A Very Very Very Fine House — Welcome Guest Kaitlyn Dunnett

Kimberley is the winner of Crime and Punctuation. Watch for an email from Kaitlyn.

We are delighted to celebrate Crime & Punctuation by prolific writer Kaitlyn Dunnett. It’s the first in a new series from Kensington. Kathy is giving away a copy (US only) to someone who leaves a comment!

Here’s a bit about the book: After splurging to buy her childhood home in the Catskills, recently widowed Mikki Lincoln emerges from retirement as a freelance editor. With her ability to spot details that others fail to see, it’s not long before Mikki earns clients—and realizes that the village of Lenape Hollow isn’t the thriving tourist destination it was decades ago. Not with a murderer on the loose . . . When perky novice writer Tiffany Scott knocks at her door holding a towering manuscript, Mikki expects another debut novel plagued by typos and sloppy prose. Instead, she finds a murder mystery ripped from the headlines of Lenape Hollow’s not-too-distant past. The opening scene is a graphic page-turner, but it sends a real chill down Mikki’s spine after the young author turns up dead just like the victim in her story . . .

Mikki refuses to believe that Tiffany’s death was accidental, and suspicions of foul play solidify as she uncovers a strange inconsistency in the manuscript and a possible motive in the notes. Then there’s Tiffany’s grandmother and husband, who aren’t exactly on friendly terms over the local area’s planned rejuvenation efforts . . . Unable to convince police that they are focused on the wrong suspect, Mikki must rely on her keen eyes to catch the truth hidden in Lenape Hollow. As she gets closer to cracking the case, only one person takes Mikki’s investigation seriously—the cunning killer who will do anything to make this chapter of her life come to a very abrupt ending . . .

My thanks to Sherry Harris and the other Wicked Cozy Authors for inviting me to blog here about my new “Deadly Edits” series. Crime & Punctuation, featuring amateur detective Mikki Lincoln, a retired-schoolteacher-turned-book-doctor, is in stores now in hardcover and ebook formats, with large print and audiobooks to come.

My grandparents’ farm

The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m sentimental about houses, especially those I lived in during significant periods of my life. When it comes time to create a home for one of my fictional characters, I almost always end up drawing a floor plan that bears a striking resemblance to someplace I knew well in real life. Years ago, when I wrote romance, I made use of my parents’ modular home in Florida and my grandparents’ farm in rural New York State, as well as houses I’d lived in myself. In the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries, Liss and Dan’s house in Moosetookalook, Maine is loosely patterned on my other grandfather’s house.

My other grandparents’ house

My house 1960s

In the “Deadly Edits” series, Mikki Lincoln returns to her old home town after fifty years away and buys the house she grew up in. It not only looks just like the house I grew up in, it is located in the same place relative to other buildings in the village. I’d claim that it’s exactly like that house, except that I have no idea what changes various owners have made in the real place during the last fifty years. The house that Mikki moves into is what I imagine my house might be like today.

There are many advantages to using a familiar place as a setting. In this case, the most important one is that I can give Mikki the benefit of my memories. She knows what the house looked like back in the 1950s and 1960s and all the family stories that go with it. My father tore down the old barn in the back yard and used the wood to build a garage at the side of the house. So did Mikki’s. Mikki’s room as a teen was the one I had—right down to its own little balcony and a big, walk-in closet.

My house today

The reason Mikki sets up as a freelance editor has to do with the need to make repairs on the house. Her retirement income will only stretch so far! But since she has to have carpenters, plumbers, and electricians in the house anyway, and since she’s now going to sleep in the master bedroom, she opts to expand her former bedroom, making it into the office of her (and my) dreams.

I wish I had interior photos of the upstairs of my childhood home, but I do have have plenty of pictures of the living and dining room, thanks to holidays and birthdays. There are exterior photos, too, of both the front and the back of the house. What doesn’t really show are how close the neighbors are on both sides, something Mikki has forgotten during her time away and has to get used to again. Her memories of, shall we say “observing” her neighbors when she was young, weren’t hard to imagine. All I had to do was tap into my own memories.

