Cover Reveal and a Timeline Problem

by Barb, who’s enjoying a relaxing time in Key West with fellow Wicked Sherry Harris and her husband Bob

First of all–a cover reveal. Here is the artwork for Yule Log Murder, the holiday novella collection I’m in with Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis coming out October 30, 2018. I really like the cover, especially the effect with skeleton in the yule log cake.

If anything my name is even harder to read than on the first anthology cover, which Amazon, depending on the view, says was written by “Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis” or by “Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and another author.” (Note: There are fewer letters in Barbara Ross than in “another author.” It might as well say, “and another less famous author.”)

I joke, I joke. I really do like the cover.

When Kensington asked me to write the first holiday novella, “Nogged Off,” in Eggnog Murder, I was thrilled. Fortuitously, I had planned a gap between Fogged Inn, which takes place the week after Thanksgiving, and Iced Under, which takes place in February. “Nogged Off,” slid right in, putting Christmas between November and February, as it so often is.

With “Logged On,” my story in Yule Log Murder, I wasn’t so lucky. It will come out after Stowed Away, which takes place in June, and before Steamed Open, which takes place in August. I think I’m even going to slide another book, Maine Clambake #8, in after that, which means Yule Log Murder will be published before Steamed Open and Maine Clambake #8, but will take place after the events in those books.

I THINK I have avoided major spoilers. I hope that dedicated Maine Clambake readers will get a tiny, tantalizing glimpse into the future. Of course, a lot of the readers of these novella collections aren’t my regular readers. They are fans of Leslie Meier or Lee Hollis or fans of Christmas-based stories, or of novellas. So they won’t be bothered by the timeline issues. And a lot of my regular readers won’t read the novella, so they’ll be fine, too.

My biggest challenge is how to position the story in places that give lists of series books in order. I characterized Eggnog Murder as Maine Clambake 4.5, which it truly was. But should I position Yule Log Murder as Maine Clambake 6.5 or 8.5? And do I have to wait until 7 and 8 come out for 8.5 to make any sense?

For those of you who are dedicated series readers, do you have “feelings” about this? Should I address the timeline in the readers’ letter that comes at the end of the novella? (It’s sort of like the Acknowledgments in the books.) How should I position the story?

I loved writing this story. I like working in the novella length and Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. I hope you enjoy it, too. Whatever order you read it it.

Stowed Away

by Barb who’s celebrating the holiday in Virginia with family

Hi everyone. I hope you are having great holidays. Today is release day for Maine Clambake Mystery #6, Stowed Away.

To celebrate, I’m giving a signed copy to one lucky commenter below.

In order to keep track of what people may be writing about my books on the Web I have set up Google Alerts for my name, my series name, and my titles. Some of the alerts are nearly useless. Clammed Up and Boiled Over, for example. People are always clamming up, particularly politicians, and boiling over, particularly at sporting events. Musseled Out and Fogged Inn are much better, because of their unique spellings. When I get alerted to one of those phrases, it almost always links to my book. (Usually to a pirated edition, or much more common, some site pretending to have a free electronic edition, but actually phishing.)

So when I started writing Stowed Away, I set up a Google Alert on the title. As I result I regularly receive articles about things that have stowed away.

Some of them are adorable, like this one.

Stowaway Kitten Survives Trip From Massachusetts To Wallingford While In Car Engine
It remains to be seen how many lives the kitten has left.

The kitten was fine, by the way, and was eventually adopted by the auto technician who opened the car hood and got quite a surprise. The little fellow was named Tacoma after the car brand in which he took his ride.

But most of the articles are absolutely horrifying, like this one.

A Giant Spider Traveled 10,000 Miles in a Swing Set
He saw the world, with all eight eyes.

The article goes on to say:
“Like a guinea pig, it was seven inches long and furry. Unlike a guinea pig, it had eight legs.”

The Huntsman Spider survived by eating locusts that had also stowed away, one of many things it eats in the wild, including beetles and small lizards. These spiders don’t spin webs, but get around by cartwheeling or handspringing a yard at a time. Imagine that coming at you. I don’t know if this particular story has a happy ending (or even what would constitute a happy ending). Last seen, the spider had been removed to the Heathrow Animal Reception Center.

Arachnids aren’t the only creepy stowaways. Over the last year and a half I have received dozens of links like these:

Stowaway snake grounds Aeromexico flight – video | World news …
Footage shows snake dangling from overhead compartment…

And this one from my own back yard.

Women in rental car find 4-foot snake stowed away in trunk
A ball python gives them a scare as they remove their bags after arriving at an inn in Kennebunk.

