THE MAGIC IS REAL

by Julie, enjoying summer

THE CALLThis pass weekend I read The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning by Steven Pressfield. I’m still thinking about the book, and wrestling with some of the ideas Pressfield talks about. Ideas around inspiration, the other worldliness of the artist’s journey, about answering the call to be an artist, and about forces of resistance (internal and external) to that call. I came to these ideas at a perfect time in my life, a time when I was open to the magic.

These past few months have been a professional whirlwind. It started in January, when I had a twelve hour brunch with my friend Courtney. I encouraged her to take a leap and apply for a job she really wanted. She encouraged me to figure out how to create more space in my life for my writing, and to embrace the artist within. So, two weeks ago, I took a leap. I’m working on opening an online arts administration school built for artists in September. I’ve called it Your Ladders, and I’m creating the classes now. The plan is that this will give me more time to focus on my writing.

At my going away party, I talked to an actor who is my age. She looked great, and I told her so. She said that she was, surprisingly. She told me that she’d grown tired of hustling for a job that she took for the paycheck, rather than the work itself. She’d lost the connection to her artist self, and decided to take a break from acting. She’d taken a “real” job, in an office. I asked if the break was temporary or permanent. She told me she wasn’t sure. She isn’t the first artist I’ve met who is taking a creative break because they’ve lost the connection to their artist within. It’s always hard to hear, and scary.

In between January and August, Liz Mugavero and I took two online classes. One was a business course called B-School, taught by Marie Forleo. The other class was Gabby Bernestein’s Spirit Junkie Masterclass. Marie’s class gave me a  new set of business skills. Gabby’s class helped with aligning with a higher purpose in my work. Both helped give me the courage to take my professional leap into an online business.

Liz and I are also going to be doing a masterclass at the New England Crime Bake, and we’ve been talking about what we’re going to cover in “Creating Your Author Life”. The description is about making the leap from writer to published author, and what that means. We have the experience to talk about that. But we both agree that it needs to be about more than that. Liz has been thinking about the “more” for a long time. In February she wrote a great blog reminding herself (and folks like me) that writing is our soul work. I’ve been thinking about my actor friend who lost the connection to her artist self coupled with Pressfield’s book, and realize that we have to dive deeper in this masterclass. We need to talk about the magic of the work.

As a writer, I acknowledge that I’ve answered a call. I also have a deep knowing that I need to stay connected to that call. The work of being a published author, and staying published, can get in the way of remembering that sometimes. But my new path has to be about remembering that, and honoring it.

There’s magic in the call, and in the doing of the work. That’s what Liz and I need to talk about in our masterclass. The magic.

Guest- J.D. Griffo

Jessie: On the coast of Maine, powerless to resist the call of the beach!

I am delighted to welcome J.D. Griffo to the Wickeds blog. I met J.D. at a Kensington publishing event hosted in partnership with the delightedful folks at Print: a bookstore up in Portland, ME  in April. He is witty and warm and an absolute delight. 

J. D. is giving away two copies of Murder on Memory Lake to two readers who leave a comment on the blog.IMG_2965  

Here’s a bit about Murder on Memory Lake – the first book in this brand new cozy series:

Recently widowed and about to turn sixty-five, Alberta Ferrara Scaglione thought she’d spend her golden years reconnecting with her granddaughter, Jinx, and living quietly with her cat, Lola, in the idyllic lakeside community of Tranquility, New Jersey.  She could not have been more wrong.

When she discovers the dead body of her long-time nemesis – the one and only Lucy Agostino – floating in Memory Lake, which is right in her own backyard, Alberta says arrivederci to her peaceful existence.  In no time flat, she and Jinx – a would-be crime reporter – team up with Alberta’s older sister, Helen, a former nun, and their sister-in-law, Joyce, a retired Wall Street wizard, to solve the mystery of who killed Lucy.

It’s The Golden Girls meets Nancy Drew with an abbondanza of Italian flavor thrown in to spice things up as the Ferrara Family goes undercover to become Tranquility’s first family of detectives. 

