Wicked Wednesday- Author Events

Jessie- In NH where the crocuses are blooming and the robins are frolicking with abandon!

In a rare turn of events all the Wickeds are together today for two author events. We will be in Nashua, NH for both, first at Rivier College for a R.I.S. E. presentation at midday and then at the Barnes and Noble in the evening. We are ridiculously excited about gathering together for these two occasions and would love to have you all join us. It promises to be memorable. Which got me to wondering about memorable events the other Wickeds have held. So, any favorite memories you’d love to share?

maxwellEdith: Other than my double launch party a couple of weeks ago, I’d have to say my first launch party was an unforgettable evening, for all the right reasons. Speaking of Murder had just released in September 2012 (written as Tace Baker), and I’d invited everyone I knew. The young man managing the Newburyport bookstore had set out ten chairs. I said, “Um, I think you’re going to need more chairs.” I was right. 55 people were there from all different areas of my life: church, work, town, family, and Sisters in Crime, including several Wickeds. The bookstore sold out but I had a box of books in the car to supplement their order. The whole night was touching, exhilarating, just perfect.

Liz: I have to say my first launch party, for Kneading to Die, was also my most memorable. Full of family, friends and dogs, it was held at The Big Biscuit in Franklin, Mass. Shaggy even got her own doggie cake for the occasion!

Sherry: I’ve had so much fun going to author events that it is so hard to pick one. The first time I was on a panel as an author was at Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California in 2014. The women on the panel with me have become friends — Lori Rader-Day (doing a post here on Friday), Carlene O’Neil, Martha Cooley, and Holly West. I was so nervous I don’t think I said much. Afterwards we had a signing time and this was the order of the table Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Jan Burke, then me. I didn’t even have a book out yet, but a couple of people had me sign their programs. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and Jan Burke was very gracious the one second she didn’t have someone in front of her.

Barb: I enjoy author events, too. Most memorable was the launch of my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman. It seemed like everyone I’d ever mentioned I was writing a book to came. Porter Square ran out of books. I did a little talk and a reading and thanked my friends and family. My sister-in-law pointed at me and said to my daughter, “This is what it looks like when your dreams come true,” which is such a lovely, heartfelt sentiment.

CAKE KILLERJulie: My launch party for Just Killing Time was a blast. Friends and family packed the New England Mobile Book Fair. Three of my mentors–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Hallie Ephron–sat right up front, and cheered me on. My friend Courtney made me a cookie cake decorated to look like a clock. It was just lovely. This year Liz and I both have August and September books–2 women, 4 names, 4 books, 2 new series being launched. We are going to do something to celebrate, so stay tuned.

Readers: Do you like to attend author events? What’s your most memorable one?



Wicked Wednesday — Favorite Author Moment

It’s Wicked Wednesday again. So, Wickeds, do you have a moment that stands out in your journey to being a published author? One of those things that made you do a happy dance or almost brought you to tears?

Liz: There have been so many amazing moments – signing a contract, hitting send on that first manuscript, seeing your book in print the first time. But for me, the first time I got an email from a reader saying they’d read and enjoyed my book sent me over the moon. That’s why we do this, right? So people can escape their own worlds for a little bit and get some enjoyment out of what we created. Hearing that I hit the mark was the best feeling ever.

Edith: I know that feeling, Liz! And it’s amazing. For me I’ll say how incredible it was Speakingthat established, multi-published, generous authors like Kate Flora, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and (our own accomplice) Sheila Connolly agreed to blurb my very first book, Speaking of Murder, written as Tace Baker (Barking Rain Press, 2012). I was stunned, tearful, and so gratified that these successful busy women would not only take time to read the book but also craft a compelling endorsement. Kate’s included: “This charming traditional mystery debut is just the ticket for those relishing a contemporary puzzler.” Color me died and gone to heaven. And now I have to chance to pay it forward.

Jessie: I would say my moment was when I stood in my kitchen, having just opened my very first carton of my very first book, Live Free or Die, and hearing one of my children ask for a copy of his own that he wished for me to autograph. My family has been such a part of my journey to publication and having him there to share the moment, and to make it all the sweeter with his request, was magical.

Sherry: One big moment was when someone recognized me out in the wild (note to self brush hair and teeth before going out of the house maybe even slap on some makeup). Getting the call that Tagged for Death was nominated for best first novel was another biggie. I’m pretty sure I just babbled, Oh, my god, really? over and over for five minutes. And then it’s the total strangers reaching out to say they like my books — that will never get old.

Barb: One moment that always makes me chuckle came this summer. I was at a author day at the lovely Beyond the Sea bookstore in Lincolnville Beach, Maine. Katherine Hall Page was on my right, and Tess Gerritsen was behind me. A woman burst through the shop door and shouted, “Barbara Ross! You are the person I have come 1000 miles to see!” She was from the midwest, but was vacationing in Maine. She’d talked her husband into staying an extra day and moving to a hotel in a nearby city so she could meet me! I almost fell through the floor. But then I wondered–what can I do in the next five minutes to make it worthwhile for this woman? I signed her books and posed for a photo with her and gave her a hug. I hope she thought it was all worth it. I know it made my day–month–year.

