Guest: Lynn Cahoon

Edith here north of Boston, enjoying some actual May weather, finally. We have H&H jpegwritten about writers’ retreats several times on this blog, and the core Wickeds just returned from our annual Maine retreat. Let’s welcome guest Lynn Cahoon back on the blog, and hear about when she took herself on a retreat. She also has a new mystery out, Hospitality and Homicide, which sounds fabulous, and she’s giving away one e-copy to a randomly chose commenter here today!

Lynn: Thanks for having me over today! I got to meet several of the Wicked Cozys at Crime Bake last year. Such a fun event!

The Writer’s Retreat

I write a lot about writers. And readers. And bookstore owners.  People I like to hang out with as a person.  And when we hang out, we talk about setting up a magical event called a retreat. I know people who do this. (One is a Wicked.) You see posts filled with pictures of a lovely, deserted cabin on a seashore or up in the woods. Or even on top of a skyscraper in a big city.  And, if they’re doing it right, a message saying “I’ll be off line for a while.”

But I had never taken the time to do my own retreat.  My life is busy with a day job, the writing gig, a husband who likes to visit our lake property often, like every time he can. Driving somewhere to lock myself up and write? It seemed indulgent.

IMG_0660Until I went to Chicago for Printer’s Row. I had a panel and was signing afterwards. Two hours out of a weekend committed and I had a deadline the next week, but I also had a hotel room reserved in a lovely place.  I flew up on a Friday after work, ordered room service for dinner, then opened my laptop. By the time I left on Sunday, I had over 10,000 words and was ready to cross the finish line.

I loved it.

I didn’t get out much that weekend, except to the MWA booth for my event, but my mind soaked up the atmosphere of the hotel, the sidewalk café where I ate dinner, and I watched a group of friends talking and catching up which turned out to be IMG_0681part of an opening scene for the next book I had on deck to write.

By taking some time away from my desk and my computer, I filled the writer well inside me.  And the room service was delicious.  I’ve got another retreat on the books for 2018 and I’m planning time at my next convention to treat at least part of the week as a retreat. I’ve learned the magic.

In Hospitality and Homicide, we find Nathan Pike, a well-known mystery author taking his own writing retreat.  I understand Nathan Pike’s need to get away from his normal life to write his next book.  And having 24-7 access to Greg who’s the South Cove head detective would be a huge bonus, curtsey of our friend the mayor.  No one counted on Nathan writing the murder scene that happened just days after he arrives in town. And no one expected Nathan to work out the how-to details on a ride along with Greg.

Readers: Have you taken a break from real life to fill your creative well? Remember, one random commenter will win an e-copy of Hospitality and Homicide.

A visit to the serene coastal town of South Cove, California, could make anybody feel refreshed and inspired. But as Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—discovers, some folks won’t live to tell about it . . .

Mystery author Nathan Pike checked into South Cove Bed & Breakfast to compose a compelling novel, not commit murder. But things get real when a rival B&B owner ends up exactly like the victim in his draft—undeniably dead. As Nathan prepares to complete his magnum opus behind bars, Jill’s the only one who can prove his innocence and deconstruct Cahoonthe plot of a twisted killer!

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER, book 1 of the series, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She also pens the Cat Latimer series. A STORY TO KILL, and FATALITY IN FIRELIGHT are available in mass market paperback. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com

 

 

Dreams Do Come True — Thank You Kensington Publishing

Breaking news! Here are the winners of the books from yesterday’s drawing. It was such a great response that I drew a third winner! Keep an eye out for future giveaways! The winners are: Jill @Bonnjill, Sharon Forrest, and Stephanie Clark! Thanks to all of you who entered!

I’m so excited that my fourth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series, A Good Day to Buy, releases today. One of the themes in A Good Day to Buy is about who is a hero and what makes one.

I still have to pinch myself when I think about being published — that I’m writing book six as you read this. It makes me reflect on how it all happened and why. That story starts with Kensington Publishing. Here’s a little about them from their website:

Founded in 1974, Kensington Publishing Corp. is located in New York City and is known as “America’s Independent Publisher.” It remains a multi-generational family business, with Steven Zacharius succeeding his father as President and CEO, and Adam Zacharius as General Manager. From the time its very first book (Appointment in Dallas by Hugh McDonald), became a bestseller, Kensington has been known as an astute and determined David-vs.-Goliath publisher of titles in the full spectrum of categories, from fiction and romance to health and nonfiction. You can read more about Kensington on their website.

