My Tenth

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith here, aka Maddie Day, on a glorious occasion – my tenth novel releases today!

I am delighted and happy about this third Country Store mystery, which is already garnering some pretty darn nice reviews. Dru’s Book Musings said, “Done to perfection…tightly woven mystery…cleverly placed clues…engaging dialogue…lovable cast of characters…the best book in this delightfully charming series.” From Kings River Life Magazine: “Intriguing plot will draw in even those who skim past tantalizing treats and elaborately depicted preparations. Yet who could resist those? This blend of academia and small-town secrets satisfies on so many levels.” And the fabulous cooking blog Cinnamon &Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder wrote, “Solid addition to a terrific series…nails both the [Midwestern] setting and the characters…well-plotted…suspenseful and exciting conclusion.” apronI’m grinning and  blushing at the same time.

To celebrate, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter! (US only.)

In a flourish of riches, my eleventh novel (Called to Justice) will be out April 8 and my twelfth (Mulch Ado About Murder) at the end of May. I just figured out that as of now, I am contracted through my twenty-first mystery, which will be Cozy Capers Book Group #3.

But I guess the tenth hitting bookstores and ereaders makes today a milestone book birthday, and it got me to thinkingEdieFifthgrade about other tenth milestones in my life.

My tenth birthday took place in the fall of my fifth grade year. I was a pretty goofy kid, always youngest and shortest in my class. A good student, but prone to getting up to mischief, and often bewailing the injustice of stuff the boys got to do that I wasn’t asked to (can you say Young Feminists of America?). Little Eva released “The Loco-Motion” that year, and I was in Girl Scouts. I don’t remember much else, frankly.

The tenth house I lived in was an apartment in a double triple-decker in Somerville, which might be unique to the Boston area. It’s a three-story apartment house which has two apartments on each floor. I had the bottom floor on the right, with the bow windows. 223SummerStreetWhen I lived there, eventually with my good friend Jennifer, the front part was open covered porches (now closed in). After our apartment was burgled in broad daylight when neither of us were home, we made the landlord install bars on the windows – and then found somewhere else to live.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was eight, but remarkably haven’t changed frames very often. I do believe my current model is my tenth pair! It’s possibly my favorite set of frames, too. After my second pair, which I wore into high school (until I transitioned to contacts for a few years), I have only worn wire rims of one kind or another. But two years ago I need new glasses. Everybody was getting bold dark frames, and I couldn’t quite stomach rectangular black specs. But when I saw these turquoisey-print glasses, I fell in love, and have been complimented on them regularly since.NewGlassesCrop

And I calculate that the quilt I finished this winter, which my dear mother designed and began for me but didn’t finish, is probably my tenth completed quilt. I started putting together quilts when I was in college, so I’m clearly not a regular in that hobby if I ‘m only up to ten, but I do love setting up the machine, laying out the components, and assembling them. Is there any more practical product than the beautiful cover you sleep under? (The pink border cloth and the backing are fabrics I brought home from West Africa years ago which were sitting in my cloth bank just waiting for their time.)

marilynsgiftquilt

So, dear readers, help me celebrate by telling me some of your own tenth milestones. Anybody have ten children? Ten cars (I’m only up to seven)? Ten countries you’ve lived in (I’m only up to six) or the tenth you visited? The tenth school you attended? What about your own tenth birthday, house, car, glasses, or hobby result? Do tell! Remember, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter. (US only.)

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.

edith-2017-books

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.

oneblock

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.

machinework

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.

layout

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.

top-complete

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.

wedding-quilt

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!

2013 Wicked Accomplishments

Celebrate-Success-Logo-w-3-fireworks

Barb: Resolutions and goals for the new year are important, and we’ll get to those. But for me, part of learning to become a writer has had nothing to do with imagination or craft. It’s had to do with learning to stay motivated and disciplined over the months and years it takes to write a book, and over the decades it takes to learn to be a writer.

One of the things I learned was that in addition to looking forward and having goals, it’s important to celebrate achievements. Having that sense of victory keeps you going in through inevitable times when you question your talent and skills.

