Wicked Wednesday: National Simplicity and National Pecan Pie Days

Pies

Edith’s 2016 pecan pie (and two pumpkin pies)

More in our National Wednesdays: today is not only National Simplicity Day, it’s also National Pecan Pie Day!

Wickeds, share your favorite pecan pie recipe or memory. And let us know what you do to incorporate simplicity into your life. Readers, please do the same in the Comments.

Jessie: Since I am allergic to nuts I don’t have any positive memories about pecan pies or recipes for them. I am not allergic to simplicity however and am trying to incorporate more of it into my life whenever possible. I think one of the places I manage it best is when I travel. I have gotten the art of packing down to a single backpack for trips as long as 11 days by simplifying my wardrobe and being really choosy. It makes travel so much more fun not to have to be responsible for lugging around excess.

Sherry: Jessie, even though you’ve shown me your magic packing techniques, I don’t think I could ever manage. I remember the first time I ever tried making a pecan pie. I had to cook it for hours. The recipe is so simple but the darn thing wouldn’t set up. So I guess my simplicity is to buy the pie or eat one out instead of trying to make one. And I also buy the pie crust already made.

Edith: Well, heck. I make a pecan pie every year for Thanksgiving but don’t seem to have a recipe anywhere. One year I made the pie with bourbon in it, and another year added chocolate somewhere. I confess most of the time I use the recipe on either the pecan bag or the bottle of molasses – but always with homemade crust. As for simplicity, it’s kind of a big thing with Quakers. It’s also tough to manage in our busy lives. I envy Jessie that packing thing! And isn’t it nice when you go to a vacation home or a hotel room and you realize all the stuff you don’t actually need? Here’s a picture of the ultra-simple – and beautiful – Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse. Yeah, that.

MeetinghouseinsideFramingtheLight

Picture by Edward Gerrish Mair, used with permission

Barb: I love pecan pie. Our Thanksgiving dessert table groans with choices, especially pies. I bring the mincemeat and apple. I love pumpkin, but favor it for day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast. On the day, lots of people go the little bit of this, little bit of that route, but I give what room I have left entirely to the pecan. As for simplicity, I try to avoid unnecessary drama in my life. I think that counts, right?

Julie: Jessie is walking me through her packing techniques, and I am going to try and use them for a 2 week vacation in August. Even if I use a smaller suitcase it makes life easier. We shall see. Regarding simplicity–I aspire to it, but will confess, I have complicated systems that are simple for me. But then again, I’m a Virgo, so there’s that. Regarding pecan pie, my niece has nut allergies, so I haven’t made it recently, but one of my favorite recipes is Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie.  It is very decadent, but so is pecan pie.

Readers: Pecan pie recipes? How you keep your own life simple?

Wicked Wednesday: Mythbusters V–Write What You Know

Teachingis thegreatest actof optimism.All young writers get the advice to “write what you know,” but let’s face it, if we all did that, there’d be way too many books about sitting on your a** typing words into a computer all day. As you’ve grown as a writer what has this advice come to mean to you?

Julie: A work friend came into my office this week and said that she is loving Clock and Dagger, and knowing me makes it more fun. “How so?” I asked. “You’re in there. Like the colors they choose for the cards? Purple and green, just like StageSource.” She was right, of course. Part of me crept in, even when I didn’t mean for that to happen. But the whole “write what you know” should be “write what you can imagine.” You will ground things in your life, but I find a good google search and a long walk will free up my imagination to create what I didn’t know, but did imagine, would be a good story.

Sherry: Julie, one of the things that has so impressed me with your series is that no one would ever guess you didn’t know a lot about clocks until you started researching for the Clock Shop series. It’s a great example that you don’t have to write what you know. To me “write what you know” is also about what do you know that you don’t know you know. Right before I got the opportunity to write the garage sale series, I’d pitched my gemology series to our agent, John Talbot. He wasn’t interested in it but asked me what my hobbies were or what other things I knew about. After I stammered for a bit I finally said I liked to read. Then I slunk away. I would have never thought to mention I loved garage sales.

Edith: All of my series of course have bits of what I know, but what I love is widening what I know. I have some background in midwifery and in Quakers, but I had no idea of the depth and richness of my town’s history, or of the late 1800s and what a time of change it was. I absolutely love researching everyday life, political happenings, carriages, buildings, and attitudes of the era – and I didn’t know I would. Plus what Julie said, especially with my characters. Imagining how the mind of someone completely made up works, creating their motivations, following them around, writing down what they do – that’s the best.

