Meeting Myself

Edith here, half high (no, not THAT kind of high…) and half exhausted north of Boston.

My eleventh mystery officially released on Saturday. Called to Justice is my second Quaker Midwife Mystery and I’m delighted by the reviews and cheers it has received so far. Any regular reader here knows that my tenth mystery came out only two weeks ago, and I was confronted with how to celebrate two books (under two names in two series from two publishers) at once.

So I held a double launch party at my fabulous local independent bookstore, Jabberywocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday night. To top off the celebration, I’ll give away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

From above

Owner Sue Little is super supportive of local authors and readers everywhere. When I mentioned I wanted to interview my alter ego Maddie Day  – and vice versa – she thought it was a great idea.


With Sue Little

I found an Indiana cap, and brought my Quaker bonnet. I baked gingersnaps from the late 1800s (Fanny Farmer helped with the recipe) as well as Kahlua Brownies Robbie Jordan might serve in her country store restaurant (recipe in Flipped for Murder). I assembled a few door prizes. And I wrote up a number of questions for Maddie and me to ask each other.


The audience kept building. I spied local writer pals, a bunch of Quakers, fans I’d met at previous library events, and more.


Writers Connie Hambley, Mary Schaefer, Nancy Langmeyer, me, Laurie Mendoza, and Holly Robinson

My darling son JD helped dole out raffle tickets.

I’d started speaking when two Wicked Cozys slipped in – Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross, having battled traffic all the way up from the Boston area (we three slipped out for a drink and a late dinner afterwards, too).


It was one of the more fun launch parties I’ve held. People seemed to like the alter egos talking to each other.


After my script was done, I read a short first scene from each book, and then entertained lively audience questions.


Afterwards? Wine, dessert, and signing books, of course.

And if anyone not local to north of Boston wants to order a signed copy of Called to Justice, please consider doing it via Jabberywocky! Just make sure to request a signed copy in the comments when you check out.mulch-ado-about-murder

Readers: Thanks to everybody for helping me celebrate! Which authors have you helped celebrate launches – or wished you had? Writers, favorite launch parties? Tips and downfalls? Remember, I’m giving away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

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?



J.A. Hennrikus News!

I have told the story about the Clock Shop series and how I came to write it a number of times. I was and am thrilled that Berkley gave me that opportunity, and can’t wait for all of you to read Chime and Punishment in August.

christmas-perilBut like most of us on this blog, my first published novel was not the first novel I wrote. Not by a long shot. My first novel, never finished, was before I realized I should be writing mysteries. It is a not very good book that will never see the light of day. But it taught me to write a book.

My second and third books morphed into a single entity at some point, changed point of view, went through reading groups, critique groups, and was pitched a few times at Crime Bake. I tweaked, reworked, polished, and tried to find an agent for it. Then I got my contract for the Clock Shop series, and filed it away. But I never lost faith that I would hold it in my hand at some point.

So it is with great joy that I share some really wonderful news with all of you. Midnight Ink has bought that book, and two more in addition. In even better news, it was fast tracked into their fall catalog.

The Theater Cop series is about Edwina “Sully” Sullivan. Sully was forced to retire from the police force, and decides if she can’t wear the badge she isn’t going to do the job and become a PI. So she moves back to her hometown on the north shore of Massachusetts, divorces her philandering husband, and is hired to run a theater company. For a few years she throws herself into her new life. But then, her best friend’s father is killed, and he is on the suspect list.

The theater company is doing a production of A Chrismas Carol, and Sully is trying to keep the TV actor they hired sober while dealing with other production issues. At the same time, she tries to figure out who killed Peter Whitehall. What she doesn’t plan on is her ex-husband being part of her investigation.A Christmas Peril is a traditional/cozy book. I can’t wait for you to read it when it comes out this fall.

P.S. Don’t you LOVE the cover?

