A Wicked Excellent Retreat

by Julie, still basking in the glow of hard work, good food, and wonderful friends

A WICKED EXCELLENT RETREATSix years ago Jessie, Barb, Edith and Liz had newly minted contracts, and decided to get together for a weekend to figure out what that meant. The next year Sherry had a contract, and she and I were invited to join the weekend retreat. That weekend the Wickeds were born. We got the blog up a few weeks later, in time for Liz’s release, followed shortly by Edith and Barb.

My contract came through shortly thereafter, and the six of us have been gathering for this 48 hour retreat ever since. Some years have been mostly about writing. This year the focus was on the business of being a Wicked. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t laughter, great food, lots of wine, and fabulous conversations. There was all of that, and more. But five years into this community that we all cherish, we had conversations about how to continue to build, celebrate our successes, support one another through deadlines, and navigate the twists of turns of life.

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We are six very different women, with different points of view. We don’t always agree, but we do always listen to one another. Over these six years we’ve become friends, certainly. We’ve also come to respect one another enormously, respect our paths, and offer advice when asked for it.

This year we helped each other plot, met up with Lea Wait (who’s new book Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd comes out tomorrow!), talked about an editorial calendar for the blog, had a conversation about the book business that lasted the better part of a morning, shared new skills with each other, created some new work flow for the blog, and wrote down releases and deadlines through 2019. My mind is whirring, but I’m excited about the conversations, and rejuvenated by spending time with my friends. I know you will all love these new ideas, which we’ll be rolling out this summer.

One personal note–as I mentioned earlier, I did not have a contract when I joined the blog. I will forever be grateful to these women for inviting me on board, lifting me up along my journey, and becoming dear friends. We’ve been figuring out the best way to be Wickeds along the way, and are so grateful to you, dear readers, for coming along with us.

Readers, do you go on retreat with friends? Tell us about it in the comments!

Wickeds, what did I miss in my recap?

Murder on Cape Cod Cover Reveal!

News Flash: Sheila Golding is the randomly selected winner of the author apron! Congratulations. Sheila, please send your mailing address to edith at edithmaxwell dot com and I’ll get the apron out to you.

Maddie Day here, otherwise known as Edith, at Barb’s Boothbay Harbor home with all the other main Wickeds on our annual retreat, and boy, is it ever lovely.

I’m using one of our occasional Saturday posts to share some exciting news. The preorder page for Murder on Cape Cod, complete with a special exclusive edition cover, is finally ready over at Barnes & Noble. This is book one in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, due out December 18, and I’ve been waiting to show you all this cover for a while. I’ll celebrate by sending one commenter a special author apron!

Here’s a little about the series, but you’ll be hearing more about it in coming months.

The series is set in the quaint fictional Cape Cod village of Westham, which is replete with a salt-water taffy shop, craft distillery, gourmet ice cream store, fudge shop, nautical-themed gift shoppe, bakery and cafe, sushi restaurant, lobster shack, and indy bookstore. The shops are bookended on each end by churches, with the town hall, library, and police and fire stations in the middle. Many of the proprietors are members of the Cozy Capers book group – a group that reads and meets to discuss one cozy mystery every week – as are the almost-due-to-retire police chief, the head librarian, and the town clerk. Unfortunately, murder starts popping up in and around the town’s shops.

Mac Almeida is our protagonist, a wiry thirty-six year old with short black curls, who owns and operates Mac’s Bikes, a bicycle repair and rental shop serving locals and tourists alike.  She lives in a tiny house behind the store. Her parents reside in the UU rectory, her half-brother and his little daughter live in a local lighthouse, and her baker boyfriend is just down the road, too. I’ve loved setting up these new characters and this fictional town.

So are you ready for the cover? Ta-da!

MURDER ON CAPE COD with sticker 1.5

I love it! As you can see, Murder on Cape Cod is an exclusive deal with Barnes & Noble for the first year, but after that Kensington Publishing will re-release it on all platforms. My agent and my editor were both excited about the unusual arrangement, and who was aprontenpercentI to say no? The books will have seaside-based recipes and lots of intrigue. Oh, and murder – on the bike trail in this book!

Readers: Who has been to Cape Cod and what do you love about it? If you haven’t, what’s your favorite waterside place to visit (or live)? I’ll send one of you an author apron!

What Has Writing Taught the Seven Sinister Sisters?

Edith here, delighted to host the Seven Sinister Sisters, a group I joined up with this winter and spring. We are seven authors with new books coming out, and we’ve been guest blogging all over cyberspace since January. You can see where we’ve been and where we’re still scheduled on our Facebook page. Commenters here today will be entered into our grand giveaway!

Seven Sinister Sisters

For today’s post I asked my sisters this question: What has writing taught you? Here are our answers in no particular order.