 

About a year ago my editor said two words to me that have come to change my life – cozy mystery.  My first response was, “Me?  I can’t write a cozy mystery!  Who do you think I am? Jessica Fletcher??”  Turns out I kind of am Jessica or at least I’m much more Jessica than I ever thought I could be and I’m thrilled by the revelation.

IMG_3744For some reason I imagined cozies as difficult to write because of the intricate plot, the red herrings, and the consistency of character and storylines from book to book within a series.  And I was correct, it is a daunting task! But what I didn’t realize is how incredibly fulfilling and fun it is to weave a story about murder and a little dash of mayhem set in cozy surroundings with cozy characters.  And for me, cozy means familiar. Regular, everyday, ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Once I made that mental shift, I was able to embrace the idea and have come to fully embrace all the characters in my series.

One of the main reasons I love my characters is because I based them on real people in my life.  I tweaked them a bit of course, but their personalities, their dialogue, the way they speak to each other, the way they react to the world around them and especially their values and beliefs are all familiar to me because I grew up with them.

I come from northern New Jersey and grew up in a large Sicilian family.  Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house; sneaking a fried meatball – still warm! – out of the oven; knowing that red sauce is called gravy and brown gravy is called . . . brown gravy; the inability to speak without our hands; the inability to speak without talking really, really loud; cousins who are not only relatives, but friends; and understanding that family is forever and unconditional and is the most important thing in the world.  

Using these traits it was easy for me to breathe life into Alberta Ferrara Scaglione, someone who lives in my heart and although she is far from perfect, I consider her a wonderful woman and someone I’m grateful to have gotten to know.  Thinking of how my female cousins looked, acted, and sounded while we were growing up helped me shape the character of Jinx Maldonado, Alberta’s headstrong granddaughter. And I didn’t have to look very far to steal some characteristics to create Helen Ferrara and Joyce Perkins Ferrara, Alberta’s sister and sister-in-law who round out the amateur detective team.  

Together, these four women represent the many intelligent, confident, resilient, loving, and hysterically funny women that are members of my family and my circle of friends.IMG_3748  The best part is that since I know these women so completely it’s made writing Murder on Memory Lake as well as the two follow-up books in the series – Murder in Tranquility Park and Murder at Icicle Lodge – such an enjoyable endeavor.  My hope is that readers will feel the same way about the Ferrara’s.

I hope that they’ll share in Alberta’s joy reconnecting with her estranged granddaughter Jinx.  I hope that they’ll sense the feeling of family devotion and unity that is the undercurrent of each book.  And I hope that they’ll come along for the ride as Alberta, Jinx, Helen, and Joyce solve murder after murder after murder.

Because readers can trust me on this – there is nothing more enjoyable and exciting than being a part of one big, crazy Italian family.

Readers,  if you could team up with one member of your family – someone who is living or has passed on – to solve a crime, who would it be and why?

 

IMG_E3574Bio – Italian by birth, Jersey by upbringing, J. D. Griffo is an award winning playwright and author who has written ten novels, over twenty plays, and a handful of screenplays that have yet to see the light of day.  

Griffo studied Journalism and Marketing at New York University, graduating magna cum laude many, many years ago, as well as Creative Writing at the New School and Gotham Writer’s Workshop.  

And the J. D. stands for the author’s mother – Jean Dolores – who absolutely loved to read and tell stories.

 For more information, visit:

https://michaelgriffo.com/

https://twitter.com/Michael2264

https://www.instagram.com/j.d.griffo/

Guest: Keenan Powell

Edith here, happy to welcome Keenan Powell to the blog today! Her new book, Deadly Solution, is just out and she’s giving away an e-copy to one commenter.

Deadly Solution coverLess than a year after drinking sidelined her career as a public defender in Anchorage, Alaska, Maeve Malloy is asked to defend an Aleut Indian accused of beating another homeless man to death. With no witnesses to the crime and a client who claims to have no knowledge of the night of the murder due to a blackout, the case is stacked against them. When Maeve and investigator Tom Sinclair discover there may be a link to an unusually high number of deaths among the homeless community, the search is on for a killer hunting among the most vulnerable members of society. 

