Cover Reveal — Guest Dianne Freeman

We are happy to welcome debut author Dianne Freeman to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Our Thankful For Our Readers giveaway is an ARC of I Know What You Bid Last Summer, a vintage postcard, and a Snowden Family Clambake tote bag from Barbara Ross! Dianne thank you for being with us to share your cover!

As a debut novelist, every step in the publishing process is new and exciting. Today I’m excited to share my cover for A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, and I can’t thank the Wicked Cozy authors enough for hosting my big reveal.

Here it is:

It makes me smile every time I see it. Here’s a synopsis of the story:

Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.

No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old life make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive and anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.

While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end.

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mom introduced me to the works of Edith Wharton and Agatha Christie when I was quite young and I read them over and over. Thus, my love of mysteries and the late Victorian era. Wharton’s world was full of elegance, and manners, and rules—lots of rules. Anytime a character stepped a toe out of line and broke a social code, they met with a tragic end. That seemed—harsh. Surely it was possible to bend a rule here and there. Maybe have some fun or solve a mystery?

I back-burnered that idea for 30 or so years until I retired from corporate America and took up writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, I realized my true love was fiction. A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is the first in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series and is the result of my lifelong desire to write a fun whodunit in Wharton’s world of the late 19th century. And, of course it had to include an independent main character, with a knack for solving crimes. Thanks for sharing my big day!

Readers: Frances enlists the aid of her best friend and her handsome neighbor to help solve a crime. If you were an amateur sleuth, who would you want as your partner (real or fictional)? Here is the prize package:

Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing, and the endless summer. She and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona where you can find her indulging in a good read, or hard at work on the next Countess of Harleigh mystery.

Website: https://difreeman.com/ FB: Dianne Freeman Author Twitter: @difreeman001

On Finding Your Tribe

Edith here, north of Boston, a little too busy but soaking up fall sunshine and brilliant leaf colors.

We published authors often advise beginning writers to “find your tribe.” But what does that mean and why do we say it?

Here’s why I say it. Without the support from all kinds of writing organizations and groups, I know I would not be multi-published now. That kind of support, networking, and constant learning is a key to success. Of course we writers have to keep our butts in the chair and our fingers on the keyboard in order to finish the book, but beyond that? Hanging out with other writers (whether in person or virtually) is supremely important. Here’s my story.

When I first started writing fiction more than twenty years ago, I found a local critique group. I joined three other unpublished women in a carpool to author Susan Oleksiw‘s home several towns away, where we would read scenes we’d written and have her and each other critique it. I’d never taken a creative writing class (despite holding a PhD) and I learned so much about point of view, use of names, when to insert weather and when not to, as well as basic storytelling.

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Some years later I discovered the New England Crime Bake, attended for the first time, and promptly  joined both Sisters in Crime National and the New England chapter, going to my first chapter meeting a month later in Kate Flora‘s living room. I met Sheila Connolly there, and others who are now luminaries in our chapter. I started taking SINCNE workshops, meeting Barb Ross at one, and Sherry Harris at a meeting she hosted on the local air force base. I met Julie Hennrikus and Jessie Crockett at SINCNE meetings, too. I joined the Guppies, a big online SINC chapter for the Great Unpublished, where we all share information and learn from each other (and they let the published among us stay on!).

Seascape group 2009

Seascape 2009

After I finished my first novel, I dipped into the Guppies Agent Search subgroup and then the Small Press subgroup, finally finding a reputable small press. I joined a different critique group, the Monday Night Writers, and read nearly all the scenes from my first five or six manuscripts on years of Monday nights, learning all the way. I attended the Seascape weekend writing retreat with teachers Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib, and S.W. Hubbard. There I got to know Liz Mugavero, Ramona DeFelice Long, and Kim Gray for the first time. We all received coaching on various subparts of our manuscripts, were given time for revision, and cemented some lasting friendships. My first mystery, Speaking of Murder, was published with a small press exactly five years ago, written as Tace Baker.

After an agent came knocking at Sheila Connolly’s email door when she was President of SINCNE, and she sent his search for authors out to the membership, I hopped right on it. I signed on with him and put my Jane Hancock on a three-book contract with Kensington Publishing within a month’s time. We six Wicked Cozys all share that same agent, and we formed the core of the Wicked Cozy Authors blog a couple of years later, which of course is the best lifeboat tribe evah.

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I started going to Bouchercon,  Left Coast Crime, and the California Crime Writers conference as well as my annual appearance at Malice Domestic. I snagged more contracts, wrote more books, and soon my short stories and novels were being nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. Well-known authors agreed to blurb my books, including Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Rhys Bowen.

