Wicked Wednesday: Fall Preview

A Wicked CozyFall PreviewJulie here. In my theater life, we had the Greater Boston Theater Expo yesterday, which was a preview of the coming season. Since we have three (three!!) Wicked releases this month, I thought it might be fun to catch up with what all of the Wickeds are up to this fall.

Liz: It’s all about the writing this fall! I’m wrapping up book two in the Cat Cafe Mysteries now–which is tentatively titled Purrder, She Wrote (cute title, right??) and then I’ll be on to Murder, She Meowed, the 7th book in the Pawsitively Organic series. And a couple other projects I’ll be working on simultaneously… I guess I better get used to not sleeping, right? And in between all that, I’ll be celebrating the release of Purring Around the Christmas Tree, book six in the Pawsitively series, out in late September!

Edith: I’m finishing Country Store mystery #5, Death Over Easy, polishing Quaker Midwife #4, possibly titled Seeking Unity, and starting Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery #2! But I’m also traveling to Toronto for almost a week in October like most of the other Wickeds for the big Bouchercon mystery convention, where among other activities I’ll hear if Delivering the Truth wins a Macavity Award.

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I’m looking forward to seeing almost all the Wickeds in one spot at the Lawrence Library on October 21, and am on a MWA panel at the Boston Book Festival on October 28. I’ll be moderating a panel at Crime Bake, and doing a couple of library gigs here and there, too. Most exciting for me personally will be providing labor support as my goddaughter gives birth to her first baby sometime in the next month. Squee!

Barb: The mass market paperback of Eggnog Murder comes out October 31. I’m working on another holiday novella for a new collection with Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis for 2018, as well as the seventh Maine Clambake Mystery, Steamed Open. Along with three other Wickeds, I’m headed to Bouchercon in October. I’m looking forward presenting an expert session, “Four Lies People Will Tell You about Marketing Your Novel,” at the New England Crime Bake in November. On the personal front, we’re moving to our new condo in Portland, Maine on September 21. Can’t wait!

Sherry: Time is flying by! I am writing book seven with a working title of Let’s Fake A Deal — I’m not sure it will make it to the shelf with that title. I’m waiting for the copy edits for I Know What You Bid Last Summer which come out on February 28th. I’m really looking forward to going to Bouchercon in Toronto. I’ve never been there and am going to go up a couple of days early to do some sightseeing with my husband. And shortly after is Crime Bake. It always feels like I’m home when I land in Boston.

Jessie: Wow! What a busy bunch! Right now I am finishing up the second book in my new Beryl and Edwina series. On September 19 the second Change of Fortune mystery, Whispers of Warning releases. I have a second launch date on Halloween for the first Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder in an English Village. I’ll be heading to conference in Florida in October too as well as speaking on a panel at the NH Library Association conference and to the NH Romance Writers group. And, of course, I’ll be at Crime Bake in November with the rest of the Wickeds!

Julie: What a busy group we are! There area a couple of Wicked library events coming up this fall (stay tuned!). I will be at Bouchercon and Crime Bake as well. Additionally, I am expected edits on the second Theater Cop mystery, and have a December 1 deadline on another series I will be announcing later.

Friends, stay tuned for more information about events that gather more that one Wicked at a time–we will let you know! In the meantime, let us know what is coming up for you and yours this fall!

The Detective’s Daughter – The Summer Reading List

 

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Kim in Baltimore surviving the heat.

What do Jaws, The Eye of the Needle, Where Are the Children, and Valley of the Dolls have in common? They are a few of the books I remember my mom reading when I was a child. Every day, whether she was sitting on the front steps or in the car waiting for Dad to come out of work, Mom was always reading a book.

Last summer, as I was moseying about in the East Village, I picked up a well-worn copy of Rosemary’s Baby in The Strand. By the next day I’d read it cover to cover. Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite movies and I remembered Mom reading the book years ago.image
Each week we took a trip to the Enoch Pratt library where Mom would walk out with an armful of novels she’d have read long before our next visit. By the time I was fourteen we were both reading Mary Higgens Clark, Phyllis Whitney and Barbara Michaels.