After The Contract — Guest Aimee Hix

Welcome, Aimee! I met Aimee through the writing community here in Northern Virginia. I was so happy when I found out that her Willa Pennington, P.I. series has been picked up by Midnight Ink. I’ve read the first seven chapters and she is an amazing writer. Here’s Aimee:

aimeemalice-29-photo-hix*classical music playing* Good morning, everyone. Come in, please. I’ve got some coffee, and tea, and hot cocoa. Or would you like your coffee or tea iced? Yes, some people do enjoy ice hot chocolate too. I can do that. Oh, you don’t want any iced hot chocolate, you were just mentioning that you can ice it too if you wanted? True. I have some baked goodies prepared, as well. I’ve made scones and muffins and cookies and a breakfast cake and … more treats. Just a few flavors each – we have blueberry, in honor of Barbara and her Maine-based Clambake Mysteries, maple for Jessie’s Sugar Grove Mysteries, Liz’s Pawsitively Organic Mysteries’ Apple and Cheddar Pupcakes for anyone who’s brought their furry friend, Edith’s Apple Almond Cake from her Country Store Mystery offering, some clock-decorated cookies for Julie’s Clock Shop Mystery Series, and finally some chai cookies in honor of Sherry, who I know likes chai because we are neighbors and I get to meet up with her for coffee (or chai) regularly.

Sorry, I bake when I’m nervous. A lot. And I babble too. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m talking out loud when I do it. My brain just sweeps my mouth along with it. I mean, there are times when I’m just talking away and I’m alone and it’s not true what they say – talking to yourself doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Responding doesn’t make you crazy either. Probably not worrying that either makes you crazy is a bad sign.

*looks around* They’re gone. It took them forever to vamoose. Those Wicked Cozy ladies are so nice and I’ve got some stuff I don’t want them hearing. Remind me to wipe off their nice coffee table when we’re done. I got some frosting from those clock cookies on it.

Here’s the deal, they’ve got no idea I’m a fraud. They think I’ve got something going on. But, and this is between you and me, I’m scamming everyone. See, I wrote this book. It’s a decent little book. It’s not going to change anyone’s life except mine. I’ve got a cool main character, Willa, who sure as heck doesn’t have a cook or a butler. She’s like me – never too sure what to wear so she always ends up wearing jeans, relies on coffee to make up for lack of sleep, really (!) likes her junk food, and curses like a sailor and a truck driver had a baby mechanic. And just like me Willa’s in way over her head.

GOOD NIGHT IRENE, CAN SOMEONE TURN OFF THAT BLEEDING RACHMANINOFF? IT’S THE CRACK OF FRACKING DAWN, FOR PETE’S SAKE! (My normal language has been cleaned up for the ladies and gentlemen visiting.)

Oh, we both yell a lot too.

Despite reading thousands of books in my lifetime (what my mentor, Matthew V. Clemens calls my MFA in Literature) I had no idea how to write a book. I really had no idea how to write mystery. I wasn’t a cop or a private investigator. Heck, I wasn’t even an amateur sleuth. I had no idea how to solve a crime so how was I going to have my main character investigate a crime? I was a fraud! I was a fraud before I even started writing the darn thing? What’s up with that?

I’m in good company though. If the experts are right, we all suffer from Imposter Syndrome to a degree. There are a bunch of articles about it and a TED Talk. (I love TED! At the end of the post hang on for some links to my favorites.) It’s the self-help research topic du jour. That’s reassuring, somewhat. I mean, I’m not really comfortable with the idea that air traffic controllers are up in their tower internally racked about whether or not they can keep ten planes from crashing but knowing that Evanovich and Rowling and King all look up from their keyboards and think, “Ack! What a load of shit I’m shoveling. No one will want to buy 400 pages of this tripe” helps a little when I’m 60,000 thousand words into a second book I barely know what’s supposed to happen in and my editor tells me they don’t like my first book’s title and we’re trying but we can’t come up with a new one. PANIC! And now what do I do? Can I convince her the title is perfect? Can I beg her? Will crying help? I mean, I’m already crying. Maybe if I call her and she can hear me crying …. Of course, I can’t convince her! What do I know? She’s the expert. I’m just a fraud.