Last week I returned from Bouchercon in Toronto where Louise Penny gave me a hug and signed her latest book for my Canadian sister. I soaked up wisdom and laughs from old friends and new and heard all kinds of kind words about my work from avid mystery fans.

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Three stellar authors: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Louise Penny, and Rhys Bowen in Toronto

I’m part of the Newburyport Writers, a local writers’ group that crosses all genres and all kinds of fiction and nonfiction, but we gather for food and valuable information-sharing once a month. And a lovely cross-genre group of five of us toured local libraries for a couple of years and shared our widely varying paths to publication. We of the Nevertheless Writers are still friends and turn out for fun evenings like Witches Night Out!

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Nevertheless Writers (from left) Nancy Crochiere, Susan Paradis, Holly Robinson, me, and Elizabeth Atkinson

And I also check in with Ramona DeFelice Long’s Sprint Club on Facebook every morning before seven. It’s a great start to the workday to know that writers scattered around the country are all sitting down for an hour of uninterrupted work just like I am.

NONE of my modest successes would have happened without these various members of my tribe. Not a bit of it. Well, maybe I would have stayed in my virtual garret, cranking out words. But they wouldn’t be very good ones, and I would have been their only reader. Now I’ve completed book #17 and have a half dozen more under contract. With actual fans out there!

Readers: Who is your tribe? Who do you turn to when you want to learn new things, need a professional shoulder to cry on, or have joyous craft news to share?

A Barnes & Noble and Kensington Promotion and Sweepstakes!

Posted by Barb, who’s in Milwaukee today

From September 5 to October 5, Barnes & Noble and Kensington have teamed up to offer a special promotion–Buy 3 Kensington cozy mysteries and get 1 free!

But wait, there’s more!

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display or any Kensington cozy mystery from BarnesandNoble.com between 9/5/17 – 10/5/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will:

  • Automatically be entered into Kensington’s “Cozy Mystery Bonanza” sweepstakes for a chance to win a $300 value gift basket. One grand prize winner will be selected after the sale has concluded.
  • Automatically receive a free Kensington Cozies recipe booklet plus a download code for the novel A STORY TO KILL by Lynn Cahoon after the sale has concluded.

But wait, there’s even more!

There’s a special end-of-the-aisle display featuring Kensington cozies at every B&N. Sherry Harris, Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell), and Barbara Ross all have their latest mysteries on the shelf!

We thought it would be fun for some of the Wickeds to get their photos taken with this special display.

Here we are!

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Edith at the Newington, NH B&N

Edith: My closest B&N is in New Hampshire, and when I asked an employee where mystery section was, she led me to the cozies. I pointed to When the Grits Hit the Fan, said it was my book, and asked if she would take my picture. But the end cap was so close to a perpendicular row she couldn’t get back far enough to snap the whole thing!

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Look for this sign on the end cap

Sherry: I stopped by my local Barnes and Noble In Fairfax, Virginia where I’ve celebrated the release of all four of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries.

Sherry in Fairfax, VA

Here’s a closer look at the books!

All the books

Barb: I stopped at the B&N in Peabody, Massachusetts on my way from Boothbay Harbor, Maine to Logan Airport.

Barb in Peabody, MA

As with Edith, we couldn’t get far enough back from the display to get the whole display, so I’m glad Sherry did.

The Wicked’s books

If the display is a success for B&N and Kensington, they’ll repeat. Since all the Wickeds will have Kensington books soon, we hope it goes on and on.

Readers: Take advantage of the special if you can and don’t forget to register your purchase for a chance to win the gift basket, short story, and recipes!

Tell us if you spied this end cap in your local B&N, and where it is. We’d love to see a pic of you with the array, too!

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Stowed Away ARCs are Here! (And a Giveaway)

by Barb, sorry to see the summer go

Update: The winners have been chosen by random.org and have been notified. Thanks so much for participating in the giveaway. I’ll be doing more giveaways on my Facebook page here and via my e-mail newsletter (sign up here) and on Goodreads.

The ARCs for Stowed Away are here. For those who don’t know, ARCs are Advance Reader Copies (or Advance Review Copies) that publishers send to reviewers, bookstores, bloggers, and others in hopes of getting buzz for a book. They’re uncorrected proofs. At Kensington, they typically incorporate the copy edits, but don’t include the final corrections the production department and I find while reviewing the galleys.

Two lucky commenters to the blog will win an ARC for Stowed Away and won’t have to wait until December 26 to find out what happens.