As soon as she returns to Lenape Hollow, New York to live, Mikki reunites with a high school friend, Darlene, which meant I needed to design a house for her, too. I based it on my friend Leslie’s house, a place I visited so often that I knew it almost as well as I knew my own house. The school on Main Street is one I attended. The church is the church I went to. But I did run into one problem. I’d already transported my home town’s municipal building, containing the town office, the fire department, and the library, to Moosetookalook, Maine to use in the Liss MacCrimmon books. Fortunately, fifty years along, my old home town has both a new library and a new police station. So does Lenape Hollow.

I wouldn’t want you to think I’m not using my imagination to write this new series. There’s plenty that’s pure fiction, starting with the characters. And I think I can guarantee that there will never be any real murders quite like the ones Mikki comes in contact with in Crime & Punctuation and next year’s sequel, Clause & Effect. A setting comes to life when it’s based on a real place. Basing characters on real people or plots on real crimes? Nope. In those areas, it’s much better to make stuff up.

Readers: Do you have a favorite house you’ve lived in? Or one that means a lot to you?

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of more than fifty-five traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation—2018) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women

Memories of Malice 2018

Five of the Wickeds and two of our accomplices attended the 30th Malice Domestic conference last weekend. Malice celebrates the traditional mystery, and we celebrate alongside hundreds of mystery fans and authors (although we sorely missed Liz and Jane joining us). Here are some of our highlights.

Sheila:  Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethyn. Need I say more? Delightful and talented women who were gracious to the adoring throngs of fans. I asked and was told that “pet” is a term that applies to both men and women and is regularly used by Geordies (those who live in Northumberland, I understand).

Apart from the miles of walking from one end of the convention hotel to the other, everything went smoothly, and I saw many happy faces, and talked to more people than I can count.

Edith: So many highlights!  The core Wickeds started off with dinner together, minus Liz, alas.

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Jessie and I found our Agatha-nominated books on the special table in the bookstore!

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The Sisters in Crime breakfast is always a wonderful gathering. Those of us present from the Sprint Club – which Ramona DeFelice Long runs every morning – got a group shot in, too.  The sprints get me writing every morning at seven and I am grateful.

SprintClub

Sprint Leader Ramona DeFelice Long at far right.

The Kensington signing and book giveaway on Saturday was very popular, with an entire box of my books going in under an hour. I had a delightful crew at my banquet table that night, including the Wickeds’ agent, John Talbot, and a bunch of avid fans, plus Map Your Mystery blogger Christine Gentes (standing at far left).

Mybanquettable

Sunday was topped off by a fabulous interview between Catriona McPherson, Toastmaster, and Lori Rader-Day (who could do stand-up comedy if she wished), then the Agatha Tea. But I don’t want to monopolize the blog! Next?

Sherry: One of the highlights for me was introducing Dorothy Cannell and Marcia Adair at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast on Saturday morning. Every year a scholarship is given in Dorothy Cannell’s name to a member of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime so that member can attend Malice Domestic. This year the winner was Marcia. I had a great time getting to know her during the conference. And as I said in my post yesterday it’s just about getting to hang out with members of the crime fiction community be they readers or writers.

Jessie: On Thursday I started out the weekend by spending the day with most of the Sleuths in Time for a plotting and chatting session. They are a fun group of women! Friday evening I had a great time at dinner with the Wickeds own Kim Gray and a host of other friends both old and new.  On Saturday I really loved signing books for some new readers at the Kensington book giveaway! I also had a wonderful time meeting some of the lovely ladies who have already read some of my work at the table I hosted for the Agatha banquet. They were a lively and fun group!

Barb: In the photo below I’m with two members of the Maine Crime Writers, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett and Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd. Bruce Robert Coffin and Maureen Milliken were also there, though I only saw Maureen once, passing in the long hallways.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett, Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd, Barbara Ross. No, we did not coordinate our outfits!

I had loads of fun on my panel Murder at the Improv, making up a mystery on the fly from audience suggestions with Sheila Connolly, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Parnell Hall.

Murder at the Improv with Barbara Ross, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sheila Connolly and Parnell Hall.

