Wicked Wednesday- Author Events

Jessie- In NH where the crocuses are blooming and the robins are frolicking with abandon!

In a rare turn of events all the Wickeds are together today for two author events. We will be in Nashua, NH for both, first at Rivier College for a R.I.S. E. presentation at midday and then at the Barnes and Noble in the evening. We are ridiculously excited about gathering together for these two occasions and would love to have you all join us. It promises to be memorable. Which got me to wondering about memorable events the other Wickeds have held. So, any favorite memories you’d love to share?

maxwellEdith: Other than my double launch party a couple of weeks ago, I’d have to say my first launch party was an unforgettable evening, for all the right reasons. Speaking of Murder had just released in September 2012 (written as Tace Baker), and I’d invited everyone I knew. The young man managing the Newburyport bookstore had set out ten chairs. I said, “Um, I think you’re going to need more chairs.” I was right. 55 people were there from all different areas of my life: church, work, town, family, and Sisters in Crime, including several Wickeds. The bookstore sold out but I had a box of books in the car to supplement their order. The whole night was touching, exhilarating, just perfect.

Liz: I have to say my first launch party, for Kneading to Die, was also my most memorable. Full of family, friends and dogs, it was held at The Big Biscuit in Franklin, Mass. Shaggy even got her own doggie cake for the occasion!

Sherry: I’ve had so much fun going to author events that it is so hard to pick one. The first time I was on a panel as an author was at Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California in 2014. The women on the panel with me have become friends — Lori Rader-Day (doing a post here on Friday), Carlene O’Neil, Martha Cooley, and Holly West. I was so nervous I don’t think I said much. Afterwards we had a signing time and this was the order of the table Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Jan Burke, then me. I didn’t even have a book out yet, but a couple of people had me sign their programs. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and Jan Burke was very gracious the one second she didn’t have someone in front of her.

Barb: I enjoy author events, too. Most memorable was the launch of my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman. It seemed like everyone I’d ever mentioned I was writing a book to came. Porter Square ran out of books. I did a little talk and a reading and thanked my friends and family. My sister-in-law pointed at me and said to my daughter, “This is what it looks like when your dreams come true,” which is such a lovely, heartfelt sentiment.

CAKE KILLERJulie: My launch party for Just Killing Time was a blast. Friends and family packed the New England Mobile Book Fair. Three of my mentors–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Hallie Ephron–sat right up front, and cheered me on. My friend Courtney made me a cookie cake decorated to look like a clock. It was just lovely. This year Liz and I both have August and September books–2 women, 4 names, 4 books, 2 new series being launched. We are going to do something to celebrate, so stay tuned.

Readers: Do you like to attend author events? What’s your most memorable one?



Be Prepared — My Writing Journey

By Sherry Harris

In northern Virginia where spring has arrived in all of its glory

My writing journey is a long one but I learned some things along the way.

IMG_4390I went to my first writers retreat at Asilomar while we were stationed in Monterey, California. It was sponsored by the Cambria Writer’s Workshop — a small group perfect for a first timer. I signed up to read from my mystery featuring a gemologist. It was something like read the first five pages or for five minutes. I got up, faced fifty some strangers and started to read. I’d like to tell you there was a lot of applause, praise for my creative genius and people begging to represent me.  But as I read, I realized I’d brought pages of description and backstory.

I really can’t believe I’m going to share what is probably the worst opening paragraph ever written but here goes:

On Friday morning, the June sun almost blinded me as I walked downstairs into our shop. It radiated through the faceted glass of our antique front door. The walnut and glass door was one of two French doors from a mansion in Magnolia Bluff that succumbed to a mudslide. The doors were heavily damaged when we found them at the flea market in Fremont but we managed to restore them with a lot of hard work and good luck. The second door leans up against the wall of our office waiting for a chance to be useful.

WAKE UP! You can’t say I didn’t warn you it was awful. (If you ever need a detailed description of french doors, I’m your gal.) When I finished reading I said, “Thank God that’s over.” At least people laughed. Fortunately, they were kind, said I showed some promise. The keynote speaker told me I had talent (she must have nodded off during my reading) and would love to hear more of my rousing story about two sisters. Um, that’s not what the story is about.

IMG_4560After Monterey we were stationed in northern Florida. There I attended Florida International University’s Writers Workshop. It’s a wonderful conference run by the MFA Creative Writing professors and I kept listening, writing, and revising.

This is the opening from the same novel I turned in there:

Most of us go through life without ever being truly, gut-wrenchingly terrified. Usually we experience fear in little jolts cause by near misses on the highway, turbulent airplane rides or phones ringing in the middle of the IMG_4561night.

Not much better, but again just enough encouragement to keep me going.

Next came our assignment to the Pentagon. That led me to Malice Domestic, which is a fan conference, not a craft conference but it was a great opportunity to meet authors and agents. One year I checked in at the same time as literary agent, Meg Ruley. As we commiserated about our reservations being messed up, she asked if I wrote and  told me to send her my manuscript. She loved it and signed me immediately. Not — that was the fantasy version. I received a lovely rejection letter. Back to the drawing board.

