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.

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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).

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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?

Wicked Wednesday: Reading Goals for 2017

(Julie here) Personally, I’ve decided that I need to read more for pleasure in 2017. I’m working on a reading list now. Any suggestions Wickeds? Any specific goals for the year?

Edith: Since I’m heading into knee-replacement recuperation at the start of February, I’mshorttime
looking forward to doing some series binge reading in between PT and naps. I want to read the Cara Black mysteries set in Paris. Alyssa Maxwell’s new historicals. All of Kathy Lynn Emerson’s (and her alter ego Caitlin Dunnett) that I’ve missed. Plus new books by friends like Susan Bickford, Bruce Coffin, Deb Crombie, and Brenda Buchanan,and the new Jungle Red blogger Ingrid Thoft. So many books, so little time!

Liz: I’ve got so many books on my TBR list I don’t even know where to start. And I’ve been remiss in my reading over the past few months, so I feel really behind! I’m looking forward to reading William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series, and catching up on my Lee Child and Longmire books. Also want to read Wally Lamb’s new one, I’ll Take You There. And, as many of you know, I’m a self-help junkie – so in that vein, I’m reading all of Gabrielle Bernstein‘s books to try and sharpen my meditation skills. That should keep me busy for a bit!

gardenoflamentationsBarb: Like Julie, I have a goal this year to do a lot more pleasure reading. That means less time allowing myself to be distracted by the various screens in my life. I’ll keep up with my favorite series: Deb Crombie, Louise Penny, Paul Doiron, Craig Johnson and William Kent Krueger. I also want to finally get to read some of the non-mysteries everyone is talking about. The Light Between the Oceans and The Nightingale are two. (I know, I know.)

Jessie: I have quite a bit of non-fiction reading planned. My Beryl and Edwina series is set in England in the 1920s and there are so many interesting resources written about that time! I am currently reading The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939 by Robert R. Graves and Alan Hodge. Next up are Borrowed Time: The Story of Britain Between the Wars by Roy Hattersley and Independent Women: Work and Community for SOngle Women i1850-1920  by Martha Vicinus. For some fiction I am looking forward to The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths and Thrice the Binded Cat Hath Mewed by Alan Bradley.

huntersSherry: I just started reading Ingrid Thoft’s book first book Loyalty. Her protagonist, Fina Ludlow, is a private investigator for her dysfunctional family’s law firm in Boston. Like Edith, she hit my radar when she joined Jungle Red Writers. I’m only a few chapters in, but it’s hard to put down. For Christmas my mom gave me a copy of my favorite Phyllis A. Whitney book from when I was young. I’m really looking forward to reading it and wonder if I will still love it. I should branch out more from mysteries and thrillers but I love them.

Julie: Hamilton by Ron Chernow has been put on the bedside table along side Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. I also got some non-fiction books at Bouchercon that I am looking forward . Thinking a lot about the Golden Age of mysteries, wondering if we’re in another one.

Readers: What’s on your reading list this year?

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Guest- Kathy Lynn Emerson

Murder in the Merchant's HallJessie: In New Hampshire where the Thanksgiving leftovers are now just a fond memory. Once again the Wickeds are delighted to welcome multi-published, and versatile Maine author, Kathy Lynn Emerson. Kathy has a rare ability to bring settings and characters to life whether they are modern residents of rural Maine or historical figures of England. Thanks for visiting with us  today!

For Wicked Cozies, the story of a wicked woman.

I admit it. I have a soft spot for the Elizabethan underworld. Of course, the Elizabethans didn’t call it that, but they certainly had one—vagabonds, beggars, thieves, prostitutes, players and spies. Since what the distaff side was up to has always been my focus when studying history, I tend to pay particular attention to anything written about women who ran afoul of the law. It was far too easy for a woman to end up in gaol. Often this was through no fault of her own, but there are also some spectacular examples of women who turned sin into profit and avoided, for the most part, the perils of arrest and punishment.

One of the most infamous went by the name Black Luce of Clerkenwell. Since she was in her heyday during the period when my Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries take place, I couldn’t resist making her a featured player in the second in the series, Murder in the Merchant’s Hall. I created a character that has some basis in fact, but one that also contains a heaping helping of imagination. You see, the real Black Luce is something of a mystery woman.

