G is for . . . Goodbye

From Jane/Sadie/Susannah, who is heading off on retreat in Vermont tomorrow and can’t wait …

Hey, Wicked People. Don’t let the title of this post surprise (or, dare I say, concern) you. I’m not going anywhere, except on the aforementioned retreat. But the mystery world got some sad news last month: the death of beloved mystery author Sue Grafton. That’s the goodbye I’m talking about.

While I never met her in person (I was not at the Crime Bake she attended, and it’s probably just as well because I would have fangirled all over her and embarrassed everyone), I have been deeply influenced by her work. Yes, I have read every single one of her novels, in order. She, along with Diane Mott Davidson, Janet Evanovich, and Rett MacPherson, are the modern authors who inspired me to write a mystery. Not only did these writers get me started toward living my own dream of authorship, they’ve given me countless hours of reading pleasure. How many people you’ve never met can you truthfully say changed your life? And when my first Sadie novel came out (Yarned and Dangerous), it was shelved right next to Sue Grafton’s book X at my Barnes and Noble. I actually cried. I sometimes still tear up when I think about it.

When I heard about her death, my first, very selfish thought, was But What About Z???? Which was followed almost immediately by guilt at my self-centeredness and then empathy for her family. I too have lost more family members than I care to count to lingering illnesses, so believe me, I understand something of what they went through. It didn’t take me long to realize that the family is absolutely right to carry out Sue’s wishes that the alphabet –and the series–now ends at Y. (Although, again, selfishly, I really hoped that she had finished that last manuscript and that it would be released).

Before I got there, though, I did the But Surely exercise. But surely she left notes! But surely she told someone what was going to happen to Kinsey! But surely somebody could finish that novel…

And then, I thought back to another author who left an unfinished manuscript: Elizabeth Peters (a/k/a Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz) . She died while The Painted Queen was in process and it was finished by her friend Joan Hess (who also recently passed). And while Joan, who is a legend in her own right, did a really good job, it just wasn’t the same. And it couldn’t be the same, not ever, because there was only one Elizabeth Peters. Just like there was only one Joan Hess. And one Sue Grafton. And one you, dear reader. So I’m just going to be grateful for what these authors gave me, and stop gluttonously wishing for more.

And now I get the joy of imagining my own ending to the series. I’m certain I know which guy she ended up with (it’s been fairly obvious to me for quite  few books where that was going). I’m less certain, but suspicious, about the fate of Henry, Kinsey’s nonagenarian landlord, and her cousin Anna’s onboard passenger, and whether Kinsey will break down and get some 1990-vintage electronics.

If you haven’t read the series, who are the authors whose work you miss dreadfully? If you have, any predictions about what happened to Kinsey after the events of Y is for Yesterday?



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?




By Sherry Harris

IMG_3578As I was trying to think of a topic to write about my eyes landed on two books in our family room The Riverside Shakespeare and British Literature Volume B — not that I think my writing is anywhere close  or influential as Shakespeare, Keats or Barrett-Browning. Both books are from my college days but I still pull them out to read. It made me reflect on other influences that have shaped my reading and writing life.




It started with fairy tales and went on through the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. I devoted a whole blog post to my favorite childhood author, Maud Hart Lovelace. When I was young I wanted to be Pippi Longstockings — strong, brave and adventurous — and maybe a dose of Pippi creeps into my protagonist Sarah Winston.


IMG_3585I was lucky to grow up in a houseful of readers and books. Our bookshelves were full of everything from the classics to current literature. Also I had wonderful teachers like my third grade teacher, Mrs. Kibby, who noticed I was falling behind in my reading skills and worked with me and my family. I think she instilled my deep love of reading. My senior year of high school I was editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook and wrote a lot of the copy. Mr. Stedwell, the young journalism teacher, was patient and managed us, but he didn’t micro-manage us. I probably learned more through that experience than almost any other in high school.

IMG_3671In college I took as many lit classes as I could — thirty hours — a lot considering the college I attended didn’t have a literature major. But I loved every minute of them. A whole class on Mark Twain — the first time I read Tom Sawyer was when we were visiting family friends in Hannibal, Missouri. We visited the fence, island, and cave Twain wrote about. I did an independent study on women authors — Willa Cather, Flannery O’Connor, Edith Wharton and so many more. And of course my class on Shakespeare — one of my proudest college moments was getting an A on my paper about Queen Gertrude.