Gary goofing off at Bouchercon New Orleans 2016

Some of you have heard this story, but here is my tale of how the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series came to be. Once upon a time a heroic editor, Gary Goldstein, from the land of Kensington, came up with the idea for a cozy series with a garage sale theme. At the time Gary only had thriller and western authors in his castle and yet he went out seeking adventure in the world of cozies. His quest led him to an agent (John of Talbot), the agent went to Lady Barbara of Ross, and Barbara thought, “Sherry loves garage sales.” So it came to pass that the fair maiden Sherry (too much?) okay, just plain old Sherry wrote a proclamation (it was only a proposal but all of this still seems very fairy tale like to me) and Gary of Kensington said yes. Trumpets sounded (in my head), people danced with joy (well I did) and to this very day Sherry is Gary of Kensington’s only cozy writer.

But an editor and a writer do not a book make. There are legions of people working behind the scenes at Kensington. The unsung heroes who make it all happen. I’ve only met a few of them and some only through email. Gary’s assistant Liz alerts me when my books are on sale or there are good reviews among many other things. Karen and Morgan in marketing send out ARCs, set up blog tours, get ads placed, set up events, and probably do a whole heck of a lot more that I don’t even know about.

I love the covers of my books. The Art Department took my idea of having an old fashioned looking tag on the cover and ran with it. They created something better than I could have imagined! There is always something on each cover that I wished I owned.

Someone writes the back cover copy and they are able to sum up my books in a few short words better than I ever could. Here’s the back cover copy of A Good Day To Buy:

HER BROTHER IS NO BARGAIN
When Sarah Winston’s estranged brother Luke shows up on her doorstep, asking her not to tell anyone he’s in town—especially her ex, the chief of police—the timing is strange, to say the least. Hours earlier, Sarah’s latest garage sale was taped off as a crime scene following the discovery of a murdered Vietnam vet and his gravely injured wife—her clients, the Spencers.
 
BUT IS HE A KILLER?
All Luke will tell Sarah is that he’s undercover, investigating a story. Before she can learn more, he vanishes as suddenly as he appeared. Rummaging through his things for a clue to his whereabouts, Sarah comes upon a list of veterans and realizes that to find her brother, she’ll have to figure out who killed Mr. Spencer. And all without telling her ex . . .

Then there are the copy editors who notice if Sarah hates broccoli on page 22 but is asking for a second helping on page 156. They push me to write a better book. There are typesetters, and people who send the proof pages – the last chance to find mistakes before the book is printed.

There are people in Sales and Sub Rights – there are probably departments I don’t even know about who all work hard to get my books out.

So thank you to everyone at Kensington – from top to bottom – who do your jobs, who helped make my dream come true.

To celebrate the release of A Good Day To Buy I’ll Give Away two books to someone who leaves a comment!

Readers: What dream has come true for you?

Meeting Myself

Edith here, half high (no, not THAT kind of high…) and half exhausted north of Boston.

My eleventh mystery officially released on Saturday. Called to Justice is my second Quaker Midwife Mystery and I’m delighted by the reviews and cheers it has received so far. Any regular reader here knows that my tenth mystery came out only two weeks ago, and I was confronted with how to celebrate two books (under two names in two series from two publishers) at once.

So I held a double launch party at my fabulous local independent bookstore, Jabberywocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday night. To top off the celebration, I’ll give away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

From above

Owner Sue Little is super supportive of local authors and readers everywhere. When I mentioned I wanted to interview my alter ego Maddie Day  – and vice versa – she thought it was a great idea.

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With Sue Little

I found an Indiana cap, and brought my Quaker bonnet. I baked gingersnaps from the late 1800s (Fanny Farmer helped with the recipe) as well as Kahlua Brownies Robbie Jordan might serve in her country store restaurant (recipe in Flipped for Murder). I assembled a few door prizes. And I wrote up a number of questions for Maddie and me to ask each other.

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The audience kept building. I spied local writer pals, a bunch of Quakers, fans I’d met at previous library events, and more.

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Writers Connie Hambley, Mary Schaefer, Nancy Langmeyer, me, Laurie Mendoza, and Holly Robinson

My darling son JD helped dole out raffle tickets.

I’d started speaking when two Wicked Cozys slipped in – Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross, having battled traffic all the way up from the Boston area (we three slipped out for a drink and a late dinner afterwards, too).

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It was one of the more fun launch parties I’ve held. People seemed to like the alter egos talking to each other.