Throughout the years I’ve read Gone With the Wind more times than I can count. I have Mom’s battered copy locked on the shelves of my desk. I take it out just to hold sometimes, remembering Mom sitting in her folding chair, with her cigarettes and iced tea at her side, flipping the pages of the latest book she’d borrowed.

Dad was not much of a reader other than the morning and Sunday editions of The Baltimore Sun. However, one week Mom checked out The Godfather from the library and before she had her iced tea poured and her cigarette lit, Dad was absorbed in the novel. It’s the only book Mom and I ever recall seeing Dad read.

I’ve thought often about the books Mom has read and decided this summer to make them my reading list. I could cross off Rosemary’s Baby and Gone With the Wind; they are books I will read time and again. It wasn’t hard to come up with titles, but I needed to keep it compact. There’s only so many weeks in summer! Here’s what I came up with:image

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Jaws by Peter Benchley
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
Neither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes
Window on the Square by Phyllis A. Whitney
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre

I’ve finished reading Valley of the Dolls and am well into the Phyllis Whitney book. I unfortunately began watching Mad Men the same time I was reading Dolls. It was depressing reading and seeing how little freedom and respect women were given. I don’t think I can bring myself to watch another episode of Mad Men!

As I’ve compiled these books and read through them I’ve thought about what these titles say about my mom. Why do we select the titles that we do? Why are some inclined to read only mystery while others enjoy the classics? Is the genre you prefer inherited or learned?
I spoke to Mom this morning and asked her why she chose certain books. “They seemed interesting,” she said. She wasn’t particularly aware if they were best sellers or if a movie deal was in the works, she just enjoyed reading. I think that’s the part I inherited.
Hope you’re enjoying your summer reading.

Readers: Please share with us the titles of books you have read more than once and why.

Tempa Pagel and a Special Librarian

Edith, north of BostonHeadshot

I’m delighted to welcome my longtime writing friend Tempa Pagel to the blog today. Tempa and I met more than twenty years ago in the first fiction writing group I belonged to. She’s written two beautiful and intriguing books set in Newburyport, both with chapters set in present day as well as in the past. You’ll love her new book, They Danced by the Light of the Moon, as well as today’s tale of an amazing librarian.

TheyDancedByLightMoonFrontThey Danced by the Light of the Moon is another dual mystery, set in two time periods—1901 and the present. Andy and her mother-in-law Mayta are at the reopening gala of a seaside Victorian grand hotel when a fellow diner is murdered during a tour. A suspicious overheard conversation draws Andy into the mystery of why the woman was killed in the same hotel room another woman disappeared from more than a century before. Edith: Versions of the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel in Newcastle, New Hampshire, and the old State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers are almost characters in this book. Fascinating! And she’s giving away two ARCs of the book to two lucky commenters.

I’ve Always Admired Librarians

Have you had an experience with a librarian that has caused you to look at the profession in a different way? I’ve always loved libraries and while I appreciate librarians, I’ve never really thought much about them past their roles as keepers of books and purveyors of information. An experience a couple of months ago pointed out to me how important these dedicated and unassuming individuals often are.

Against what was probably my better judgment, I accepted an event in a city two hours away from my Massachusetts home. It was early in the promotion phase of my new book, so, flattered that a librarian wanted me to speak at her library, I leapt at the chance. I looked on a map, saw that it was a pretty large city, and that it was accessible by major highways. So that I could devote the day to the event, I set up a time during my spring vacation week.