 

Becoming Maeve

In high school, writing seemed like a romantic endeavor. Pounding the keyboard when the muse strikes, laughing and swearing with my friends as we drank coffee on sidewalk cafes, wearing berets, earning oodles of money. But I didn’t have a story to tell of my own.

So, I ended up in law school. Later I realized, I was particularly well-suited for litigation. It’s a storytelling profession where you get paid to fight with other people. What’s there not to like?

Fast forward twenty plus years: On this particular morning, I was sitting in a continuing legal education seminar when the two presenters, a workers’ compensation employee attorney and an insurance defense attorney, were talking about a case they’d had years before. They had to run to court for an order prohibiting the medical examiner from disposing of the remains of a man who had died working on the North Slope so that their experts could examine the body. Little known law: the medical examiner in Alaska can declare the cause of death without doing an autopsy and dispose of the remains within seventy-two hours. If no one claims the body, it’s cremated.

A light flashed in my head. I slapped the table in front of me and yelled, “That’s how he did it!” startling the lady who was knitting beside me. A few years earlier, a dozen homeless people had died during the summer within weeks of each other. The thing is, homeless people in Anchorage, Alaska, generally die from exposure during the winter. Having made it through the winter, it’s unlikely they’d start dropping in the summer. The city was in an uproar, convinced that there was a serial killer afoot. However, the police insisted that the medical examinations revealed that there had been no foul play. Then, the murders stopped as mysteriously as they started.

Sitting in that seminar next to the knitter, I’d realized: If the medical examiner determines the cause of death without doing an autopsy, and then destroys the remains, who’s to say he’s right?

I had a story.

Readers: How have twists and turns shaped your life? Share a “flash of light” moment in your life for the chance to win a e-copy of Deadly Solution. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends January 28, 2018.

IMG_5637Keenan Powell was born in Roswell, New Mexico, several years after certain out-of-towners visited. Her first artistic endeavor was drawing, which led to illustrating the original Dungeons and Dragons when still in high school. A past winner of the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic grant, her publications include Criminal Law 101 in the June 2015 issue of The Writer magazine and several short stories. She writes the legal column, Ipso Facto, for the Guppies’ newsletter, First Draft, and blogs with the Mysteristas. She lives, and practices law, in Anchorage, Alaska. When not writing or lawyering, she can be found riding her bike, hanging out with her Irish Wolfhound, studying the concert harp, or dinking around with oil paints.

Visit Keenan at: www.keenanpowellauthor.com

FB: https://www.facebook.com/keenanwrites

 

Guest Victoria Thompson and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the leaves have mostly rattled off the trees and the winter birds have returned to the feeders.

Today it is my  very great pleasure to welcome Victoria Thompson to the blog! I met Victoria several years ago at Malice Domestic. She is as charming and personable in life as she is in her writing.

 Victoria Thompson is the author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series. Her new book, City of Lies, is the first in her new Counterfeit Lady Series, which releases on November 7. To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed hardcover copy to one commenter here today (US entries only).

ThompsonVictoria-CityofliesLooking for Inspiration…

I’m very excited that City of Lies will finally be released into the wild! I’d been wanting to write a second historical mystery series for a long time, and I’d been doing a lot of research on the early twentieth century, hoping for inspiration. During that process, I learned a lot about the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and I realized that when my own mother was born, women didn’t have the right to vote in America! It was that recent! I also learned that many women endured beatings and imprisonment to earn females the right to vote. I’d never heard about this in history class, and no other women I spoke with had either. I wanted to tell this story, but how could I make it more interesting than a dry history lesson? That’s when I decided to add a less than honest heroine, a dashing hero, and a dastardly villain.