aimecarA fraud who’s waiting to hear back. An impatient fraud. A scared fraud. It’s been two weeks. She said they had to postpone my launch meeting but that it gave us extra time. Did they skip my internal launch meeting? Did she decide they don’t want to publish the book? No book, no new title? That’s not how I want to get to keep my title. No, no, it’s fine. She’s busy. You’re not the only author she’s working with. They have other books that are being published sooner. Those come first. Other authors with other books. Better authors with better books. They’re not publishing my book because they’ve realized it’s not as good as the other authors’ books. No, no, it’s fine. You did this writing the book too. Panicking doesn’t solve anything. You’re worrying about things that aren’t real. Yet. Just concentrate on writing the second book.

That’s what I’m doing in between contract and publication – freaking out that I’m a fraud and people are going to catch on. Frankly, this is not a new aspect to my personality so I’m kind of an expert at it now. Maybe I’ll have that put on my business cards, Author and Expert Fraud.

So, how did I do it? How does a fraud write a mystery while worrying about being a fraud? I had to wing it. And the cool part was my main character could wing it too. And she could have angst about it too. And every feeling I’ve ever had she was going to have – scared, excited, overwhelmed, exhausted, determined. And that made her a more real character. Wow! I flipped the script on Imposter Syndrome and made it work for me.

It doesn’t mean I beat it. I still feel like a fraud sometimes (see above re: freaking out my publisher canceling my book’s publication). That’s okay. The experts are right – we all feel like frauds sometimes. We just can’t let it paralyze us and stop our forward momentum. I mean, I’ve got more books to write. Willa’s got more crimes to solve. We both feel a little more secure in our respective jobs. We’re not frauds. We’re not imposters. We’re just winging it … with a cup of coffee in one hand and a handful of cookies in the other. Now, if I could just figure out how to type with my nose. Sigh. I’ll bet Stephen King can type with his nose.

Oops! Almost forgot about wiping off that coffee table.

So what do you think … does Imposter Syndrome get to you too sometimes?

Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are


Lidia Yuknavitch: The Beauty of Being a Misfit


Jane McGonigal: The Game That Can Give You Ten Extra Years of Life


Nadia Lopez: Why Open a School? To Close a Prison


Brandon Stanton: The Good Story


Jess Lourey: Use Fiction to Rewrite Your Life

jessscreenshot-2017-02-05-11-47-13Aimee Hix is the author of the Willa Pennington series set in Fairfax County, Virginia. The first book publishes in Winter 2018 from Midnight Ink. A former federal defense contractor who retired to write, she resides in Virginia with her family. Website:

Oops! Almost forgot about wiping off that coffee table.

So what do you think … does Imposter Syndrome get to you too sometimes?




Guest Gigi Pandian

From Edith, north of Boston, where winter isn’t quite sure what it’s doing despite being January.

I’m so pleased to have Gigi Pandian as our guest today. We’ve been Guppies and Sisters in the-elusive-elixir-cover-webres
Crime together for some years, and have watched each of our careers take off in wonderful ways. We also share Midnight Ink as a publisher for one of our series. Gigi has a new Accidental Alchemist Mystery book out – which is one of my favorite series. I’m halfway through The Elusive Elixir – and loving it.

Gigi writes the Accidental Alchemist Mysteries as well as the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries. This month, she’s celebrating the release of her new Accidental Alchemist mystery, The Elusive Elixir. The paranormal cozy series features a unique vegan chef (he’s a Parisian gargoyle) so Gigi is sharing a recipe today—and also giving away a set of 7 book-themed recipe cards to one commenter!

How a Cozy Kitchen Plus a Cancer Diagnosis Led to an Accidental Mystery Series

For my whole life up until five years ago, I considered myself an adventurous eater. I prided myself on trying any delicacy, wherever in the world I was. But cook? Aside from the occasional dinner party, I’d leave that to others.

Then five years ago, right after my 36th birthday, a cancer diagnosis left me with a range of food restrictions. I wasn’t about to give up eating great food. What was I to do?

