Poetry & Literature – Mine!

PoetryMonthEdith here, still basking in yesterday’s wonderful afternoon celebration.

Here in Amesbury in the northeast corner of Massachusetts, we have a Poet Laureate. She is the multi-talented Lainie Senechal, a native of the town, who not only writes poetry and paints, but has worked tirelessly to spread poetry through the populace. April is National Poetry Month, and Lainie, with the help of Amesbury’s Cultural Council and the Whittier Home Museum, set up seven events. Poetry and Film. Poetry and Yoga. Poetry and History. You get the picture, and there were others, too. The list also included two poetry contests for young people in the area.

Yesterday was was reserved for Poetry and Literature, and the literature was my second Quaker Midwife Mystery, Called to Justice! I was delighted and honored when Lainie suggested the event, and I thought I’d share the highlights here.

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Me and Lainie Senechal. Photo courtesy Christine Green.

We held the gathering at a lovely crepe (and other delicacies) restaurant, The Noshery, so folks ordered food and drink to enjoy during the readings and discussion. Jon Mooers is the very generous and talented owner and chef, a keen supporter of Amesbury’s history.

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(Some years past he painted two fabulous murals on brick walls on Main Street that evoke the era when I set my books.)

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Jon suggested we set up an antique-look corner for my books, so I borrowed a table from the Friends Meetinghouse.

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As always, I reference a couple of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poems in the book, since he’s a supporting character in the series, so we interspersed portions of those works.  I shared the background of Called to Justice and read several short passages to introduce the poems. Our readers included Lainie, Chris Bryant (President of the Whittier Home Museum), and me. Whittier’s friend Lucy Larcom makes an appearance in the book, so Lainie read one poem about Larcom and another by the well-known New England author, a former mill girl herself.

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Chris Bryant reading Whittier’s  “One of the Signers,” quoted in the book

Poet Carla Panciera wrote a midwifery poem especially for me – “Midwife in the Barn” – and she came to read it herself!

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The questions were many and varied, and I sold and signed books afterward. It was a sweet way to launch my book in the town where it’s set (and where I live) and to celebrate poetry of all kinds at the same time. Thanks to fan Gerry Morenski who volunteered to take pictures while I was up front!

Readers: How do you feel about poetry? What’s your favorite one?

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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

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

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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?

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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?

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Wicked Wednesday: Writing Goals for 2017

writing-goalsWickeds, we all have deadlines, series, proposals, and blog posts that are keeping us busy. What are your writing goals for 2017?

Sherry: Since I went to the Sisters In Crime conference on Adapting Your Work To Hollywood in Los Angeles last April I’ve wanted to write a story to try and sell to the Hallmark channel. I’ve pondered and discarded many ideas and think I’m finally on to one. I’m also writing a couple of new proposals. And working on what is next for Sarah!

Barb: For the first time in years, I don’t know what my writing year holds. Maine Clambake #6, Stowed Away is due in March. Then I’ll work on the proposal for the next three, along with a short story I’ve promised to an anthology. The rest of the year is a blank. Fingers crossed for a series renewal, but if not, there are plenty of things I want to accomplish.

Edith: I’ll be writing three books: Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery #1, capewaterfreestockcropQuaker Midwife Mystery # 4 (IF my contract is extended…), and Country Store Mystery #5. <gulp>  Oh, yeah, and keeping up with blog posts, book releases (three in three months), two short story anthology releases (bringing total releases to FIVE in three months), and every other writing task. But I’m living my dream and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Liz: Lots on the horizon! Like Barb, I’m working on book six in the Pawsitively Organic series, due April 1. After that, will also be writing a proposal for three more (so more finger crossing!). I will also be working on book two in the Cat Cafe series by Cate Conte. And I have another passion project that’s been in various stages of editing for a long time. This is the year that I want to get it finished and sold. And who knows what other fabulous opportunities will come along??

Julie: I am working on copyedits for CHIME AND PUNISHMENT, and then have two more novels to write. So I am working on a plan for the year that allows time for writing, and for editing. I love Sherry’s goal of thinking Hollywood. If I can figure out the time, I need to try and write a screenplay, or a stageplay, and learn how that works.

Jessie: I am plotting away on my next mystery in my Beryl and Edwina series. I have a proposal to write, revisions for one book to complete and copyedits coming up for Whispers of Warning, the next Change of Fortune mystery. It looks like it will be a busy year!

Writers, friends, and fans: What are your work goals for the year? How about hobby goals, or other pursuits?

Boxing Day Book Pairings

book-birthday-hoorayThis week the Wickeds have a double celebration–Barbara Ross’s Iced Under and Liz Mugavero’s Custom Baked Murder are both being released on December 27. A pair of celebrations made me think about book pairings. Wickeds, what would you suggest folks eat or drink while reading your books?


