Write Like a Mermaid — Guest Shari Randall

By Shari Randall, who is celebrating publication of her new book, Against the Claw.

Shari is giving away a copy of Against the Claw to someone who leaves a comment! Here’s a little about the book:

Welcome back to the seaside village of Mystic Bay, where someone’s been found sleeping with the fishes. . .Ballerina Allie Larkin is still back home, healing up from a broken ankle and lending a hand at her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. But now that the famed restaurant is branching out into the world of catering, Allie’s help is needed more than ever―even on the lobster boat. The last thing she expects to find once she’s out on the bay, however, is the dead body of a beautiful young woman.

When days pass and not even the police can ID the corpse, Allie takes it upon herself to learn the truth about what happened. Her investigation leads her all the way from the local piers to the secluded estates of Mystic Bay’s posh elite. But how can she crack this case when everyone seems dead-set on keeping their secrets beneath the surface?

“If you can be anything, be a mermaid.” This is one of my favorite sayings.

I named the shack in my Lobster Shack mystery series The Lazy Mermaid because I love mermaids. One of my characters collects “mermaidabilia.” I have an Instagram account where I post mermaid photos on #Mermaid Mondays. It’s fun to see who else has a mermaid obsession.

It’s also fun to see how mermaids can help plot a book.

I was shopping for swag for a Facebook party when I came across this great pen. It’s the Mermazing ™ What Would a Mermaid Do? Predict-a-Pen. It’s a much sparklier version of a Magic Eight Ball, but instead of answering questions it offers advice.

The pen has been helpful as I write. Not only are the predictions good life advice (well, maybe “crash a ship” isn’t a good idea in real life) they’re great suggestions for a writer.

Here’s some writing advice from the Predict-A-Pen:

Pose on a Rock – I translated this into “showcase your character” – let the characters show the reader who they truly are – good and bad, fins and scales.

Make Friends with a Crab – Good advice. Every protagonist needs a friend, a sidekick to share the adventure and watch her back while swimming with sharks.

Brush Hair with a Fork – Okay, I had to give this one some thought. It’s a pretty funny image. Perhaps the magic pen is telling me to add some humor?

Grow Legs – As we all remember from The Little Mermaid, this was a turning point that changed the trajectory of Ariel’s life. For my writing purposes, it means take a chance, do something bold – even if it turns out to have life altering repercussions for my characters. We all like to see characters grow and change, especially if that growth comes from lessons learned by making mistakes and owning up to them.

Fall in Love with a Pirate – A little romance, especially with a dashing partner will add spice to a story.

Crash a Ship – Okay, very bad nautical advice, but great writing advice. Big conflict, disaster, and drama keep readers turning the pages.

Readers: Anyone else love mermaids? Or have a slightly embarrassing obsession?

Shari Randall lives in a mid-century money pit on the Connecticut shore. When she’s not committing murder (on the page, of course) she enjoys dancing, reading, and volunteering at her local library. You can see what’s new with her at https://us.macmillan.com/author/sharirandall/.

Ah Malice Domestic

By Sherry — I’m home recovering from the lack of sleep and all the fun at Malice

Malice Domestic is the annual conference for fans of the traditional mystery. The first time I went was in 2003 as fan and hopeful writer. I was amazed by the crime fiction community then and continue to be now. I didn’t know a soul at that first conference. I stood in line at the restaurant for lunch and the woman in front of me turned and asked me to join her and her friend. It turns out that she was the prolific writer Lee Harris.

I have talked often about meeting Julie Hennrikus at Malice and how that changed the trajectory of my writing life. I gave Malice a shout out in the acknowledgements of my first book, Tagged for Death. For me Malice is all about connecting with people – seeing old friend and making new ones.

Here are Jessie and Edith with Rhys Bowen getting their certificates for their Agatha Best Historical nomination.

I don’t get to see the Wickeds very often. While it may seem like we are running over to each other’s houses for tea every other day, the truth is we are spread out all over the place. And poor me – I’m the farthest away. So Malice is one of the three or four times a year that I get to see them.

Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones

This year I was on a panel, Murder in New England, with friends Shari Randall and Julie Hennrikus  — how lucky is that? The other panel member was writer Leslie Meier who writes the Lucy Stone mystery series. I confess when I saw her name on the list of panel members I went total fan girl, but managed to maintain my cool on the actual panel.

Some people you only see long enough to give them a quick hug. Others you are lucky enough to sit down with for a chat. And some people you see photos of and wonder how you never managed to glimpse them!

 

This year my publisher Kensington gave away books. I sat by Debra Goldstein. Her new book, One Taste Too Many, doesn’t come out until December 18, 2018, but she passed out bookmarks. Then she said to each person, “I only have a bookmark, but Sherry has a great book you can get.” Did I mention how generous the crime writing community is? Oh, and Debra’s book is available for pre-order.

Attending the Sisters in Crime breakfast and the New Authors breakfast is always fun but oh so early when you’ve stayed up late so you don’t miss a minute of talking to someone. I keep campaigning for New Authors cocktail parties but no one listens to me. I confess I was a bit late to the New Authors breakfast but got to hear most of the authors. The short interviews are always a lot of fun. Here are just a few of the many wonderful debut authors:

Then there is getting to meet people you’ve only known online. The banquet, the Agatha Awards… Aw, heck, I could go on and on about how wonderful Malice is, but I’m guessing you get the point.

This year my Malice experience was extended for a bit because author Leslie Budewitz came home with me. We yakked until the wee hours and then got up at 5:30 to get Leslie to the Metro station for her flight home. Boo-hoo – why do you live so far away Leslie? And now it’s all over for another year. I’ve gotten some sleep (including a two hour nap Monday morning) and am now recharged and renewed.

I hope if you’ve never been to Malice that you get to go some day. It’s special. They give out scholarships to people who might not otherwise be able to attend. Here is the contact information: MaliceAngels@comcast.net

Readers: Is there a place you go to see old friends and meet new ones?

 

Welcome Guest Shari Randall — My Cozy Mystery Mistake

The winner of Shari’s books is Becky Prazak!

Shari will give a copy of Curses, Boiled Again, Book One in the new Lobster Shack Mystery series, to one lucky commenter.

Hi, Wickeds! Thank you for inviting me to visit. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with you.

I just launched my debut mystery, Curses, Boiled Again! It’s been a whirlwind – I feel like a little kid playing at the beach who gets knocked over by a wave. Whoa! What just happened?

I’ve enjoyed every surprise but now things are getting serious.

I’m getting reviews.

On one hand, it’s wonderful that readers are taking the time to share their feedback about the book. Plus Amazon likes authors to get reviews, and God knows, we want Amazon to be happy.

And the reviews have been great, for which I’m thanking my lucky stars.

But a couple of reviewers pointed out that I’d forgotten to put something in the book. My cozy mystery mistake?

I’d forgotten a recipe.

My series is set at the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack, a cedar shingled little spot set in Mystic Bay, Connecticut. Any resemblance to other charming New England tourist towns is entirely intentional. Colorful buoys cover the sides of the building and an antique mermaid figurehead welcomes diners at the door. Inside, the walls are covered with shelves of owner Gully Fontana’s mermaid collection, which she calls her “mermaidabilia.”

The book is full of people cooking, savoring, and talking about delicious Connecticut style lobster rolls.

What’s Connecticut style? It’s simple summertime goodness – freshly cooked lobster served in a buttery, toasted hot dog bun with melted butter poured on top. That’s it. It’s so simple, I didn’t devote a page to a recipe.

Aunt Gully, the owner of the shack, does whip them up that way but she also adds her own Lobster Love sauce, a sauce with the complex flavors of a lobster bisque.

Ah, that Lobster Love sauce.

Dear reader, I have no idea what’s in the Lobster Love sauce. The folks lucky enough to taste it aren’t sure what’s in it either, but they describe it as magical, the taste of summer in New England. They beg for the recipe.

Since I know Aunt Gully better than anyone I know she’d want me to own up to my mistake. I’ve decided to share the secret of the Lobster Love sauce right here on Wicked Cozy Authors.