My husband and I had recently bought a tiny house with a wonderful little kitchen. We hadn’t yet used the kitchen, but after my diagnosis, all that changed. Once I was done with chemotherapy and radiation, I took cooking classes to learn how to cook foods from scratch that were both healthy and delicious. I threw myself into living life to the fullest, which included prioritizing my writing and enjoying delectable healing foods.

instagram-notre-dame-penseur-gargoyle-gigi-pandian-webresThat’s how the characters in my Accidental Alchemist mysteries emerged. The series is about Zoe Faust, a centuries-old alchemist who’s also a vegan and herbalist, and Dorian Robert-Houdin, a French gargoyle chef who was once stone before being accidentally brought to life through alchemy. Zoe only discovered the Elixir of Life by accident when trying to save the life of her brother, and Dorian never meant to abandon bacon and cheese. The theme of the series is transformation, since I was going through the biggest transformation of my life when I began writing the series.

Much like how I was learning to cook a plant-based diet free of processed foods because of my new knowledge of my body’s quirks, Dorian is forced to learn how to cook his favorite French delicacies with only vegan ingredients because Zoe had been eating that way for centuries to take care of herself. Dorian was as surprised as I was that this new way of eating could be amazing!

Recipes are included in the back of each book (available as a PDF download for Audible listeners). I’m having such fun experimenting in the kitchen and adapting recipes so I can eat them. I’m now feeling the healthiest I’ve ever been—nearly five years cancer-free!—while eating the tastiest foods to snack on while I write.

The recipe I’m sharing below is one such recipe, that I think of as “accidental” oatmeal pumpkinpumpkin-oatmeal-muffins-gigi-pandian muffins. Why “accidental”? I had a recipe for a pumpkin loaf, but not enough flour and not the right size loaf pan. So I stepped into my cozy kitchen and took a risk… and it’s now the treat my husband requests most frequently.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins


  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup oats (regular or thick, but not instant)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg


  • 1 15oz. can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 eggs or 2 “flax eggs” (What’s a flax egg? To make this vegan egg-replacer from scratch, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water, let set in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or brown sugar (or up to ½ cup if you’d like sweeter muffins)


Preheat the oven to 375. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a small bowl, and mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into dry bowl. Scoop into a muffin tray with 12 muffin cups. Bake for approx. 20 minutes.

Readers: Do you have a favorite recipe you discovered by accident? Or a favorite story about an unexpected twist in your own life that turned out differently than you imagined?

One commenter will win a set of 7 book-themed recipe cards related to each of my 7 novels!

gigi-pandian-38-bw-headshot-cropGigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. A cancer diagnosis in her 30s taught her two important life lessons: healing foods can taste amazing, and life’s too short to waste a single moment. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over the backyard garden. Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, been nominated for Macavity and Agatha Awards, and her most recent novel, Michelangelo’s Ghost, was recently named a “Best of 2016” cozy mystery by Suspense Magazine.

Gigi’s website: gigipandian.comConnect on Facebook: up to date with her email newsletter: about The Elusive Elixir:

Polish, Deepen, Hone

Edith here, writing from north of Boston, gearing up to ignore the short days and darkness of the coming month.

I’m doing that by keeping really, really busy. Today I’m incorporating all the red ink I added over the last week during my last (I hope…I truly hope) paper read-through of Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3.
Some of my comments to myself are edits with a goal of polishing the language. Split the long sentence into two. Divide that paragraph in a different place, because the last sentence really belongs with the next para. Make sure all the senses play a role.

Some are plot related: on page 94 one scribble says, “Why didn’t she think of this when she found the body?” – which happens on page 6. Oops, but fixable.

Of course there are also the missing periods, redundant words, and unclear wording to fix. Other bits to sharpen and hone.

A few of my remarks relate to research for this book, which is set during presidential election week in 1888 (I know – great timing!). For example, I described a road covered with planks, not cobblestones, which was a method of temporary paving back then. But I realized during the read-through that I don’t know if the planks go crosswise or lengthwise and I need to check on that.