My outside reading consisted of Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart among others. Then I discovered Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, and Sara Paretsky. I’ve been lucky enough to meet all three of them. I know reading them has influenced my writing and reaffirmed my love for mysteries.

Readers: who are your writing and reading influences?

Wicked Wednesday: The Passage of Time

Hi. Barb here. Wondering about the passage of time.

Four of the Wickeds are writing the third book in their series. And Sherry just handed in her first (Yay!). So I’m wondering how the Wickeds are handling the passage of time in their series. Clammed Up, the first book in my Maine Clambake Mystery series takes place on the first day of Clambake season in the “undefined now.” (Actually, if you checked the moonrise and tides tables they would jibe with 2012 when I wrote it.) Boiled Over, the second book takes place in mid-August of the same year, the height of the season, and Mussled Out, the third, on Columbus Day weekend as the clambake shuts down.

calendar flippingBut what happens if I’m lucky enough to get the series renewed? Do I “gently” move the next set of books forward to 2015 or so? Authors of long-running series (okay, I wish!) handle time differently. Sue Grafton has famously kept Kinsey Milhone in the 80s. Ruth Rendell has slowed down time, so her Inspector Wexford, who was 52 in “From Doon with Death,” in 1964 finally retired from police work in “The Vault” in 2012.

Wickeds, have you thought about how you’ll handle the passage of time in your series? How do you like to see it handled as readers?

Liz: Lots to think about with this question, Barb! In my first book, Kneading to Die, the story opens in present day, summer time. The second book, A Biscuit, A Casket, happens right around Halloween (my favorite time of year!). I struggled a little bit with the setting for the third book. I’m not a huge fan of winter and I thought it might be tough to have things happening on the town green if it was buried in snow. But since it’s a New England setting, I thought it might be odd to have them skip winter altogether. So I compromised and set it in February, hoping we’d hit only the tail end of bad weather.

If, as Barb says, I’m lucky enough to have the series renewed, I think I’ll continue on the path of each season. One of the things readers seem to love about New England is the change of seasons, and with different weather comes different challenges and situations for the characters. Stan is in her mid-thirties, so she’s got plenty of time!

2010-09-15 06.19.10

Farm to Table dinner at Cider Hill Farm (http://www.ciderhill.com/) cooked by Phat Cats Bistro (http://www.phatcatsbistro.com/), both in Amesbury, Mass.

Edith: Great questions, Barb! I’m marching through the seasons in my Local Foods mystery series, too. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die opened at the start of the farming season in New England, on June 1. ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part starts at a fall farm-to-table dinner. Farmed and Dangerous, which I’m writing now, takes place in snowy January. I love using the feelings of the different seasons. And farmers, of course, are very attuned to the changes in not only temperature but also day length and the slant of the light. I’d love to see my contract renewed, and think a spring book with Cam frantically trying to nurture seedlings and getting the early tilling done would be a natural.

But the other question about the passage of book time versus real time — that’s tricky. Sure, I set Book One in 2012. So in book time, Book Three takes place seven months after Book One, but will release two years later. I suppose we can ignore real time until some major technological or news event changes the way people live their lives. For farmer Cam, maybe genetically modified seeds will be outlawed, or non-organic produce will be made illegal. Okay, don’t all laugh at once. She’s also a former software engineer, though, so there might be a leap in some kind of software that assists growers. In that case, I’d have to catch her up with the present. I am pretty careful not to tie anything very closely to real events, so the time setting is pretty fuzzy, given that there are cell phones, web sites, and texting.

Barb: I have to admit, as a reader, I love it when series “skip” some time and something significant–a death, a retirement, a promotion, a divorce, a birth–happens off stage and the series characters are dealing with it as you start the new book.

Jessie: I’m moving slowly in my Sugar Grove series. Drizzled with Death takes place in late November and Maple Mayhem is set in January. While I realize that adds up to a high body count for a small town I enjoy allowing relationships to unfold slowly. If I jump ahead in time too much that can’t happen. It is funny though that it makes more sense to me for bodies to crop up here, there and everywhere than it does for my characters to form attachments quickly or resolve difficulties in their personal lives at a fast clip.