Sherry:
I’m so excited to read the final versions of both of these books! If you are reading any of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale books I’d recommend Italian food (maybe pizza) and a glass of Chianti. Sarah loves to eat at DiNapoli’s Roast Beef and Pizza. The food feeds her tummy and the DiNapoli’s feed her soul.pizza

Edith: That depends on the series, of course. If you’re having brunch at Robbie Jordan’s country store restaurant, you could have a Bloody Mary or a mimosa with your baked French toast or your western omelet. Cam Flaherty in the Local Foods mysteries would recommend a good local IPA with your Irish beef stew. Meanwhile, back in 1888, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll of course goes strictly non-alcoholic, so pour yourself a cup of hot tea and munch on a gingersnap while you read!

Barb: I hope everyone has a chance to put their feet up and relax today. On Boxing Day the servants relaxed, but since so many of us are our own servants…As for pairings, with Eggnog Murder–why, eggnog, of course. No need to fear (he, he, he). With the Maine Clambake Mysteries, I usually recommend a local beer, for example from the Sea Dog or Shipyard brewing companies. But Iced Under takes place  in the dead of winter, so maybe readers won’t feel like something frosty. Go with a hot chocolate or a nice cuppa tea. Sounds lovely. I think I’ll go do so myself.

Liz: Stan spends a lot of time at Izzy’s coffee and gourmet chocolate shop, either eating or drooling over the pastries while sipping a fancy flavored latte. So I would highly suggest getting out of the house with Custom Baked Murder, heading to your favorite coffee shop and sitting in a comfy chair with your favorite drink and a decadent chocolate-something muffin. Or maybe a cheese Danish. Or a steaming hot cinnamon bun. Sheesh, I’m getting hungry….

Jessie: Maine in 1898 was a dry state. In Whispers Beyond the Veil, protagonist, Ruby Proulx lives at her aunt’s hotel for Spiritualists in Old Orchard where the spirits available are the disembodied, rather than alcoholic, sort. A tall, cold glass of lemonade would be a great beverage to enjoy while reading this book. Considering its coastal setting, you can’t go wrong with a lobster roll. Or Pier Fries!

Julie: The Sleeping Latte has great coffee drinks, and Nancy Reed specials. This time of year, I’d suggest an eggnog latte and a molasses cookies. You know the kind of cookies that bend when you pick them up, and are wicked chewy? Yes, those!

Friends, any book and food pairings you’d like to share?Save

Assembling Quilts and Stories

Edith here, staggering a bit from all the delicious rich foods of Thanksgiving, and still aglow from a lovely long visit with both of my sons.

Today, continuing our Wicked Month of Thankfulness, I’m giving away a promise to send the winner an ARC of one of my three 2017 mysteries as soon as I get them. It’ll be your choice of When the Grits Hit the Fan (written as Maddie Day), Called to Justice, or Mulch Ado About Murder. So make sure you leave a comment at the end of the post before midnight EST tonight, and don’t forget to check the blog Sunday when we post the week’s winners.

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Right now I’m trying to polish my fourth Country Store Mystery, Biscuits and Slashed Browns. I’m also about to move into writing a new book in a new series, the first in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. And, of course, the Christmas season is creeping up on me way too fast, so there will be decorating and  baking in my life pretty shortly, not to mention coming up with ideas for gifts and then implementing them (which might or might not involve shopping). Life is very busy.

That said, the lovely quilt my late mother made me about twenty-five years ago is in tatters on our bed. Mommy was a master quilter, creating probably a hundred quilts in her retirement years. A few years before she died in 2012 she asked me what colors I’d like in a new quilt. She never finished it, though, and I’ve had a bag of the fabric for it in my closet for almost five years now. So I resolved to bring it out and finish it.

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I thought I had the pattern stuffed into the bag. I didn’t. To my delight I counted 46 four-fifths completed blocks, and 46 strips. I didn’t realize how much of the work my mother had already completed on the project. It was much like if someone I loved died with only part of a novel completed, but enough of the writing in place for me to see the way forward to finishing it.

I figured out where to add the strips, so I commissioned a son to haul my sewing machine down to the dining table and went to work.

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After I added all the strips, I pressed the blocks and trimmed off the uneven edges while listening to my Saturday radio shows. Working with cloth, thread, and iron brought me so close to memories of my mom and older sisters. Sewing was part of our lives from a very young age – Mommy made our clothes, ballet costumes, Halloween costumes, nightgowns, even hand puppets, and we graduated into sewing our own dresses in high school.