Julie: I am still exhausted from Malice! Favorite parts? Seeing folks, even in passing.  My panel with Sherry, Shari, and Leslie that Sherry talked about yesterday.  Barb and I hosting a really fun table of folks we didn’t know at the banquet. Seeing Catriona McPherson shine as the toastmaster. Edith and Jessie’s excellent panel (with Rhys Bowen, moderated by Harriet Sackler). Breakfast with Jacki York, who we first met when we carried her on a stick a few Malices back. Seeing Annette and Ramona, the sisters de Felice. Meeting people, as always. But the best part? Laughing. What a great group of folks at Malice. SO much laughing!

Malice going friends, what was your favorite part of the weekend?

Taking a Breather

Edith here, post Christmas, in between books, still north of Boston.

In between books? Is she ever in between books, you ask?

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Preston knows how to take a breather – under the Christmas tree.

Well, yeah, sort of. On Friday I’ll start writing a new book (Local Foods #5, Mulch Ado about Murder). After I finished one round of polishing of the March 1 book on December 16 and sent it along for our very able Sherry Harris to edit, I realized I could take a little break. Shouldn’t we all take a breather now and then, especially at this time of year?

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Me and Allan

Sure, I have blog posts to do, and a couple of proposals to get ready, and a launch to gear up for. Those can wait. One of my sons has been here for more than a week, always a treat. I’ve also spent time with my young friends and with older friends, and will have a whole day with Master J (age 6) on Wednesday.

What a delight it’s been to not anchor myself to 1500 words per day, reading through a manuscript on paper for two or three days straight, or doing multiple editing passes. I really do treat this fiction-writing thing as a job, and a job means working every day but Sunday. So I guess I’m taking a staycation!

I’ve seen movies, baked, played Scrabble,  socialized, gone on a beer tour (fun!), taken

Wine glass coasters made from West African cloth

Wine glass coasters made from West African cloth

endless walks both alone and with others. And sewed. I love sewing. I learned it from my mom, and really enjoyed spending a couple of days creating these cute (and complicated) wine glass coasters for several friends as Christmas gifts.

But mostly I’ve been reading! I have SO many books I wanted to catch up on, and it’s the holidays, after all. Interp-of-murderHere’s my list since December 16 (and I still have four days left…):

  • An Interpretation of Murder by BK Stevens. The first mystery I’ve read with a sign language interpreter protagonist, and a great read.
  • To Brew or Not to Brew from Joyce Tremel – who was our guest right here recently. I loved this Brewing Trouble mystery – and boy, did I think of her on my brewery tour yesterday.
  • Guilty as Cinnamon by Leslie Budewitz (who has also guested with us), the second and very delicious Spice Shop Mystery.
  • Ho-Ho-Homicide. I’m finally getting to Kaitlyn Dunnett’s Liss MacCrimmon series and am glad I did – I really liked Liss and her adventures. Kaitlyn, aka Kathy Lynn Emerson, is another Wicked friend.
  • gerbildaughterThe Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, my author pal Holly Robinson’s memoir, to which I was very tardy getting to. I knew I would love it, and I did.
  • Princess Elizabeth’s Spy from Susan Elia MacNeal. I’m slowly getting through her Maggie Hope mysteries, which all take place in England during World War II. This is the second I’ve read and I can’t wait to finish the series to date.
  • I read an ARC of Wendy Tyson’s A Muddied Murder, which was right down my alley, since it’s a Certified Organic Greenhouse mystery. Nice job, Wendy – I’ve already sent in my endorsement.
  • Murder at Beechwood from Alyssa Maxwell, another intriguing Gilded Newport MMurderBeechwoodystery. And she has a new early-1900s series coming out, too!
  • And of course, Murder Most Finicky will be out tomorrow from Wicked Cozy Liz Mugavero, so I’ll be sure to finish that by the end of 2015, too

It’s a real breather for me to immerse myself in my author friends’ book – and yes, I know all these authors personally. I suppose I could read books by people I don’t know – but the To-Be-Read pile by people I DO know never gets down to zero!

Readers: How do you take a breather, recharge, regroup? Are reading binges part of it?