Every woman wears a mask…

Every woman has, at one time or another, hidden who she really is in order to get along or get ahead. Elizabeth Miles has made a career of it, however. As a con artist, her job is cheating rich and greedy men, but when she cheats the wrong man, she ends up running for her life.

Elizabeth finds temporary safety by getting herself arrested with the Suffragists who have been demonstrating outside the White House for months. This gets her away from Thornton for the moment, but she and the other women are sentenced to three months of hard labor at a workhouse were they are starved and abused. Much to her own surprise, Elizabeth bonds with these women and learns to respect them while they are imprisoned, and she emerges a new person.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire…

Elizabeth may feel like a new person, but Oscar Thornton still wants to kill her. How can she escape him and still keep her secrets? Because her new friends would lose all respect for her if they knew who she really was, and the man she has come to love can’t even bring himself to tell a lie. How can she trick them into helping her pull off a con that will save her life without losing everything she has learned to value?

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Elizabeth’s experiences in City of Lies are based on real historical events that happened in November of 1917, exactly 100 years to the month when the book is being published! In 1917, society was changing, and women were fighting to be taken seriously, to be valued, and to have a seat at the table. A hundred years later, women are still fighting for the very same things. Elizabeth lived in exciting times and so do we. I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures, which are not so very different from our own.

 

***************

Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Victoria Thompson photoSeries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder in the Bowery, was a May 2017 release. City of Lies is the first book in her new Counterfeit Lady series, a November 2017 release from Berkley. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.

Happy Double Launch Day!

By Liz/Cate and Julie/Julianne

Woo hoo! We have lots to celebrate today! It’s launch day for Chime and Punishment, the third in  Julianne Holmes’ Clock Shop Mystery Series, and Cat About Town, the first in Cate Conte’s Cat Cafe Mystery Series!

Picture of Cate Conte's CAT ABOUT TOWN and Julianne Holmes's CHIME AND PUNISHMENT with the caption DOUBLE LAUNCH DAY

To commemorate this huge day, Julie and I are going to discuss a few of our favorite topics: Cats, writing, and maybe even cafes and clocks. So let’s start with the nitty gritty writing stuff – Julie, what was it like to write the third book in this awesome series?

Liz, it was wonderful to revisit Orchard, Massachusetts and talk more about the adventures of Ruth Clagan as she works on getting the clock tower in the Town Hall. It was important to me that folks could read this as a stand-alone, but that folks who have read Just Killing Time and Clock and Dagger could revisit with familiar characters and see what happened on some arcing stories.

Liz, what was it like for you to create a new series? Was it easier or more fun this time around?

You know, I wouldn’t say easy…it’s harder to start from scratch, I think. The Pawsitively books have a cast of characters I’m so familiar with at this point, it’s easier to imagine them in their little town, going about their business. But there’s something to be said for jumping into a whole new world and a new character’s head. I wrote this book in first person instead of third, which was different, and it actually seemed a bit easier, which was surprising to me. But I really did slip right into Maddie James’s head, and found her voice right away. And I loved writing about her cat rescue antics!

So Julie, speaking of cats…what’s your fictional furry friend up to? Does Bezel have a big part in the book?

Bezel always has a role in these books, though Ruth spends most of this book out of the shop, and Bezel is an indoor cat. The importance of Bezel is the love she and Ruth have established. Bezel grounds Ruth. Speaking of cats, tell me about the cat on the cover your new book!

The infamous Junkyard Johnny! The cat on the cover happens to be the fictional version of my real life cat of the same name, JJ for short. In the book, Maddie finds JJ in the cemetery, but she figures he could very well have lived in the junkyard, so it works. In the real JJ’s case, he was living in a junkyard in New Hampshire when he was rescued. An interesting fact about the real JJ – he’s on Prozac because of his hatred for fluffy cats!  Poor Tuffy, who’s the inspiration for Nutty in the Pawsitively series, would get beat up all the time. So JJ had to get some help for his behavior.

And last question for you Julie – you must’ve visited a few clock shops when researching this series. Tell us about your favorite, and why!

