Guest: Krista Davis

Edith here, honored to host Krista Davis as our guest today. She may not be wicked, Color Me Murder hi resbut she definitely writes cozy! She has a fabulous new series coming out – featuring adult coloring books – and is joining us at Kensington Publishing. She’ll give away a copy of Color Me Murder to one commenter here today.

Here’s a blurb:

Includes A Front and Back Cover for You to Color!
By day, Florrie Fox manages Color Me Read bookstore in Georgetown, Washington D.C. By night, she creates her own intricately detailed coloring books for adults, filling the pages with objects that catch her eye. There’s plenty of inspiration in her new apartment—a beautiful carriage house belonging to Professor John Maxwell, Florrie’s boss. He offers the property to Florrie rent-free with one condition—she must move in immediately to prevent his covetous sister and nephew from trying to claim it.
When the professor’s nephew, Delbert, arrives, he proves just as sketchy as Florrie feared. But the following morning, Delbert has vanished. It’s not until she visits the third floor of the store that Florrie makes a tragic discovery—there’s a trap door in the landing, and a dead Delbert inside. The esteemed Professor Maxwell is an obvious suspect, but Florrie is certain this case isn’t so black and white. Doodling clues, she begins to consider other colorful characters on the scene, all with a motive for murder. With a killer drawing closer, Florrie will need to think outside the lines . . . before death makes his mark again.

Krista: I confess that I am not an artist. I realized this in grade school. While other kids were thrilled with art class, I knew it wasn’t for me. Even at that age, some of them had amazing abilities while I was still drawing crooked houses.

Oddly enough, I do like crafts. I crocheted what is very likely the biggest bedspread in the world. Alas, it is so big and heavy that no one wants it. Not even me! My mother was an extraordinary knitter. You know the gorgeous fluffy angora sweaters that are sold by high end shops? Yup. That’s the sort of thing my mother knitted.

Why am I telling you this? Because I blame my lack of artistic ability on my genes. There’s not a single member of my immediate family who can draw. Some of you probably think I’m joking. I am completely serious when I say that we can barely draw stick figures for Pictionary. It’s not my fault! I am genetically incapable of drawing anything that doesn’t look like a second grader drew it.

And yet, I took on a mystery series about a coloring book artist. A woman who can doodle recognizable things! A woman who draws intricate images!

You can imagine my angst about this. I was a little wary when I started the Domestic Diva Mysteries. After all, I’m no Martha. But I’m okay with cooking and baking. And some of my friends seem to think I have abilities they don’t possess. I’m also a crystal and china piggy. Pretty dishes go a long way in making people think you’ve cooked something great.

The Paws & Claws Mysteries came naturally to me. I’m surrounded by dogs and cats. I dote on them and observe their antics. I read recently that dogs and cats should be perfect in books. Hah! They aren’t perfect in real life. Not any more than we are. At the moment, I’m dealing with the remnants of Baron’s up close and personal encounter with a skunk. That will surely make it into a book.

Colored pencilsBut art? Could I pull it off? Was it too far outside of my comfort zone? I did some research on the mind of the artist. After all, they must see things differently than I do, right? Unfortunately, that was a bomb.

I do love color. The brighter the better. I’m always impressed when designers on Project Runway mix patterns (I wouldn’t dare!) and they go together so beautifully. Even I know there are different shades of black. And who among us hasn’t  bought a navy blue skirt only to find that it didn’t match anything else in our closets that was navy blue? Even I can appreciate those nuances.

So in the end, I took a deep breath and jumped into Florrie’s character. So I didn’t have her artistic skill. I could imagine how wonderful it would be to doodle and sketch images. If I had that talent, I would draw all the time.

Adult coloring books have come a long way. They are gorgeous and intricate. It takes a real artist to be able to sketch those images. Even if I can’t draw worth a hoot, I can appreciate the unbelievable talent of those who can. I’m living vicariously through Florrie, and loving every minute of it.

