Wicked Wednesday: I Know What You Bid Last Summer

News Flash – Marla B wins Leslie Karst’s new book! Leslie will be contacting you, Marla.

It’s another Happy Book Release Wicked Wednesday! We’re so happy Sherry’s fifth Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery came out yesterday. Here’s the blurb for I Know What You Bid Last Summer:

When it comes to running a successful garage sale, Sarah Winston believes in doing her homework. She also believes in giving back. But when she agrees to manage an athletic equipment swap, she doesn’t bargain on an uncharitable killer. The day of the event, the school superintendent is found dead in the gymnasium. Suddenly the murder suspects are the school board members—including the husband of a very difficult client who’s hired Sarah to run a high-end sale and demands she do her bidding. In between tagging and haggling, Sarah studies the clues to see who wanted to teach the superintendent a lesson. But as she closes in on the truth, the killer intends to give her a crash course on minding her own business . . .

In I Know What You Bid Last Summer, Sarah’s sleuthing takes her to a bowling alley. The bowling alley has candlepin lanes along with the more common ten pin bowling. And much to Sarah’s dismay, it is also Cosmic bowling night with strobe lights, loud music, and a disco ball. Wickeds, have you ever bowled? Candlepin? Ten pin? Or, gulp, Cosmic?

Edith: I have bowled a few times. Big balls in California in high school, candlepin up here on the North Shore. I am NOT good at ball sports. Too much enthusiasm, too little aim and control. So we won’t talk scores, not that I remember them. And these days the lights and sound of Cosmic anything? No thank you! That said, I can’t wait to read about Sarah’s next adventure.

Barb: Congratulations, Sherry! I can’t wait to read I Know What You Bid Last Summer. I have bowled when the opportunity presented, or more accurately when it couldn’t be avoided. I don’t know why I’m reluctant. I’ve enjoyed it whenever I’ve done it. There was a bowling alley with both ten pin and candle pins one town over from us when my kids were growing up. Lots of fun birthday parties for their friends there. Happy memories.

Jessie: Congratulations, Sherry on another release! I am not really an enthusiastic  bowler. Maybe it is because the shoes don’t have heels… I have done it as a kid for birthday parties and that sort of thing. When my own children were small we went on occasion. One of my kids bowled a great game once when he was very small by tossing the ball down the lane with glee and landing on his backside each turn. It was a delight to watch!

Julie: Huge congratulations Sherry! I can’t wait to read the book! I have bowled. I am not good at the big balls, but I used to be pretty good at candlepin. I really enjoy the social aspects of bowling, and have a few friends on leagues. If I had the time, I might be tempted. And yes, I’ve bowled in neon alleys, and with rock and roll. Is that cosmic?

Sherry: Thanks everyone! I have never been candlepin bowling. The first time I went bowling when I was about ten I dropped the ball, it rolled down the middle, and I got my first strike! I did a bowling league one year with the Spouses Club and my team took first place. I practiced a lot so I didn’t let down the general’s wife who was an ace bowler!

Readers: Bowling experiences? Thumbs up or down on the sport?

How Did I End Up Here?

Suekey12 is the winner of I Know What You Bid Last Summer. I will send you an email!

With the release of every new book I reflect on the journey that led me here — the people who helped me along the way, the hands up, the people I’m grateful to. I was struggling with a topic to write about for this blog. So I turned to the Wickeds and Edith suggested writing about where the idea for this book came from. Interestingly the idea for I Know What You Bid Last Summer came from the Wickeds too.

A couple of years ago after I turned in the third book, All Murders Final, I was writing a proposal for three more books while we were having our annual Wicked retreat. I had two solid ideas for books which turned into book four – A Good Day to Buy and book seven – Let’s Fake a Deal. But for some reason I was struggling to come up with that third idea. Fortunately, I was sitting around with the Wickeds during a brainstorming session.

Jessie was the first one to suggest that Sarah do something with the school board and that they could be the suspects. She also mentioned doing something like a sports equipment swap. In the original proposal it said this: At the end of the summer Sarah is hired by the school board to run a charity event to raise money for extracurricular activities. While the pay is nominal Sarah feels like it will raise her profile in the area is she can pull I off without a hitch.

