Beach Bound

Jessie: In Maine preparing for another trip!

puerto-rico-3400019_1920By the time this post goes live I will be well on my way to the beach. Not the sugar fine sand of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, my usual summer haunt but rather the balmy waters of San Juan, Puerto Rico. My beloved husband has a business trip to the island and kindly invited me to join him.

It is a bit of a last minute trip and I had to scramble a bit more than usual to prepare. I decided to channel one of the sleuths from my lastest series and throw myself into the adventure with Beryl Helliwell’s spirit of unrelenting spontinaity. I picked up a new sundress and a lightweight white shirt to be better prepared for a far more tropical climate than is found on the coast of Maine, even at the height of summer.

This morning I stocked the fridge for our house-sitters and briefed them on the proper care of my garden and window boxes. I ran a quick load of laundry and made a quick packing list. I filled my favorite fountain pen with ink and tucked it, along with my current notebook and my iPad into a safe spot in my travel bag.

What I haven’t done is look for things to do other than strolling the beach or exploring the streets of Old San Juan. As much as I am someone who loves to travel, I admit, Puerto Rico had not been on my radar and I feel slightly ill-prepared. Usually some weeks before a trip to a new destination I will start following businesses, tourist organizations, places of interest and locals on Instagram. I download apps for my phone of local points of interest, metro maps, public transportation etc… Since I almost always travel with only a small backpack I ruthlessly plan what to pack well ahead of time.

So, dear readers, I turn to you. Have any of you been to San Juan? To other points of interest in Puerto Rico? Do you have any suggestions about places or experiences not to be missed? Any restaurants to die for? Any museums or cultural activities to be sure to see/ participate in? Any and all recommendations would be appreciated!

Readers, have you been to Puerto Rico? D you like to go off on last minute trips or are you more of a planner? I will send one commenter an ARC of my next Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Flies the Coop!

 

Lucky

BREAKING NEWS: CONGRATULATIONS HOLDENJ

You are the winner of the Advanced Reading Copy of Murder Flies the Coop!

Please contact Jessie at jessie@jessiecrockett.com to provide your mailing address!

Jessie: In New Hampshire, until school finally gets out for the year!

lotto-484801_1920I spent several days last week with friends and over dinner one evening the conversation turned to the topic of luck. My friends each mentioned that they usually play the lottery when the prize grew to mind-boggling levels. They were incredulous when I said that I never  buy a ticket myself. They wanted to know why it was that I never took a chance and invested a mere dollar for a shot at the enormous prize.

I replied that wasn’t the way luck seems to show up in my life. While I think of myself as a very lucky person raffles, lotteries and prizes awarded for being the correct caller to a radio show are not where my good fortune ever seems to appear. The conversation moved on but I continued to mull the notion of luck over again and again.

I realized with suprise that I believe my luck might be finite and that I daren’t squander it on things I’ve never shown an aptitude for in the past. Bargains are my strength. Perhaps it is genetic or maybe it is the result of being raised in a part of the world that values thrift. Whatever the reason, I have been blessed with the knack of finding just what I want at a price I am delighted to pay.

Startlingly good deals on everything from cashmere sweaters, to knitting needles to real estate appear in my orbit in a pleasing and predictable way. I realised I am almost afraid to ask for more by stopping in at the local convenience store for a lottery ticket. Somewhere in the back of my mind lurks the shadowy belief that the universe will withold its generosity if I exhibit such greed.

I’ve also been incredibly fortunate in my family, my friends, my colleagues and my readers. I feel luckier than I can say to have so much love and support and fun in my life and can’t imagine risking such blessings.

Perhaps it is silly to believe in luck at all. Surely it is superstitious to think that I am an important enough entitiy to be under such cosmic scrutiny. Still, I find I am happy to pass up the purchase of a scratch ticket if it means I can keep receiving all the bounty I have thus far. My life is more than lucky enough already!