Readers: How about you? Have you written about something that is way out of your comfort zone? Remember, I’m giving away a copy of the new book to one lucky commenter!

Krista Davis writes three mystery series. Color Me Murder will be the first book in the Krista_Buttercup1 smallPen & Ink mystery series. Krista’s longest running series is the Domestic Diva Mysteries. After a one year hiatus, the eleventh book, The Diva Cooks Up a Storm, will be out in May. If dogs and cats are your thing, you might enjoy Krista’s Paws & Claws Mysteries featuring Trixie the Jack Russell with a nose for trouble (or more precisely—dead people) and Twinkletoes, the long-haired calico cat.

Welcome Guest V. M. Burns

Allison Herndon  is the winner of The Plot is Murder! Send your email to

Thank you to the Wicked Cozy Authors and Sherry Harris for inviting me to guest blog today. I’m pleased to give away a copy of my debut novel, THE PLOT IS MURDER to one person who leaves a comment (U.S. ONLY).

Here’s a little bit about the book: Samantha Washington has dreamed of owning her own mystery bookstore for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the store’s grand opening, she’s also realizing another dream—penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and fills the shelves with the latest mysteries, quick-witted Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling’s charms. When one of Daphne’s suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.

But as Samantha indulges her imagination, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in her backyard, and the police suspect her—after all, the owner of a mystery bookstore might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an enthusiastic ensemble of colorful retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind for her?

As an avid cozy mystery reader, I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about mysteries and cozy mysteries in particular. Now that I’m also a cozy mystery author as well as a reader, I feel an even closer bond to all things cozy. I belong to a lot of Facebook groups which read, discuss and promote mysteries. Recently, someone posted a question to one of those groups about research which has stuck with me. The poster mentioned traditional mystery writers were known to participate in police ride-a-longs and attend conferences to gain authentic details as research for their books. The question was what types of research techniques do cozy authors use for research?

The question of research most likely stems from the nature of cozies. Unlike hard-boiled P.I. books or police procedurals, cozy mysteries feature an amateur sleuth. The protagonist could be anyone from an elderly village spinster, as in Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, to a busy housewife and single parent like Jill Churchill’s Jane Jeffrey mysteries, or even a baker like Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries. The reader doesn’t expect an amateur sleuth to be knowledgeable about forensics, ballistics, or police procedures. In fact, one major appeal of cozies is the innocence (or sometimes ignorance) of the amateur sleuth who stumbles into precarious situations and yet still manages to find a way to put the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out whodunit. Just because an amateur sleuth doesn’t need to know the difference between the various types of guns or bullets doesn’t mean research isn’t important. In fact, accuracy and research are as important for cozy authors as in any other type of mystery; however the difference is the type of research.

One of the common elements of cozy mysteries is themes. There are cozy mysteries with dogs, cats, culinary cozies with recipes, wine lovers, tea lovers, knitting, and practically any other type of theme you can imagine. As a dog lover, I often flock to cozies featuring dogs and include them in my own series. While I own poodles and know quite a lot about them, I am in no way an expert. I find myself researching information about poodles to make sure I have my facts correct. One of my favorite types of cozies is British historical (or any type of historical). Reading and writing historical mysteries requires a great amount of research (I once spent hours trying to find out where Scotland Yard was located in 1938). In the end, I asked myself does it really matter to the story and moved on. For me personally, I have been blessed to meet several former police officers who graciously allow me to pick their brains and bounce ideas around.

They say the devil is in the details. That holds true not only when writing about blood splatter and bullet striations, but in making sure readers feel a part of the protagonist’s world. In my book, THE PLOT IS MURDER, there is a story within a story. So, I need to make readers see the beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline of Southwestern Michigan as well as the manor house charm of 1938 England. Between the internet, reference books, and my police friends, I strive to provide enough authentic details that will help the reader stay in the story until the big reveal.

In the twenty-first century, readers have access to a seemingly infinite amount of data along with countless social media outlets. Now, more than ever, it’s important for authors to utilize a variety of research methods to insure accuracy. Regardless of the type of mystery, details matter.