The Clockfolk of New England have been my go to clockmakers. Last year, David Roberts took me up to a clock tower to help me really understand how they work, and what it feels like to be in the tower. I have also visited the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol CT. WONDERFUL place to be inspired by clocks.

Your last question Liz, tell us about the business Maddie James runs. We’re all going to be spending a lot of time there–give us the inside scoop! Is it based on a real place?

So, cat cafes are real things, but mine is going to be very different from the ones you’d find on an urban streetcorner, which is where they usually live. The way the cafe comes to life plays out during the first book, so I don’t want to give too much away just yet. But I hope you love it!

Julie, this was so much fun! So happy to be sharing launch day with you. Readers, are you looking forward to these two books? We hope so!!

Guest: Alexia Gordon

Edith here, loving the smells of summer, and delighted to welcome mystery author Alexia Gordon as our guest today! Her second Gethsemane Brown mystery released this month. I read Murder in G Major, the first Gethsemane Brown mystery (nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, I might add), and loved it. I can’t wait to read the new one. Here’s what Death in D Minor is about:

DeathInDMinor front

Gethsemane Brown, an African-American classical musician a living in an Irish village, scrambles to call her vanished spectral roomie back from beyond and find a way to save her cottage from being sold. When her visiting brother-in-law is accused of stealing a valuable antique, Gethsemane strikes a deal with a garda investigator to go undercover as a musician at a charity ball and snoop for evidence linking antiques to a forgery/theft ring in exchange for the investigator’s help clearing her brother-in-law. At the party, she accidentally conjures the ghost of an eighteenth-century sea captain, then ends up the prime suspect in the party host’s murder. With the captain’s help, she races to untangle a web of phony art and stolen antiques to exonerate herself and her brother-in-law – until the killer targets her. Will she bring a thief and murderer to justice, or will her encore investigation become her swan song?

Doesn’t that just sound delicious? And Alexia is giving away the audio book (on CDs) of Death in D Minor to one lucky commenter here today.

A Method To My Madness

I’m used to doing things without giving much conscious thought to the steps involved in execution. I’m like Nike, I “just do it”. I have a process, of course, and it’s a logical process but it’s an unconscious one, like those programs always running in the background on your laptop. I think it’s hereditary. I never learned to cook from my mother because she’s a “some-bit cook”. I’d watch her in the kitchen, far enough away to not be underfoot, and ask how much of a particular ingredient she added to the pot. “Some,” she’d answer, or, “A bit.” I’ve had to become more aware of those processes since becoming a published author, however, because one of the questions I’m often asked is, “What is your writing process?” I’m forced to come up with a better answer than, “Um.”

I go through several phases as I write a book: brainstorming (a.k.a. daydreaming), researching, plotting, outlining, developing characters, writing, rewriting. Not necessarily in that order. Definitely, not in a linear order. Multi-phase execution occurs simultaneously. I may develop characters while I research. I flip back and forth between outlining and writing.

Brainstorming and research are two of my favorite phases. I love to play the “What if?” game. I read the recent article about a company offering to implant a microchip in employees’ hands to allow them the convenience of unlocking doors and turning on the copy machine with a key card. Instead of thinking, “Wow, that would be convenient, what a great idea,” I thought, “What if?” What if someone wanted to access a secured building? Would they cut off someone’s hand to get the chip? Kidnap the chipped employee and force them to do the dirty work so only their fingerprints were left at the scene? And what if a chipped employee quit? How far would the company go to retrieve it’s data? All sorts of criminal possibilities flooded my brain.

I also love to people watch (and to eavesdrop), all in the name of research. Several days ago I needed a model for a character. I won’t say which one. I went out to eat and kept my eyes and ears open. Before I finished my coffee, I spotted diners at a nearby table who exhibited behavior that begged to be fictionalized. This week, I’m at a conference related to my day job. I attend the sessions and listen to the speakers to get the information I need for work but a tiny part of my brain stays alert for some tidbit that could work its way into fiction someday, like a robotic vehicle that recovers casualties from a building in midtown Manhattan that’s under attack by aliens. (None of the speakers mentioned aliens. I made that up.)