On the appointed day, my husband and I drove out together. As we entered the city, we millnoticed a number of rundown and vacant buildings. My first thought was that my talk about how two derelict buildings inspired me to write a mystery might be a frivolous topic for this venue. My second thought was that the few people I saw on the streets did not strike me as those who might be willing or able to shell out $25 for a cozy mystery in hardback. Still, the librarian had encouraged me to bring stock to sell, so I remained optimistic.
Since we were early, we did a little exploring. The architecture of the area, although no longer grand, told a story of early wealth, and while there were a few encouraging signs of a comeback—a new or restored building here and there— it was clear that this once thriving industrial city had been in decline for many years.

rowhousesProceeding on to our destination, we came to a neighborhood of abandoned and shabby row houses encircling an expanse of park. Upon a rise, in the middle of this respite of grass and trees, stood the library, a beautiful limestone neoclassical structure with massive columns, that could easily fit in should it be plopped down amidst government buildings in Washington DC. We drove around to the entrance at the back of the hundred-year-old building and found another surprise: a modern multi-story glass addition, which was specially designed to enhance the original architecture. Here, in the heart of a down-on-her-luck city stood a real gem.

Inside, the woman at the desk did not know where the main librarian was, but contacted the children’s librarian, who took us to where I would be speaking and, as the room was not yet ready, helped us set up tables and chairs. He also did not know where the librarian was, but encouraged me to seek him out if I needed anything else. My husband and I sat bigbuildingdown and watched through the floor to ceiling windows for people to come to the entrance. Very few did, and none came into the large room where we waited. Time to begin came and went. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. No librarian, no audience. The room hadn’t been set up for me; did I have the wrong day? But no, I’d touched base with the librarian earlier that week and all was well then. We continued to wait.

Finally, the librarian came bustling in, apologizing for her tardiness, explaining that she had had important reports to get out. She sat down and was immediately attentive to us. She had advertised my event in all the usual places, she said, and was surprised at the lack of attendees. We decided that maybe school vacation week had taken people away. She promised to buy my book for the library, and then began to talk candidly about the history of the city, its economic decline and the change in demographics, which had resulted in a waning interest in and support of the library.

She was optimistic, however, that things were on an up swing. She talked about important investments that were coming to the city. She was proud that recent fund raising had resulted in the restoration of the library and its new addition. When it was clear that nobody would be attending my talk, she took us on a tour, climbing from floor to floor, moving between eras?daylight streaming through new glass highlighting the gleaming oak woodwork and flooring of the original section—truly a beautiful blending of old and new. We admired the teen room, the computer room, the new shelves awaiting books, the cozy reading areas.

She explained that, although they now had a state-of-the-art library, they lacked funding for sufficient staff to run it. I understood then why a room hadn’t been ready for me, and why the woman at the desk wouldn’t know where the librarian was because she could be in any one of a hundred places doing a hundred essential tasks.

But the librarian didn’t complain about being overburdened, she spoke enthusiastically about events that had taken place and plans for more in the future: storytelling and parties for children held on the park lawn; readings by authors; performances by actors and musicians. It would take time, but the people would come back to the library, and the library would once again become a vibrant center in the city. As she talked, it was easy to visualize the empty space around us buzzing with activity.

In the course of our conversation, I learned that this enthusiastic young Hispanic woman lived within walking distance, somewhere in the sea of run-down housing that surrounded us, within the community she said didn’t read and weren’t comfortable with libraries, the community to which she belonged. I realized that she was more than a librarian; she was an ambassador for her city and a one-woman driving force with a vision to bring books and art and learning to her people. She was also a good salesperson. When she mentioned that she would like to have me come back in the summer to attend one of these events, I had to bite my tongue to stop the yes from rolling off it.

By the end of our hour and half together, I no longer cared that, in my usual estimation, the event would be considered a bust. In fact, to focus on whether or not I sold a few books now seemed trivial, even greedy, compared to the mission this librarian had undertaken and had shared with us. As we drove out of the city, I saw things differently: restored houses I had missed before, their vacant and run-down neighbors taking on new promise. It occurred to me that while it was the city leaders who were working to encourage economic investment, nobody might be more influential in advocating for and in creating support for a renaissance in the city than this woman in her humble position of librarian.

