Murder in an English Village-Cover Reveal

Jessie: enjoying the salty breezes on the coast of Maine

MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGEAs seems to be my habit, I am working away on a September 1 deadline. This year it’s for the second book in my new Beryl and Edwina mystery series. I am having a great deal of fun spending time with the two protagonists in this book. Every day when I sit down to my desk I am eager to get to work. It feels a bit like sitting alone in a restaurant eavesdropping on the fascinating conversation between the people at the next table.

The funny thing is, I’m not even sure where these two came from. They simply popped into my head and set up shop. They arrived full-blown with physical attributes, quirks in their personalities and partial back stories. I just love it when that happens.

The village where the series takes place evolved quickly too. Years of reading mystery set in England and a self-indulgent attitude towards Netflix binge watching have given me a good sense of which buildings ought to be there. The greengrocer, the church hall and the stationer come sweetshop are all present and correct. So are the winding lanes, rolling hills, and cottage gardens.

I have always loved mysteries set in England. It is such a delight to be writing one of my own.  I’m thrilled to be sharing the cover with all of you today.

Readers,  do you love books set in any particular foreign locations? Writers, is there a place you have always wanted to set a book?

What’s Your Super Power?

girl-standing-1789334_1280Jessie: In New Hampshire, watching my first daffodils opening on the south side of the house.

Since I live in a household filled with men I’ve had more than my fair share of contact with the realm of superheroes. Capt. America is a favorite in my household along with Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman.

When my sons were younger the merits of different super powers were frequently debated. The boys wanted super speed or super strength or laser beams they could shoot from their eyes. My vote often went to invisibility or the ability to teleport. I’m not really sure I’d like to know the future, and I’m quite certain I don’t want to hear other people’s thoughts.

The reality is while I don’t have super speed, I do have some super powers of my own. They may not be glamorous and Hollywood has yet to feature them in a big budget film, but they’re mine all the same. I have a knack for finding bargains almost everywhere I look. I can take a heaping mound of containers filled with leftovers and make all of them fit in the refrigerator. I can peek into a pantry that appears almost empty and turn out a dinner for at least six, with dessert, probably with home-baked bread. I can also spot crumbs on the kitchen counter that are apparently invisible to every other member of my family.

As a writer I’ve often wished I had another set of super powers. Superfast typing speed, fully plotted outlines springing immediately to the page just because I wished it to be so, manuscripts turned in with zero errors every time. In my line of work it would be very helpful to be a super grammarian, and unwaveringly accurate speller, or someone whose wrists never suffered with carpal tunnel. I would even settle for the ability to produce paper and pen from thin air whenever an idea threatened to flit away. Probably the best ability of all would be the ability to infinitely stretch time before deadlines.

So until I end up in some sort of lab experiment gone wrong, the recipient of an unusual spider bite, or radioactive exposure, I heroically content myself with dreaming up super levels of sleuthing ability for my characters.

Readers, do you have a real life super power? Writers, have you ever given a superpower to one of your characters?

Guest- Linda Reilly and a Giveaway!

FryingShame cover artJessie: I met Linda Reilly some years ago at the Malice Domestic conference. She was preparing for the release of her first mystery and was full of infectious enthusiasm for writing and for the sometimes surprising world of publishing. It is with great pleasure that I welcome her to visit with the Wickeds today!

A big thank you to Jessie Crockett and the fabulous Wickeds—Liz, Barb, Edith, Julie, and Sherry— for inviting me here today!

Funny thing is, I’m still not sure how I got here. Like most writers, I loved making up stories as a kid. If I wasn’t putting them down on paper, I was dreaming them up in my head. I was in sixth grade when my teacher gave us a list of vocabulary words and told the class to use all of them in a story. Back then, cowboy shows ruled prime time, so I used the words in a cowboy story and turned it in. The teacher waited until the end of the school year to read each story aloud to the class—talk about dragging out the suspense! I was elated when my name was announced as the winner.

It wasn’t long after that when a neighbor introduced me to Agatha Christie. Her name was Helen, and she lived a few doors away from ours. I don’t remember why I stopped in to visit her that hot summer day (probably to get out of the heat), but there was Helen sitting on her screened-in porch, reading from a paperback mystery. She told me how she loved Agatha Christie, and then lent me a few of her books. At the time, I was still devouring all the Nancy Drews I could get my hands on. But after that day something changed. Agatha Christie became my new heroine, and I couldn’t read her books fast enough. How did she write such intriguing mysteries? Where did she get her ideas? How did she know so much about poisons and other deadly devices?