So, there’s a partial answer, my attempt to quantify “a bit”. I’ll keep “just doing it” because that’s how my brain works. But I’ll be more mindful of the how. Because “Um” isn’t a good answer.

Readers: Do you map your processes? Or do you just do it and sort out how later? Remember, your comment could win you the audio book (on CDs) of Death in D Minor!

AlexiaGordonA writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Her medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiered July 2017. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas. She listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at http://www.missdemeanors.com.

Turning Five

Edith here, luxuriating in the rebirth of life (finally!) north of Boston – salad greens, flowering shrubs, fresh eggs, book ideas, and so much more. Make sure you read to the end for a special giveaway.

Mulch Ado About Murder releases today! I am delighted that the Local Foods Mysteries has continued through book five. I originally conceived of organic farmer Cameron Flaherty way, way back in 1994. At the time I operated and co-owned the smallest certified organic farm in my county tucked away up here in the northeast corner of Massachusetts.

mulch-ado-about-murder

When A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die finally came out in 2013, it introduced Cam, her great-uncle Albert, the town of Westbury, and the cast of regular characters who have kept Cam company throughout the series. The book opens on June 1, the first day her CSA customers are coming to pick up their shares of the produce she harvested that morning: herbs, greens, asparagus, and more.

A Tine To Live A Tine To Die PB COVER

In Tine we meet the cast of continuing characters: Lucinda, the devoted Brazilian locavore. Felicity, a committed volunteer with a long gray braid and an infallibly cheery manner. Albert, of course, who gave Cam his farm. A younger volunteer, Alexandra, and the even younger girl scout Ellie who loves helping out. Plus State police detective Pete Pappas, who is back in every book but takes on an additional role in book two.

The books release once a year at the end of May, but book time is different. Til Dirt Do Us Part, the second book, takes place in early October.

Til Dirt do us Part Cover

One of Cam’s more difficult shareholders is murdered the day after a farm-to-table dinner and her stepson Bobby is wanted for questioning. Cam doesn’t think the hunky carpenter who rebuilt her barn is involved – but is he?

Farmed and Dangerous is the winter story, with a blizzard, someone murdered in Albert’s assisted living residence, Cam under suspicion because she provided the produce that was poisoned, and an apparent attack on Cam herself.

FarmedandDan

I was delighted Cam’s farm cat Preston finally appeared on a cover. He’s our senior cat here at home and he deserves his moments of fame.

Book four, Murder Most Fowl, was a fun one. I got to set a couple of scenes in a New England town meeting very much like the one I used to attend in West Newbury, which Westbury is closed modeled on.

Murder Most Fowl

The wasn’t fun for the murdered poultry farmer, of course, but I loved that Cam acquired chicks, and I learned about foxes, too. I got the murder weapon from a talk the Poison Lady (Luci Zahray) gave, and the book just came out in paperback.

And now we’re up to Mulch Ado About Murderbook five, where Cam’s peripatetic parents come to visit. Both of them are immersed in a good deal of trouble, and Cam gets to know them more intimately. Over the course of the series Cam has grown to know herself better, too. This nerdy introvert, a former software engineer, had no idea when she acquired the farm that growing and selling food would involve hanging out with people, not just vegetables. What blossomed in her is a realization that she likes it.

The story takes place right now, so the series has come around the full cycle of the farming year. I decided to celebrate by throwing a fifth birthday party on June 1!

LOCAl Foods birthday party

Come on over to the Facebook event page between 6:30 and 9:30 PM eastern time. Twelve authors, including many of the Wickeds, are going to pop in every fifteen minutes and each will have a giveaway to a commenter during that period. I have a slew of items I’ll give away, too.

prizes

And the grand prize is a signed set of all five books in hardcover. We’ll have virtual cake – carrot, of course – and bubbly, too.

But for today, let’s celebrate Mulched‘s release by me giving away one of my author aprons to a commenter here!