It was interesting to me that there’s no mention of sports equipment and that Sarah was getting paid. It also suggested an end of summer event which turned into an end of June event with no pay. I like to include a bit of humor to relieve the seriousness of the crime. And for some reason this time I wanted it to revolve around Sarah’s friendship with Angelo and Rose DiNapoli who own DiNapoli’s Roast Beef and Pizza. But what could she do for them? Angelo has a bit of an ego so what would be better than having him enter a lasagna bake off that he really wants to win?!

I felt like those two elements weren’t enough for a complete book. What could Sarah do that would involve a garage sale that she hasn’t done before? That’s when I dreamed up a difficult client who wants to do an over the top garage sale like the ones she’s seen in magazines and on TV. Since the customer is always right, Sarah goes along with it. Even Sarah has to admit the results are amazing. So that’s how I Know What You Bid Last Summer came to be.

I still have so many people to thank. I signed my first contract with Kensington on February 22, 2013 almost five years to the day from the release of this book. I’m so grateful to my editor, Gary Goldstein, and everyone else at Kensington who work behind the scenes from the art department to the marketing department and everything in between.

I can’t thank everyone but must thank the Wickeds, Sisters in Crime, my agent John Talbot, the very supportive crime fiction community, all the bloggers and reviewers that get the word out about books without compensation, readers – including all of you who stop by here. I’m so grateful to Barb Goffman for her wise guidance when she edits my books and to my beta readers Clare Boggs and Mary Titone. Mary also is my publicist and does so much for me.

And finally my family. My support system at home is amazing. Although my daughter is still a bit offended when a couple of years ago she asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day and I said for everyone to pretend I wasn’t home for a week – that was the looming deadline talking. My husband tells almost everyone he meets that I’m an author. My parents filled our house with books, took us to the library, and always let us buy a book at school book sales.

If not for all of this, I wouldn’t be publishing my fifth book today. There’s another fifth in my life this year — the WIckeds are celebrating our fifth anniversary of our blog this May!

Thank you for being with me on this lovely, wonderful, wild adventure of writing books.

Readers: Who do you brainstorm with? Or just say hi! I will give away a copy of I Know What You Bid Last Summer to a commenter.

 

 

 

 

 

That Was A Close One!

By Sherry — feeling fortunate

A couple of weeks ago I helped author Donna Andrews with a yard sale. It gave me a chance to put my money (or Donna’s in this case) where my protagonist Sarah Winston’s mouth is. Garage sales are a lot of work and in this case Donna had things from her grandparents and parents along with things of her own to sale. The picture below is while we were setting up. You can read Donna’s take on the event here!

What do you want to accomplish? The first thing I asked was what was more important, making money or getting rid of stuff. Donna was more interested in getting rid of things than making money. The reason to ask that is for pricing and bargaining the day of the sale.

We got together a few days before the sale to price. Donna had already arranged a lot of like items together in her garage. There was so much stuff we decided not to individually price things (even though Sarah usually does). Donna made signs for things like albums $1.00, glassware $2.00, etc.

Vintage Jewelry Donna also had a lot of vintage jewelry. We used box lids with towels in them to arrange the jewelry. A friend of Donna’s who sells jewelry had been over to take a look at things to make sure nothing was too valuable. As we arranged the jewelry I would flip it over to look for signatures. Also to see if there was backing on the jewelry – that is usually a sign there aren’t gemstones set in the piece. I took some of the pieces home to check prices on eBay. Below is an example of the backing from a brooch I bought last spring at a sale:

Open! The weather the day of the sale was perfect, not too hot and a gentle breeze – almost unbelievable for August. Garage sales make for interesting people watching and become a study in human nature. Yes, we had early birds. The starting time was 9:00 but by 8:15 we were open for business. Donna did scare one woman off at 7:45 when she told her she could look around as long as she helped carry out a few boxes.

Patterns Donna had stacks of patterns from the forties, fifties, and sixties. I’d looked up prices on eBay and thought she’d probably have more luck selling them there. But we stuck them out anyway. We sold one. However, so many people stopped by to look at them. And it was lovely how many people told me stories of their moms or grandmothers making clothes. It was one of the best parts of the sale for me.

Hipsters Two young men came by who were interested in the albums Donna had for sale. She had nine boxes with everything from rock to Irish folk music to classical in them. The hipsters were interesting to watch because first they sorted through the albums in the garage setting asides ones they were interested in. Then they brought them out into the light and took the album out of its cover to look for scratches. After that they made their final decisions about which ones they wanted. At $1.00 a piece they were a great bargain. One of the guys said he loved Irish music because he could jig around the house to it. The image of this bearded hipster doing a jig still makes me laugh.