Liz: I agree that a little bit of what you know informs everything you do, but there are so many opportunities to stretch. In the Pawsitively Organic series, I definitely know animals, but cooking is not my thing. So I have opportunities to learn all the time as I’m writing. Also, how many of us really know what it’s like to find bodies/investigate murders? Aside from the police-officers-turned-writers, probably not many of us. So we’re all researching, learning and stretching every day.

Barb: I think what this advice usually means is to write authentically. Make up people, but ground them in real and believable human emotions. Make up places, but give readers touchstones in those made-up places that help them believe they could be real. And give us imaginary plots and storylines–sometimes wildly imaginary–but do it in worlds with enough inner consistency that people are willing to go on the journey. Everything you have ever observed about the behavior of people, institutions, community, and place is relevant, and that is writing what you know. But then you can mix those up in wild and crazy ways, as long a you provide a foundation.

Jessie: I’ve always thought of this as an admonishment to to write the truth as you experience it. The plots and the details can vary wildly but to be a successful story, to resonate with readers, it should first strike a chord with the writer’s own truth. What do you value? What do you notice? What makes you angry or sad or elated ? That’s what you know. That’s what’s worth writing about for you.

Readers: What do you think? Can you tell when a writer is well-grounded in what they’re writing and when they’re making it up as they go along? Writers, do you or do you not, “write what you know?”

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Delivering the Truth-Happy Book Birthday, Edith!

Jessie: In NH, where spring has gone back into hiding.

Today the Wickeds are delighted to be celebrating Edith’s newest release, Delivering the Truth! Delivering the TruthCoverThis has been a real passion project for Edith and we couldn’t be happier for this day to arrive!  Since historical fiction acts as a sort of time travel mechanism, I thought I’d ask you all which famous person from 1888 would you like to meet if you could?

Jessie: I would love to meet E.F. Benson, the author of the Lucia books. I re-read them almost every year and would so enjoy meeting their creator!

Sherry: There were a lot of interesting people alive in 1888. I couldn’t settle for just one. First up is Louisa May Alcott. She died March 6, 1888 but oh, to talk to her. She lived a hard but interesting life, and knew so many fascinating people. I’ve been to Orchard House (where she wrote Little Women) and visited her grave on Authors Ridge at Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord. And across the pond, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m intrigued not only by his writing life but in his interest in spiritualism. Edith, I’m so happy for you!

Barb: Such a rich cast of characters to choose from. I think I have to go with Edith Wharton. In 1888 she was only 26 and not yet published, so she wasn’t who she was going to be. But that woman was such an amazing talent and bundle of contradictions as a person, I can’t pass up any opportunity to better understand what made her tick. (Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to come back and give some Edith Wharton scholars the straight scoop? Sort of like that scene with Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall.) Good luck, Edith. Delivering the Truth has landed on my iPad. Can’t wait to read it!

Liz: Mark Twain, definitely! In 1888, it would’ve been a few years after Huck Finn was published and the year Twain’s humorous works, Library of Humor, came out. I wouldn’t miss a chance to pick the brain of such a famous writer. Edith, so excited for this new adventure of yours!

Julie: 1888 was such an interesting time. Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglas, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lotta Crabtree were all around, and changing the world. (Who is Lotta Crabtree, you may ask. One of the rich characters in Boston’s theater history.) Any one of those people would be amazing. Do you think they had any inkling of their place in history? Edith, I am SO happy for you on this launch. I love seeing how excited you are, and can’t wait to read Delivering the Truth!

Edith: These are all fabulous. Imagine if we had them all in the same room. Two more are the real female detectives from the 1800s that I’m talking about over on the Mysteristas blog today.

Thank you, my dear blog sisters, for helping me get to this day. I’m thrilled!

Wicked New England- Favorite Buildings

Jessie: In New Hampshire, where the birds have started chirping in the mornings!

New England is blessed with beauty. We have coastline and mountains, lakes and acres of forested land. But we are also fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful architecture. From quaint villages to bustling, vibrant ports New England has so many man-made beauties as well. So Wickeds, do you have a favorite building here in New England?

Liz: I work in Hartford, which does have some beautiful buildings, but I’m enamored with the state capitol building. It’s close to my office, right across the street from a park I like to walk in during lunch when weather is nice. It’s something I always take notice of, especially when the sun reflects off the gold dome. Gorgeous.

Photo of Whittier's Seat by Kathleen Wooten.

Photo of Whittier’s Seat by Kathleen Wooten.

Edith: How could I not cast my vote for the Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse? Built in

1851, with John Greenleaf Whittier on the building committee, it is a treasure that reflects simplicity, one of the basic Quaker values. It’s been in continual use for Friends worship since it was new, and has been lovingly restored and maintained by the current

Photo by Ed Mair

Photo by Ed Mair

congregation (of which I am one). The tall antique windows cast wavy light shows on the floor and walls, the wood of the floor and walls seems imbued with spirit, and the outside is modest and welcoming.

