express. I wrote a thesis about Agatha Christie’s use of point of view, and Murder on the Orient Express was one of the novels I focused on. For writer friends, I recommend reading it to see how moves from distant third to close third throughout the novel, and uses POV to confuse the reader. She is a master at deception.

I am also a huge fan of the 1974 movie. Albert Finney was a wonderful Poirot, though over the top. That said, it really holds up and is very faithful to the novel. It also brought a resurgence in interest in Agatha Christie’s work, and since it was towards the end of her life, the timing was great in making sure she’s remembered.

David Suchet was the best Poirot ever, but I didn’t like his version of Murder on the Orient Express.  They changed some character motivations that changed some plot points and took away from the strength of the story. (Julie’s Rule of Thumb: don’t mess with Agatha Christie plots. Just don’t.) I won’t discuss it on the blog (spoilers), but am happy to have the conversation in person.

So, I still haven’t seen the new version of the movie, but I will. Will it be as good as the 1974 version? That’s a tough bar. But it has a wonderful cast, most of whom I would watch in anything. I love that Agatha Christie may be finding a new audience, ensuring that her popularity will continue for another generation. One of my nieces is a recent convert, which thrills me beyond measure.

For me, as a writer thinking about a career, the fact that Agatha Christie’s 1934 (!) novel is being made into a movie forty one years after her death blows my mind. Christie is sometimes dismissed as a writer, but never by me. I aspire to write one Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, or And Then There Were None in my career, never mind all three of those plus sixty-three other novels, a dozen or so plays and dozens of short stories.  It has been said that she created characters with broad strokes, but I think that is part of what makes her relevant. Every generation can add their “take” on the characters, and on the story. (Just don’t touch the plot.)

As a writer, do I aspire to be of my moment, or timeless? Did she think about that?

I do wonder if this movie will bring forth a new phase of Agatha Christie films.  The Man in the Brown Suit gets my vote for consideration. Which books would you like to see adapted?

As part of our month long celebration of our readers, I will pick one winner randomly to get a signed copy of any of my Clock Shop mystery series.

The Food Conundrum

Finished Product (1)

The recipe I came up with for Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–shrubs!

When you write cozies, there is always the food issue. That is, do you include recipes or not?

Now, for some folks, that answer is an easy one. They’re centered around food, so of course! There’s even a great blog called Mystery Lovers Kitchen that is about mysteries and food. It features a huge array of cozy authors. They let me do a guest post in August. I made shrubs, which are discussed in Chime and Punishment. Part of the challenge is taking pictures of the process that look somewhat appetizing.

I like mysteries with food. In fact, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series is a go to for cookie recipes for me. There’s even a cookbook, which I own and have given as gifts.  Her Highlander Cookie Bar recipe is one of my go-tos when I need to impress. (Shortbread on the bottom, brownies on top. Oh. My.)

Several of the Wickeds have series that include recipes. In my Clock Shop series, there was a natural fit if I featured recipes from the Sleeping Latte. But, then I learned some of the “rules”. The recipe needs to be original. And, since I know I try them on occasion, they need to taste good. I bake, and cook, but I couldn’t take the pressure.

For my Theater Cop series, a food tie in doesn’t really work as well. Though, I did mention cinnamon and sugar french fries with a cream cheese frosting dip that I thought sounded pretty interesting in book 2, which will be out next September. I totally made them up, so the recipe isn’t in the book.

I am writing a new series (stay tuned), and I’m not sure if I’m going to have recipes. But I do find myself mentioning food a lot, just in case. I plan to have the nieces help me develop a couple to see if I can pull it off. We’ll see how it goes.

Today, my question for you dear readers, do you like cozies with recipes? Do you try them? Trust them? Should I try and pull this off? Let me know in the comments!