Readers, do you believe in luck? If so, in which ways are you lucky? One lucky Murder Flies The Coopcommenter will receive an advanced reading copy of my upcoming Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Flies the Coop!

Jessie loves to connect with readers through her newsletter. Sign up for news, appearances, giveaways and the stories behind the stories right here!

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?

Get to Do

Jessie: In NH where it is finally warm enough to wear dresses.office-3154815_1920

I am on deadline. June 1 to be exact. I love deadlines and I hate them. The constant pressure of the clock ticking away in my ear, the calendar pages that seem to whip by in a whirl feel oppressive half the time. The other half of the time it feels like the universe has taken me firmly in hand and demanded I behave like a professional adult.

I have always been at my writerly best when under time pressure. As a high school student I would often write papers due in the afternoon during the lunch period. It clarified and focused my thoughts and I think I enjoyed the frenzied pace such a strategy demanded.

Now although my writing projects are far more complex and cannot be left to the day before I still find I thrive on writing at a rapid clip. I love to set audacious writing goals and to challenge myself to reach them each day. I love dashing each morning into the story and galloping furiously along until I’ve met my projected word count, especially if I am worried that I can’t do it.

But despite the pleasure I take from working that way there are some unexpected consequences. My usually tidy office is heaped and piled with delayed decisions and unfinished tasks. Emails go unanswered. I switch off my phone. The interior of my fridge is a sad, echoing sort of place. I don’t always make it out of my pajamas before noon. Which brings me to the final pleasure of writing with single-minded focus: the get to do list. 

Every time a deadline is drawing near I start keeping a list of all the things I am itching to do just as soon as it passes. The fact that I cannot seem to get to some things makes them seem all the more interesting. The trip to the grocer, steaming the wrinkles out of the new duvet, updating my website. All these things and more take on the air of forbidden fruit. Not only do I get to write the way I prefer but I end up looking forward to those tasks I would consider mundane under most circumstances and would likely put off doing them. It is all a little crazy. It is a little slice of heaven.

Readers and writers, do you love or hate deadlines? Do you keep get to do lists?

 

 

Agatha Historical Nominees and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where we still are waiting for that last bit of snow to melt on the north side of the house.

It is my very great pleasure today to welcome the nominees for the 2017 Agatha Historical Award! Each of my fellow nominees were gracious enough to answer the following question:

What first attracted you to the historical era in which you set you books and what draws you back to it time and time again? 

P1120916Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series: the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in early 1900s New York City and the lighter Royal Spyness novels featuring a minor royal in 1930s London. She has now also published two stand-alone novels. The first of these, In Farleigh Field was #1 on Kindle for six weeks, won the Lefty award for best historical and is currently nominated for the Edgar and Agatha awards.

Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona (and Europe whenever she can escape)

Rhys: In Farleigh Field was something I’d wanted to write for a long time. It was a bigIn Farleigh Field risk for me: a stand-alone novel when I have built up a great fan base for my series. Would they follow me to a new time and place? To a book that is more thriller than cozy mystery?

I’ve always been fascinated with WWII. It was the last time we had a clear sense of good versus evil and everyone knew he had to do his part to stop evil before it swallowed up the world. It was a time of hardship and misery and bombings but also a time of heightened emotions, camaraderie and a joy in being alive.

I suppose I am attracted to the period partly because I was born toward the end of it and so my early memories were of my father coming home, rationing that continued until 1953, stories of hardship and bombing, and the black market. What I had not heard as a child were stories of traitors. I was horrified, when I read a biography of the former King Edward VIII (the Prince of Wales who married Mrs. Simpson) that suggested he was whisked to the Bahamas because of his pro-Hitler sentiments and that the Germans wanted to invade and put him on the throne. Further investigation revealed that there was a group of aristocrats who were pro-German and wanted to aid the invasion, believing, mistakenly of course, that Hitler would treat Britain kindly and that this would stop the destructive bombing of Britain’s monuments. This was a story I had to write.