Jessie: I love the Portsmouth Music Hall, in Portsmouth, NH. They’ve done a beautiful restoration on an already lovely building. Part of the pleasure of attending events there is the beauty of the environment. If you’re ever in Portsmouth I highly recommend taking in a show just to see inside. The_Daughters_of_Edward_Darley_Boit,_John_Singer_Sargent,_1882_(unfree_frame_crop)

Barb: I had a really hard time with this. Beautiful public buildings are so much a feature of our lives in New England, we use them without thinking about them. What to choose? The Boston Public Library? Symphony Hall? Julie could probably give us a tour of Boston’s wonderful theaters. At the end of the day, I’m going for the Museum of Fine Arts. Bill and I make a pilgrimage there a couple of times a yIMG_3078ear at least. It’s such a wonderful place to spend a quiet afternoon. (Time your visit for after the school trips have left and before the evening hours have kicked in.) The experience renews you creatively. And the new American Wing is a knockout and blends beautifully with the old architecture.

Sherry: We are going to have to do this again — I have too many favorite buildings. Faneuil Hall, the Orchard House, the Unitarian church in Bedford, Massachusetts. And I’m sorry but I had to go with two. The first is what my family calls the Dr. Seuss building on MIT’s campus. MIT calls it the Stata Center but whatever you call it, it’s uniIMG_3219_2que! I also love the Old North Church in Boston. Yes, the building where the two lanterns were hung so Paul Revere knew that Regulars were heading to Concord by sea.IMG_3220 It’s Boston’s oldest surviving church. It’s also called Christ Church and is an active Episcopalian church. If you’re ever in Boston don’t miss the free fifteen minute talk. It’s fascinating.

TRANSEPTJulie: New England does, indeed have beautiful buildings. And Barb’s right, I could give you a tour of some stunning theaters in Boston–we are blessed that so many gems (the City Wang, the Opera House, the Shubert, the Paramount, the Modern, and the Colonial) that have been restored over the past twenty-five years. But my favorite was my workplace for 13 years, Memorial Hall at Harvard University. It was built between 1870-1877 as a memorial to the Harvard alumni who fought and died fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Inside is Sanders Theatre and Annenberg (formerly Alumni) Hall. Acoustically, Sanders Theatre is one of the most stunning concert halls in New England. But it was also a lecture hall, where some amazing historical figures have given speeches. The picture is of the transept, which is where the names of all of the deceased Harvard alums are listed on tablets. See the three figures in the picture, for scale? I’m the one of the left, hard to see because I wasn’t wearing a white shirt.

Readers, how about you? Is there a famous or hidden gem of a place in your neck of the woods?

Wicked Wednesday – Why We Can’t Wait to Read the Next Museum Mystery

On Wicked Wednesdays, we all weigh in on a subject. This week we are celebrating the razing-dead-200launch of Razing the Dead, the latest of Sheila Connolly’s Museum Mysteries, out this week. And today we’re talking about what we love best about these books by one of our favorite authors – and people!

Liz: I love Sheila’s ability to weave culture, community, the past, present and a good mystery together. She’s a master of the craft and I can’t wait to see what trouble Nell and her FBI “partner” get into this time.

Jessie: I love the location of this series and the behind the scenes look into the world of museums. You always learn something interesting when you read Sheila’s books.

Barb: Since I once lived outside of and then went to college in Philadelphia, I love the setting of the Museum Mysteries, too. But what really draws me to them is the character of protagonist Nell Pratt. She’s got a serious career that’s more than a job, and I find that’s rare in cozies where people tend to be small business entrepreneurs, often with failed or disrupted careers behind them. I love watching Nell solve these mysteries, while balancing her work life (and her love life).

Philadelphia Friends worshipping, circa 1900

Philadelphia Friends worshipping, circa 1900

Edith: Sheila consulted me in advance about Quakers and the Testimony of Peace. I can’t wait to see where those inquiries ended up in her story. Philadelphia, of course, was founded by Friend William Penn, and it’s still the locus of American Quakerism. Nell is smart, and meets her challenges capably. I love this series.

Julie: As someone who works in the arts, and knows a few fundraisers, I love the conceit of this series. Sheila knows this world, and it shows. Very fun to have that POV on a protagonist.

Sherry: When I read a book by Sheila, I’m immersed in a whole new world and one I want to stay in. Her characters seem so real and I’d love to have Nell for a friend.

Readers: What do you like about this series? Any questions for wicked cozy Sheila?

Philadelphia Friends worshipping, circa 1900