I read a great craft post last week over on Inkspot, the Midnight Ink writers’ blog (where I blog every second Thursday of the month) that really made me think.  inkspotheaderLisa Alber wrote about sense of place. She says, “You know when you hear readers say that they skip the descriptions? I would bet in most cases, those descriptions are static — just the author describing the environment around the character rather than describing the environment through the character.”

That’s so true! I’m sure I’ve thought about it in the past, and been taught it, but imbuing setting with my character is something I have to learn over and over. Lisa gives a few great examples of the same setting – sunshine streaming in a kitchen window and illuminating a spider web – as seen through different characters’ eyes. Go read the post. You’ll see what I mean.

So as I move through my manuscript, I’m also going to take a look at every single place description and deepen it. I’m going to make sure it has a reason to exist: showing us how midwife Rose Carroll is feeling. I can show another character’s reaction to place, too, as long as it’s through dialog or physical reaction, since this story is told exclusively from Rose’s point of view.

Thanks, Lisa, for pushing the end of my revision process a little further away. I know checking for sense of place will improve the book in the end, and that’s what counts.

Readers: What do you do with a beautiful description of setting that is only that? Skip it or enjoy the rich language? Writers, is making sure that setting is filtered through your character’s eyes already part of your revision list? Do you ever slip up?

On Community

Edith here, fresh back from the Wicked Cozy retreat in Old Orchard Beach, and really feeling the love of community – both authorial and local.

All of us Wickeds write mysteries set in reasonably small towns. Jessie and I are diverging from the cozy label with our historical mysteries, but they’re still set in small towns (and mine is really a cozy even though it’s shelved as an historical). I live what is now called a city, because it has a mayor and a city council instead of the selectmen of a town. But Amesbury is one of Massachusetts’s smallest cities, with the most recent population pegged at around 16,000. And I set my Quaker Midwife Mysteries here – in 1888.

So imagine my surprise and delight when the John Greenleaf Delivering the TruthCoverWhittier Home Association, which maintains the famous abolitionist poet’s home a few blocks from where I live, asked if “it would be all right” if they featured Delivering the Truth as an All-Community Read this summer. They planned to culminate the summer of reading – about Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving an arson and two murders – with a staged reading of the four scenes in the book where Rose meets with Whittier.

Um, yeah! It would be SO all right, and I told them so. The Amesbury Public Library signed on to co-sponsor the All-Community Read, and my publisher donated twenty copies of the book to the library to put into circulation.

I kicked off the summer of events yesterday with a talk during Amesbury Days at the Art Show about my research for the QuakerEdithseries. Wednesday I’m repeating my historical walking tour of town in my Quaker dress (see a video of highlights from the first one here). In July the Whittier Home will host a book discussion group, and there will be another one at the library in August.

September 10 will feature the staged reading at the the Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse, with actors portraying Whittier and Rose. I’ll be narrating, tying the scenes together, using a script our local Poet Laureate Lainie Senechal wrote based on the book.

The whole slate of events makes me SO happy.


John Greenleaf Whittier

Then I heard that several Amesbury High School teachers are requiring their students to read the book this summer. They asked if I would be interested in talking to the History Honor Society students and the Early College American Studies classes in the fall.

Um, yeah! Of course I’ll come and talk with  students about history and writing and whatever else they want to talk about. Another teacher recommended the book as a Summer Reading Faculty Favorite.  After I posted a note about these teachers on Facebook, a college teacher in Oklahoma said she’d recommended the book to her Women’s History students.

When I started writing this series, I thought it might appeal to local history buffs and the occasional Quaker, in addition to midwives and fans of historical mysteries. I never dreamed of it going this far, and I’m floating on a cloud.

Now, off to fix several of the twenty buttons on my 1888 plain dress that popped off when I unbuttoned it in April…

Readers, have you ever participated in an All-Community Read? Do you know any high school or college teachers who need a fabulous (ahem…) historical mystery set in the nineteenth century for their students?