Culture clash Northern Virginia is a very diverse area but twice now I’ve seen how cultures can clash at a yard sale. A woman was looking a jewelry and had made a little stack to one side. Two other women swooped in and tried to crowd her out. They immediately went to her little stack. I intervened and explained that was spoken for. Then I bagged it up for the first woman. Since she was still shopping I took the jewelry, put it in a box with some other things she wanted, set the box to the side and covered it.

About fifteen minutes later one of the women brought me a couple of bags full of costume jewelry and asked me how much. I was holding one of the bags and flipping it back and forth to see what all was it in. All of the sudden the woman blurted out, “It’s her bag” and points at the first woman. Then she said, “I took it from there” and points at the box where I’d set it. A confession – if only Sarah could get information so easily! I rolled my eyes and took the bag back over to its spot.

Oh, boy. So here is my confession – Sarah would be so upset – it’s the big one that almost got by me. A woman was looking at the jewelry as I was hovering nearby. She holds a necklace up and says, “This is a Victorian mourning necklace.” I take it from her, flip it over, and sure enough there is this amazing woven hair. My first (and continuing thought) is how the heck did I miss that when I was looking through the jewelry?!!!!

I told her I’d have to look up a price. On eBay similar pieces were selling from $50 to $600! And those pieces only had a swirl of hair nothing like the intricate piece I was holding. Plus I wasn’t sure Donna would even want to sell it. When Donna finished up with the person she was talking to, I took it over to her and explained the situation. Of course she didn’t want to sell it! Fortunately, the woman understood. If I hadn’t been standing right there or if she hadn’t said anything it would have been gone for a couple of dollars. Ugh, I’m still upset!

All of us go to garage sales to find a treasure for next to nothing. But that was a close one!

The End By the end of the sale, Donna had made some money and gotten rid of some things. What didn’t sale was sorted into piles to give away or sell on eBay. Garage sales are a lot of work, but you can also learn something unexpected.

Readers: What in your life has taught you something unexpected?

Thinking about Thinking Scenes

By Sherry — I’m enjoying a cool day before the heat hits again

I confess my WIP (work in progress) is a bit of a mess. No, it is a mess. It’s due in to my freelance editor, Barb Goffman, on Sunday. Even scarier it’s due to my Kensington editor on August first. It’s the sixth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. I’ve been thinking (maybe overthinking) a lot about writing which may be part of the reason for the mess. I recently wrote about trying to improve my writing. You can find that blog post here.

Part of my problem is I had a deep emotional connection to A Good Day To Buy (number four in the series). Number five, I Know What You Bid Last Summer, felt a bit lighter to me. It has a lot of crazy, complex relationships that can occur in small towns where people sometimes know each other to well or think they do. And I love the subplots – I had so much fun writing them. Book five also answers some questions readers have been wondering about. But after A Good Day, it didn’t seem to have the same depth to me. Maybe I’m crazy saying all of this out loud. Maybe I’m tilting the reader pool to not like the book. So don’t get me wrong, I like the book, I just had a different emotional connection to it.

That brings me back to my WIP. I was having the same problem of connecting with the manuscript on an emotional level. Then combine that with some obsessive thinking about writing  and it wasn’t pretty. One of the things that’s been on my mind is black moments and I wrote a recent blog about that for Miss Demeanors. You can read it here.

I moved on from worrying about black moments to worrying about what I call “thinking scenes”. (I feel like these scenes are different than inner dialogue, although inner dialogue can be part of thinking scenes.) Then another thought struck me — aren’t thinking scenes the opposite of show don’t tell? Ugh. In a mystery it is almost unavoidable to not have the protagonist trying to put the pieces of a mystery together. So then I started pondering ways to do that.

A protagonist thinking…

One way is to have your character sitting on the couch, driving down the road, or walking some place thinking about what they know and what connections there might be.

Another, that I often see in mysteries, is having your character involved in some activity while they are trying to piece the puzzle of who dunnit together. For example Sarah could be refinishing a piece of furniture as she thinks about a murder.

Writing all this makes me realize why sidekicks are so popular. The sidekick allows the protagonist to talk it out. The sidekick can point out flaws in the protagonist’s logic or point something out that sends the protagonist in a new direction. They could also cause the protagonist to doubt themselves.