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After my script was done, I read a short first scene from each book, and then entertained lively audience questions.

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Afterwards? Wine, dessert, and signing books, of course.

And if anyone not local to north of Boston wants to order a signed copy of Called to Justice, please consider doing it via Jabberywocky! Just make sure to request a signed copy in the comments when you check out.mulch-ado-about-murder

Readers: Thanks to everybody for helping me celebrate! Which authors have you helped celebrate launches – or wished you had? Writers, favorite launch parties? Tips and downfalls? Remember, I’m giving away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

My Tenth

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith here, aka Maddie Day, on a glorious occasion – my tenth novel releases today!

I am delighted and happy about this third Country Store mystery, which is already garnering some pretty darn nice reviews. Dru’s Book Musings said, “Done to perfection…tightly woven mystery…cleverly placed clues…engaging dialogue…lovable cast of characters…the best book in this delightfully charming series.” From Kings River Life Magazine: “Intriguing plot will draw in even those who skim past tantalizing treats and elaborately depicted preparations. Yet who could resist those? This blend of academia and small-town secrets satisfies on so many levels.” And the fabulous cooking blog Cinnamon &Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder wrote, “Solid addition to a terrific series…nails both the [Midwestern] setting and the characters…well-plotted…suspenseful and exciting conclusion.” apronI’m grinning and  blushing at the same time.

To celebrate, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter! (US only.)

In a flourish of riches, my eleventh novel (Called to Justice) will be out April 8 and my twelfth (Mulch Ado About Murder) at the end of May. I just figured out that as of now, I am contracted through my twenty-first mystery, which will be Cozy Capers Book Group #3.

But I guess the tenth hitting bookstores and ereaders makes today a milestone book birthday, and it got me to thinkingEdieFifthgrade about other tenth milestones in my life.

My tenth birthday took place in the fall of my fifth grade year. I was a pretty goofy kid, always youngest and shortest in my class. A good student, but prone to getting up to mischief, and often bewailing the injustice of stuff the boys got to do that I wasn’t asked to (can you say Young Feminists of America?). Little Eva released “The Loco-Motion” that year, and I was in Girl Scouts. I don’t remember much else, frankly.

The tenth house I lived in was an apartment in a double triple-decker in Somerville, which might be unique to the Boston area. It’s a three-story apartment house which has two apartments on each floor. I had the bottom floor on the right, with the bow windows. 223SummerStreetWhen I lived there, eventually with my good friend Jennifer, the front part was open covered porches (now closed in). After our apartment was burgled in broad daylight when neither of us were home, we made the landlord install bars on the windows – and then found somewhere else to live.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was eight, but remarkably haven’t changed frames very often. I do believe my current model is my tenth pair! It’s possibly my favorite set of frames, too. After my second pair, which I wore into high school (until I transitioned to contacts for a few years), I have only worn wire rims of one kind or another. But two years ago I need new glasses. Everybody was getting bold dark frames, and I couldn’t quite stomach rectangular black specs. But when I saw these turquoisey-print glasses, I fell in love, and have been complimented on them regularly since.NewGlassesCrop

And I calculate that the quilt I finished this winter, which my dear mother designed and began for me but didn’t finish, is probably my tenth completed quilt. I started putting together quilts when I was in college, so I’m clearly not a regular in that hobby if I ‘m only up to ten, but I do love setting up the machine, laying out the components, and assembling them. Is there any more practical product than the beautiful cover you sleep under? (The pink border cloth and the backing are fabrics I brought home from West Africa years ago which were sitting in my cloth bank just waiting for their time.)

marilynsgiftquilt

So, dear readers, help me celebrate by telling me some of your own tenth milestones. Anybody have ten children? Ten cars (I’m only up to seven)? Ten countries you’ve lived in (I’m only up to six) or the tenth you visited? The tenth school you attended? What about your own tenth birthday, house, car, glasses, or hobby result? Do tell! Remember, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter. (US only.)

After The Contract — Guest Debra Sennefelder

The winner of the giveaway on Wednesday is: Booth Talks Books! Sherry has sent you an email.

Welcome, Debra Sennefelder! Debra and I haven’t met but a few weeks ago she left a comment on one of our blogs that she’d just signed a contract for a book! I was so happy she shared her news with us and when I had the idea for doing the After The Contract series, I hoped she’d be able to share her experiences!