Julie: This is such a great question. I am not just a cozy writer, I am a cozy reader. I find that I am OK with seasons passing, but I don’t like to get stuck in a year. And with technology you have to be SO careful, because it can/does date you. I have a few manuscripts that live in a drawer. One was dependent on floppy disks and having to buy a program in order to break a code. Hello? Between the internet and flash drives (never mind DropBox), the tension no longer works. It is like cozies work in a magical reality, where everyone stays the same age but keeps going through seasons, but I am OK with that.

Sherry: I just sent in the first of my Sarah Winston Garage Sale Series, Tagged for Death. It is set in April. The third is set in the winter so number two will be set sometime in the mid to late summer. I have to figure out exactly when soon. I mention Facebook in my novel which will date it at some point, however if people are reading it that long after publication I will be very grateful. I like how Janet Evanovich has handled time in her Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie remains about the same age in all the books, but as times and technology changes so does Stephanie. I wish I could remember the name of the author I saw  several years ago at the National Book Festival who said he wished he’d aged as well as his series character.

Readers: How to do you like to see time handled?

Bouchercon Reflections

Edith, Sherry-on-a-Stick, and Tess Gerritsen

Edith, Sherry-on-a-Stick, and Tess Gerritsen

Bouchercon may be  over for one more year but we are still thinking about it. Here’sIMG_2558 the final wrap-up.

Jessie: I hope our readers all have some place in their lives that make them feel as supported and as much like they belong as a mystery conference does for me. It is so nourishing to be in the midst of so many people who love books, love puzzles and love writing. Being completely surrounded by people who have lost themselves in many of the same books and wish they could visit the same fictional places is a delight. The opportunity to attend panels showcasing some of the most respected names in mystery was such a joy. Time spent over dinner and at the bar with friends, both old and new was really special. Writers spend so much time in isolation. It does the soul good to get out and mingle.

IMG_2532Liz: When I’m with other writers, I’m know I’m with my tribe. That’s what this weekend IMG_2538 felt like. Spending three and a half days with other writers, people I admire and aspire to emulate, and friends old and new was just what I needed to jumpstart my creativity. So blessed to have gone and spent time with such amazing people, including my Wicked Cozy sisters! And such a thrill to sign books for readers!

Edith: Oh, my, what a wonderful

Sue Grafton with Sherry Harris

Sue Grafton with Sherry Harris

experience. Bouchercon is truly a readers’ convention, and the spirit these avid mystery fans brought to the panels and signings was so very gratifying. And then toIMG_2573 hang out with the readers as well as authors from well-known to just-getting-started was such a treat. Plus, we introduced Sherry-on-a-Stick to so many famous writers!

Jessie and Sherry

Jessie and Sherry at dinner

Julie: What a great weekend. Exhausting, but great. I arrived a little earlier than the other Wickeds so I could attend a Sisters in Crime board meeting. I am very honored to have been voted on the national board, and look forward to working with the amazing group I met on Thursday. Jessie Crockett and I shared a room in Albany (a lovely city), and I was THRILLED to see her book on the desk. Can’t wait to buy a copy next week!

Barb: I’m exhausted after my very first Bouchercon! Thanks so much to Kensington for giving away a box of Clammed Up, and to the organizers for having me on a panel. Thanks to Clare Toohey, the fabulous moderator of the panel Edith and I were on, too. She was amazing! And of course to my Wicked Sisters who always seem to be there to support me when new ground is broken.

Others have said it, but it bears repeating. Being with other writers is a tonic. And meeting readers is a gift. What a great weekend!

Readers: What’s your favorite convention or conference for readers or writers? Do you thrive on hanging out with hundreds of your peers, or is it all too much? If you went to Bouchercon, what was your favorite part?

Wicked Good Reads- Bouchercon Edition

In celebration of Bouchercon 2013 the Wickeds are recommending books by other writers who will be in attendance. Here are this weeks picks:

Julie: Indemnity Only by Sarah Paretsky

Liz: Bad Signs by R.J. Ellory

Edith: Dandly Gilver and A Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson

Sherry: The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Barb: W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Jessie: My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir