A Little History With My Mystery

By Sherry, who is astonished my third book is out!

I love using a bit of local history in each of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery books. In All Murders Final! Sarah goes to lunch at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn In Sudbury, Massachusetts. It is one of my favorite places. Thanks to Innkeeper Steve Pickard for permission to use the pictures of the Wayside Inn. Here is what the website says about the Inn:

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn—a nationally significant Massachusetts Historic Landmark—is the oldest Inn still operating in the United States and has been serving travelers along the old Boston Post Road for almost 300 years. What began as a two-room home in 1707, the Howe family ran a successful tavern and innkeeping business on this site from 1716 to 1861. To read more visit their website: http://www.wayside.org/about and don’t miss their Fun Facts page.

wayside2One of the things that fascinated me was the story of Jerusha Howe who lived at the inn from 1797 to her death in 1842. Jerusha fell in love with an Englishman who stayed there, and they became engaged. He left to go home to England to make arrangements for the wedding and was never heard from again. Jerusha never married and supposedly watch out her window for his return.

It’s said that guests staying in her rooms hear piano music, smell perfume, and men actually feel someone cuddle up to them. The story tugged at my imagination from the first time I heard it. I could picture Jerusha sitting in her room that looks towards the road waiting, waiting, waiting for her love to return. Did he die? Was he a fraud? It’s a mystery! Yankee Magazine had an interesting article about Jerusha that you can read here.

wayside3Sarah Winston has had her share of problems with men. In fact she’s sworn off them until the murder of Ellington’s beloved matriarch, Margaret More. It throws her right back into the middle of the push-pull of her complicated relationship with her ex-husband CJ, who is the Ellington chief of police, and with district attorney Seth Anderson. When Sarah visits the Wayside Inn she runs into Jerusha and feels like Jerusha is trying to tell her something but what? Can Sarah solve the murder and her love life? You will have to read All Murders Final! to find out.

Readers: Have you ever encountered a ghost? Or do you have a favorite ghost in a book?

And if a book launch isn’t exciting enough we are thrilled to be featured in the Boston Globe today! Here’s the link: http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2016/04/24/murder-they-wrote/asE9zXGm30LUk6vqnalOuM/story.html?event=event25

Here’s another link with a little bit about each of us: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2016/04/24/meet-wicked-cozy-authors/M1gnjBmiIvuWxXXyeka6rL/story.html

Working with reporter Kara Baskin and photographer Jonathan Wiggs was so much fun. Here are two behind the scenes shots of the photo shoot! We felt like rock stars! We were sorry Edith couldn’t join us, but she was on vacation eight hundred miles away.

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Wicked Wednesday: Writes of Passage

writesofpassageIn 2013, when the wonderful Hank Phillippi Ryan was President of Sisters in Crime, she decided her legacy would be a book of essays. The idea was that writers would share their experiences, reach out and support one another like a warm and comforting embrace.

Working with co-editor Elaine Will Sparber, Hank reached out to members of Sisters in Crime all over the country, from every corner of the genre and at all phases of their careers. The result is a little book called Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, that contains sixty essays (#60secrets) where writers tell it like it is. The central message of the book is, “You are not alone.”

Writes of Passage is now available from Henery Press in paper and ebook form, at all the usual outlets.

Several of the Wicked Cozies have essays in the book. We thought today we’d each pick an essay that spoke to us from the collection.

Barb: I laughed out when I read Lori Roy’s essay, “Hard Work and Working Hard.” In it, she talks about how the hyper-organized style she learned as a CPA has never worked in her fiction writing. She can’t write from an outline and research is piled haphazardly around her office. The essay reminded me of the book Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, by John Curran. (I write about it here.) You’d think Dame Agatha, Queen of Plot, would have been strictly organized, but Curran writes that Christie “thrived mentally on chaos, it stimulated her more than neat order; rigidity stifled her creative process.” But Lori’s essay made me laugh out loud because I had just said to my husband that my former profession as a Chief Operating Officer was the worst possible preparation for mystery writing. As COO, my job was usually to unkink the kinks and find the straightest line between two points, to take the obscure and make it transparent. Applied to mystery writing, the result would be a one chapter book. “A guy was killed. It was obviously so and so. He was swiftly arrested. The End.” I struggle against that impulse every day.

greyhowlLiz: So many of these wonderful essays resonated with me, but as many of you know, I have procrastination issues. So Clea Simon’s “The Zen of Procrastination” spoke to me loud and clear. Her simple truth is also mine: “Somehow, as the deadline for each new book approaches, I find myself caught up on the most mundane of household chores – and then belatedly bashing out the prose at eight, nine or ten o’clock at night.” I struggle with this too, although I can – and often do – excuse my procrastination by citing the demands of my day job, but it’s the same difference. What I liked about this essay is Clea’s attempts for a Zen acceptance of her methods, such as the working out of the plot hole during the laundry cycles. I, too, am trying to be kinder to myself if I feel I have to do something instead of write at that exact moment, and channel the time more productively at least in my mind. So while I often say I’m working hard at being a reformed procrastinator, perhaps I should embrace that part of me and use it to my advantage, as Clea seems to!

Barb: I liked that one, too, Liz. I often say I am an overachiever trapped in a procrastinator’s body. But a little perspective is good. Clea publishes two books a year and you have a big day job..and…and…and. So kindness is called for.

Edith: It’s absolutely a book full of valuable advice and experience. Susan Oleksiw’s essay tells how she helped found two small presses. With the Larcom Press, which published the Larcom LarcomReviewCoverReview (and gave me my first full-length short story publication credit for “The Taste of Winter“) as well as several mystery novels, Susan says she and her co-editor didn’t know how to run a press, and she describes how they learned. She then went on to co-found Level Best Books, which is going strong even today, although under new management (including Barb!). Her essay ends with a paragraph that very much resonates with me: “My philosophy was, and still is, that if there’s something you want to do, just throw yourself at it. Whatever happens, you’ll know more than when you started, you’ll be closer to your goal, and your discoveries will open unexpected doors.” I agree, and have done this myself a number of times in my life.

NeverTell20Sherry: How could I not pick Hallie Ephron’s essay “I Get My Best Ideas at Yard Sales”? Sure I wanted to read it because I’m writing the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series but I loved Hallie’s novel Never Tell A Lie. The idea for the story came to her at a yard sale. I’ve also been in a number of classes taught by Hallie so I knew I’d find some good advice in her essay. Reading that a writer like Hallie gets stuck makes me feel better when I get stuck. Getting stuck happens it’s what you do about it that matters. Hallie says this: I’ve now written nine novels. My best ideas for getting unstuck seem to come to me when I’m frying chicken, or taking a shower, or driving, or going to a yard sale. In other words when I can’t write. So my advice for thinking your way out of a plot hole is this: After you’ve tried every technique in the book for writing your way out of one, step away from the keyboard.

Jessie: I really liked the essay Wabi-Sabi Writing by Kylie Logan. Basically, it spoke about mindfulness and the appreciation of things that are fleeting and imperfect.  Everything about that idea spoke to me as a writer and as a person who tries to find joy in the little things that make up a life. This attitude of acceptance and pleasure in the unfolding of what is, into what will be, is extraordinarily freeing on so many levels. It is exactly how I keep my inner editor at bay and how I convince myself to take risks of all kinds. I was delighted to find there was actually a name for that approach and that it wasn’t just a form of sloth. Ever since I read Kylie’s essay I have been chanting wabi-sabi to myself as I sit down to write, to cook or even to tidying the house. Thanks, Kylie!

Julie: I love this book. I am thrilled to be part of it, but would love it no matter what. I think there is an essay for every mood, and every writer’s need. It is really hard to pick one, but that is the task. I’m going to chose Diane Vallere‘s “What Are You Looking For?” It is about searching, and exploring the unexpected paths. Terrific essay. Great book. And fabulous legacy project for the wonderful Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Readers, have you read any of the essays? Do you have a favorite?

Wicked Wednesday: What Do You Read When You’re Writing?

stack of booksThe discussion is age-old. Some writers say they can’t read, or can’t read in their genre, when they’re writing. Others say, “If I had to give up reading in order to write, I’d give up writing.”

Wickeds, do you read when you’re writing? If not, why not? If so, what do you read? Is your reading restrained in any way?  Does it make a difference whether you’re writing a first draft or doing a polish? When do you read for research?

Inquiring minds want to know.

TanaFrenchLiz: Love this topic! I find reading depends more on my overall mood than what I’m actually working on. Since most of what I read is mystery/crime, it varies between cozies, thrillers and other types of crime. That said, I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I would like…but that’s really the only limitation I have when it comes to reading. I can read any fiction, any time. I read for research as the need arises, or as the mood strikes. Sometimes I veer off into the world of business books, but I quickly return to my beloved mysteries.

Right now, I’m catching up on my cozies – recent releases from my fellow Wickeds and a Natural Remedies Mystery I’m blurbing. Next up – the new Tana French book. Can’t wait!

AndGrantYouPeace-final-4Edith: I find I have such little time for reading, if I didn’t read while I am writing, I’d never read. I certainly read for research both while I’m creating and while I’m polishing: Whittier’s biography, or the history of Brown County, Indiana, for example. But I also read cozy mysteries, New England-based police procedurals, suspense novels. They don’t seem to interfere with my writing or revision process, other than making me look more closely at my own work to make sure it’s as clear, lyrical, and deeply drawn as I can make it.

Right now, in final revisions on one book and starting revisions on another, I’m fittingly sitting in Maine reading Kate Flora’s new (Portland, Maine based) Joe Burgess mystery, And Grant You Peace.

longmireJulie: I try to read while I am writing. BUT I find that the ability to just read, and not dissect, is gone while I am writing. For example, I am reading the Longmire books in preparation for Crime Bake. Craig Johnson is the Guest of Honor, and I am going to interview him at lunch during the conference. First paragraph, my “oh he writes in first person. Wonder how this works in a long series…” kicks in. It is hard to turn the writer off.

Edith: Agree with you on the dissection habit, Julie. It’s given me no patience for poorly written books. There isn’t enough time in the universe to read a book I see glaring writing errors in – point of view hops, too much telling not showing, and so on.

Jessie: I used to only read non-fiction when I was working on first drafts. I was really concerned about unintentionally matching the tone of what I was reading in my own work. As time has passed my confidence in my own voice has gotten stronger and I no longer worry about what I read. Like Edith, I read a lot of books for research and I do tend to read those voraciously whilst creating a first draft.

At any given time I am in the midst of several books. I get a little panicky if I don’t have at least a few books waiting in the wings. As a matter of fact, I bought a house next door to a public library partially influenced by that concern. Currently, I am part-way through a Swedish crime novel, a book about the relationship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle and a book on the history of the tarot.

truthbetoldBarb: If I couldn’t read while I’m writing, it would be a close and agonizing call, but I would probably give up writing. Reading, after all, was my first love. Being a professional writer does crowd your reading time. There are books for research and books for blurbs. If you’re moderating a panel or conducting an interview at a conference, as Julie is, you’ve got a lot of books to read. Somehow or another it all piles up. But to be my best and happiest self, I have to read books I love, books that I wish I could have written. Kate Flora (I love the Joe Burgess novels, too) has a tradition where she allows herself to read anything she wants between Christmas and New Years. I’ve taken this tradition and expanded it (I’m a slow reader) to anything I want between the New England Crime Bake (Veteran’s Weekend) and New Years. It’s the ultimate luxury. Up this year will be Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, Craig Johnson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and (fittingly) Kate Flora.

IMG_1012Sherry: Of course I read when I write. I read lots of thrillers and mysteries. The only thing I try to stay away from is any book that has a similar theme to mine. I agree with the other Wickeds that reading good books makes me a better writer and makes me work harder. Right after I read an early copy of Clammed Up I had the opportunity to write the proposal for the garage sale series. I loved Barb’s character Gus and I think he influenced my character, Angelo. The good news is when I told Barb, she was surprised and didn’t think I’d copied Gus. Angelo is quirky in his own way.

Readers: What’s your take? If you’re a writer, do you read while you’re writing? If you create other kinds of art, can you absorb art by others while you’re creating?

The Evolution of a Title

By Sherry Harris, enjoying lovely fall weather in northern Virginia

Jessie recently talked about What’s in a Name and her joy in naming characters. Some of my characters seem to show up with names. With others I have a much harder time finding the right name. I just finished the second Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery. I had one character named Blank and one named Place until the month before I turned in the manuscript. They became Olivia and Gennie. It isn’t only naming characters that gives me trouble but also titles.

I love all the cleverly named books that are plays on words. Edith’s book A Tine to Live A Tine to Die was named as one of the punniest cozy mystery titles of the year by RT Book Reviews. You can read their picks of clever titles here: The Punniest Cozy Mystery Titles. Liz has Kneading to Die, Barb, Clammed Up and Jessie, Drizzled with Death. Julie — we’ll find hers out soon enough. It seems like there are plenty of clever things Julie will be able do with a theme of time.

Tagged for Death mech.inddThe title for the first book in the series, Tagged for Death, came to me easily. It references tag sales (a New England term for garage sales), the tags on yard sale items, and the person who is targeted to die. In my proposal the second book was titled “Marred Sale Madness”. I thought marred was a decent rhyme with yard. As I started talking about the book and telling people the title they always said, “What?” Some people thought I was saying “March,” others just didn’t understand. Then I’d have to carefully enunciate the word, M-a-r-r-ed. I don’t know if it’s my Midwest nasal tones or it’s just that hard to say, but I decided a new title was in order.

At the Wicked Cozy retreat last April I told the Wickeds that I needed a new title but was drawing a blank. Barb came up with Deal or Die. I liked it and wrote my editor asking if that was okay. He agreed it was. But as time approached to turn the second book in my editor decided to go another direction and titled the book “The Longest Yard Sale”. It’s cute and fun. I double checked on Amazon to see if there were any other books with a similar names. I found: The Longest Yard Sale by Sherry Harris available for pre-order! It comes out June 30, 2015.

The third book’s working title is: Murder As Is. I have a feeling that might change too.

Readers: Does the name of a book influence your decision to read it? How do you come up with titles? Do you have a favorite?