The article continues:

“The women, who drove Wednesday from Logan International Airport in Boston to an inn in Kennebunk, found a ball python when they arrived and were taking their bags from the car’s trunk.

Kennebunk Deputy Police Chief Dan Jones said officers responded to the Port Inn on Route 1 after getting the call.

‘As calls go, this one was pretty strange,’ he said.”

BTW, if you want to hear a good stowed away story of this ilk, ask the Wicked’s own Liz Mugavero next time you see her.

I’ll keep the alert active, even though stowed away promises to be as ineffective in spotting mentions of my book as clammed up and boiled over are. I have to admit, I kind of like these stories. They’re compelling and repelling at the same time.

Readers: Do you have a story about something that stowed away? Share it here, or just say hi to be entered to win a signed copy of Stowed Away.

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.


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!

Stowed Away ARCs are Here! (And a Giveaway)

by Barb, sorry to see the summer go

Update: The winners have been chosen by 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?

Three New Maine Clambake Books to Come! (And a Giveaway!)

by Barb, sitting in her front porch in Boothbay Harbor, Maine on the most gorgeous day

I’m thrilled to announce that Kensington has asked me to write three new Maine Clambake Mysteries after Book 6, Stowed Away, coming December 26, 2017. And, bonus for me, and I hope for you, there will also be a second Christmas-themed novella. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to tell more stories about Julia Snowden, her family and their friends and Busman’s Harbor, Maine.

In September, 2014, when I announced books four through six, I thought I knew what those books were about. You can read my descriptions here. The first two, Fogged In and Iced Under did get written, though the title of Fogged Inn changed slightly. The third book, Elvered After did not.

The original plan was to set three books during the tourist season–Clammed Up, Boiled Over, and Musseled Out–and three in the off season. But then I had the chance to write my first Christmas-themed novella, “Nogged Off,” and that made three Maine Clambake stories that took place in the fog, ice, and snow. So my editor at Kensington, John Scognamiglio, and I decided we needed to get back to sunshine and lighthouses and clams with book six.

Kensington also felt that most people wouldn’t know what elvers are, and when they discovered they’re tiny, transparent baby eels, it wouldn’t help the book’s appeal. (Not to mention, what would be on the cover?) I, on the other hand still love the story. Did you know that the elver fishery is the second largest by revenue in Maine? That opposite of most sea animals, eels go to the salt water of the Sargasso Sea to spawn and return to the fresh water of Maine’s rivers to mature? That a Mainer with an hard-to-get elver license and a place on a river to fish can make a year’s income in nine weeks? That the elvers are sold to eel farms in Asia to become sushi and other delicacies? That elvers are worth $350 a pound and the business is transacted in cash, so people are walking around the docks with tens of thousands of dollars in cash in their pockets? Plenty of reasons to kill someone, right?

But I’ll reluctantly put the elvers aside for now to explore other aspects of life on the Maine coast. And try to answer some burning questions, for example…

  • Are Julia and Chris going to make it?
  • Will the Snowdens rebuild Windsholme, the mansion on their private island?
  • Will Julia’s mother’s extended family be in more books?
  • What’s up with Julia’s father’s family? Don’t they live in Busman’s Harbor? Are we ever going to meet them?
  • And Chris’s family. Why does he never talk about them, even when asked directly?

I know some of the answers, but not all of them, and I can’t wait to find out.

I do know what’s in the holiday novella, which is my current WIP, but I’m not telling!

Readers: Do you have any feelings about the burning questions above? Is there anything you’d like to say about what you hope happens in the Snowden family saga? Let me know and one commenter on the blog will win a Snowden Family Clambake tote bag.

There are also three chances to win a tote bag offered in my newsletter, where I announced the new contract today. If you’d like to sign up for my (very occasional) e-mails, you can do so here.


Romantic Gestures — What Does Your Protagonist Think?


We are having a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Liz and Edith.

Last week we talked about romance in cozies and this week we focus on how it impacts our protagonist. Is your protagonist a romantic? Is there someone special in her life who is? Has your protagonist created a romantic moment or has the love in her life? Was it a big thing or a little thing? How did it impact them?