IMG_4566Next we were stationed at Hanscom AFB outside of Boston. I’ve talked before about meeting Julie Hennrikus at Malice and how that meeting eventually led to this blog — read all about that at How We Met. I attended New England Sisters in Crime meetings and went to Seascape Writers Retreat. I kept working at the craft and the latest version of that novel goes like this:

I didn’t want to tell Camille her diamond was fake. I studied the necklace for the third time with my loupe, willing the damn thing to change. Maybe one of Seattle’s triple threat natural disasters–earthquake, tsunami, volcano–would occur so I could yell: duck, swim or run instead of what I had to say. I paused a moment, then two, but no luck.

IMG_4558When we moved back to northern Virginia I joined the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Like the New England chapter, their support and friendship has been phenomenal. I haven’t sold the gemology novel. I hope to some day. What I did was continue to work on the craft of writing. I met people. I pitched at every opportunity. I collected rejection letters — I have them filed by year. So when the chance to write the garage sale series dropped into my lap (thank you Barbara Ross) I was prepared.

Wicked Wednesday: Endurance Tests

The Boston Marathon is over. Twenty-six and two-tenths of a mile. Training for such a run takes endurance, and finishing it does, too, especially this year when finishers imagine (or remember) the bombs that two young men allegedly set at the final yards of the race a year ago.

The Wickeds are talking about our own endurance challenges over the years (and some might have lasted years).

Edith: I actually ran the Boston Marathon in 1998 (for the first and last time). I trained and IMG_3675trained and trained. After a certain level of fitness, running is almost more of a mental challenge. Yes, I can run two more miles. No, I’m won’t stop and walk, not untiI I reach the top of the hill. Sort of like writing a book. Yes, I can write another scene today. No, I will not stop to check Facebook or put in a load of laundry until I’ve met my 1000-word goal.

I trained and ran the marathon with a good friend, which made all the difference, but the farthest we had run in our training was twenty miles. Harold and I pulled and pushed each other along the route on Marathon Monday, and during the last mile we got through it by counting out loud in Japanese, startling more than one bystander. But we crossed that fabulous finish line in five hours, sixteen minutes, with smiles on our face.

IMG_4539_2Sherry: I’m a walker not a runner. My most challenging walk was when we were stationed in Monterey, California. At the time there was a walk in association with the Big Sur International Marathon. Once a year, for the marathon, they close one lane of the Pacific Coast Highway. One of the most beautiful drives in America. My friend, Stacey, convinced me to do the walk with her. We did some training — our longest walks around five miles on the hills of the Naval Post Graduate School housing area, La Mesa.

IMG_4545The morning of the walk we got up at four and Bob dropped us off in Carmel. From there we took a bus to the starting area. The morning was cool and a bit foggy when we started. There were musicians all over the course. Driving PCH is spectacular but walking it was breathtaking. A soap opera star ran by us — his rugged good looks intact. We did the two additional spurs of the walk for a total of 11and 1/2 miles. Just when I thought I couldn’t make it some drummers and dancers spurred us on. It’s one of my fondest memories among many from living in Monterey.

Jessie: I think one of my proudest endurance challenges is parenting. With four kids, each spaced four years apart, I have been actively parenting for a lot of years. It is a venture that never ceases to challenge and amaze me and although the responsibilities change over time, they never really end, for which I am very grateful.

Julie: I did a half marathon a few years back. I will never forget driving with my sister right before my first long run (10 miles). It was 10 miles to the next exit, so we agreed to see how long that was. We were driving for a long time, and she leaned over and said “this was a mistake, wasn’t it?” I did finish the training, and did the run. A big accomplishment I never plan on repeating. Occasional 10Ks maybe, but I am awed by long distance runners.

My other endurance test? Getting my first novel finished. 7 years. It is in a drawer. Another blog post for another day.

Barb: It seems like I’ve spent half my life saying to people, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I’ve said it about building businesses, I’ve said it about writing books, getting books published, supporting books. Raising children is a good one, Jessie. Life. If you’re lucky, it’s a marathon.

me and julieLiz: I’m no marathoner, Edith, but I did complete two 5K obstacle course races last year. I’m usually not a runner, but I felt like I needed to do these. And they were great! One was with Julie 🙂 Another one coming up this year. And like Julie, my latest novel has been a huge test of endurance. Oy.

Readers: What’s been your most difficult, or most successful, endurance challenge?

Wicked Wednesday: Signs of Spring

This winter has been a rough one weather-wise for just about everyone.  As an antidote, today, we’re talking about signs of spring. Maybe some of you have spring actually popping up in your neighborhood that you’d like to share. Others, like me, might have to mention what they are still longing to see. Readers, how do you know spring is in the air near you?

Liz: I saw the slightest hint of the tulips peeking out this weekend! I am LONGING for a more blatant hint of spring to hit me over the head – perhaps weather above 10 degrees for more than a day would do it. I feel like I’m starring in the movie “Frozen.”