I’m excited about this sixth addition to the story of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Here’s the publisher’s description:

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 . . .

There will also be Netgalley copies for those who prefer electronic ARCs, but they’re not up yet. I’ll let you know on my Facebook page when they’re available.

Readers: Do you like the little jump on the story you get with an ARC, or would you rather wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed in the final version?

The Tell-Tale Title — Guest Maya Corrigan

Thank you, Sherry, for hosting me on the Wicked Cozy Author blog. Though my Five-Ingredient Mysteries are set in a historic town along the Chesapeake Bay, the most recent one has a New England connection. Its title derives from a story about a murder, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe, who was born in Boston and whose first book was published there. More about that book at the end of this post, but first I want to explain how the title, The Tell-Tale Tarte, was born and how it affected the tale.

For a work of literary fiction, you can choose any title you want. For a culinary mystery, your choices are constrained. Ideally, the title incorporates food and the suggestion of wrongdoing, crime, menace, or death. Puns are also common, though not essential, in culinary mystery titles.

With all those parameters, I obsess about titles. My extended family also gets involved. At Christmas Eve dinner a few years ago, they vied with each other to name my next book. Some good puns came out of the exercise but, alas, nothing that belonged on the cover of a culinary mystery. Many of their suggestions had the pun and the food but no hint of a crime: The Lambshank Redemption, The Merchant of Venison. In others, the element of violence was too strong for a cozy mystery: Chili Con Carnage.

I go through bouts of title brainstorming and keep a list of possible titles. I also have a list of subjects I want to explore in the series. After I’ve decided on a subject, I check my title list, hoping to find one that will match the book’s topic. As an example, for the second book in my series, I wanted to write about frauds against retirees, which matched well with the title, Scam Chowder. Then, of course, I had to make bowl of clam chowder an integral part of the plot.

The subject I planned to explore in my latest book was the possible exploitation of an aging famous author by those in the publishing industry who make money off him. The The Tell-Tale Tarte ended up touching on that situation, but another subject overshadowed it as I outlined the book. With its title, the book had to have something to do with Poe. He was a good fit for a mystery related to publishing. He struggled to get his work published and to earn enough from his writing to fend off starvation. The irony is that his first book, “Tamerlane and Other Poems By A Bostonian,” has become the Holy Grail of American book collecting, the most expensive rare book by an American author ever sold at auction. That book is mentioned on the plaque commemorating Poe’s birthplace in Boston. There are only a dozen known copies of it, and one of them figures in the plot of The Tell-Tale Tarte.

The event that embroils my sleuth, Val, and her grandfather in the search for a murderer occurs at a book club dinner party, when Val serves the French dessert, tarte Tatin. The book’s title didn’t affect just one scene or one plot point. The cast is made up of people inspired by Poe two hundred years after his death: the aging writer whose riffs on Poe’s stories are bestsellers; the author’s entourage, including his publicist and his writing protégé; an actor with a one-man Poe show; and a Poe scholar.

Coming up with a title that integrates well with a story is part of the publishing journey, and sometimes the title turns the story in an unexpected direction.

Readers: Have you ever picked up a book because the title grabbed you? Do you have a favorite title? Writers: is titling a book a challenge for you?

Maya (Mary Ann) Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries, By Cook or by Crook, Scam Chowder, and Final Fondue. In the 4th book of the series, The Tell-Tale Tarte, the search for the murderer of a Poe performer takes a café manager and her grandfather to a local “House of Usher” and to the graveyard where Poe is buried. Each book includes five suspects, five clues, and Granddad’s five-ingredient recipes. Before taking up a life of crime on the page, Maya taught university courses in writing, American literature, and detective fiction.

 

The Writing Mascot

Sadie/Susannah/Jane here, wishing I was at the beach…

Hey, Wicked People! Hope you’re all enjoying your summer. I can’t believe it’s half over and I haven’t even been on vacation yet! I am going soon, though, to a lovely lakeside cabin in Vermont for a week. I’ll be leaving my day job (which I love, love, love–seriously!) behind, but I’ll be using part of the time to do some focused writing on a scary project in a new-to-me genre.

Now, I have lots of writer friends (and yes, I know how lucky I am).Some of them use a ritual to get themselves into Writer Mode, like turning on a special type of music, lighting a candle of a particular scent, or simple deep breathing. I’ve never quite found any of these things to be as helpful as just sitting my butt in the chair, rereading and surface editing the work I did the day before (I don’t go back further than that lest I am tempted to go back to the beginning and edit, which would mean I’d just be stuck in an endless loop and never produce any new material). But I know a ritual works for some.

