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?

 

 

Guess Which Wicked

Hello friends!

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

WCA GUESSING GAME

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

Favorite Things

bird-107802_1920

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the ground is covered with snow and the birds flit merrily round the feeders throughout the day.

I am an inveterate list maker. I have lists of knitting projects, recipes to try, movies to watch, tasks to finish. I have a Ravelry account for my knitting, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video queues and a recipe box on Epicurious. Amazon’s Echo helps me to wrangle my grocery lists.  I pin all sorts of visual lists to my Pinterest boards.

But although I am always up for digital lists of all sorts I find myself scribbling lists on sticky notes and in whichever notebook I have to hand. Writing lists by hand allows me to indulge in my passion for fountain pens as well as for notebooks and papers and I always enjoy encountering lists I had made in the past. They serve as a diary of sorts, a kind of snapshot of a moment in time and often remind me of things I had forgotten.

Just this week I was planning a gathering for friends and needed to sort out a menu so naturally I reached for a pen and paper to start a list of menu ideas. I grabbed a notebook I keep in my nightstand drawer, a little A5 number with a cheerful Hello Kitty cover that my husband brought back for me from China a couple of years ago. As I thumbed through looking for a fresh page my glance fell on another sort of list entirely and one I cannot for the life of me remember writing, or even my reason for doing so.

It seems to be a list of favorite things. Just reading it over made me smile so I thought I would share it with you. Here are a few of the items listed:

  • Bento boxes
  • Fair Isle Socks
  • Vintage convertibles
  • Cardinals
  • Silk scarves
  • High ceilings and long windows
  • Fountain pens
  • Champagne
  • Brick sidewalks
  • Cashmere
  • The Atlantic
  • Fireplaces
  • Extravagant hats
  • Window boxes
  • Sparkling glassware
  • Louis Armstrong music
  • Plump goldfish

So what I am wondering dear readers is what would be on your list of favorite things? Do we have any shared loves? Writers, do you scribble down lists here, there and everywhere too? Does any of it ever make it into your writing?

Guest Victoria Thompson and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the leaves have mostly rattled off the trees and the winter birds have returned to the feeders.

Today it is my  very great pleasure to welcome Victoria Thompson to the blog! I met Victoria several years ago at Malice Domestic. She is as charming and personable in life as she is in her writing.

 Victoria Thompson is the author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series. Her new book, City of Lies, is the first in her new Counterfeit Lady Series, which releases on November 7. To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed hardcover copy to one commenter here today (US entries only).

ThompsonVictoria-CityofliesLooking for Inspiration…

I’m very excited that City of Lies will finally be released into the wild! I’d been wanting to write a second historical mystery series for a long time, and I’d been doing a lot of research on the early twentieth century, hoping for inspiration. During that process, I learned a lot about the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and I realized that when my own mother was born, women didn’t have the right to vote in America! It was that recent! I also learned that many women endured beatings and imprisonment to earn females the right to vote. I’d never heard about this in history class, and no other women I spoke with had either. I wanted to tell this story, but how could I make it more interesting than a dry history lesson? That’s when I decided to add a less than honest heroine, a dashing hero, and a dastardly villain.

Every woman wears a mask…

Every woman has, at one time or another, hidden who she really is in order to get along or get ahead. Elizabeth Miles has made a career of it, however. As a con artist, her job is cheating rich and greedy men, but when she cheats the wrong man, she ends up running for her life.

Elizabeth finds temporary safety by getting herself arrested with the Suffragists who have been demonstrating outside the White House for months. This gets her away from Thornton for the moment, but she and the other women are sentenced to three months of hard labor at a workhouse were they are starved and abused. Much to her own surprise, Elizabeth bonds with these women and learns to respect them while they are imprisoned, and she emerges a new person.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire…

Elizabeth may feel like a new person, but Oscar Thornton still wants to kill her. How can she escape him and still keep her secrets? Because her new friends would lose all respect for her if they knew who she really was, and the man she has come to love can’t even bring himself to tell a lie. How can she trick them into helping her pull off a con that will save her life without losing everything she has learned to value?

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Elizabeth’s experiences in City of Lies are based on real historical events that happened in November of 1917, exactly 100 years to the month when the book is being published! In 1917, society was changing, and women were fighting to be taken seriously, to be valued, and to have a seat at the table. A hundred years later, women are still fighting for the very same things. Elizabeth lived in exciting times and so do we. I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures, which are not so very different from our own.

 

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Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Victoria Thompson photoSeries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder in the Bowery, was a May 2017 release. City of Lies is the first book in her new Counterfeit Lady series, a November 2017 release from Berkley. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.