So Wickeds, tell me your 2013 accomplishments. Give me five–and here’s a challenge, include one that will surprise your fellow Wickeds and our readers.

I’ll give us all one to get started–Creating this blog. Who knew it was just a gleam in the eye of Sherry Harris in the spring of 2013? Now it’s an important part of my life–as are all of you.

Edith: What a  year it was for all of us! I’m happy to celebrate: 1. The first book in my three-book contract came out, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die. Which was also my first hardcover book. 2. I learned a huge amount about marketing, selling, and the limits of my own energy. 3. A short story I was strongly called to write, “Breaking the Silence,” not only made it into the Level Best Books anthology Stone Cold, but also won an honorable mention in the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction Contest. 4. I signed a contract for IMG_3148the second Lauren Rousseau book, Bluffing is Murder, and changed the manuscript (THIS week) from third person point of view to first person, an onerous but necessary chore. 5. Not sure this is actually a surprise, but I made a lap quilt in record time for a dying friend in the week before Christmas, realizing it was more important than a few more batches of cookies, expert gift wrapping, or even writing for a few days. Some people are surprised to learn that I know how to sew and quilt. I grew up sewing at my mother’s knee, love it, and do way too little of it these days!

Sherry: Barb you’d better share your five too! And since you mention our blog that will be my number one. The blog has been such an amazing experience, our guests, our  friendship, and just learning what it takes to do one. 2. Getting the contract to write three Sarah Winston Garage Sale Series books. 3. Writing Tagged for Death the first in the series. 4. Joining the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I’ve been a member of the New England Chapter since 2005 and am so glad I joined this Chessie group too. Surprising the Wickeds with an accomplishment isn’t easy — I realized how much of my life you already know about so here goes! 5. I understand the offsides rule in soccer and can discuss British Premier League soccer without sounding stupid. Okay my husband thinks this is a great accomplishment. As for me, I keeping more secrets this year!

popping-the-cork-to-celebrate-success1Jessie: I’m not sure I have any accomplishments that would surprise any of the Wickeds because they’ve been right there trudging along with me as I’ve gotten most of them done! There are some things I am proud of this year though. My first book with Berkley Prime Crime, Drizzled with Death, released in October. I wrote my second manuscript for that series and every turned it in on time! I sold the German rights to my first mystery, Live Free or Die. I was a panelist at a conference for the first time this year. I was so honored for it to be at the Crime Bake which was the first writing conference I ever attended and the place that started me on path that led to all of the other accomplishments on the list. And finally, I will mention the blog too because it really has been a major part of my life this year. The collaboration with all of these great writers and great people has been one of the very best parts of 2013 for me. Thanks to you all!

Liz: What an amazing year – and how great it is to be able to stop and think about the great things we’ve done along with all that’s still left to do….
My top five are: Publishing Kneading to Die, the first book in my Pawsitively Organic Mysteries. And, like Jessie, it was an amazing accomplishment to finish and turn in book two, A Biscuit, A Casket, also on time! Beginning this group blog with my Wicked sisters will go down in history as a hugely proud moment. I spoke on my first two large conference panels, at Bouchercon and Crime Bake, which was huge for me. And I had a story accepted for an anthology on rescue cats, which will publish in 2014. I can’t wait to see what the new year will bring!

Barb: My top five are: 1) Launching Clammed Up, the first book in my Maine Clambake series with Kensington. 2) Turning in the second book, Boiled Over, on time despite having spent the last three weeks of writing glued to my chair for 12-18 hours a day. 3) Completing my second and final year as co-chair of the New England Crime Bake with a successful conference (turning that duty over to fellow Wicked Julie Hennrikus for this year.) 4) Publishing Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, along with my fellow co-editor/co-publishers. This is the eleventh book in the series. 5) My husband and I had a fabulous trip to Cuba last January. If you ever get the chance, go!

Actual photograph of Wicked Cozies celebrating--no retouching!

