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.


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


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.


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).


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?

Kensington Cozies on Sale in March at Barnes and Noble

From March 3 to April 8, Barnes & Noble and Kensington have teamed up to offer a special  promotion–Buy 3 Kensington cozy mysteries and get 1 free!

You can scroll down this page to see the covers of all the offered books.

But wait, there’s more!

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display between 3/6/18 – 4/8/17 and registers their purchase at will automatically be entered for a chance to win:

  • 1 Grand Prize: Two copies of a new cozy mystery each month for an entire year so you can share the book with a friend.
  • 5 Runners-Up: One surprise cozy mystery ARC.

Note: The same sale is going on at B&N online, though purchases there do not make you eligible for the contest. Here’s the link for the sale.

But wait, there’s even more!

There’s a special end-of-the-aisle display featuring 30 Kensington cozies at every B&N. Wickeds Sherry Harris, Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell), and Barbara Ross all have their latest mysteries on the shelf, along with lots of other great books, including mysteries by Friends of the Wickeds, Carol Perry and Lea Wait.

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

Sherry: Here I am at my local Barnes and Noble in Fairfax, Virginia! It’s always a thrill to see my books in a bookstore. My husband took the pictures and we only got a few strange looks from the many customers in the store.

Edith: I found the Wickeds’ books (and New England friend of the Wickeds Lea Waits’s, too) top and center at the Barnes & Noble in Peabody, Massachusetts, and convinced a fan browsing the mystery shelves to take my (goofy expression) picture.


Here’s Friend of the Wickeds Carol Perry with the display. Carol has three books on the endcap: Grave Errors, It Takes a Coven, and Caught Dead Handed.

Barb: There’s only one B&N in Maine, in Augusta, not in Portland where I was last week. Now I’m back in Key West and there are no B&Ns anywhere on the Keys, so I’m posing below in our backyard with Stowed Away, which is on the display.

We’d also like to give a shout out to our friend, Lea Wait. As Edith said, her book Twisted Threads is on the display. Lea was going to participate in this post with us, but her husband is ill. Anyway, you should buy her book, because it’s terrific. In fact, you should buy 3 and get 1 free!

Readers: 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!

The Mainely Needlepoint Mystery Series Continues with Threads of Evidence

threadsofevidenceHi. Barb here. You may have noticed that my fellow Maine author Lea Wait has joined us a few times in the last year. That’s because Lea is the prolific author of the Mainely Needlepoint cozy series, the Shadows Antique Print traditional mystery series, as well as historical novels for young people. On of those, Uncertain Glory was an Agatha nominee this year.

Today we’re celebrating the recent release of Threads of Evidence, the second book in the Mainely Needlepoint series. I loved the first book in this series, Twisted Threads, so when I had a chance get my hands on an Advance Reader Copy of Threads of Evidence, I jumped at it!

I wasn’t disappointed. The second book in the series moves protagonist Angie Curtis along from the original crisis that brought her back to Maine. Now she needs to figure out how to make a life for herself. The book broadened and deepened my appreciation for Angie, as well as for her grandmother and the other members of the Mainely Needlepoint collective AND provided a great mystery yarn. What more could you ask? These books are slightly grittier than the average cozy, but still well within the cozy definition.

Lea’s a neighbor and a friend, so I thought we’d have a chat about Threads of Evidence.

Barb: Since you and I both write about coastal towns in Maine that include both working people and summer people From Away, to some degree we are always writing about class, a topic that makes many Americans uncomfortable. It’s not so much the money (thought that matters) but also expectations, opportunities, and experiences. In Threads of Evidence, in particular, the worlds of summer people and working people intersect, both in the past and the present. How do you think about class as you write? How do you think it is expressed in your Mainely Needlepoint stories?

Lea waitLea: First of all – thank you for inviting me back to visit the Wicked Cozies, Barbara!

I’m excited about Threads of Evidence, the second in the Mainely Needlepoint series (after Twisted Threads).

In Threads of Evidence there are two sorts of wealthy visitors from away. The Gardeners have had money for generations, and built their large Victorian summer “cottage” as a retreat in the 19th century. When the last person in their family died, the estate was left, empty and discarded.