I’ve since decided that the universe was already working its magic that day, setting things in place, preparing me to write mysteries. And yet, decades would elapse before I got serious about it. In 1994, I began writing short mysteries and submitting them to Woman’s World. Several were rejected. Then one day a different-looking envelope came in the mail. It wasn’t the self-addressed envelope I’d been sending with my submissions. It was an envelope (gulp!) from Woman’s World, with my first acceptance for publication.

So that’s how it started, and how I ended up here. In between, I toyed with writing psychological suspense. Then in 2008 I read an unforgettable cozy, triggering the memory of those charming Christie mysteries. I knew that’s what I wanted to write. I can’t help wondering if things might have been different if Helen had never introduced me to Agatha Christie on that lazy summer day. Would I have discovered her books on my own? Would I be a cozy writer today? Only the universe knows.

Writing the Deep Fried mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime has been an absolute blast. And I have to confess: A FRYING SHAME, which is being released today, is my favorite of the three. Once again, restaurateur Talia Marby is up to her eyeballs in sizzling hot oil—not to mention murder. And if she doesn’t figure out who killed the winner of the Steeltop Foods contest, the wrong chef is going to be sent off to prison, wearing that dreadful shade of orange.

I’m thrilled to reveal that I have a new series debuting late this year. In December, Kensington’s Lyrical Press will be releasing ESCAPE CLAWS, my first Cat Lady mystery, in e-format with a print-on-demand option.

Readers, I have to ask you: Have you ever experienced a moment in your life that you believe changed your path forever? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts! I’m pleased to give away a signed copy of A FRYING SHAME to one commenter.

Linda author photo 1Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examinations, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, Linda lives in southern New Hampshire, where she loves solving mysteries of the cozy type. When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, she can usually be found prowling the shelves of a local bookstore or library hunting for a new adventure. Visit Linda online at www.lindasreilly.com or at http://www.facebook.com/Lindasreillyauthor

 

 

Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery 2017

Edith here. Last week we hosted the Agatha nominees for Best Short Story and Best First Novel. Today we’re lucky enough to have the nominees for Best Historical Mystery! Jessica Estevao (otherwise known as Jessie Crockett) and I, also nominees, are delighted to welcome D.E.Ireland (also known as Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta), Catriona McPherson, and Victoria Thompson to the Wicked Cozys. Here are (imagine me wearing my Oscar Ceremony gown here) the nominated books, in author-alphabetical order:

  • Jessica Estevao: Whispers Beyond the Veil
  • D.E. Ireland: Get Me to the Grave on Time
  • Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth
  • Catriona McPherson: The Reek of Red Herrings
  • Victoria Thompson: Murder in Morningside Heights

First, Jessica asks: In which time period do you set your books and how did you come to choose that era?

WhispersbeyondtheveilJessica:A few years ago my family purchased a vacation home in Old Orchard Beach Maine. By the end of our first summer there I knew I wanted to start a mystery series set in that town. The biggest question was when it should take place. After all, in a town as steeped in fascinating history as Old Orchard, a writer is spoilt for choice!  are So, I decided to begin at what was the beginning of the town’s real fame, 1898 when the original pier was built.  Between the cultural shifts, the technological developments and the architecture it proved to be a fertile time period to explore!

DE: Our Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins series features the main characters from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, and begins mere weeks after the action of the play concludes. We couldn’t have chosen a better historical setting than 1913 London. Although the Edwardian era technically ended when King Edward VI died in 1910, the four years between his death and the outbreak of war is a fascinating mélange of old world traditions coming up against an upheaval in politics, culture and technology. In other words, a perfect time in history for an iconoclastic phonetics teacher to partner with a former Cockney flower girl turned lady. But a lady who demands to be regarded as an equal.

Of course, Eliza Doolittle may have learned to speak and act like a lady in the earlier Victorian era, but her prospects for respectable employment would have been limited. But 1913 is a perfect time for Eliza to become a teacher like Higgins, allowing her to help others to better themselves as she has done. While Shaw made Higgins something of a careless misogynist, we’ve let readers occasionally glimpse a warmer side to the arrogant professor – all thanks to a newly independent, modern Eliza. We are also far less inclined to rush Eliza into marriage with her ardent suitor Freddy, as Shaw intended. Instead, we decided our characters need to take full advantage of these tumultuous and exciting years before the war. It is a new, uncertain century, one suited for a pair as rebellious and resourceful as Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.