Readers: What kind of research have you done?

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About V.M. Burns

V.M. Burns was born and raised in northwestern Indiana. She has a degree in Political Science and Urban Studies from Northwestern University, a Master of Science in Administration from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. By day, she is a training supervisor at a call center, and at night she writes cozy mysteries. After spending most of her life in the Midwestern United States, she is now thawing out in eastern Tennessee with her two poodles.

Growing Up Jersey — Welcome Guest Libby Klein

The winner of Libby’s book is Jane Dietz! You will get an email from Libby!

I met Libby at a Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime meeting last fall and was delighted to hear about her new series, the Poppy McAllister Mystery series, from Kensington. The first book, Class Reunions Are Murder, came out on January 30, 2018. Libby is giving away a copy of the book to a commenter! Please join me in welcoming, Libby!

I grew up in south Jersey. Exit Zero. Technically the Villas which would have been like exit two, but they didn’t make an exit two because no one wants to go to the Villas. I lived down the street from a seemingly defunct button factory. It was apparently in operation until recently, but we never saw anyone there. No cars, no people. It’s like there were secret underground tunnels that only night workers knew about. In a word – creepy.

The Villas was not exactly a hotbed of activity since it was mostly populated by summer homes and settlers who had arrived on the Mayflower. Most of Cape May County was deserted in the off season.  If my dad passed more than four cars during his fifteen-minute drive home from work he was like, “Whoa! What’s with all the traffic!” Then he complained that rush hour was out of control.

When most people refer to New Jersey as the armpit of New York, they mean north Jersey. In south Jersey you’re the armpit of Philly. Yoose eat your cheese steaks and Italian hoagies and root for the Flyers and the Eagles or you’re a mook. Everyone knows it.

My high school was small, my graduating class had roughly 200 students, and I had to walk four blocks to catch the bus – which I think constitutes child abuse in today’s society. After school activities were very popular because there was literally nothing else to do other than going to the mall. And by mall, I mean the tiny little strip of about fifteen shops in Rio Grande with the K-mart, two screen movie theater and Rick’s Pizza.

When I was a kid this was a huge culture shock for me. I came from the urban sprawl of the suburbs just outside of Washington DC. We had high rise apartments, public transportation, and a different nationality of restaurant on every corner. New Jersey was cornfields and asparagus farms. You rode your bike to the deli to get your mom capicola and provolone and the good hoagie rolls because she bought tomatoes at the farm stand on the way home from work. You can’t have a good hoagie without the good hoagie rolls.

In the summer, the population of Cape May exploded from four thousand residents to forty-thousand shoobies. Shoobies are what we call the tourists who wear socks with their sandals and order everything on the side when they know they’re gonna eat it anyway. You want to be known as a shoobie all you gotta do is order a “steak and cheese” or a “sub.” We’ll still sell it to you, but now it comes with a side of disdain. You gotta learn the language if you don’t wanna be a mook.

Our little two-lane roads get so clogged with shoobies it takes forever to go a couple blocks. They descend upon the beaches and bed and breakfasts in a clash of humanity fighting for a blanket sized patch of sand to call their own. They come to rent bicycles and beach chairs, line up for miles to buy water ice and frozen custard with rainbow jimmies. They loll about in the Atlantic Ocean, basking in the blistering sun under the constant rumble of single prop planes pulling banners that advertise everything from Reef and Beef Happy Hour to Marry Me Tina.

Growing up in a resort beach town means you’re the one who works those pancake breakfast shifts before going to your booth on the boardwalk. Your nights are spent trying to cajole shoobies into three for a dollar balloon darts and water gun horse races under the constant drone of “Watch the Tram Car Please.” You gotta mind your Ps and Qs because your tenth-grade science teacher is making the funnel cakes next door.