The secret: there is no one recipe. Aunt Gully makes the Lobster Love sauce a different way every day.

But all that talk of lobster rolls has made readers hungry, so if a craving for lobster hits, here’s a recipe I think Aunt Gully would approve. It’s a bisque, and don’t we all love lobster bisque? Enjoy it now as a savory soup or save it for summertime, and enjoy it, if possible, with a water view.

Easy Lobster Love Bisque

Takes about an hour to make! 6-8 servings

2 lobster tails, cut in half

2 cups water

1 TBSP salt

2 TBSP olive oil

1 sweet onion, diced

2 ribs celery, sliced thin

1 garlic clove, smashed

2 TBSP tomato paste

2 cups dry white wine (if you don’t want to use wine, replace with stock)

1 TBSP fresh thyme (2-3 sprigs)

1 bay leaf

1 TBSP paprika

3 cups fish stock (or you can use chicken broth)

1 14 oz can fire roasted, diced tomatoes

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup half and half

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

If you like spicy, at the end add some of your favorite hot sauce, to taste.

In 2 cups of salted water in a large pot, steam lobster tails (shell side down) until cooked through (approx. 5 minutes)

Carefully remove tails from the water. Put in bowl. Reserve cooking water. Let the tails cool then remove the meat and reserve the shells.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over med-hi heat. Add onion and celery and cook until onion is translucent (approx. 4-5 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes.

Add the wine to the mixture, deglazing and scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add herbs, paprika, stock, reserved liquid from the lobster pot, and tomatoes. Add reserved shells to the pot. Let simmer 45 minutes.

Remove the shells, strain mixture, and blend with immersion blender until smooth. (If you’re not fussy, you can skip straining the mixture.) Stir in cream, half and half, and lemon juice.

Chop the lobster meat and divide among soup bowls. Ladle bisque over the meat and enjoy!

Readers: What is your favorite restaurant with a view?

Shari Randall lives in a mid-century money pit on the Connecticut shore. When she’s not committing murder (on the page, of course) she enjoys dancing, reading, and volunteering at her local library. You can see what’s new with her at https://us.macmillan.com/author/sharirandall/.

 

 

After The Contract — Guest Shari Randall

The winner of Wednesday’s giveaway is Shirley! Please contact Sherry at sherryharrisauthor@gmail.com

I met Shari through the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Shari is one of those people who you feel immediately comfortable with. Maybe it’s because she’s a former children’s librarian. She is the first of three guests who will be talking about their experiences since they’ve sign a book deal but whose books aren’t out yet. Shari’s first book is set to come out in March of 2018.

Many thanks to Sherry and the Wickeds for the invitation to chat about What Happens After the Contract.

When I signed my contract with St. Martin’s Press for the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack Mystery series my first thought was – all that paper! While I was wading through it I gave thanks for the many friends who helped make that moment possible.

After the contract…and the champagne….and chocolates…and celebration…and congratulations… It sank in. I faced that empty page. Now I have to get to work.

So I did two things. Then I realized something and did one more.

One, I kept writing.

lobsterbuoysandmeTwo, I did a Lobster Shack Tour. My Number One Fan and I hit the road, researching (okay, eating) at lobster shacks from Noank to Woods Hole and beyond. Except for Maine. I’m conceding Maine to my esteemed fellow lobster lady, Barb Ross, and her Maine Clambake mysteries.

For many years I’ve seen so many author friends juggle writing their books with all the other things that are expected of a modern author: blog tours, giveaways, publicity, appearances, marketing. I realized now that all that was my job, too. I saw the difference, to me, between being a writer and being an author. Let me explain.

Writing is the nuts and bolts, the craft, getting words on paper. That’s what the writer does.

Being an author. Ah, that’s different.

Before I signed my contract, my mental image of “author” was a fantasy formed by episodes of Dynasty and Murder She Wrote. Instead of the reality of hours of butt-in-chair in book jail, my Fantasy Author Self was at signings, dressed in flowing scarves and jangling bangle bracelets. My sparkling laugh – very Mary Higgins Clark or maybe Joan Collins – floating over hundreds of fans sipping champagne, where every detail of the event has been arranged by my fawning publicist, a George Clooney lookalike named Charlton. My fantasy agent says things like “After the twenty-state tour, you’re going to Canyon Ranch for a vacation, I insist” and “Lucas wants the film rights! Streep wants to play Aunt Gully!”

But then I wake up.  Arranging booking signings will be my job. Writing blogs will be my job. Marketing will be my job.

This realization brought me to the third thing I did. I learned as much as I could about what is expected of an author, by asking questions, doing research, and taking classes. One of the best classes was Simon Wood’s 21st Century Author, which I took online through the SINC Guppies. Simon explained the many requirements of the 21st century author – creating a persona, using social media, publicity, marketing. Exhausting, but necessary.

Where is Charlton when I need him?

There is no Charlton.

So as I go back into book jail to work on Book Two, I still give thanks for that contract. But now I know that writing the book is just the beginning.

Readers: What experiences have you had that were different than you thought they’d be?

 

Wickeds on a Stick at Bouchercon!

As we said on Wednesday, Jessie, Liz, and Barb couldn’t make it to Bouchercon this year, so the other Wickeds oh-so-graciously, took them on a stick.

Wickeds, what did Jessie, Liz, and Barb get up to at Bouchercon?

Answer: A lot! 

The Wickeds set off from Northern Virginia with Barb Goffman behind the wheel, Donna Andrews riding shotgun, and Shari Randall and Sherry Harris as backseat drivers.

Check out the rearview mirror!

Check out the rear view mirror!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shari Randall is happy the Wickeds are on our road trip.

Shari Randall is happy the Wickeds are on our road trip.

Art Taylor who is also from Northern Virginia is the first person the Wickeds run into after check in!

Art Taylor who is also from Northern Virginia is the first person the Wickeds run into after check in!

 

Dinner with reviewer and author Patti Phillips!

Dinner with reviewer and author Patti Phillips!

 

Walking the mean (okay really nice) streets of Raleigh and meet fan Karen Palmer.

Walking the mean (okay really nice) streets of Raleigh and meet fan Karen Palmer.

A beer and barbecue nachos hit the spot.

A beer and barbecue nachos hit the spot.

Lunch time for the Wickeds.

Lunch time for the Wickeds.

 

The Wickeds go to a panel moderated by Catronia McPherson and panelists Kaitlyn Dunnett and Leslie Budewitz.

The Wickeds go to a panel moderated by Catronia McPherson and panelists Kaitlyn Dunnett and Leslie Budewitz.

 

Authors Matthew Clemens and Catriona McPherson.

Authors Matthew Clemens and Catriona McPherson.

 

 

The Wickeds are always happy to see Hank Phillippi Ryan.

The Wickeds are always happy to see Hank Phillippi Ryan.

 

Liz, Barb, Jessie, and Sherry go to see how the silent auction for the Wicked items is going!

Liz, Barb, Jessie, and Sherry go to see how the silent auction for the Wicked items is going!

 

Reader Risa Rispoli and the Wickeds.

Reader Risa Rispoli and the Wickeds.

 

Toasting Julie Hennrikus's debut book Just Killing Time.

Toasting Julie Hennrikus’s debut book Just Killing Time.

Liz, Barb, and Jessie are so happy to run into Dorothy Cannell.

Liz, Barb, and Jessie are so happy to run into Dorothy Cannell.

 

Happy to run into authors Julie Hennrikus, Leslie Budewitz, Kathryn O'Sullivan, and Nancy Herriman!

Happy to run into authors Julie Hennrikus, Leslie Budewitz, Kathryn O’Sullivan, and Nancy Herriman!

 

A panel with debut author C. Michelle Dorsey. She talks about her book No Virgin Island.

A panel with debut author C. Michelle Dorsey. She talks about her book No Virgin Island.

Dinner with one editor and two thriller writers.

Dinner with one editor and two thriller writers.

Look! It's author Alan Orloff and his wife Janet.

Look! It’s author Alan Orloff and his wife Janet.

The Wickeds wouldn't miss Hank Phillippi Ryan moderating a panel.

The Wickeds wouldn’t miss Hank Phillippi Ryan moderating a panel.

 

Lunch -- more Southern ood! Grits, barbecue, charred carrots, and sweet potatoes!

Lunch — more Southern food! Grits, barbecue, charred carrots, and sweet potatoes!

 

New England authors Kate Flora, Kathy Lee Emerson, and Edith.

New England authors Kate Flora, Kathy Lee Emerson, and Edith.

Leslie Budewitz and Cheryl Hollon love Liz, Barb, and Jessie.

Leslie Budewitz and Cheryl Hollon love Liz, Barb, and Jessie.

 

Attending the panel Julie Hennrikus was on. Debra Goldstein was the moderator.

Attending the panel Julie Hennrikus was on. Debra Goldstein was the moderator.

The Wickeds once again run into Karen Palmer who they met the very first night. She won their basket at the silent auction!

The Wickeds once again run into Karen Palmer who they met the very first night. She won our basket at the silent auction!

They are really excited to see Molly Weston who is on the board of Sisters in Crime and does the wicked awesome newsletter.

They are really excited to see Molly Weston who is on the board of Sisters in Crime and does the wicked awesome newsletter.

 

And last but definitely not least they run into Sarah Glass the amazing webmaster for Sisters in Crime.

And last but definitely not least they run into Sarah Glass the amazing webmaster for Sisters in Crime.

 

 

 

 

All in all there was lots of food, friends and fun but Liz, Barb, and Jessie are wicked tired!

Readers: Do you have a favorite moment from a conference you attended?

Wicked Wednesday: Dru Ann on Stick at Crime Bake

The fabulous book blogger and cozy mystery reviewer Dru Ann Love won our contest to accompany the Wicked Cozies to Crime Bake on a stick. (You can find Dru’s blog here and on Facebook here.) We’re happy to report that Dru Ann had a wonderful time. In fact, you could say she was the Belle of the Ball.

Here are but some of the photos of Dru-Ann-on-a-Stick at the New England Crime Bake.

Dru Ann arrives at Crime Bake and finds Robin Templeton, Liz Mugavero and Sheila Connolly at the bar.

Dru Ann arrives at Crime Bake and finds Robin Templeton, Liz Mugavero and Sheila Connolly at the bar.

Next Dru Ann spots guest of honor Craig Johnson talking with Julie Hennrikus.

Next Dru Ann spots guest of honor Craig Johnson talking with Julie Hennrikus.

 

Sherry and Jessie are so glad to see Dru Ann!

Sherry and Jessie are so glad to see Dru Ann!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roberta Islieb aka Lucy Burdette is so happy to see Dru Ann!

Roberta Isleib aka Lucy Burdette is so happy to see Dru Ann!

Shari Randall is surprised to see Dru Ann at Crime Bake.

Shari Randall is surprised to see Dru Ann at Crime Bake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dru Ann gets her sheriff's badge.

Dru Ann gets her sheriff’s badge.

 

Dru Ann talks with author Vicki Doudera.

Dru Ann talks with author Vicki Doudera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dru Ann visits with author James Hayman.

Dru Ann visits with author James Hayman.

Dru Ann stops by to see the mock crime scene room and solves the case.

Dru Ann stops by to see the mock crime scene room and solves the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After seeing so many authors it's time for lunch.

After seeing so many authors it’s time for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dru finds Barbara Ross.

Dru finds Barbara Ross.

Then Dru runs into Barb's husband Bill Carito!

Then Dru runs into Barb’s husband Bill Carito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick cup of coffee Dru decides it's time to get ready for the banquet.

After a quick cup of coffee Dru decides it’s time to get ready for the banquet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dru hopes to do some line dancing in her red boots.

Dru hopes to do some line dancing in her red boots.

On the way to the banquet Dru stops to have a drink with private investigator and author John Nardizzi.

On the way to the banquet Dru stops to have a drink with private investigator and author John Nardizzi.

Julie Hennrikus makes sure Dru has a cowboy hat for the banquet.