Becky Clark: Gosh, where to start? All the obvious ones: work ethic, self-discipline, organization, finish what you start. But also writing has given me a pretty thick skin. Don’t get me wrong, negative reviews always sting, but writing has taught me that everyone has different likes and dislikes. I’m sure I always knew that, but when you mostly hang out with your like-minded husband, kids or kids-in-law, you forget that not everyone has, say, your weird sense of humor, or sees what you were trying to do with your writing. I’ve learned not to take things too personally.

Sue Star: 1. Discipline—I can’t not write.  Even when I’m on vacation I write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph.  2.  Passion—if I don’t feel that burning desire to dig into a project, it’s not worth doing.  Passion is the magic footprint that makes a story sparkle.  3.  Instinct—I’ve learned to trust my instincts about a story. Then “magic” happens, and a story ends up writing itself.  4.  Art—I’ve learned that I can paint, too.  No matter the form, creativity is all about the journey, not necessarily the destination.

Pat Hale: Writing has taught me not to take things personally. In my early days of writing when I received a rejection, it would take days to get over the disappointment and self-doubt. I’ve learned that rejections are not personal and they’re often the best way to learn. After the initial disappointment (still happens, but doesn’t last as long), I remind myself that the editor/agent isn’t rejecting me, but telling me I need to work harder and make my work better. Not personalizing rejection has been a hard learned but excellent lesson that has carried over into every area of my life.

Shawn McGuire: Writing has taught me to be more present in life. I think I notice things more, partly because my writer’s brain is always looking for details, partly because I’m naturally nosey. Part of noticing more means understanding people better. There’s a reason why people are the way they are—whether they’re simply having a bad day or because something happened in their life to make them a curmudgeon. Writing makes me dig down to uncover those reasons. I feel like I’m more understanding of most people, less tolerant of others.

Leslie Karst: That even when a task seems terribly daunting—such as composing an eighty thousand-word manuscript—if you simply keep at it, following through with the process step by step (or page by page), before long you will have finished. Completing the first draft of the manuscript that became my first Sally Solari culinary mystery (Dying for a Taste) was an incredibly powerful confidence builder, both for my writing career and for my life in general. Reaching that goal is all about perseverance and follow-through, and about having a belief in yourself.

Cathy Perkins: The first thing writing taught me was patience! Not just the waiting to hear from agents, editors, and reviewers, but the patience to learn the craft. To not be in a rush to publish before the story is ready for prime time.  Equally important though, writing has shown me how generous the author community is. I’ll never forget how kind and inclusive Sophia Littlefield, Nicole Peeler and Janet Reed were at my first Malice – my first conference and my debut novel. Talk about nervous! They set the bar I’ve tried to reach in helping other authors in this crazy place we call publishing.

Edith Maxwell: For me, being a writer has taught me that I have to show up every morning and write, but also that I have to trust the story enough to let it float sometimes. I’ve learned the value of discipline, and much of writing is in fact hard work. I also now know I can’t control everything. Characters occasionally take their sweet time revealing what comes next or why they acted the way they did.

Readers: What has your occupation, favorite hobby, or pastime taught you?

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Our next stop on the tour is April 3 on the Killer Characters blog. Here’s where you can find each of us in the meantime:

http://www.patriciahale.org

http://www.edithmaxwell.com

http://www.lesliekarstauthor.com/

http://www.cperkinswrites.com

http://www.shawn-mcguire.com

http://www.rebeccawriter.blogspot.com

http://www.BeckyClarkBooks.com

To celebrate our new releases, the Seven Sinister Sisters are having a giveaway!

Seven lucky winners will receive an ebook from one of us.

One GRAND PRIZE winner will receive a signed copy from each of us!

Enter to win by leaving a comment. Our tour runs from January 6th to April 30th and we’re answering a different question at each blog. Leave a comment at every blog for more entries! We’ll draw the winner from the combined comments at the end of our tour.Tour graphic Seven Sinister Sisters

 

 

Four Wickeds and Lots of Friends in Portland, Maine on April 10

by Barb who is packing up in Key West and preparing to head north too soon

On April 10, from 7 to 9 pm Jessie, Liz, Edith, and Barb will be at an exciting event in Portland. Maine. Co-sponsored by Print Bookstore and Kensington, the evening is billed as a Cozy Mystery Author Palooza. The event will be held at at local brew pub. Partner vendors will provide delicious beer, drinks and snacks. You can get all the details on Print’s website here.

Rising Tide Brewing
103 Fox Street
Portland, ME 04101

The authors coming include

Anne Canadeo, author of KNIT TO KILL
Maddie Day, (Edith Maxwell) author of BISCUITS AND SLASHED BROWNS
Devon Delaney, author of EXPIRATION DATE (out 4/24/18, pre-orders available at the event)
Kaitlyn Dunnett, author of X MARKS THE SCOT
Jessica Ellicott (Jessie Crockett), author of MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE
Sally Goldbenbaum, author of MURDER WEARS MITTENS
Leslie Meier, author of BRITISH MANOR MURDER
Liz Mugavero, author of CUSTOM BAKED MURDER
Carlene O’Connor, author of MURDER IN AN IRISH CHURCHYARD
Barbara Ross, author of STOWED AWAY
Misty Simon, author of CREMAINS OF THE DAY
Lea Wait, author of TIGHTENING THE THREADS

We’d love to see our New England peeps there!