Everyone works as much as possible in the summer because they gotta make the money last all year. Your uncle works on the fishing boats at the crack of dawn to bring in tonight’s clams casino while grandma chambermaids for tips, so she can blow it all in Atlantic City on her day off. Your teachers don’t got time to put together lesson plans the last few weeks of the school year. They’re too tired from bartending now that the clubs are open. No one’s complaining.

Some people say there’s a rudeness here, a brusque attitude common to south Jersey. Maybe it’s the Philly influence. Maybe it’s the rampant humidity or the mosquitoes the size of salt water taffy. Maybe they’re just tired from working two jobs on their feet all day so they can have the luxury of heat this winter and they don’t got time for no shoobie funnel cake emergency. Whatever it is, they don’t mean anything by it. Once you get to know them, they’ll give you the shirt off their back. Just be aware that the shirt will probably say “Welcome to New Jersey. Now go home.”

Readers: Have you ever lived or visited somewhere that was a culture shock?

Bio: Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She has worked as a stay at home mom, climbing the ladder up the ranks to the coveted position of Grandma. She also dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets and taking out the trash. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.


Biscuits and Slashed Browns Book Birthday

Edith here, writing as Maddie Day from north of Boston.

But first – a special news break: Jessica Ellicott’s Murder in an English Village: A Beryl and Edwina Mystery (Jessica being our own Jessie Crockett) and my Called to Justice: A Quaker Midwife Mystery are BOTH nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel! The nods are cause for much celebration, and you, dear readers, will be hearing more about the nominations in the forthcoming weeks. In the meantime, Jessie and I are happy to accept accolades, toasts, and whatever else seems appropriate.

Now, back to today’s topic – also a cause for celebration…

Yes, it’s my book birthday! I’m so excited for the fourth Country Store Mystery to slide into the hands of eager readers.

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration. Robbie drops her maple-curry biscuits to crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky and murderous trap.

Some pretty awesome reviews are already in:

  • “…wonderful culinary cozy mystery series … great characters, terrific local dialect, a charming setting … engaging mystery”
  • “…well-plotted and exciting story”
  • “…vivid characters and locales”
  • “…fast paced plot… just the right touch of romance … a delightful addition”
  • ” …suspenseful, dangerous climax wraps the story up for an exciting ending”
  • “…delicious recipes…”

I was amazed when I learned that Brown County, Indiana, has hosted a National Maple Festival, and I knew I had to use it in a book. The county is hilly and wooded and looks a lot like Vermont despite being quite a bit farther to the south, so it’s no surprise one of its products is high-quality maple syrup.

I hope you enjoy the story! Now I’m off to find a cake and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

Readers: Do you make the recipes in the back of foodie cozies like mine?  If so, which ones have you liked best? If not, why not?

Cats Take Over A New Series — Welcome Back Linda Reilly

I want to start with a huge thank you to Sherry Harris for inviting me to guest blog today with the wonderful Wickeds! I’m pleased to give away an e-Book of ESCAPE CLAWS to one person who leaves a comment.

When I first hatched the idea for a series that featured lots of cats, I had no idea how challenging it would be to weave a large cast of cats—eleven, for starters—into a full-length mystery.

I started by imagining a crotchety, aging woman living on a thinly-inhabited island somewhere off the New England coast, her house overflowing with rescued felines. The problem with said thinly-inhabited island…not enough people to populate a story. Even more daunting—not enough people to adopt cats, a necessary element of the series. Plus, the woman’s niece (the intended protagonist), had to seek her out, help her care for the cats, and (possibly?) make a life for herself there.

So, what if I made the island larger, more populated? But wait . . . wouldn’t that mean adding a ferry to shuttle people to and from the mainland? I wasn’t sure, but the mere mention of anything larger than my grandfather’s old rowboat made me run, screaming, for the Dramamine.

Nope. The island setting wasn’t working for me. I needed a cozy town, one where I could imagine a charming home on a bluff overlooking a picturesque town center. I looked to my own state of New Hampshire, where quaint villages abound. I selected one based on its location only and created my town from scratch. I named it Whisker Jog and chose an old Folk Victorian house as the primary setting.