Julie Hennrikus makes sure Dru has a cowboy hat for the banquet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Flat Dru Ann and Flat Craig are looking for Flat Stanley to go have a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dru shows off her bareback riding skills.

Dru shows off her bareback riding skills.

Time for the banquet.

Time for the banquet.

 

 

 

It's time to partee!

It’s time to partee!

Dru stops by to say hi to Hank Phillipi Ryan

Dru stops by to say hi to Hank Phillippi Ryan

DruEdithShariKim

Sheriff Edith, Dru Ann, Shari Randall, and Kim Gray!

DruHandcuffs

Sheriff Edith cuffs Dru. What was the crime?

DruShariSherryKIM

Dru and the girls party down.

WickedsBanquet

All the Wickeds, regular guests, and fan Dru Ann!

 

After a long day Dru is happy to go to bed.

After an action packed weekend Dru is happy to go to bed.

Readers: Did any of you spot Dru Ann at Crime Bake? Who’s up for going on a stick to Malice Domestic?

Can a Panster Become a Plotter?

By Sherry Harris

In Northern Virginia wishing I was somewhere warmer

IMG_3919I’m a panster. For the three books I’ve written – two in the drawer and one, Tagged for Death, with the publisher – I wrote them without plotting first. I knew what happened in the beginning of each and how they ended, but the middle was a mystery. This method worked for me. But now my contract required a synopsis to be turned in thirty days after I submitted Tagged.

IMG_3917I knew how book two would start but after that I had a blank page. I spent seven days of my thirty catching up on everything I’d ignored the last couple of weeks before submitting Tagged. I hoped something was percolating in my subconscious that would come to me as soon as I sat down in front of the computer. I sat down in front of the computer – nothing, no percolation just a bit of panic and a lot of self doubt.

I worked in fits and starts. I soon realized I was writing the book not the synopsis. So I wrote the Wickeds. This is what I said: How do you turn a panster into a plotter? I tried but I’m afraid it will be easier to write the whole damn book in the next few weeks instead of doing a synopsis.

This is what Barbara Ross wrote back: The person who can write the ending of her book before writing the middle can’t do a synopsis? I don’t believe it. Here’s the advice I give everyone:

  1. IMG_2069Pretend you are in a bar with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile.
  2. Start like this, “You wouldn’t believe what happened to my friend Sarah. Yes, she’s the one who was involved in the yard sale murder. But this time, something even more crazy happened. She… then start the story. Go as far as you can.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say, as you would in the bar, “Oh, and I forgot to tell you this part…”
  4. When it gets boring, say “That wasn’t even the craziest part. After that she…” and go as far over the top as you can. That’s the climax.
  5. Write that down.
  6. Go back, straighten it out.
  7. Go back and put her arc in, and some personal stuff.

Barb ended by saying: It’ll be a mess, but it’ll be a rough draft.

IMG_3921I tried it. It was working! My imaginary friend (notice the resemblance to Barb Goffman) is enthralled with the story until I got stuck. I went at it from another angle but got stuck in the same place. I kept thinking about something I heard at a Washington, DC chapter of Romance Writers of America conference last year. Bob Mayer was doing a workshop. He said he thought plotting groups were more valuable than critique groups. He knew a group of four authors that went a way for a weekend once a year. They divided the weekend into four sections and helped each other plot. That intrigued me for obvious reasons.

I didn’t have time to set up a weekend away. Fortunately, I went to lunch with SinC Chesapeake Chapter members Barb Goffman and Shari Randall. So I poured out my tale of woe to them. They said tell us your story. More came out of me than I knew was in me (thank you Barbara Ross!) but I was still having trouble connecting a couple of key events. They questioned me about the plot. Then Barb Goffman looks at me and spouts something off – something brilliant that connects the two events in a simple yet crafty way. I came home and finished the synopsis using Barb R’s story telling technique and Barb G’s idea. So a panster can become a plotter with a little help (a lot of help) from friends. I’ll let you know how things turn out next August!

Have you ever had to become a plotter or a panster? Which worked best for you?