Edith: What great questions! How our protagonists react to things like romance is just as called-to-justiceimportant as what she carries in her handbag and what’s in her fridge. I will focus on my midwife Rose Carroll. I built the romance into book one. Despite being a practical independent midwife, she’s a romantic, too, but she’s conflicted about committing to David Dodge because of a painful (highly abusive, actually) experience when she was a teenager. There’s a very romantic scene in Called to Justice (out April 8!) where David takes her in his buggy out to the wide Merrimack River on a full moon night. (“The full moon splashed a silver path from the distant bank across to ours.”) You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

custombakedmurderLiz: Stan Connor came to Frog Ledge with a token boyfriend. She’d totally forgotten what it was like to really feel in love or even romance. In fact, she snickered at all the sappy love stories or songs when she heard them and chalked it up to unrealistic people who would eventually find their bubble burst. Then she met Jake McGee. Once she’d lost the loser boyfriend, it took them a couple of books to get things right, but Stan has now turned into one of those people who sighs over love songs, delights in sappy movies, and generally thinks her life is better because of Jake.

Sherry: Sarah has had a rocky romantic life since she is A good Day to BuyCoverrecently divorced in the first book Tagged for Death. In the third book, All Murders Final!, she does go on one romantic date with Seth Anderson to the historic Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. And Sarah does like to be wooed. It was fun to go to the Wayside Inn with the Wickeds in December after our Books and Bagels event in Sudbury. The pictures below are from the Wayside Inn. The one on the left is the tavern.

IcedunderfrontcoverBarb: My amateur sleuth, Julia Snowden, is the product of a great romance–the marriage of a lonely girl who spent her summers on a private island and a local boy who delivered groceries in his skiff. Julia thinks her mother is the romantic and she is the pragmatist. I’m not so sure. Certainly Julia fell into the arms of Chris Durand when he appeared on her family’s tour boat to clear up some misunderstandings and confess his interest in her.

Jessie: There is at least a touch of romance in each of my series. That being said, none of my protagonists are romantics. They are all independent women with a lot WhispersBeyond_Fixgoing on in their lives whether or not they have a romantic partner. None of them are looking for romance; in fact, Gwen Fifield from Live Free or Die and Dani Greene from the Sugar Grove series are more interested in dodging matchmaking efforts by their friends and families.

Julie: Ruth Clagan is recently divorced in Clock Shop Mystery series, so she isn’t looking for romance. That said, Ben the handsome barber from next door is a dish, so there’s that. Her feelings for Ben throw her off a bit. She takes it slow, and finds it hard to trust. But did I mention that he’s handsome? Think Robert Redford in the early 70’s. That handsome. More chimeimportantly, he’s a good guy. That makes all the difference for her.

Readers: Do you have a favorite romantic moment from a book?



Island Time

by Barb, suffering the indignities of a WIP that isn’t jelling.

Hi All. I’m still in Key West. The weather has been uncommonly good this year and we’ve been enjoying our time. But the work in progress on my desk takes place on a different island, in a different climate, at a different time of year.

Stowed Away, the sixth Maine Clambake Mystery, brings the Snowden Family saga full cycle. It’s spring again, and Julia and her relatives are preparing Morrow Island for the tourist season. When I started Clammed Up, I knew about the Cabbage Island Clambake, but I had never been there. Over a long, snowy winter, while I waited for the real clambake to open, I consciously created my own island. I wanted my island to be different, in part to meet some story needs, and in part to distinguish it from any comparison to the real island because of the entirely fictional events that would take place there.

I carefully considered how many acres it would be, how high it would be (since the abandoned mansion Windsholme sat at it’s highest spot), and how far out to sea it was. There are 4400 islands along the Maine coast, so I had plenty of bases for comparison. I studied websites and Google images, judging the terrain.

clapboard-islandThen, years after that work was done and committed to Morrow Island lore, a friend sent me a link about an island for sale, Clapboard Island West, 22 acres with a 9087 square foot home, lots of out buildings, including a tea house and a guest house, and a little beach. For a cool $4.5 million it can be yours. (Be sure to negotiate, it’s been on a the market for awhile.)

Or, you can do what I do, and ogle the photos, descriptions, and the two videos available about the historic house and island.

Of course, there are differences between Clapboard and Morrow Island. The biggest is geographic. Clapboard Island is off Falmouth, Maine in Casco Bay. My fictional island is about an hour and a half farther north. Clapboard Island is slightly larger than Morrow Island and not as high. Morrow Island gets its fresh water and electricity from mid-May to Columbus Day in great conduits that come from the town. Clapboard Island has an interesting aquifer and a solar plant for power. But really, if I’d moved Clapboard Island to where I needed it, and built a pavilion for dining, a kitchen, and a gift shop, it would have done fine.

Sometimes I really wonder why I spend so much time making this stuff up.

Readers: Have you ever imagined a place and then found an incarnation that was real or nearly so? For those who’ve read the Maine Clambake Mysteries–what do you think? Does Clapboard Island match your mental image or is it markedly different?