I was so honored and thrilled when Sherry asked if I would write a post about my brand-spanking new contract. It took all of a nano-second to type my reply and here I am today.

debraheadshotv3“The call” came the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I was home just finishing up my lunch break from writing when the phone rang. The caller ID said it was my agent. Oh, boy. Either she had great news or bad news, like all the editors we’d sent the submission to passed on it and made the suggestion I should give up writing forever (I know, that seems extreme but it’s how a writer’s mind works). Since it was 50/50, I took a deep breath and answered the call. She gave me the news. Good news! Kensington Publishing had offered me a 3-book contract for my Food Blogger Mystery series. That phone call was about to change my life (maybe a little too dramatic?) but truly things were about to change.

I was speechless (rare). My dream publisher wanted to buy my book. Three books. I recovered and somehow managed to have a coherent conversation with my agent and then we said goodbye. I had a decision to make of whether or not to accept the offer. But first I needed to process what just had happened. I’d spent months writing the book that was now in my new editor’s hand. I’d spent years pursuing publication. I’d spent years learning the craft of writing. And now it was actually going to happen. I was going to become a published author. The hour following the call is a blur. Text messages and phone calls to family and close friends and my critique partner. Everyone was excited and I was still in shock.

Fast forward a few weeks when I shared the news with those beyond my inner circle and was overwhelmed with everyone’s reaction. Everybody was thrilled, excited and they had loads of questions. But at that time I had little information – 3-book contract, first book due out in early 2018. Title? I wasn’t sure if the publisher would keep the title I gave the book.  I have since learned that the publisher is keeping the title so the first book is called The Uninvited Corpse.

When I first got the call and shared my good news with fellow authors I received what seems to be a never ending list of things I will need to do. Social media. Newsletter. Blog tours. Excerpts. Graphics for social media. Goodreads. Amazon author page. Website. Promotional material. Write the next book. Write the third book. My head was spinning. I was told all that I had to do now but the truth was all I had to do at that moment of receiving “the call” was to enjoy the moment. Of course I expect to have many, many more calls about offers to publish future works (hope my editor is reading) but it will never be the first call again.  I needed to enjoy the moment.

The next thing I made sure to do is breathe. With what I had to do for my editor, granted it wasn’t a lot of work but it was very important work, and writing the second book and working a full-time job and life, I could have easily dropped the ball many times. But I chose to breathe and not let everything that I needed to do overwhelm me. I think I’ve been smart, at least I hope I have, and began a spreadsheet for all of my social media for the year, I’ve set up an accounting system, I’ve started a newsletter (best to get into the routine now and you’ll find the sign-up form on my website – see, I’m honing my blatant self-promotion skills), I’ve started using my Outlook calendar for dates of blog posts and I’m heavily relying my handy-dandy organizer for notes and keeping my daily schedule on track. To think that when I got the call I thought that early 2018 was so far away but now I’m thinking early 2018 is close. Amazing how our perspective changes over time.

For the rest of December and January I kept my head down working on the second book which is due in the fall of this year. But it still didn’t feel real to me. Maybe it was because I didn’t have anything tangible besides a signed contract and a telephone conversation with my editor. You would think that would be enough but it kinda wasn’t. Then came two things that needed to be done for my editor – an author Q&A needed to be completed and feedback on the cover of the book. A cover? Wow. My book was going to have a cover. Well, of course it was and I knew that but to think about what the cover would look like? It was getting real now. To make it more real, my editor wanted the outline for book 2 by a specific date. I now had a deadline and now it was real.

Let me wrap this post up with one final thought on being in-between the signing of the contract and the release of the book.  I knew that signing the contract meant I’d be faced with a boatload of work and I prepared myself for that. What I didn’t prepare for was how much I would truly enjoy everything that I’m being tasked with doing. What’s that old saying, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? It’s true. I don’t believe I’ll ever have another work day again.

Thank you Wickeds for letting me share my contract experience with everyone. Before I go I’d like to remind everyone that dreams to come true. Believe and don’t give up.

Readers: What dreams have you refused to give up on?

 

What’s Next?

News Flash: The winner of Leslie Karst’s book is Sarah H – Sarah, please contact Leslie at ljkarst at gmail dot com. Congratulations!