So Wickeds, a brew pub is an unexpected place for a cozy mystery signing. What the most unusual author event you’ve participated in–place or any other factor?

Julie: I so wish I could be there to cheer you all on! What a wonderful event, and a great lineup! As to my most unusual place–I need to get on this. So far they’ve been pretty standard, but I aspire to sign in a brew pub, so there’s that. I expect tons of pictures my friends!

Edith:  Probably my most unusual event was my dual launch of Called to Justice (written as Edith Maxwell) and When the Grits Hit the Fan (by Maddie Day). I had my two personalities interview each other at a local indy bookstore. It was fun and the audience loved it. And if you don’t get enough great beer at our Portland event, come to my launch party on April 11 in Amesbury! Please see my web site for details.

Jessie: Several years ago I did a murder mystery night event at Zorvino Vineyard in Sandown, NH. The organizers had invited several mystery authors to play roles in the event along with a bunch of seasoned actors. It was a ticketed event and part of what was included was a signed copy of a book by one of the authors. There must have been over two hundred mystery enthusiasts in attendance. I got to play the victim!

Barb: This question caused my mind to travel over a lot of venues. Hard to believe I’ve been at this for 7 and 1/2 years. What I saw was a whole lotta libraries and bookshops, and the occasional auditorium, theater or classroom.No place unusual. I think one of the most unusual things was after my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was published. When I showed up for a library visit, there was a lovely display with my photo and bio–and no book. “I’m sorry, your book was stolen,” the librarian reported. I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered!

Sherry: Have a fantastic time in Portland! The strangest was the time a bookstore put me in the children’s section and I had to keep telling parents not to buy my book for their children. Last week the Centreville Regional Library set up an event for me at the Winery at Bull Run here in Virginia. It was a lot of fun.

Liz: For my very first book launch for Kneading to Die, I did it at The Big Biscuit, the pet bakery in Massachusetts. These are the wonderful people who supply me with recipes for the books. It was such a fun experience – dogs and people abounded, and there was even a doggie cake for Shaggy and her friends. One of my favorite times ever.

Readers: What is the most unusual place you’ve been to or done a book talk?

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. http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/

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 http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ 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. https://www2.barnesandnoble.com/b/select-mystery-novels-buy-3-get-the-4th-free/_/N-2q0o

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.

Edithatbandn

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!

Wicked Wednesday: Biscuits and Slashed Browns

BiscuitsToday we are celebrating Maddie Day’s Biscuits and Slashed Browns release! A reminder about the book:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

In honor of the newest Robbie Jordan adventure, let’s talk about breakfast, Wickeds. What is your favorite “eating out” breakfast?

Jessie: I don’t have a specific favorite place for breakfast. What I do favor is breakfast in beautiful hotels. I love to sleep in and then head down to a restaurant in the hotel about an hour before they stop serving. I like to ask the waitstaff for a carafe of coffee and then let them know they needn’t worry about me any further. I sit with a notebook and a stack of postcards and nibble and people watch. It is a bit of a travel ritual for me. I’ve done it in Orlando, Vegas, San Francisco, NY, China, Iceland, Brazil, and in the U.K.

Sherry: Jessie, that sounds like a fabulous way to spend a morning. Congratulations on the new book, Edith. I love to order something more complicate than we would make at home. Sigh, with my cooking skills that’s almost anything. It’s a great time to try something new, especially regional dishes. I have to say I tried fried toast in England and it wasn’t my favorite!

Barb: I love diners. For any meal, really, but especially for breakfast. My two favorites in Portland are Becky’s and the Miss Portland. Favorite orders: Omelet with cheese, ham and onions, or blueberry pancakes with syrup and bacon. I’m making myself hungry just typing this.

Liz: I love diners too! And I especially love when I find a diner that has food I can eat 🙂 Omelets are usually my go-to, with mushrooms and spinach, and home fries. And coffee. Lots of coffee!

Julie: I love breakfast, and could happily eat it for every meal. I am an Eggs Benedict fan. I usually order it, since I never make hollandaise sauce at home. Lately, the S&S (a favorite local spot) has expanded on my go-to with Eggs Oscar. Poached eggs on potato pancakes, topped with asparagus and crabmeat. And, of course, the sauce. So. Good. That said, I’m also a pancake fan, and if I’m in a diner I always ask about the special.

Edith: Thanks for helping me celebrate, Wickeds! For breakfast out, I often order crispy  hash browns, which are so hard to make at home, with a fried egg. Like Julie, though, I don’t make hollandaise sauce at home, and I once had a California Benedict with avocado to die for.

Readers, help us celebrate this book birthday by sharing your favorite breakfast!

Biscuits and Slashed Browns Book Birthday

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

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

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

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

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

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

Some pretty awesome reviews are already in:

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

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

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

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