Actual photograph of Wicked Cozies celebrating–no retouching!

Readers, what 2013 accomplishments are you celebrating?

A Visit with Dru Ann Love

By Edith Maxwell, north of BostonDru Ann Love

Dru Ann, we are so pleased to welcome you to the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. For those who don’t know, Dru Ann Love is the mystery author’s biggest fan. She not only reads prodigiously, but also reviews and blogs about the books she likes over at Dru’s Book Musings. She regularly hosts authors who present a day in the life of a character in that character’s voice. She announces new releases on Facebook. And she’s a really nice person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at more than one mystery conference lately.

So I wanted to get to know her better, and let our readers do the same.

E: Tell us how you came to love to read mysteries.

D: I always loved doing puzzles, especially finding the right piece to fit in the right spot. That’s what reading a mystery is, finding the right clues to solve the puzzle. The first mystery book I read was Encyclopedia Brown and I loved them all. Here was this young boy looking for clues, it was fun following along with him, and I loved when I solved the puzzle before he did. From that moment on, I love reading mysteries, growing up with Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and of course Encyclopedia Brown.

E: Have you ever thought about writing a crime novel yourself?

D: No

E: I think you live in New York City somewhere. Tell us about your neighborhood. Did you grow up there? Do you ever see stuff happening in real life where you think, “Somebody could write a book about that!”?

D: Yes, I live in Brooklyn near the Atlantic Ocean and I love watching the tankers, cruise ships, and watercrafts pass by. My neighborhood is typical of a city with lots of noise and people on the streets, but yet quiet enough where you can sit on the bench outside and read. I’ve always lived in Brooklyn, but where I live now is not where I was raised.

You can walk down the same block every day and see something different and every time I see something out of place, I wonder where did it come from? Who put it there? Why did they put it there? The other day I walked by a renovated building and watched them bring out part of a wall and my first thought was, “What’s hidden behind the wall and what stories could it tell?” Sometimes when I see a caravan of flashing cars, I wonder who is in there and where are they going?

Dru Ann readingE: So you could feed us ideas for our books! You must spend a lot of time reading. Do you have a day job, too?

D: Yes, I work at a large corporation in the city that I refer to as the “daytime situation.” I have a one-hour commute each way, which is prime reading time.

E: I know you’re an avid quilter (as was my mother, but that’s a different post). Tell us about how you design a quilt – it might have something in common with designing a story! 

Dru Ann's quilting corner

Dru Ann’s quilting corner

D: Just like in a book, I need to have an idea of what the final project will look like before I start working on a quilt. Once I know this, I pick out the fabric color scheme and decide which quilt block(s) to use and once I gather the necessary tools such as the template rulers, stick pins, quarter-inch ruler, the marker and the rotary cutter then I’m ready to begin the quilt process. Step by step, piece by piece, I build up each level and as the quilt begin to take shape, I know once the binding is done, the quilt will be on its way to the new owner. Just like a book.

E: Okay, time for the fun question. What’s something about you, your experiences, your life, that would surprise us and our readers (and that you’ve never revealed in an interview before)?

D: I’m an introvert, but can hold my own in terms of conversations in a small crowd. But if a very extroverted person joins the conversation, I get very insecure and all I want to do is hide and in fact, I do hide by not saying a word, even in the presence of that same crowd.

E: We have a few introverts in this group of bloggers, too! Now, what are the top three books on your To-Be-Read list?

Dru Ann's bookshelf of signed books

Dru Ann’s bookshelf of signed books

D: As of this interview, The Double Wedding Ring by Clare O’Donohue, Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams and No Way Out by Alan Jacobson.

E: Thanks SO much for hanging out at the Wicked Cozy water cooler today, Dru Ann. Final question: when are you coming to the New England Crime Bake? We’d love to have you.

D: I would love to attend the New England Crime Bake but I have a funny feeling that it may conflict with Bouchercon 2014. Thanks for letting me hang out with the Wicked Cozy authors.

Readers: Any questions for Dru Ann? Leave her a comment!