Edith: My choice of era came about accidentally. I had moved to Amesbury , Massaschusetts in 2012, having bought a modest home built for the textile mill workers in 1880, but I had been in the area and a member of Amesbury Friends Meeting (Quaker) since 1989. In April of 2013 I read a local newspaper article about the Great Fire of 1888, which burned down many of the factories which made Amesbury’s world-famous carriages. A few days later I was walking to worship on Sunday morning, as Friends have over the centuries in Amesbury, and a story popped into my head about a 17-year-old Quaker mill girl who solved the mystery of the arson. (Historically it wasn’t arson, but hey, I write fiction.) After the short story was published in a juried anthology, the characters and setting refused to go away, so I invented the mill girl’s aunt Rose, an independent midwife.

As it turns out , 1888 is a really interesting time to write about! So much is in flux – electricity and telephones are starting to come in but aren’t widespread, midwives still predominate but physicians are starting to edge into the birthing world, and even women’s clothing is changing with the new emphasis on bicycling and physical fitness, leading to looser garments and fewer corsets.

Catriona: I don’t really set mine in a real historical era. Dandy Gilver lives in a corner of our culture that’s half the 1920s (eek – except I’m up to 1934 now!) and half the Golden Age of British detective fiction, where gently-born amateur sleuths solved murders. It’s never happened in real life, but in between the wars in the UK it seems normal.

MorningsideVictoria: The Gaslight Mysteries are set in turn-of-the-century New York City.  The series starts in 1896 and the most recent, MURDER IN MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, is set in 1899. Oddly enough, the original concept was generated by Berkley.  They did that a lot in the early days at Berkley Prime Crime.  My agent called me one day to tell me she’d just had lunch with a Prime Crime editor who was looking for someone to write a series set in turn-of-the-century New York  City where the heroine was a midwife.  My agent thought of me, since I’d recently written a book set in that time period and I had been putting mystery subplots in my historical romances for a while.  They sent me their ideas for the series.  I liked some of them and threw out a few others.  Then I realized that my midwife, Sarah, would need a male cohort, preferably someone who would logically be solving murder mysteries, so I created Police Detective Frank Malloy. Berkley had suggested that Sarah be a poor relation of a rich family, but I made her the rebellious daughter of a rich family, which would give her entré into all levels of society.

My new series, The Counterfeit Lady Series which launches in November, starts in 1917.  I purposely chose this era because so much was happening in the world at that time.  Women were demonstrating for the right to vote, which finally came in 1920.  The US had just entered World War I.  The flu epidemic that killed millions is looming on the horizon.  Most importantly, for both my series, the issues people were concerned about then are the same issues we are concerned about today, which makes these books a lot of fun to write.

Great answers! Now, how about this one from me (Edith):

What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done as research for your series? How about the hardest or most risky?

Jessica: This past summer I spent several days in Lily Dale, NY which is the world’s largest Spiritualist enclave. It dates to the Victorian era and was a delightful place to work and to conduct research. I atttended open air platform readings by a wide variety of mediums. I attended talks, visited the library and booked a private consultation with a medium. All in all it was a fascinating trip and it taught me a lot about what it would be like to live and work in the fictional world I have created for my characters to inhabit.

FinalGetMeToGraveFullCoverDE: Although learning about the Edwardian era is always fun, neither of us have done anything hard or risky regarding research for this particular series. However research was responsible for the plot of the first book in our series, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, where a Hungarian linguist blackmails his students. In the process of researching Pygmalion, we discovered Shaw later wrote updated versions of the play, including screenplays and revisions to the 1912 text. One of the revised versions of Pygmalion contains a scene between Higgins and this Hungarian language expert, who boasts that he makes all his students pay, “and not just for lessons.” Voila! Researching Shaw’s revisions gave us our first murderer, with a motive already provided.

A similar serendipitous moment occurred in our second book, Move Your Blooming Corpse. Because the novel opens at Royal Ascot in 1913, we knew the real life Harold Hewitt would run onto the racetrack and be trampled by horses – in a copycat of Emily Davison at the Derby. While creating a colorful cast of suspects who would attend this deadly Ascot race, we learned Harold Hewitt survived being trampled and was sent to a mental hospital. Soon after, Hewitt escaped and was never captured. This true event allowed us to make Hewitt one of our murder suspects. We’ve never been happier to discover how correct Mark Twain was when he wrote, “truth is stranger than fiction.” All it took was a little research to prove it.