I also loved the freedom of multiple stories, multiple points of view. We see the war and the unfolding mystery through the eyes of Lady Pamela, daughter of an Earl, now working secretly at Bletchley Park, her sister Margo, now taken by the Gestapo in Paris, her youngest sister Phoebe, a precocious 12 year old, and Ben, the vicar’s son, now also working secretly for MI5. And through each of them we put together pieces of the puzzle while we watch their interpersonal relationships develop.

crop_4182Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Rosemarie and Vince share a love of movies, cocktails, and the New York Mets. Together, they’ve introduced movies at the famous Noir City Film Festival and on Turner Classic Movies. Separately, they’ve appeared on game shows. While they grew up mere subway stops apart in Queens, they didn’t meet until fate threw them together at a South Florida advertising agency. Their most successful collaboration to date, Design for Dying was published one month before their silver wedding anniversary. And some said it wouldn’t last.

Renee: What attracted us to the era is the same thing that attracted us to each other,Dangerous to Know cover proof February 2017 namely our love of classic Hollywood movies. We both grew up watching black and white films on television, and that interest has only intensified over the years. We’re both still suckers for the 1930s Hollywood version of sophistication exemplified by the Thin Man movies and Astaire & Rogers musicals—the champagne cocktails, the sparkling repartee. Knowing that Hollywood was serving up these dreams as the world was struggling through the Great Depression only makes us admire the movies more. The 1930s is also when Edith Head, one half of our detective duo along with failed actress Lillian Frost, was coming into her own as both a costume designer and an executive. What keeps drawing us back? Those movies! That will always be our answer to everything.

MacNeal author photo 17

Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of The New York Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today-bestselling Maggie Hope mystery series, starting with the Edgar Award-nominated and Barry Award-winning Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, which is now in its 22nd printing. She is currently at work on The Prisoner in the Castle, the eighth novel in the series.

Her books include Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante, The Queen’s Accomplice, and The Paris Spy. The Maggie Hope novels have been nominated for the Edgar, the Macavity, the ITW Thriller, the Barry, the Dilys, the Sue Federer Historical Fiction, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Fiction awards. The Maggie Hope series is sold worldwide in English and has been translated into Czech, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Turkish. It is also available in large print and audio. Actress Daisy Ridley (Star Wars, Murder on the Orient Express) has bought the film and television rights to the series. 

Susan graduated from Nardin Academy in Buffalo New York, and also cum laude and with honors in English from Wellesley College. She cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Her first job was as the assistant to novelist John Irving in Vermont. She then worked as an editorial assistant at Random House, assistant editor at Viking Penguin, and associate editor and staff writer at Dance Magazine in New York City. As a freelance writer, she wrote two non-fiction books and for the publications of New York City Ballet.

Susan is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer, and director, and their son in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Susan:  I was in London with my husband (who was promoting his show with the Jim7bb682bc269e83b0572bd585ae20c124 Henson Muppets) and we met up with a friend in a pub. Our friend handed me a copy of Time Out London and when I flipped to a page with an ad for the Churchill War Rooms, he said, “Maybe you should go — despite what you Yanks may think, World War II didn’t start with Pearl Harbor.” So I took it as a personal challenge and went.

It was an absolutely life-altering experience.

Of course, I never dreamed that I would be so captivated by going there, and that the visit would be a catalyst for writing a novel! Or a series! THE PARIS SPY comes out in Trade paperback tomorrow and Maggie Hope, #8, THE PRISONER IN THE CASTLE is to be published on August 7.

 

MaxwellCropEdith Maxwell Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Maxwell’s second Quaker Midwife mystery, is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries.  

Maxwell is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, KillerCharacters.com, and Under the Cover of Midnight . Read about all her personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com.

Edith: I stumbled onto the late 1880s from a newspaper article about Amesbury, Called to JusticeMassachusetts’ Great Fire of 1888, and I wrote a short story about a Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the arson (which wasn’t the cause, historically). The characters and setting – 130 years ago right here in my town – didn’t want to go away, so I wrote Delivering the Truth, got a three-book contract (already renewed for at least two more), and here we are!