The crotchety woman morphed into a kind, intelligent, fifty-something school teacher sidelined by arthritic knees—a woman who hadn’t seen her estranged niece, Lara, for sixteen years. Lara is a watercolor artist who’s been living in a studio apartment above a Boston bakery. She makes ends meet by working part time in the bakery.

And then came the cats. I love cats, but the task of naming and describing nearly a dozen of the furry felines suddenly overwhelmed me. Not only did each cat need his or her own personality, but each one had to be laced into the story . . . and still allow Lara time to solve a murder.

Last there was the mystery cat—the beautiful Ragdoll with the startling blue eyes who had an eerie knack of slipping in and out of the story without warning. Here is one of Lara’s early encounters with her:

Sparkling blue eyes, alight with curiosity, regarded Lara from the arm of the tufted sofa. Blue sat very straight, her dark tail curled around her fluffy form. Her coloring was stunning—like a cream-colored cookie whose edges had been dipped in a dark, exotic chocolate.

No sound came from the cat. She seemed content to have Lara watch her, not skittish in the least.

Lara held her breath and remained very still. In the past, Blue had been a mystery cat—there one moment, gone the next. This time, Lara was determined not to let her out of her sight.

It was my fabulous editor at Kensington who suggested that I write a Feline Cast of Characters. I’d already been working with a loose, messy version, so it was a natural leap to writing one that readers could enjoy, too. Best of all, it helped me highlight the key features of each kitty’s personality.

Readers: What kinds of settings do you most enjoy when reading a cozy mystery? Do you favor a particular locale? Seaside? Eatery? Bookstore?


Armed 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.

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Wicked Wednesday — Stowed Away

We are celebrating the release of Stowed Away the sixth book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series by Barb! Here’s a little about the book:

It’s June in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and Julia Snowden and her family are working hard to get their authentic Maine clambake business ready for summer. Preparations must be put on hold, however, when a mysterious yacht drops anchor in the harbor—and delivers an unexpected dose of murder . . . When Julia’s old prep school rival Wyatt Jayne invites her to dinner on board her billionaire fiancé’s decked-out yacht, Julia arrives to find a sumptuous table set for two—and the yachtsman dead in his chair. Suspicion quickly falls on Wyatt, and Julia’s quest to dredge up the truth leads her into the murky private world of a mega-rich recluse who may not have been all that he seemed . . .

The title made me wonder if any of the Wickeds had ever stowed away. So it’s confession time Wickeds. Did you ever stow away? Sneak into somewhere you really weren’t supposed to be? Sneak a friend in? Or did you sneak out? If not what kept you from doing it?

Playing frisbee in the deserted coloseum in Pompeii

Barb: I can’t recall ever stowing away, but I am an inveterate sneaker-inner. Specifically, houses under construction are like catnip to me. As soon as the construction crew leaves for the day, I am there. I’ve done this since I was a kid and the last time was probably three years ago. I’ve always been interested in houses, as anyone who reads the Maine Clambake Mysteries knows. “Is your protagonist an architect?” one exasperated member of my writers group once asked me (sarcasm intentional). My most brazen sneaking-inning was during my post-college European tour. My friend Joanne and I took the train from Naples to Pompeii to find the site was closed due to a strike. We had neither the time nor the funds to return. As we debated what to do, three American boys came along and somehow we all egged one another into sneaking in. It is the eeriest thing in the world to be in a village where time has stopped with only four other people. I will never forget it.

Edith: Ooh, Barb, I’m the same with houses under construction! Can. Not. Resist. Poking around through walls that are only bare studs and climbing up stairs that are barely more than ladders? Candy to the illicit soul. I’ll even confess to a bit of, ahem, “hanky-panky” with a paramour in a house under construction. And I’ve definitely snuck out early from events I’d been reluctant to attend in the first place. And not a bit of remorse stains my conscience. I won’t have any remorse about sneaking away to read Barb’s book tomorrow instead of working, either!