IMG_3386Edith: For me it’s the longer days. I (and Sherry!) just returned from California with its mild temperatures and lovely fragrant air. But here in the northeast we finished dinner last night at seven PM and it was still light out. The light returns and ultimately the regrowth of spring. The snow banks haven’t melted enough yet to find the budding bulbs, but they will. If we don’t get another foot of snow today…

IMG_4264IMG_4307Sherry: Liz you made me laugh — Frozen indeed! I want to sing “Let it Go” to winter. I saw crocus last week before I left for Monterey. They are now covered in snow. After yesterday’s snow and today’s cool forties we are supposed to be in the mid to upper 60s at last. I have to post a picture of my beloved Monterey. The ice plant is beginning to bloom, a sign of spring there. I want to move back.

Jessie: I’ve seen a few neighbors walking to the post office or the library. This may not seem like much but considering the complete emptiness of the sidewalks for months now it feels that way to me. Before long I expect children on bicycles and parents with strollers to roll past my window.

Julie: Signs of spring? Opening day is April 4. I have tickets for April 8. Of course, I will be wearing layers, and layers of clothes. And hope the snow doesn’t cover the pitching mound. Yeesh.

Report from the Left Coast

Edith, recalling Monterey, California

IMG_3466As you read this I’ll be winging home from my whirlwind tour of northern California, culminating in three and a half days at Calamari Crime: Left Coast Crime in gorgeous Monterey. Since I landed on March 13, it’s been sunny and mild, with fragrant flowers blooming and my native California seeming even more friendly than usual.

I had three great author events in Oakland, San Francisco, and IMG_3366Berkeley, and also caught up with relatives and friends from nearly every era of my life, from childhood and high school right through tech writing in Boston.

IMG_3472Left Coast Crime is a big, well-run conference (except for the conference bookstore somehow not stocking my book!). Wicked Sherry Harris was on a fun panel of “Deadly New Voices” with other debut authors. I heard some of my favorite giants – Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny, moderated by Jacqueline Winspear – talk about “The Heart and Soul IMG_3491of Murder: Mysteries with a Meaning.” I laughed for forty-five minutes listening to Jess Lourey moderate a panel on writing sex scenes with Catriona McPherson, Deborah Coonts, Linda Joffe Hull, and Johnny Shaw.

IMG_3460Dinner the first night was with a bunch of Guppies, and I finally met a number of online friends in person. The second night Sisters in Crime Northern California sponsored a group dinner out, also a delight. In IMG_3494addition to meeting fellow writers, I chatted with readers wherever I went, since LCC is a fan conference. I had donated a basket to the charity auction and was pleased to see that it had a bunch of bids signed up.

My own panel, “A Taste for Murder” was a lot of fun, too, with four IMG_3482other foodie cozy authors. Kensington had sent a box of my books for the attendee bags, so recipients brought those books for me to sign afterwards.

And I hosted a full table at the banquet, giving away ARCs of ‘Til IMG_3496Dirt IMG_3499Do Us Part to nine people who signed up because they wanted to eat with me! Catriona McPherson won the IMG_3500Best Historical award, well deserved.

As usual when I attend a conference, whether aimed at readers or at writers, I came away with new ideas for my own writing. I resolved to go deeper into my characters. I feel energized going forward in my books.

A Box Full of Memories

By Sherry Harris

In Northern VirginiaIMG_3954

I have a box of things I’ve gathered over the years. It’s not a pretty box and I’ve changed it out for a bigger one occasionally but it holds an odd assortment of things I love. I’ve carried it with me over all our military IMG_3962moves — anyone from the military will recognize the packing tape on the box. It includes:  a scarf my mother-in-law gave me, a collapsible cup from a fourth grade trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, a strand of “pearls” in a blue felt case — a gift as we left sixth grade, my sister’s bubble-head Barbie, and a box I decoupaged with a card I loved.

IMG_3959The crooked “M” came from our Rambler. We were on a car trip between my fifth and sixth grade year. We left Davenport, Iowa went to Niagara Falls, New York City, Washington DC, Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia. On the way home we were in a car accident in Louisville, Kentucky. The “M” ended up in the street.

IMG_3957The yarn dolls are from the Amana Colonies in Iowa. I’m not sure how they came to live in an old matchbox but they’ve been there for years.

IMG_3960I made this box when I was four at a family church camp on a lake somewhere in Iowa. Inside is a cap gun, a pin from the United Nations, my Brownie pins, an enamel necklace I made in fourth or fifth grade art class, a bracelet that always pinched and other assorted things.

My memory box made me wonder what my character Sarah Winston would have in her memory box. She grew up in Pacific Grove, California next to Monterey. Sarah has a bag of sea glass she picked up on walks along the Pacific Ocean and an old salt shaker full of IMG_3964sand from the beach there.

IMG_3965Sarah went to her first yard sale when she was in second grade and bought this little toy trolley.

IMG_3966She also has an album that was her great-grandmother’s.

IMG_3967These are other things Sarah bought at yard sales or picked up on her travels.

What do you have in your memory box? What does your character keep?