It turns out the late 1880s is a fascinating period to write in. So much was on the cusp of change. The horse-drawn trolley didn’t become electrified until 1890 but parts of the town had electric street lights. The germ theory of infection was known but not blood typing, and most births still happened at home. Fingerprint analysis wasn’t yet developed. Some fancy houses had indoor plumbing but not the modest ones. Amesbury’s factories sold well-engineered graceful carriages internationally and the town was thriving. Screen doors were new. Corsets were loosening and hems were starting to creep upward.

I love having Rose experiences these changes, navigate them, and comment on them, and I hope you do, too.  See you all in North Bethesda!

SONY DSCJessica Ellicott loves fountain pens, Minin Coopers and throwing parties. She lives in northern New England where she obsessively knits wool socks and enthusiastically speaks Portuguese with a shocking disregard for the rules of grammar. 

As Jessie Crockett she’s the author of the nationally bestselling Sugar Grove Mysteries and the Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Live Free or Die.  She also is the author of the books in the Change of Fortune Mystery series under the name Jessica Estevao.

Jessica: I think it was a combination of influences that led me to write about the 1920s.MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE As a child I loved reading books by Agatha Christie and that lead me to seek out books written by her contemporary mystery writers. I particularly loved those written by Ngaio Marsh. At about the same time I fell in love with the work of P.G. Wodehouse. I just couldn’t get enough of his charming, uproarious world. Somehow along the way the two sorts of books set in the same approximate time period wound together in my mind.

And as much as I love writing about the era because of the hats, the automobiles and the music, it is the way the world was changing for women and for each socioeconomic class that keeps bringing me back. The more I research about the people who experienced the aftermath of WWI and the march towards WWII the more  I want to explore, to mull over and to create.

Readers, do you have a favorite historical era? The nominees will each give away a copy of their latest book to one commenter!

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?

Bridging a Knowledge Gap

News Flash: Ginny JC is the winner of Nancy Herriman’s book! Please check your inbox.

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the snow is finally getting to me. 

playing-cards-1252374_1920I love writing historical mysteries and I think some of that love might be because I have always loved reading books written during the golden age of mysteries. With their sprawling English manors, tidy cottage gardens and house parties in the country, their charms never seem to fade for me.

I envsion the afternoon teas, croquet on the lawn, flamboyant hats and the sound of motorcar tires crunching on the gravel drives all in vivid detail. I smell the scent of roses wafting through the French doors on a warm afternoon. I feel a silk scarf flutter out behind me as I steer down a country lane in an antique automobile. These sorts of book have always transported me to places and times with ease except for one thing. Bridge.

I can see a table with four players seated round it. I can see cards on the table. And that is where things get fuzzy. I know score is kept and I believe it is written on paper but I am not sure if any old pad will do or if there are special bridge score sheets. I am fairly certain it is played in pairs and that the teammates sit opposite each other.

I’ve read enough Agatha Chrisite mysteries and E.F. Benson novels to know that someone plays “dummy” and that the game is somehow divided into rubbers. I realise betting on games makes things more exciting and that there are tricks and there are trumps. Beyond that, I am at a loss.

I feel like this is a gap in my knowledge and I am wondering if I need to correct it. I must confess, I am not an eager gamer in any way. I don’t generally play board games or card games or even sports. I feel a bit daunted about trying to learn the game from lessons on Youtube or the internet but I don’t know that I know anyone who plays.

Despite my lack of experience with Bridge my latestest characters, Beryl and Edwina have expressed an enthusiasm for it. They play for low stakes and without a cut throat attitude but they seem determined to do so in each book. I am not sure how it keeps happening but they insist on inviting friends and acquaintances over for an evening of bridge and cocktails. They have gotten me in over my head.

So readers, I am wondering if any of you play Bridge and if so, would you be willing to give me a few pointers about what I need to include in my books in order to write convincingly without needing to spend countless hours online? Beryl and Edwina would be very grateful!