DSC_0015Julie: I am so blessed to be on a path that my Wicked Cozy sisters have forged ahead of me. I wouldn’t be on this particular road without them, and I am forever grateful. Along the journey, I had advice, celebrations of milestones, and support. But my favorite “this is real” moment was on release day for Just Killing Time, October 6. There were dozens of people there, from all facets of my life. Family, friends, former students, work colleagues. Also present, so many of my writer friends. Mentors (three of them in this picture–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hallie Ephron, and Kate Flora), sat down front, near my parents, offering support. Edith Maxwell helped my sister set up, and put bookmarks on every chair. There were so many Sisters in Crime we could have had a meeting. It was a great night, and it celebrated a great moment. So hard to believe it was only three months ago!

Readers: Do you have an experience where you were recognized for something?

Wicked Wednesday- Knowing Your Way Around Town

We’ve been talking craft all month on Wicked Wednesdays. This week we’re chiming in about how we keep track of the towns in our series. How do you road map an imaginary place? Remember which stores are on Main Street? So Wickeds, how do you keep it all straight from book to book?

 Jessie: I use Scrivener. It very conveniently has a places category and I import all the places from the previous book into the next one as soon as I create a new file. Then I add any new places to the existing database as I go along.

Map by Phyllis Ann Whippen

Map by Phyllis Ann Whippen

Edith: So far I have used either fictionalized real towns (Ipswich in the Lauren Rousseau mysteries, West Newbury in the Local Foods mysteries) or a real town (Amesbury, in my historical mystery) in my fiction. But when I fictionalize a real place, I add made-up streets and businesses. So far I’ve been able to keep the made-up stuff in my memory, but using Scrivener’s system for a Places folder is a great idea. In my new WIP, however, I created a fictional small town, so drawing myself a map would be a good idea. On the to-do list!

Lea Wait's Wiscasset, Maine from her children's books. Learn more here.http://www.leawait.com/children.html

Lea Wait’s Wiscasset, Maine from her children’s books. Learn more here. http://www.leawait.com/children.html

Barb: My Busman’s Harbor turns out to be a pretty complicated place. It’s a town, and a harbor, two points of land that surround the harbor, a private island and a penninsula that leads from Route One, the main artery of the Maine coast down to Busman’s. As the books have developed, we’ve found out where more and more of the characters live and work. Like Jessie, I’ve kept Scrivener files of all the important places I’ve described– the houses, boats, town pier, marina, shops and hospital. Like Edith, I’ve modeled it on a real town–Boothbay Harbor, Maine. But I’ve made so many modifications and described so many fictional places, if I do get a contract for more books, I think it is time for a map. As an aside–I love, love fictional books with maps in them. Deborah Crombie’s are a particular favorite.

afbchurchSherry: Tagged for Death has two main locations. They are based on fictional versions of Bedford, Massachusetts and Hanscom Air Force Base. Even though I have a good idea  of how the town of Ellington, Massachusetts and Fitch Air Force Base look, I’ve made crude (very crude) drawings of each. I also keep extensive notes about what is where for both. It’s been a lot of fun to use two places I loved living in the series.

Liz: All of the above! I use Scrivener too, and my town, Frog Ledge, is fictional but based on a hybrid of two towns near me. I have a good picture in my mind of how it looks, but like Barb, I think I might need a map…

Julie: My town is based on two different towns. I am keeping place notes, but already feel the need for a map, which I will do before the next book is done. Things like “how long does it take to go from the shop to the lake?”  need to be consistent, and make sense. Anyone have any good map making ideas? Maybe we should create a wicked cozy map of New England?

Edith: I love the idea of a Wicked Cozy map, Julie!

Readers: Do you like maps in a work of fiction? Would you prefer to read about a real place, so you can go and trace the steps of our ficitonal protagonists, or do you prefer to read the fictional towns we and other authors make up?

Wicked Wednesday – Who’s Off Limits for Murder?

It’s Wicked Wednesday again, where we all weigh in on a topic. Continuing our theme this PersonProhibitedmonth on characters, we’re talking about who we just couldn’t kill off in our series without serious consequence (or who we’d just miss too much!).

Liz: I could never, ever kill off an animal in my books. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “main character,” like Scruffy or Nutty, or a walk-on four-legged friend. I have never been able to read books where animals are killed (I’ve been known to simply stop in the middle) and I would not cross that line. For people? Jake and Char. I’ve gotten attached to them.

Edith: I have broken a rule three times (so far) and written characters who are based on Speakingsomeone I love in real life. So they’re never going to be candidates for murder. Neither are children (following the animal rule), which includes fourteen-year-old Ellie and seventeen-year-old Vince, or Cam’s great uncle Albert. But I suppose a supporting character like Felicity, or Elise (from Speaking of Murder), could need to die to move the story along. I sure don’t have that planned, though, and Elise already nearly died once, in Speaking of Murder. Shouldn’t that be enough?