By 1576, a woman called Black Luce was running a bawdy house in St. John Street, Clerkenwell. Whether she was actually a black woman, simply dark skinned, or only black-hearted, is unknown, but her nickname led Leslie Hotson, in Mr. W.H.(1964), to suggest she might be the dark lady who inspired Shakespeare to write his sonnets. He also identified her as having once been a gentlewoman (Lucy Morgan) at the court of Queen Elizabeth. For decades, no one did any further investigation. Then Gustav Ungerer, in his “Prostitution in Late Elizabethan England: The Case of Mary Newborough,” and Duncan Salkeld in Shakespeare among the Courtesans discovered that Black Luce was married to a man named Baynham and, while they don’t completely discount her connection to the players, they do disprove Hotson’s claim that she was Lucy Morgan.

There was a real Lucy Morgan, a gentlewoman at the court of Queen Elizabeth from 1579 to 1582. She may have married a man named Parker and been the Lucy Parker who, at Yuletide 1588/9, gave the queen a box of cherries as a New Year’s gift. And this same Lucy Morgan does appear to have fallen on hard times and turned to a life of sin. The records of Bridewell for May 3, 1598, include charges brought against her for living at the house of Edward Tilsley at Pichet Hatch at the upper end of Aldersgate, where she was visited by Tilsley once a fortnight and also visited by friends of his. Tilsley gave her three shillings a week for her maintenance and paid the rent on the house. There is no record that she was imprisoned for immoral behavior, perhaps because the testimony also revealed that Sir Matthew Morgan gave her an allowance of ten pounds when he was in England and had sent her five pounds at Christmas. Sir Matthew was undoubtedly a relative, although the connection is unclear.

Luce Baynham, however, as Black Luce, was far more notorious. She shows up frequently in court records. Shortly before January 2, 1576/7, for example, her house was raided at midnight and the occupants forced to flee to another establishment in Westminster, where a Mrs. Stallis operated as a bawd. Luce occasionally entered into a partnership with Gilbert and Margaret East, who ran a brothel in Turnmill Street. By 1595, Luce was well-established as an underworld figure. In that year, she entertained studbrothelents from Gray’s Inn with her choir of “black nuns.” She seems to have managed to avoided prosecution until January 15, 1600, when she was committed to Bridewell for being a “notorious and lewd woman.” She was released on January 31st and was soon back in business. Just after Christmas 1604, she was living in the Boar’s Head tenements on Bankside, apparently with Gilbert East, and paying an annual rent of twenty shillings.

In the seventeenth century the career of Black Luce was celebrated more than once in print. One satirical epitaph, “On Luce Morgan,” claims that she became a Roman Catholic late in life and that she died diseased.

My Black Luce is young—it is only 1583 when Murder in the Merchant’s Hall takes place. I paint Luce as a sharp businesswoman but as someone who has a sense of humor. Rosamond Jaffrey’s attempts to gain information that will prove a friend innocent of murder amuse her, but she’s also quick to step in when Rosamond herself is faced with arrest. Given the choice of helping another woman or turning her over to a corrupt officer of the law, Luce doesn’t hesitate to come to Rosamond’s aid. She may be a wicked woman, but she’s wicked clever, too.

Readers, are you fans of Wicked Women? Do you love historical mysteries? Writers, do real people inspire your own work?

How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight)(Murder in the Merchant’s Hall)Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several Kaitlyn Dunnett (298x400)names. She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2014 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries as Kathy (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall). The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and www.KaitlynDunnett.com

 

 

Guest – Kaitlyn Dunnett

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Jessie: Today we are delighted to be joined by the talented and prolific Kathy Lynn Emerson and her alter ego Kaitlynn Dunnett. Kathy knows a thing or two about writing mysteries and about New England weather. Welcome Kathy!

The Scottie Barked at Midnight is the third novel I’ve begun with an
accident on an icy or rainy Maine road in the month of March. Odd, you say? Not if you’ve ever visited Maine at that time of year. At its best, it’s mud season. At its worst, there is glare ice under the tires.