The following picture is NOT of us in our high school dresses, obviously, but was taken a few months before our mom passed away, with one of her quilts on the wall and one her own mother made on the bed. (Now you could call us the Silver-Haired Spectacled Scarf Sisters, I guess.)

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Once the blocks were ready I was presented with the problem of how to lay them out. I thought maybe some of my far-flung quilter friends on Facebook might recognize the potential pattern, and many suggested some permutation of Irish Chain, but the examples Ms. Google showed me didn’t look like my blocks. It was a mystery! Again it was kind of like a book, where I set up the suspects and the crime, but often I’m not sure who the actual villain is until I write well into the story.

I did a little math before getting to the layout. Seven down and six across would use 42 of the 46 blocks. I could figure out later what to do with the spare four blocks. I smoothed out a plain-colored blanket on top of the worn-out quilt on our  bed and began to lay out squares. After a few false starts I figured out a pattern that worked, didn’t bring any color except the dark in contact with itself, and used all the blocks without any odd corners sticking out.

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I posted the layout picture on Facebook and a quilter pal suggested it should be more of a crossover line, but I’m happy with the look of those rings. It’s a little small for a double bed, so I’ll add several narrow borders and a wide one in between. Yet another quilter pal, author Betsy Bitner, suggested fitting the four extra squares into the corners of the border to extend the pattern. Brilliant!

Once again it’s like the stage of authorship I’m in right now with my Country Store mystery – the book is too short, but I always get up to the word count my editor expects by enriching the language, adding the five senses, including things like my protag’s reactions which I knew but forgot to actually write down. Sometimes I even discover a new subplot that betters the story.

The basic top is assembled, so after I add the borders it will need quilting.

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One thing I really don’t have time for is hand quilting my mother’s project, so I’ll either hire someone to machine quilt it or I’ll see if I can hire a group to hand quilt it – just like I use an independent editor to help me improve my books. I’m not in for a major hobby of quilting, so I don’t plan to join a quilting group (my mom’s group was called “Stitch and Bitch,” which I always loved). Here’s a shot of the now-tattered quilt when it was new, with my mom (second from right) with some of her quilter friends, all of whom helped hand quilt this lovely piece.

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I’m sure I’ll find a good solution for the quilting stage. And then we’ll have a beautiful new bedcover that will always connect me to my mom.

Readers: Do you quilt? What handcraft, recipe, or custom connects you with departed family? Remember, a special ARC giveaway to one commenter!

Myth Busting Part II – Word Count

Last week, we started tackling the (many) myths and rules that fly around about writing and the writing process, and busting them.

This week, we’re talking word count. Some say you have to decide on a word count to hit each day (or week) in order to declare success. So what do you think, Wickeds? Do you have a word count goal? Do you feel like you need one in order to feel like you’ve had a productive day/week?

Edith: I do use word count to push myself when I’m writing a first draft. I know some people don’t, and I’m not saying anybody else has to! But for me, to set a word count goal of 1500 or even 2000 words for a day keeps me in my seat, which is where the words flow onto the page. I started the first draft of Quaker Midwife #3 at the start of June, and I finished it at a too-short 56000 words last week on the 13th – which is fast even for me. And I accomplished that by setting word count goals.

Liz: Some kind of goal is helpful for me to stay on track, but it totally depends on where I am in the process. If I’m writing a first draft, I try to do a thousand words a day – but I’m also realistic enough to know during the week sometimes I won’t, so if I log a good number on the weekend instead, it’s ok. If I’m in the plotting phase, which I’m just trying out, maybe it’s 1-2 scenes a day, and then a few more on the weekend. And if I’m editing, I try to do a certain number of scenes, depending on how much work they need.

scrivener project targetsBarb: When I’m in first draft mode, I use word count to push myself. I leave the Scrivener project targets window visible at all times as a motivator. (“When I finish this, I can go for a swim.”) A good, comfortable day for me is 1200 words. For revisions, I have a number of scenes as a goal, or a number of pages. Often I’ll work on one day of the narrative.

Sherry: Early in the process I do a steady 1000 to 1500 words a day. I usually cover the word count on the computer so I focus on writing instead of the number of words.

Julie: I love that Scrivener helps with goals and word counts. I am a plotter, so I try and write a scene at a time. Wish I could say I wrote a scene a day, but having a full time job makes that tough for me. But I try for 4-5 scenes a week. Average manuscript has 60-65 scenes. I would love to establish a 500-1000 words a day habit, but I have trouble enough keeping up with my steps.

Edith: FYI for our non-writer reader friends, 250-300 words makes a page, usually. You can translate our daily goals for yourself.

Readers: How do you keep track of project goals, whether at work or at home? Writers, does word count motivate you?