Jessie: At this point I can’t say for certain there are any characters I wouldn’t ever write as a victim. I know I don’t choose to read books with children as victims and I’m not sure I could write one. I’m a little superstitious about it, actually. Oddly, every time I’ve written a book, soon after I end up meeting a person in real life who is very much like one of the characters. I’d be so terribly upset to meet a child who ends up as a victim.

Barb: I don’t like to think about anything being off limits. That being said, Julia’s my point of view character in the Maine Clambake Mysteries, which are written in first person, so if she was gone it would shake things up a LOT. I do have one child character, Julia’s beloved niece, and if she was killed it would take the books way out of the realm of the cozy. But I have thought about killing off every other secondary character, particularly if they’re being illusive or misbehaving. However, so far I’ve focused on killing off random strangers.

Readers, what characters do you think are off limits for murder?

The Value of One

By Edith

North of Boston

We sometimes think we need many. Lots of positive reviews. A big audience at a stack of cookiessigning. Dozens of interested buyers for your house or car. A plate full of cookies, a resume full of jobs, a shelf full of your own published books. At certain times of life, perhaps many suitors, many friends.

But what about just one? When our house in Ipswich was on the market over a year ago, and we didn’t get an offer from the first open house, Hugh remarked, “We only need one.” And then we got one great offer and accepted it.

I know someone who seemed to be without any close friends for a few years. Then he met a guy who he really clicked with. Now he has a best friend. And a close friend in the guy’s girlfriend. And met his own girlfriend through them, and then started making a few other good friends. But some people really only need one good friend.

The other night I went to a nearby library. They had invited me to be their guest author for their adult summer reading program. They had publicized it. I had pushed the word out. I arrived a few minutes early, set out my books, checked my prepared remarks. One woman sat at the end of the front row and we chatted for a few minutes.

The appointed start time came and went. Nobody else arrived. So I pulled up a chair across from the woman and we proceeded to have a very nice, very intimate chat about my books, the process of writing, her recent unemployment, and much more. After about 45 minutes our conversation seemed to be winding down, so I Edith Maxwell with her booksthanked her. She glanced over at my book display and asked if she could buy my books. Well, sure! She bought four.

It might seem a little pathetic that I could only attract one reader for my talk. But hey, I’m still a beginning author. I now have a new really big fan. The library knows I am reliable and agreeable. My name and my book were publicized all over town. True, it was only a fifteen-minute drive away (and they paid me). If I’d driven two hours to Connecticut or Maine for the same experience, I might be somewhat less agreeable about it. But even multi-published authors have been through these tiny-audience situations. We just keep going.

What about you? What were your times when one was enough, or maybe it wasn’t enough? Are there situations when one simply isn’t sufficient?

Setting as Character: Location, Location


By Edith
North of Boston

They say that a setting can be a character in a book. I tried for that in Speaking of Murder (Barking Rain Press, September 2012, under pseudonym Tace Baker).
Ipswich, Massachusetts, is a real town in a real state. I lived in it when I wrote the book. And it is a Historic costumecharacter with character. It recently celebrated the 375th anniversary of its founding. I even hand-sewed a linen outfit to match the year of our house, 1718, and walked in the parade.
Not all the quirky parts of town are historical, but a lot of them are. In my book, you’ll find faintly disguised references to the Choate Bridge, and the Choate Bridge Pub. Why disguised? I needed the freedom to change a street or a name to serve the story. But if you know the town, whose name I changed to Ashford, you’ll recognize the landmarks.
The Choate Bridge, adjacent to the busy downtown intersection and for more than a hundred years

Choate Bridge

Picture of the Choate Bridge by Elizabeth B. Thomsen.

one of the only ways to travel south, is the oldest stone arch bridge in North America (picture by Elizabeth Thomsen). Colonel John Choate funded part of the construction and supervised the building of the bridge. According to Ipswich Historical Society publications, when the bridge was opened in 1764, Choate was on horseback ready to flee north to New Hampshire if the radical new method of construction failed.The Choate Bridge pub is on the corner next to the bridge. It features locally brewed ales, friendly waitstaff, lots of locals, and really excellent fried clams, also harvested locally. And is also the site of a pivotal scene in my book.My protagonist, Lauren Rousseau, walks and runs on Toil-in-Vain Road – the real one is called Labor-in-Vain Road. She finds someone near death from a drug overdose just over the Toil-in-Vain Creek Bridge. According to legend, probably true, when the Ipswich River silted up, locals would try to row up the river, but at about the point when they encountered the creek, they realized they were “laboring in vain.”
Boat shop fire
Lauren walks in the historic cemetery. Her friend lives in a house built in the 1700s. She watches an antique boat shop burn down (this really happened as I was writing the book – photo by Matthew Steele.)The next book in the series, Bluffing is Murder, features a fictionalized Crane Beach and the Crane mansion, a Castle Hillstately residence that sits atop a hill overlooking the beach (photo by T. Kates). It involves a real-life conflict between the Feoffees of Little Neck (changed to the Trustees of the Bluffs) and the local School Committee. Stay tuned!What is your favorite locale-as-character? What quirky small town or city village would you like to read about in a mystery?