Others have a mascot. My romance writer friend Stefanie London has a stuffed llama. Another romance writer, Regina Kyle, has a toy manatee (named Romanatee, which is the best name ever). And Toni Kelner has Sid the Skeleton. These items have taken on lives of their own, and they are great conversation starters with readers, too, when carried around at conferences.

So, a couple of years ago, I was spending a fun afternoon lunching and shopping with another friend, Kensington author Gail Chianese. We stopped in at an Irish imports store, and I saw an adorable stuffed sheep. I said, “Hey! There it is! My new writing mascot.” I proceeded to buy it. And it has sat on my desk ever since, but even though it’s cute, I never really bonded with it. The unappreciated little girl? guy? doesn’t even have a name.

Now my day job is at a subscription-only publisher of cozy mysteries. And one of the series I work on (the Amish Inn Mysteries, if anyone is interested) features a very, very lazy English bulldog named Beans. At a recent team meeting we were all given a Beans Facsimile. So he also now sits on my desk. I still don’t find him particularly inspirational, maybe because of the aforementioned laziness. But still, I like having him there better than my poor sheep.

Do you have a mascot? A totem? An inspirational ritual? Any crazy thing that gets you motivated to do what you need to do? Also, if anyone wants to suggest a name for Sheep Incognito, I’m all ears.

Cover Reveal — Guest Debra Sennefelder

We are delight to welcome back Debra Sennefelder and share the cover of her debut book The Uninvited Corpse! It’s available for pre-order here. It comes out March 27, 2018 from Kensington Publishing.

Thank you Wicked Cozy Authors for inviting me to reveal the cover of my debut novel, The Uninvited Corpse. I’m beyond thrilled to here today and I’m so excited to have the cover my book. It’s truly a dream come true.

Here is the back cover copy for  the first book in the Food Blogger Mystery series: Leaving behind a failed career as a magazine editor and an embarrassing stint on a reality baking show, newly divorced lifestyle entrepreneur Hope Early thought things were finally on the upswing–until she comes face-to-face with a murderer . . .

Hope’s schedule is already jam packed with recipe testing and shameless plugs for her food blog as she rushes off to attend a spring garden tour in the charming town of Jefferson, Connecticut. Unfortunately, it isn’t the perfectly arranged potted plants that grab her attention–it’s the bloody body of reviled real estate agent Peaches McCoy . . .

One of the tour guests committed murder, and all eyes are on Hope’s younger sister, Claire Dixon–who, at best, saw Peaches as a professional rival. And suspicions really heat up when another murder occurs the following night. Now, with two messy murders shaking Jefferson and all evidence pointing to Claire, Hope must set aside her burgeoning brand to prove her sister’s innocence. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer intent on making sure her life goes permanently out of style . . .

I had a blast writing The Uninvited Corpse. For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be an author. I had visions of spending my days writing scenes, chapters and hitting bestseller lists. Silly childhood dreams, right? I discovered mysteries beyond Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, cozies in particular when I found the Miss Marple books. I was hooked.

Fast forward a few more years and I was browsing in the local bookstore of my new hometown after I married and I found the Faith Fairchild mystery series by Katherine Hall Page. Once I read The Body in The Belfry I knew what I wanted to write. Then I discovered Valerie Wolzien, Diane Mott Davidson, Claudia Bishop and so many other wonderful writers. Then life happened and I stepped away from fiction writing. I eventually started a food blog, The Cookbook Diva. In that space I was in control of everything – content, schedule, promotion. No one was editing me. No one was rejecting my work. I loved it. I enjoyed sharing my recipes, I enjoyed the blogger community and I really enjoyed spending time in my kitchen. But over time I felt that tug of something that was missing. What was missing was fiction writing. When I really thought about it I couldn’t see myself in ten years from then still writing a food blog but I could see myself as an author.

One weekend I decided to pull out my idea file (writers usually have thick folders of ideas for books) and I started thinking up plots and characters. I slowly got back into the writing community, found my critique partner, mystery author Ellie Ashe, and set forth to write a novel. I knew my amateur sleuth would be involved with food somehow. I considered several options and the one that seemed the best fit was food blogger. I had experience with that world and it was something different for the cozy world. Once I was well into the first draft of The Uninvited Corpse I made the decision to shut down my food blog and focus entirely on fiction writing. I’m so glad I did because I’m exactly where I should be writing novels.

Thank you for sharing my cover reveal with me today!

Readers: What is your favorite thing about culinary mysteries? Or what is your favorite thing about finding a new series?