Edith: The most fun has to be riding in a real carriage (buggy, actually) drawn by a real horse on real outdoor trails. I wore my long linen skirt and hung on tight. The side of the carriage are low, there are no seat belts, and it’s bumpy! I fully understood what women as old as me and with knees as creaky as mine went through to relieve themselves in the middle of the night back then.

Called to JusticeIn one of my past lives as a childbirth educator and doula, I did attend a number of births, first as an observer and then as a support person (but not a midwife – I never wanted the responsibility a midwife carries). I know firsthand the risks of any birth, as well as the normal, healthy process that it is in the absence of risk factors. It wasn’t dangerous to me personally to be part of the miracle of these births, but I was present at more than one where things went seriously wrong due to no fault of the caregivers or the birthing mother. Those experiences have enriched my fictional descriptions of childbirth, both easy and otherwise.

 

Catriona: I’ve never put myself in danger. But fun, now? The way I do research it’s a 7b98a5ff-fdcb-478d-b41c-62517b4f7e22stretch to call it working. I go to castles, palaces, manor houses and various other stately piles in Scotland and I ask awkward questions until one of the docents demands to know why. Then I reveal that I’m writing a book (and produce an earlier one to prove it). And without fail, at that point they fetch an enormous bunch of keys and take me to my favourite place – “round the back”, aka the attics and dungeons where the public don’t get to go.  Bliss for a nosey parker!

 

Victoria: Funny you should ask. I did one thing, completely inadvertently, that really helped with my Gaslight research into what a midwife does.  I arrived at my daughter’s house for the birth of grandchild #3 to discover that, after two C-sections, she intended to have a natural home birth with a midwife and a doula. My duties included a trip to the hardware store for an adapter so we could fill the inflatable tub for a water birth (which didn’t happen) and keeping the two older boys, ages 6 and not-quite 2, occupied during her labor.

We were all present when Keira Jane made her dramatic entrance into the world and when she didn’t realize she was supposed to start breathing right away. A little oxygen and an unnecessary visit from the fire department paramedics set her on the right path, though, and I got way more information than I needed about how a midwife works.  I even got to see a placenta up close and personal (while the midwife explained its function to my oldest grandson and the younger paramedic) and watch as my oldest grandson cut the cord. Was it fun?  Oh, yes, when it was all over.  Was it hard?  Let’s just say explaining the situation to the 911 operator while my newborn granddaughter turned blue was pretty difficult.  Was it risky? Not for me, since I didn’t actually have heart failure and it all turned out fine. Keira is now 7 and just as feisty as you’d expect. I’ll never forget the 911 operator asking me if she was breathing, and when I looked over the midwife’s shoulder to see, Keira was staring up at me, all pink, as if to say, “What’s all the fuss about?”

Thanks, ladies. See you all in Bethesda at the end of April! Below, left to right: Catriona McPherson, Victoria Thompson, Sharon Pisacreta, Meg Mims. You can find Jessica and Edith in the Wicked Cozy banner.

Readers: What era do you like your fiction set in? What risks would you take – or not take – in the name of research?

Self-induced Stress

Jessie: In New Hampshire, looking out over  the snowdrifts.

upset-534103_640

As much as I might hate to admit such a thing, the truth is, I’m a binge watcher. I love Netflix, Hulu, and Acorn TV.  When I find a program that I love it is hard to stop watching after just one episode. The interest builds, the connection to the characters deepens, and conflict ratchets up.

That’s where the problem comes in. I get stressed out. Really stressed out. So stressed out I have to stop watching. Invariably, three episodes or maybe four, into a series something happens that makes me hit pause. It might make me hit stop. It sends me scrambling for something on the lighter end of the tension spectrum.

It might be trouble in a family. It could be a legal difficulty. It might just be that zombies are getting too close. Whatever it is, I find myself watching a few scenes through half-closed eyes or from behind my hands.  Sometimes, if I’m watching the show with someone else, I will find an excuse to leave the room. I hover outside the doorway listening, rather than watching, as if that will make it all easier to endure somehow.