Mystery of Hilliard's Castle (283x400)

The first time was in my first published novel. Aimed at readers age eight to twelve, The Mystery of Hilliard’s Castle (1985) starts with the words “It was March and drizzling.” Everything the heroine can see is brown and dingy. There are still patches of snow in the fields and the road is slick. Then another car runs into them.

Next up came Cloud Castles (1989), my first published novel for grown ups. A romance in the Silhouette Intimate Moments imprint, it begins thus: “Rain spattered against the windshield in immense dripping blobs.” The heroine is on a desolate rural road in western Maine. A little later, when she tries to stop to avoid another vehicle, the car hydroplanes and she ends up facing back the way she came. When she passes out from a bump on the head, the other car disappears, making the story she gives the hunky deputy sheriff who rescues her seem highly suspect. Hey—it is a romance. Actually, it’s romantic suspense or, to use the old-fashioned term, “woman in jeopardy.”

After that, I stayed off slick Maine back roads, both in my writing and Scottiecoverin real life, for a good many years, but in The Scottie Barked at Midnight (2015) there was just no other place to start. Here’s how Liss MacCrimmon’s latest adventure begins:

            Liss Ruskin peered through her windshield into what could only be described as “a dark and stormy night.” She knew that phrase was a cliché but there were times when a few overused and hackneyed words did a better job of summing things up than a whole paragraph of metaphor and simile-laden description. This was one of them.

It’s not just raining, it’s sleeting. Liss is chugging along a “winding two-lane road at a snail’s pace, eyes peeled for glare ice on the pavement.” Her tires keep losing traction on the slick surface and she narrowly misses sliding sideways into a ditch. She’s relieved to make it safely down a long, steep hill, but she breathes a sigh of relief too soon.

It was at that instant that something darted out of the trees and ran right in front of Liss’s car. Despite everything she’d been taught about winter driving, Liss braked hard and turned the wheel, the desire to avoid killing a defenseless animal proving stronger than her sense of self-preservation.

            The next seconds seemed to last an eternity. One tire hit a patch of black ice. The car slued toward the side of the road. Liss felt a small bump and hoped it was only the car going over the ridge of dirty, hard-packed snow left behind by a winter’s worth of plowing. Then an enormous tree loomed up out of nowhere. Sure she was about to slam head on into its massive trunk, Liss let go of the steering wheel, squeezed her eyes tightly shut, and covered her face with her arms.

Of course, since Liss is our heroine, you know she’s going to survive. But what about the animal she swerved to avoid? As soon as she stops shaking, she gets out of the car to look for it, and that’s where the Scottie of the title comes into the story.

Some people think it’s trite to start a book with the weather. Others say it’s taboo. As Liss does, I admit it’s a bit of a cliché, but when you live in Maine, the weather is more than just something you talk about. Come visit us in March and you’ll see what I mean.

Kaitlyn Dunnett (298x400)Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2014 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries as Kathy (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall). The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and www.KaitlynDunnett.com

Best Short Agatha Nominees on Ideas

Edith, north of Boston, wondering if we’ll ever see bare ground again.

I am so delighted to be one of this years nominees for the Agatha Award for Best Short Story. My fellow nominees are an extremely august group: Kathy Lynn Emerson, who has published 54 novels and was last year’s Malice Domestic Guest of Honor. Barb Goffman, who has won the Macavity award for Best Short Story and has been nominated for an Agatha eight times. And Art Taylor, who won last year’s Agatha for Best Short Story, and who is nominated for two stories this year. Wow! What an honor to be part of this group.

Since Barb Ross was nominated for Best Short Story last year, I asked her to come up with some interview questions for the four of us. Take it away, Barb!

Barb R: How do ideas for short stories come to you? Is it a character, a setting, opening lines and a voice? Is it the same every time or different? And when you have these ideas, how do you know which ones are worth pursuing? How did you get the idea for your nominated short story?