Julie: I am a permission seeker. Always have been. Maybe that needs to be a 2018 goal. Stow away a couple of times. Barb, congratulations on this release. Cannot wait! I so love this series!!

Liz: The one place I considered sneaking in was the old, abandoned Norwich State Hospital property in Norwich and Preston, Connecticut. I have a thing for old asylums (yes, I know it’s creepy and weird) and I also wanted to use the setting for a book. I’m fascinated by not only how it was when it was a place, but the ways in which it settled into abandon. I desperately wanted to get into the tunnels underneath that connected the buildings on the massive campus. At the time, I worked as a reporter for the local newspaper and I had some contacts, but I could never finagle it. The buildings, and especially the tunnels, were dangerous – collapsing in places and full of asbestos. The area was also patrolled by security, which was a bit daunting. So I had to settle for some really great pictures I found online.

Jessie: I’m with Julie. I have run this question through my mind over and over and cannot think of any incidents of sneaking in or sneaking out. I almost jumped on the back of a moving train when I was eight but decided at the last minute not to grab on. The only places that ever make me want to sneak in are private gardens whose leafy bowers peak out through wrought iron gates. I saw a few in the UK and also occasionally in cities in the States and they always make me curious. Julie, want to plan a sneak -in with me this year?

Sherry: When we settled on this topic for today’s blog my first thought was where have I sneaked into that I’m willing to admit publicly? I couldn’t come up with anything so I turned to three long time friends (Carol, Cheryl, and Sherry) who knew me in my misspent youth. Sherry tried to say we sneaked into the library during college, but we knew that wasn’t true. But then Carol came up with something I’d all but forgotten. In high school during the summers we would sneak into apartment complexes swimming pools. Our town had a plethora of public pools and I can’t quite remember why we didn’t go to them. I’m guessing the apartment complexes had better chairs, less people during the day, and were less crowded. Or there were hotter older guys — that certainly would have been a big draw at the time.

Readers: Have you ever sneaked into a place you weren’t supposed to? Where was it? If not why not?

Figuring Out the Ending

Edith north of Boston and nearly ready for Christmas! And I have a giveaway as a holiday gift to one commenter here today.

I’ve been working on Country Store Mystery number six, Strangled Eggs and Ham. Next year holds so many book deadlines for me that I’m really trying to write ahead. I’m happy to report that yesterday I finished the first draft of the book that isn’t due until April 1. Which is good, because it means I can actually relax over Christmas with family and friends and cats.


But…last week progress had slowed to a crawl. I was getting close to the finish line but couldn’t seem to keep the story moving forward. How was I going to end it? Could I come up with new and fresh suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats? Was I going to be able to convince my readers they really wanted to read just one more chapter rather than going to bed?

I’m not a plotter by nature, but I had set up four suspects with plausible reasons for wanting the victim dead (yes, by strangulation…to fit the title, which I adore). I’d decided early on which of the four did the deed.

With the excruciatingly slow progress, I began to suspect myself – that I had picked the wrong villain. Could it be possible? It had happened to me before, so yeah, I knew it was a thing. I took a couple of long walks and another look at what I had written so far. And magic happened – another suspect was revealed as the actual murderer, although the person I’d thought was the villain stayed as a serious aider and abetter.

And bingo – out flowed the words! My relief was so palpable it Biscuits and Slashed Brownsalmost needed its own driver’s license.

To celebrate, I’d love to send one of you one of my last three ARCs of Biscuits and Slashed Browns, which is book #4 in the series. Because, as Barb says, we should never be left at release date with an advance review copy in our possession. And release date is January 30!

So, Dear Reader: Tell me about when you second-guessed yourself, or changed a plan at the last possible minute. Did it work out the way you hoped, or not? (Or maybe I don’t want to hear about the “or not” cases, LOL…) And make sure you check back tomorrow (and check your email) to see if you won!