I’ve used all three in different ways in different books. There are probably a gazillion other ways to handle thinking scenes, but these three seem to be the most common. And maybe the best solution is to weave the clues together so well that the protagonist doesn’t have to have a thinking scene and only needs an “aha” moment.

Back to my messy WIP. The good news is two days ago I came up with a subplot that speaks to me on an emotional level. Now I’m working hard to weave it in as an intricate part of the story. Wish me luck!

Readers: Do you like scenes where the protagonist is putting the pieces together? Writers: Do you have a way you like to handle these kind of scenes?

 

 

What’s Next?

News Flash: The winner of Leslie Karst’s book is Sarah H – Sarah, please contact Leslie at ljkarst at gmail dot com. Congratulations!

By Sherry feeling rested in Northern Virginia

Monday afternoon around 4:30 I sent off I Know What You Bid Last Summer to my editor at Kensington. It is the fifth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. Usually this is cause for much celebration around the house, but this time I was just plain old tired. Barbara Ross generously had a margarita in celebration for me down in Key West (thanks for taking one for the team)! But I sat on the couch wondering what was next. This was the last book I was under contract for so Tuesday was going to be a blank page for me for the first time since 2013. I stayed up late – late enough to watch the late night shows and then read for a while.img_2704-1

I slept in Tuesday morning – until 9:22! I felt happy, excited even, when I woke up. I walked into the kitchen and found my daughter had gone to Starbucks and left me a cup of chai on the counter. A little bit later she made me breakfast too. Thank you, Elizabeth!

I started doing things I’d been putting off. I made a hair appointment, sorted the laundry, and tackled the piles in my office. It was so warm out I opened the window in my office. I decided to pull out the manuscript for the gemology mystery series I’d worked on for years (YEARS!) but hadn’t ever sold. I sent the first three chapters off to independent editor Barb Goffman. Why you ask? I’m so close to them – even after not looking at them for a long time — that I knew they needed another set of eyes. I started thinking about all the other book ideas swirling through my head and tried to figure out which one to tackle first.

My daughter and I watched part of the Patriot’s Super Bowl parade on TV. I walked our dog Lily. Maybe it was the warm weather or maybe it was the unknown ahead of me but everything seemed to kind of glow. Oh, heck maybe it was sleeping in after working intensely for the last few weeks. (Confession: I never did get any laundry done.)

img_2710Around three the phone rang. It was my agent, John Talbot. He had news! Good news! Kensington wants two more Sarah books. A couple of weeks ago I shared several ideas for the series with my editor. However, with the publishing industry in a bit of upheaval you just never know what will happen. After I finished dancing around and shrieking, my husband called on his way home from work. I told him we were going out to celebrate.

We stopped by Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, Virginia and did a wine tasting.

 

Then we had dinner at an Italian restaurant which seemed appropriate given Sarah’s love for DiNapoli’s and Italian food. Today it’s back to plotting (good heavens did I just say the “p” word? Has the pantster in me been converted?)! I have a concept for the next book (one I love) but I have to figure out who dies and why. Oh, joy!

Readers: What do you do after you finish a big project?

Stick With The Wickeds Contest

Don’t Forget To Vote Today!

thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3Sherry, here and I’m delighted to be giving away a book and a vintage Thanksgiving postcard to someone who leaves a comment on the blog! You can take your pick of one of my three Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries — Tagged for Death, The Longest Yard Sale, or All Murders Final! Thank you so much for being a part of our blog! All commenters will also be entered in the Fan on a Stick contest.

 

Once again, The New England Crime Bake is almost here. Since all the Wickeds are going to be able to attend, we are once again running a contest to take one of our readers with along with us, well, sort of. You will attend on a stick.

Dru peaks over Craig Johnson's shoulder to watch the line dancing.

Dru peeks over Craig Johnson’s shoulder to watch the line dancing.

In the past we’ve taken Dru Ann Love, Barb Goffman, and Mark Baker. This year’s Guest of Honor is the amazing William Kent Krueger.

Here’s how it works: Just leave a comment on this blog post by midnight PDT to be entered into the drawing. If you are chosen as the winner all we’ll need from you is your photo in jpeg format and a list of five authors attending this year’s Crime Bake whose autograph you would like us to ask for on your behalf. After Crime Bake we will send your autographed stick self to you. Good luck!