Art: Ideas for stories come from a variety of places for me: an overheard bit of "Art Taylor"conversation, a dream (or more likely a nightmare), musings about “what if?” in the middle of everyday activities, something I’ve read that prompted my own imagination in fresh directions, or even simple writing prompts and challenges. Just the other day, a student in my creative writing class at George Mason University was trying to talk about the witness protection program but talked about “victim replacement” instead—and I immediately called “dibs” on the idea! We’ll see where that one goes.

EQMMNov14“Premonition,” my Halloween story from Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, was sparked by a dream that kicks off the story—and then I wanted to pursue a little style experiment with the second-person narration, which drove the story the rest of the way. For “The Odds Are Against Us” from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, I had an idea about friendship and duty and the two coming into conflict with one another, motivated in part by a David Goodis story I taught at few years back, “Professional Man,” though mine’s not nearly as noir, of course.

For the project I’m working on right now—a novella—everything centers around a postcard that I found in an used book many years ago and have been hanging on to ever since, just waiting for a plot to spill out of it. (I finally think I’ve found one, but really, I never know which ideas will ultimately come together and which won’t until the story is done.)

Kathy: Almost all my short story ideas have started out as titles. They pop into my head, usually without any story attached. Some, like “Lady Appleton and the Creature of the kathywithbooks2 (298x400)Night” clearly call for me to use one of my series characters. That one, typically, came without any other details. If a title sticks with me long enough, I write in on the tab of a fresh Manila folder so I have a place to put random ideas, usually written on scraps of paper. Some folders go years without any attention, but they’re there, waiting, when I have time and inclination to think about writing something shorter than a novel.

Toward the end of last year, I worked on four of these. Two of them have been submitted. The other two need more work. One may actually end up being the proposal for a new contemporary cozy series. The other is “Creature” and I think all it needs is a better ending. I just haven’t thought of one yet.

As for “The Blessing Witch”—yes, title first again, only it started out as a title for a novel.
RogueWaveFrontCoverMy agent had asked me if I’d ever thought about writing an Elizabethan thriller, possibly with witches. Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches had just come out to rave reviews. I gave it a try but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted instead to go back to my Face Down series and spin off Lady Appleton’s foster daughter, Rosamond, in her own series. I’ve since done that. As of this week, Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe is available in both hardcover and ebook formats.

But to get back to the question, in the course of working on the witch/thriller idea, I put potential characters together and let them interact with each other. The result was Old Mother Malyn, the blessing witch of the title, and her granddaughter and apprentice, Joan, who was originally intended to be the protagonist in the thriller and is now the point of view character for both “The Blessing Witch” and the “Cunning Woman” and considerably more cozy. I currently have a folder labeled “The Finder of Lost Things” that in time may turn into a third short story featuring these characters. At the moment it is empty.

Barb G: My story ideas come in all different ways. Sometimes whileCleaned-up version cropped reading a news article, an idea will spark. Other times, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, with a voice in my head, saying a sentence or two. I jump up and write that down. Ultimately, however, I need to also hear a voice for the main character. Without the voice, the idea goes nowhere. You can have an interesting conflict, but without the right main character/voice to react to it, causing the plot to unfold, the story will not work (at least for me). That’s how I know which stories to pursue–the ones with the exciting voice.

For my nominated story this year, “The Shadow Knows,” I started with a conflict in mind: A man who lives in a cold climate that always has a lHomicidal Holidays coverong winter truly believes his town’s groundhog is to blame, so he decides to get rid of that groundhog. I wanted to make the story funny. But it wasn’t until I started hearing my main character, Gus, grumbling about the cold and about Groundhog Day to his two best pals that the caper began to unfold in my mind. Considering this terrible and long winter we’re having, Gus might have had the right idea indeed.

Edith: I’m like everyone else. Sometimes a line or a character just Edith Maxwellpops up and won’t go away, and I think it’s different every time. Sometimes I see a person or situation on the street that demands a story. Right now, the line “Who wouldn’t fall in love with Adam?” is insisting I write a story about a cute thirty-something who wears vests and a pony tail. I’m trying not to give in because I have too much else to do. But don’t be surprised if…

My first crime story ever published, “Obake for Lance” (in Riptide, Level Best Books) sprang out of a true story I heard when I lived in Japan for a couple of years. The next tale of murderous revenge, “Reduction in Force” (Thin Ice, Level Best Books) I wrote after I lost my hi-tech job in a RIF: reduction in force. That was quite satisfying, as was my nominated KRLMagstory, “Just Desserts for Johnny” (Kings River Life Magazine). When I was trying to sell my first novel-length mystery, Speaking of Murder, I had a near miss with what turned out to be a fraudulent small press. The editor said his name was Giovanni Gelati. Really? So I could hardly not write a story of murderous revenge on a literary thief named Johnny Sorbetto, right? Voila, “Just Desserts for Johnny” was born.