Now it has been bought by a newly wealthy Hollywood actress and her artist son. The Gardeners viewed themselves as, in many ways, patrons of Haven Harbor – they gave large parties for everyone in town, and donated generously to the local fire and police departments as well as the country club. Those who remember them best are those who worked for them – the caretaker of their estate; Mrs. Gardener’s hairdresser. Their daughter, Jasmine, took for granted opportunities (like education and travel) that those her age who lived in Haven Harbor either just dreamed about, or worked very hard to obtain. Some of those clashes in expectations may have resulted in her murder.

The new owners of the Gardener estate spend money freely, and not always, in the eyes of local residents, wisely. But the local people, including Angie Curtis, the protagonist of the Mainely Needlepoint series, accept payments they believe are too generous.

People like these are part of the fabric of Maine.

twisted threadsBarb: In Threads of Evidence one of your major characters is a celebrity. Often in fiction, celebrity is shorthand for rich and recognizable, but you’ve created a fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional character. How did you think about Skye West as you wrote her?

Lea: When I lived in New York City, some years ago, I knew people involved in show business. All of them, including those considered famous, had worked very hard to get to where they were. Skye West grew out of some of those friendships. She sees her world clearly, and appreciates both the work she’s done to get to where she is in her career (and that she continues to do) – and the people who, in different ways, helped her to get there. She sees her decision to buy and restore the Gardner estate – and find out what happened to Jasmine Gardner in 1970 – as something she owes to her past. A way of giving back.

Barb: I have to admit, I’m one of those people who can take epigraphs or leave them. I often don’t read them if I’m really in the flow of a story. But I found the quotes from needlepoint works of girls and young women in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Threads of Evidence particularly moving. How do you go about finding these quotes?

Lea: Ah! The epigraphs! I have them in my Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and some readers love them … write to me about them and ask more questions. So I decided to also use them in the Mainely Needlepoint series. Some of the epigraphs are quotations about needlecraft from 19th century and earlier literature and books or magazines written for women. But my favorites are the quotations from samplers stitched by young women in the sixteenth through 19th centuries. (As some readers have pointed out, some of these samplers are needlepoint … some are cross stitch or other embroidery. But I love them all.)

Some of those quotations I’ve seen on samplers in museums, antique shows, or homes. Some of them I’ve found in museum catalogs of sampler exhibits. Some are from books on the history of samplers. I keep a running file of possible quotations to use in future books.

ThreadandgoneBarb: What are you working on now?

I just finished Shadows on a Morning in Maine, the 8th in the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, which will be published in about a year. Next on my list: Dangling by a Thread, the 4th in the Mainely Needlepoint series. (The third in the series, Thread and Gone, will be published in early January, 2016.) In my spare (?) time I’m also working on a couple of picture book biographies for young people. So – not bored!

Barb: Thank you, Lea! Anyone have questions for comments for Lea? Jump in!

Lea invites readers to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads, and to check out her website,, where there’s a link to a prequel of THREADS OF EVIDENCE, and questions for book group discussions. She would love to visit (in person or via Skype) your library, book group, or school.

Welcome Author Lea Wait

by Barb, back from Paris for a week and a half now (sniff)

Author Lea WaitLea Wait isn’t a Wicked Cozy, though she’s certainly (over?) qualified to be one. She shares a New England home base, an agent (John Talbot–though since Lea also writes historicals for younger readers, she’s multi-represented), and a cozy series (more on this). Lea is a neighbor in Maine and has been a fabulous mentor to me on this journey. Today, in celebration of the publication of Shadows on a Maine Christmas, the seventh book in her Antique Print Mystery series, I’m asking her some things I’ve been wondering about, and I thought you might like to listen in.

!cid_487CF410-53E3-4F9A-B4E9-3E3180900689Barb: This Shadows book is a Christmas book. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a holiday book. What caused you to write it? The right time in the series? In your characters’ Maggie and Will’s lives? Did your publisher ask for a Christmas book?

Lea: Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I wanted to write about the wonders of Maine winters. The previous six books in the Shadows Antique Print series took place approximately every three months, but Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding left some personal issues hanging at the end of October, so I felt Maggie and Will needed to get together again soon. Christmas was the perfect time. I’ve heard some publishers ask for “holiday books.” Mine didn’t. But Maggie and Will needed one!

CapeCodweddingBarb: Shadows on Maine Christmas is your seventh Antique Prints Mystery. On Wicked Cozies, we have authors who’ve just turned in their first, second, or third book in a series. What advice do you have for authors working a long-term series? What do you wish you had known?