By Sherry feeling rested in Northern Virginia

Monday afternoon around 4:30 I sent off I Know What You Bid Last Summer to my editor at Kensington. It is the fifth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. Usually this is cause for much celebration around the house, but this time I was just plain old tired. Barbara Ross generously had a margarita in celebration for me down in Key West (thanks for taking one for the team)! But I sat on the couch wondering what was next. This was the last book I was under contract for so Tuesday was going to be a blank page for me for the first time since 2013. I stayed up late – late enough to watch the late night shows and then read for a while.img_2704-1

I slept in Tuesday morning – until 9:22! I felt happy, excited even, when I woke up. I walked into the kitchen and found my daughter had gone to Starbucks and left me a cup of chai on the counter. A little bit later she made me breakfast too. Thank you, Elizabeth!

I started doing things I’d been putting off. I made a hair appointment, sorted the laundry, and tackled the piles in my office. It was so warm out I opened the window in my office. I decided to pull out the manuscript for the gemology mystery series I’d worked on for years (YEARS!) but hadn’t ever sold. I sent the first three chapters off to independent editor Barb Goffman. Why you ask? I’m so close to them – even after not looking at them for a long time — that I knew they needed another set of eyes. I started thinking about all the other book ideas swirling through my head and tried to figure out which one to tackle first.

My daughter and I watched part of the Patriot’s Super Bowl parade on TV. I walked our dog Lily. Maybe it was the warm weather or maybe it was the unknown ahead of me but everything seemed to kind of glow. Oh, heck maybe it was sleeping in after working intensely for the last few weeks. (Confession: I never did get any laundry done.)

img_2710Around three the phone rang. It was my agent, John Talbot. He had news! Good news! Kensington wants two more Sarah books. A couple of weeks ago I shared several ideas for the series with my editor. However, with the publishing industry in a bit of upheaval you just never know what will happen. After I finished dancing around and shrieking, my husband called on his way home from work. I told him we were going out to celebrate.

We stopped by Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, Virginia and did a wine tasting.

 

Then we had dinner at an Italian restaurant which seemed appropriate given Sarah’s love for DiNapoli’s and Italian food. Today it’s back to plotting (good heavens did I just say the “p” word? Has the pantster in me been converted?)! I have a concept for the next book (one I love) but I have to figure out who dies and why. Oh, joy!

Readers: What do you do after you finish a big project?

What We Did in New Orleans

Most of you know five of the six Wickeds spent last week in New Orleans at Bouchercon, the huge all-genre annual mystery and crime fiction convention (which changes locale every year: last year Raleigh, next year Toronto). logoHere are some of our pictorial highlights!

First a dinner with Barb and her husband Bill, Sherry, Julie, and Edith at Commander’s img_0683Palace. The food amazing, the company better, and the restaurant beautiful!

Wednesday morning was about getting registered and heading into the book room to select six books. That was like being a kid in a candy store — so many wonderful books to choose from!

Wednesday afternoon Barb, Edith, Julie and Sherry attended the Sisters In Crime SinC into Great Writing event on diversity. Speakers included Walter Mosley, Greg Herron, Cindy Brown, Linda Rodriquez, and Frankie Bailey, with Terri Bischoff in the wrap-up discussion. Each of the speakers gave a wonderful (and different) perspective on a wide range of topics.diverstytworkshop

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Thursday Barb, Edith, Liz, and Sherry attended the Librarian and Booksellers Tea sponsored by Kensington. Edith and Barb read. It was great fun to meet new people!

On Thursday the Wickeds with Kensington Publishing got to meet our editors! Gary Goldstein on the left edits Sherry and John Scognamiglio (don’t pronounce the Gs) edits Edith, Barb, and Liz.

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Friday was the Cozy and Proud meet up!

Friday was also the Second Line parade, closing down Canal Street for a grand musical march with guests of honor in floats, and Sisters in Crime founder/goddess Sara Paretsky posing with the woman on stilts. sarapandstilts

Then there were panels — so many great panels to choose from!

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Visiting friends is always a huge part of going to any conference!

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Editor/author Ramona DeFelice Long (right) and her cozy mystery superfan sister Annette Defelice Gavigan

Saturday brought the Sisters in Crime breakfast. Outgoing president Leslie Budewitz

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Diane and Leslie with Celine

summed up the year’s considerable accomplishments and handed the seal of office (named Celine) to incoming prez Diane Vallere. Then we toasted 30 years of this fabulous organization with champagne!

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Paula Benson, Terrie Moran, Debra Goldstein, and Edith at the breakfast

 

And then the sights of New Orleans!

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beignet And the fabulous beignets at the Cafe du Monde!

Readers: Have you been to New Orleans? Do you have a favorite spot?