Thanks so much to Art, Kathy, and Barb G for stopping in today, and we’ll see you in Bethesda. And great questions, Barb R!

Readers: Other questions for the nominees? Do you read short stories? If you’ve written them, what’s your process?

News for the History Books

Edith here, soaring with delight despite snow piles higher than my head, which are still rising as you read this.

First: Congratulations to Patricia Stoltey for winning a book from Catriona McPherson!

I have casually, some might say coyly, here and there mentioned my historical mystery series, the Carriagetown Mysteries. Well, today I am really exceedingly pleased to announce that I have signed a three-book contract with Terri Bischoff, Aquisitions Editor at Midnight Ink! (And yes, this does make three multi-book contracts. Gulp.)

I’m so pleased that my book-length stories of 1888 Amesbury, my fair city, are going to hit the hands of readers beginning a little over a year from now. To celebrate (besides the bubbly), I’ll give away an ARC of a totally unrelated mystery to one commenter today.

In the first Carriagetown mystery, Breaking the Silence, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll hears secrets and Buggykeeps con­fi­dences as she attends births of the rich and poor alike. When the town’s world-famed car­riage indus­try goes up in flames (a true event in April, 1888), and a fac­tory owner’s adult son is stabbed to death with Rose’s own knitting needle, she is drawn into solv­ing the mys­tery of who set the fire and who killed the son. Things get dicey after the same owner’s mis­tress is also mur­dered, leav­ing her newborn infant with­out a mother. While strug­gling with being less than the per­fect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and prob­lem solver to bring two mur­der­ers to justice.

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That little brass plaque reads, “Whittier’s Seat.” Picture by Kathleen Wooten.

Rose’s elder and mentor is the actual Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who lived in Amesbury and attended Amesbury Friends Meeting (the same Meetinghouse where I walk to and sit in expectant waiting on Sunday mornings). It’s been wonderful to research Whittier and bring him back to life, right down to the twinkle in his eye, his love for children, and his cane that was made from the Philadelphia building burned down by anti-abolitionists while he was in there working on his pro-abolition newspaper. His home, two blocks away from my own home, is now a living museum of which I am a member.

Rose lives with her dead sister’s brother and his five children in the very house I live in, DSC_8500which was built in 1880 for the mill workers, so some of my research for the book is very easy and personal. I walk around town and visualize how it was without electric wires overhead or electric lights within. I imagine the many still-standing buildings housing the businesses of that era, and visualize structures no longer standing, like the Opera House.

The late 1800s were a time of great change. Some towns and businesses might have had electricity and indoor plumbing, but not families of modest means like Rose’s. Germ theory was just being widely practiced. Midwives were beginning to be supplanted by doctors. The hospital across the river, where Rose’s romantic interest is a doctor, was only eight years old. You could buy ready-made shoes and clothes, and even a version of infant formula. At the same time, only twenty-two years had passed since the Civil War. Black people struggled. Women couldn’t vote or even run for office higher than the school committee. Police refused to get involved in domestic violence situations. It’s an exciting time in which to place a series.

Rose is an independent businesswomanTwo-women-on-safety-bicycles-2-ha-pennies who buys one of the new “safety” bicycles with wheels of equal sizes, and her good friend is postmistress Bertie Winslow, who rides a horse named Grover, after the President, and lives in a Boston marriage. But Rose is also a member of the Society of Friends, wearing plain dress and addressing people with thee and thy. She sometimes butts head with Irish police detective Kevin Donovan, and at other times is able to work with him to ferret out crime in the town.