Ah. The series. So many issues come up when you’re writing a series. When to set each book. Within weeks of each other? In different seasons? Different years? Do your characters stay in one town and you gradually kill off everyone who lives there or do they travel, finding crime wherever they go? But perhaps the biggest challenge is developing your character emotionally, and having her make life decisions without interrupting the crime solving. How long does he (or she) vacillate between two love interests? Can a series continue after the protagonist marries? Has children? Moves to another town? Changes professions? Authors have done all the above – some more successfully than others. One danger to be aware of is killing off a character that readers love. It’s been done. (Not by me. So far, anyway!) But some readers never forgive.

!cid_5DD80D18-4277-43A2-92BE-A87ACD38DB1B@maine_rrBarb: In addition to your mystery series, you write historical fiction for middle-grade readers, like your latest, Uncertain Glory. What’s the single biggest difference between writing for young readers and for adults?

I love writing historical novels, and, so far, I’ve focused on historical novels for ages 8-14. All five of my historicals are set in Wiscasset, Maine. Rivers and mountains change very little over thousands of years. Houses can last hundreds of years. I wanted to show a town that stayed more or less the same over the years, but in which its citizens, and the way they lived their day-to-day lives, changed as the years passed. My books (Stopping to Home, Seaward Born, Wintering Well, Finest Kind, and now Uncertain Glory) are based on real people who lived in Wiscasset, and real events. I love bringing the past to life. My main characters are ages 11-14: ages at which major life decisions were made during the 19th century. Other than that, and that they’re a bit shorter than my adult mysteries, they’re as serious… perhaps more serious than my mysteries. My historicals are read by adults as well as young people. I don’t write down to my readers.

twisted threadsBarb: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

Lea: Thanks for asking! The Shadows series isn’t over. But I’m excited about a new mystery series beginning in January, 2015, with Twisted Threads. The Mainely Needlepoint series is set in Haven Harbor, Maine. Its protagonist is 28-year-old Angie Curtis, who had a rough time growing up in Maine, and has spent the last ten years working for a private investigator in Arizona. When her mother’s body is found, Angie returns to Haven Harbor to find her mother’s killer, face her own past, and help her grandmother with her custom needlepoint business. I just finished Threads of Evidence, the second in the series, which will be published a year from now. Later this month I’ll be working on the third book in that series, and beginning another Shadows book. And I have several books for young people in the works, too. Not bored!

Gentle readers–so that was our conversation. Do you have questions for Lea? Ask away!

Lea’s Bio

Lea Wait says that through some time warp she really grew up in the 19th century. A former corporate manager and adoptive single parent of four daughters who is also an antique print dealer and expert on Winslow Homer wood engravings, she is now married to artist Bob Thomas and she lives in a house built in 1774. She channeled Homer himself when writing the 5th in her contemporary Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, Shadows of a Down East Summer, in which Homer and two young women who posed for him are major characters. Lea also writes historical fiction (19th century, natch) for young people, collects seaglass, loves to row, and invites you to friend her on Facebook.

Wicked Wednesday- Knowing Your Way Around Town

We’ve been talking craft all month on Wicked Wednesdays. This week we’re chiming in about how we keep track of the towns in our series. How do you road map an imaginary place? Remember which stores are on Main Street? So Wickeds, how do you keep it all straight from book to book?

 Jessie: I use Scrivener. It very conveniently has a places category and I import all the places from the previous book into the next one as soon as I create a new file. Then I add any new places to the existing database as I go along.

Map by Phyllis Ann Whippen

Map by Phyllis Ann Whippen

Edith: So far I have used either fictionalized real towns (Ipswich in the Lauren Rousseau mysteries, West Newbury in the Local Foods mysteries) or a real town (Amesbury, in my historical mystery) in my fiction. But when I fictionalize a real place, I add made-up streets and businesses. So far I’ve been able to keep the made-up stuff in my memory, but using Scrivener’s system for a Places folder is a great idea. In my new WIP, however, I created a fictional small town, so drawing myself a map would be a good idea. On the to-do list!

Lea Wait's Wiscasset, Maine from her children's books. Learn more here.

Lea Wait’s Wiscasset, Maine from her children’s books. Learn more here.