Tempa Pagel was born in Pontiac, Michigan. She is a middle school teacher, currently residing with her husband in the historic city of Newburyport, Massachusetts. She has two grown children, whose early antics have often found their way onto the pages of her books. They Danced by the Light of the Moon is her second Andy Gammon mystery. 

Readers: Questions for Tempa? Other librarian stories? Have you read other mysteries that go back and forth between the present and the past?

 

Kindness

Jessie:

Surrounded by dragonflies and wild asters in the Granite State

I recently discovered that September is Be Kind To Editors & Writers Month. It made me give some serious thought as to how someone would go about implementing this sentiment. I am very fond of my own editor and try to be kind by meeting my deadlines, communicating with courtesy, and realizing my books are not her only responsibility.

But what about writers? How is it best to be kind to them? The first things that come to mind are to buy books written by your favorite authors and tell other people that you enjoyed them. Word of mouth from readers keeps the writers you love in business. And while on the subject of buying books, it would be kind to purchase books that are still in print new instead of used.

librarycartAsking your library to carry books by your favorite authors is another tremendous kindness. Writers love libraries and we all feel so privileged to be included in library collections. If I had to guess most writers still working on being published  have stood in a library at the spot their books would be alphabetically shelved and imagined their work there. I know I have.

Writing a letter to a writer whose work you enjoyed is another kindness.I can’t speak for everyone but I know I love to hear from readers. Writers generally work in isolation instead of on a team or in a setting that provides any sort of real time feedback. We take a bunch of disjointed bits from the world around us and spend the better part of a year turning them into what we hope will be worthy of our readers’ time. I can’t tell you how many times I have been having a tough week on the work front when a letter arrives from a reader saying he or she had fun in my imaginary world. And miraculously, the work gets easier and the week gets better.

Finally, and I think, most importantly, show the kids in your life that you value reading. Share your passion for stories with them by taking them to a story time at the library or reading to them at night before bed. Be the relative or family friend who gives books as gifts. You may find you are helping to encourage the next generation of writer.

The Value of One

By Edith

North of Boston

We sometimes think we need many. Lots of positive reviews. A big audience at a stack of cookiessigning. Dozens of interested buyers for your house or car. A plate full of cookies, a resume full of jobs, a shelf full of your own published books. At certain times of life, perhaps many suitors, many friends.

But what about just one? When our house in Ipswich was on the market over a year ago, and we didn’t get an offer from the first open house, Hugh remarked, “We only need one.” And then we got one great offer and accepted it.

I know someone who seemed to be without any close friends for a few years. Then he met a guy who he really clicked with. Now he has a best friend. And a close friend in the guy’s girlfriend. And met his own girlfriend through them, and then started making a few other good friends. But some people really only need one good friend.

The other night I went to a nearby library. They had invited me to be their guest author for their adult summer reading program. They had publicized it. I had pushed the word out. I arrived a few minutes early, set out my books, checked my prepared remarks. One woman sat at the end of the front row and we chatted for a few minutes.

The appointed start time came and went. Nobody else arrived. So I pulled up a chair across from the woman and we proceeded to have a very nice, very intimate chat about my books, the process of writing, her recent unemployment, and much more. After about 45 minutes our conversation seemed to be winding down, so I Edith Maxwell with her booksthanked her. She glanced over at my book display and asked if she could buy my books. Well, sure! She bought four.

It might seem a little pathetic that I could only attract one reader for my talk. But hey, I’m still a beginning author. I now have a new really big fan. The library knows I am reliable and agreeable. My name and my book were publicized all over town. True, it was only a fifteen-minute drive away (and they paid me). If I’d driven two hours to Connecticut or Maine for the same experience, I might be somewhat less agreeable about it. But even multi-published authors have been through these tiny-audience situations. We just keep going.

What about you? What were your times when one was enough, or maybe it wasn’t enough? Are there situations when one simply isn’t sufficient?