Sometimes it  is just that I’ve had a hard day and don’t have room for anymore difficulties. Often if that is the case I’m eager to continue the show the next time the desire for programming strikes me. Other times the stressors are ones that always bothered me and I either end up watching the shows in five or ten minute bites. Or I stop watching a series entirely.

The thing is, I almost never have that happen with well written books. When difficult things happen I trust the author to make the emotional roller coaster worth the ride. Even when loves remain lost, diseases turn out to be terminal and dreams turn to dust,  books seem to have conclusions that make me glad I persisted.

I might draw in a quick breath or avert my eyes momentarily from the page but generally, I continue to the end without requiring an emotional health break. When I get to the end I feel enriched rather than drained.  Perhaps that’s why my dream job is working with the publishing houses rather than the movie houses!

Readers, do you find television programming stressful? Do you stop watching mid-program? Do you have a different experience with books? 

 

Wicked Congratulations to Barb, Jessie, and Edith!

Malice Domestic is a conference that celebrates the traditional novel. The Agatha nominations were announced this week, and Barbara Ross, Jessica Estevao, and Edith Maxwell were on the list! The awards will be given out April 29. We’ll all be there, dancing in the aisles.

wicked-agatha-4-nominations-1

Recapping 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

You know, dear readers, we Wickeds haven’t been blogging together all that long. Four years this May, is that right? And though Jessie, Barb and Edith (aka Tace Baker) had published books prior to the Wickeds forming, this blog coincided with the launching of several series. 2016 was a bumper crop for all of us, and 2017 promises to top this year. So we thought today we’d celebrate this past year, and give you some books to look forward to in 2017.

WhispersBeyond_FixJessica Estevao/Jessie Crockett/Jessica Ellicott

2016:
Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao, Book 1 Change of Fortune Mysteries, September, 2016

2017:
Body of Water by Jessie Crockett, Book 2 The Granite State Mysteries, Spring 2017
Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao, Book 2 Change of Fortune Mysteries, September, 2017
Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott, Book 1 The Beryl and Edwina Mysteries, November, 2017

ALL MURDERS FINAL mech.inddSherry Harris

2016:
All Murders Final, Kensington
“The Lighthouse” in Edgar Allan Cozy
“Anna, Belle, and Lee” in Edgar Allan Cozy

2017:
A Good Day To Buy, April

ClockandDaggerJ.A. Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes

2016:
Clock and Dagger by Julianne Holmes

2017:
Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes, August
J.A. Hennrikus will have news soon!

Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day

2016:
Delivering the Truth – April (Quaker Midwife Mystery #1)
Grilled for Murder (as Maddie Day) (Country Store Mystery #2)
Murder Most Fowl – May (Local Foods Mystery #4)
“An Intolerable Intrusion” in Edgar Allan Cozy – January
“The Mayor and the Midwife” in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 – September

2017:
When the Grits Hit the Fan (as Maddie Day) March (Country Store Mystery #3)
Called to Justice – April (Quaker Midwife Mystery #2)
“The Tragic Death of Mrs. Edna Fogg” in Malic Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical – April
Mulch Ado About Murder – May (Local Foods Mystery #5)

MurdermostfinickyLiz Mugavero/Cate Conte

2016:
Murder Most Finicky (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery Book 4), January

2017:

Custom Baked Murder, (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery Book 5), December/Jan.
Pawsitively Organic Mystery Book 6, December 2017
Cate Conte’s first, Cat About Town, Aug. 1, 2017

catbouttown

Barbara Ross

2016:
Fogged Inn
, Maine Clambake Mystery #4, February
Eggnog Murder (with Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis), October

2017:

Iced Under, Maine Clambake Mystery #5, January
Stowed Away, Maine Clambake #6, late 2017

Sheila Connolly

2016:
A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mystery #5), February 2016
Dead End Street (Museum Mystery #7), June 2016
Seeds of Deception (Orchard Mystery #10), October 2016
Search for the Dead (Relatively Dead Mystery #5), October 2016

2017:
Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #6), March 2017
A Late Frost (Orchard Mystery #11), October 2017

Susannah Hardy/Sadie Hartwell

A Killer Kebab Cover2016:
Edgar Allan Cozy (Susannah, Barb, Edith, Sherry, Sheila)
A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy

2017:
A Knit Before Dying by Sadie Hartwell, August

Edgar

Readers: What’s on your docket for this year’s reading? And were you able to keep up with all our 2016 publications? (Don’t worry, it’s not quiz!)