Barb: My Busman’s Harbor turns out to be a pretty complicated place. It’s a town, and a harbor, two points of land that surround the harbor, a private island and a penninsula that leads from Route One, the main artery of the Maine coast down to Busman’s. As the books have developed, we’ve found out where more and more of the characters live and work. Like Jessie, I’ve kept Scrivener files of all the important places I’ve described– the houses, boats, town pier, marina, shops and hospital. Like Edith, I’ve modeled it on a real town–Boothbay Harbor, Maine. But I’ve made so many modifications and described so many fictional places, if I do get a contract for more books, I think it is time for a map. As an aside–I love, love fictional books with maps in them. Deborah Crombie’s are a particular favorite.

afbchurchSherry: Tagged for Death has two main locations. They are based on fictional versions of Bedford, Massachusetts and Hanscom Air Force Base. Even though I have a good idea  of how the town of Ellington, Massachusetts and Fitch Air Force Base look, I’ve made crude (very crude) drawings of each. I also keep extensive notes about what is where for both. It’s been a lot of fun to use two places I loved living in the series.

Liz: All of the above! I use Scrivener too, and my town, Frog Ledge, is fictional but based on a hybrid of two towns near me. I have a good picture in my mind of how it looks, but like Barb, I think I might need a map…

Julie: My town is based on two different towns. I am keeping place notes, but already feel the need for a map, which I will do before the next book is done. Things like “how long does it take to go from the shop to the lake?”  need to be consistent, and make sense. Anyone have any good map making ideas? Maybe we should create a wicked cozy map of New England?

Edith: I love the idea of a Wicked Cozy map, Julie!

Readers: Do you like maps in a work of fiction? Would you prefer to read about a real place, so you can go and trace the steps of our ficitonal protagonists, or do you prefer to read the fictional towns we and other authors make up?

So Who is Barbara Ross?

I love to chat with my wicked cozy sisters – they’re such interesting people, and I find out new nuggets of information every time! Today I’m talking to Barbara Ross, author of “Clammed Up,” to get an idea of what makes her tick.

Barbara RossBarb, how long have you been writing? What did you start out writing?

I always wrote. My mother has an embarrassing illustrated story about a wild horse circa second grade that she’s saving to blackmail me with some day.

Who has influenced you?

So many people! Like a lot of girls, I graduated from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie to Dorothy Sayers. Then I wandered in the desert of contemporary American literature for awhile and found my way back to mystery via P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter.

Who do I buy as soon as the books hit the stores? In mystery, Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Who would I say has most influenced my series? Cleo Coyle, Sheila Connolly, Kaitlyn Dunnett, Sarah Graves, Leslie Meier, Lucy Burdette, Kate Flora, Lea Wait.

Who would I trade my soul to write like? Alice Munro.

Clammed Up: A Maine Clambake MysteryTalk about your past life in the business world. How has that influenced your fiction?

Julia Snowden, the protagonist of Clammed Up worked at a venture capital firm and I knew quite a few people like that when I was a tech entrepreneur. One scene in the book is a direct lift from the life of a young investment banker I knew.

What’s your connection to New England?

I was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, but my family left when I was just a few months old. It tool me 22 years to get back, but the instant I moved to New England, it felt like home. Currently, I live with my husband in Somerville, MA and we have a summer place in Boothbay Harbor, ME which I’ve highly fictionalized for the Busman’s Harbor in my Clambake mysteries.

What’s your favorite thing about New England?

The people. Hands down. And the variety. City, country, ocean, lakes, mountains, rivers, winter, spring, summer, fall, history, contemporary. You never get bored or run out of things to do.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

People are always surprised to learn that I’m a scrapbooker. I think it doesn’t fit with my personality, but it’s a hobby I enjoy.

bloodmoonfrontcoverWhat are you working on right now?

Book two in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, Boiled Over. Reading all the submissions for Level Best Books where I’m a co-editor. Getting ready to open registration for the New England Crime Bake, where I’m co-chair.

Why cozies? Do you write anything else additionally?

Cozies because I love a good mystery. I also write short stories.

Which are the top five books are in your to-be-read pile?

There Was an Old Woman–Hallie Ephron

The Clover House–Henriette Lazaridis Powers

Zinsky the Obscure–Ilan Mochari

Together Tea–Marjan Kamali

Kneading to Die–Liz Mugavero

Thanks for sharing, Barb! Can’t wait to read Clammed Up – and I love the title Boiled Over too. Looking forward to your book. Now I’m off to look up your mother, because I would really love to read the wild horse story…..