I have two short stories out that pilot the setting and characters of the series: “A Fire in CarriaFireinCarriagetownCovergetown” (originally published as “Breaking the Silence” in Stone Cold: Best New England Crime Stories 2014 from Level Best Books), and “A Questionable Death” in the History and Mystery, Oh My! anthology from Mystery and Horror, LLC. But you’ll have to wait until March 2016 for the first book.

I’m so grateful to Terri and the Midnight Ink crew for taking me on. I’m grateful for readers who like historical mysteries. I’m hugely grateful to my local community, including the Amesbury Carriage Museum, the Whittier Home Association, and Amesbury Friends Meeting, who are all, as you can imagine, eagerly awaiting the first book. I’m terribly grateful to Ramona DeFelice Long, who greatly improved the manuscript for me with her editorial comments, and to Kathy Lynn Emerson, a successful historical mystery author, who shared her own historical research bibiolography and then offered a very positive pre-contracted endorsement of Breaking the Silence. Historical mystery author KB Inglee gave me some great tips on how life sounded and what things were called. And I’m always grateful for the Wickeds, and for all our wonderful blog followers. Thank you! Stay tuned for more about this series.

Now: Questions? I’m happy to talk about research, ideas, problems. Any of it! Ask away. I’ll give an ARC of Farmed and Dangerous to one commenter. And please raise a glass of the celebratory beverage of your choice with me sometime today.

Everything Has Something Good in It

by Barb on yet another lovely New England fall day

I just bought this collage created by my fellow Level Best co-editor, Kat Fast.

Artist: Kat fast Watercolor with glaze

Artist: Kat Fast
Watercolor with glaze

I blogged about Kat (or Kathy as I call her, or Katherine as she appears on the covers of the Level Best anthologies) just the other day, when we wrote about the people in our lifeboats.

I first saw the collage at a one woman show Kat had at the Weston Council on Aging, a group she’s been very involved with as a teacher and a volunteer. I was immediately taken with the picture aesthetically and emotionally. I loved its density, composition and vibrant colors. I loved how it contained the promise of spring and summer. And, it doesn’t hurt that I also believe in my core that anything with hydrangeas in it can’t be all bad.

But when Kat explained how the piece was made, I resonated with it intellectually as well. It came out of a class with one of her teacher/mentors who believed, “Everything has something good in it.” A painting that is a failure will always contain at least one successful element. One flower, or one tiny corner, or even just a streak of the perfect color green.

So she had them cut up some of those failed pieces and arrange the successful elements in a new composition.

The result, I think, is spectacular.

What an important lesson that is for all of us who create.

Just two days ago on the blog, Kathy Lynn Emerson explained how surrendered after 100 pages of a failed Elizabethan thriller, but then was able to carve two short stories out of it.

The ideas and images that speak to us are the ideas and images that speak to us, and sooner or later, if we keep at it, we will find a way to express them.

dead calm coverThe reason I call Kat “Kathy” is because we actually met, I hate to even think, it must be close to thirty years ago when we both worked at a company called Information Mapping. I left in the mid-90s and we lost touch, as people did in those pre-Facebook days. Then, one day, I was walking down the street in Harvard Square and there she was. “What are you up to these days?” she asked. “Oh,” I said, “I’m in this writers group. I’m writing a mystery.” “Really?” Kathy said. Because it turned out she was, too. She joined our group, and the rest is history. One of those serendipitous moments that changes several people’s lives.

At the opening of her show, Kathy spoke wonderfully, tying up into a tidy package a life she’s quick to agree has many disparate elements. She recognized each of her art teachers and told the central truth she had learned from each one, which I found very moving.

She also managed to tie in her editorship at Level Best via her story, “The Black Dog,” in Best New England Crime Stories 2012: Dead Calm, about an amateur artist, “not paying full fare at the movies” herself, who is initially rejected, then embraced by three elderly professionals in an advanced watercolor class. “The Old Cats” as they dub themselves, worry about housing and healthcare and the hundreds of paintings their children will eventually need to dispose of–until they come up with a plan that solves all those problems in one go and only depends on a little bit of fraud.

So here’s to the crafty old cats, and the mentors, and the little bit of good in all of our failures.