A Barnes & Noble and Kensington Promotion and Sweepstakes!

Posted by Barb, who’s in Milwaukee today

From September 5 to October 5, Barnes & Noble and Kensington have teamed up to offer a special promotion–Buy 3 Kensington cozy mysteries and get 1 free!

But wait, there’s more!

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display or any Kensington cozy mystery from BarnesandNoble.com between 9/5/17 – 10/5/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will:

  • Automatically be entered into Kensington’s “Cozy Mystery Bonanza” sweepstakes for a chance to win a $300 value gift basket. One grand prize winner will be selected after the sale has concluded.
  • Automatically receive a free Kensington Cozies recipe booklet plus a download code for the novel A STORY TO KILL by Lynn Cahoon after the sale has concluded.

But wait, there’s even more!

There’s a special end-of-the-aisle display featuring Kensington cozies at every B&N. Sherry Harris, Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell), and Barbara Ross all have their latest mysteries on the shelf!

We thought it would be fun for some of the Wickeds to get their photos taken with this special display.

Here we are!

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Edith at the Newington, NH B&N

Edith: My closest B&N is in New Hampshire, and when I asked an employee where mystery section was, she led me to the cozies. I pointed to When the Grits Hit the Fan, said it was my book, and asked if she would take my picture. But the end cap was so close to a perpendicular row she couldn’t get back far enough to snap the whole thing!

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Look for this sign on the end cap

Sherry: I stopped by my local Barnes and Noble In Fairfax, Virginia where I’ve celebrated the release of all four of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries.

Sherry in Fairfax, VA

Here’s a closer look at the books!

All the books

Barb: I stopped at the B&N in Peabody, Massachusetts on my way from Boothbay Harbor, Maine to Logan Airport.

Barb in Peabody, MA

As with Edith, we couldn’t get far enough back from the display to get the whole display, so I’m glad Sherry did.

The Wicked’s books

If the display is a success for B&N and Kensington, they’ll repeat. Since all the Wickeds will have Kensington books soon, we hope it goes on and on.

Readers: Take advantage of the special if you can and don’t forget to register your purchase for a chance to win the gift basket, short story, and recipes!

Tell us if you spied this end cap in your local B&N, and where it is. We’d love to see a pic of you with the array, too!

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Meeting Myself

Edith here, half high (no, not THAT kind of high…) and half exhausted north of Boston.

My eleventh mystery officially released on Saturday. Called to Justice is my second Quaker Midwife Mystery and I’m delighted by the reviews and cheers it has received so far. Any regular reader here knows that my tenth mystery came out only two weeks ago, and I was confronted with how to celebrate two books (under two names in two series from two publishers) at once.

So I held a double launch party at my fabulous local independent bookstore, Jabberywocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday night. To top off the celebration, I’ll give away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

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Owner Sue Little is super supportive of local authors and readers everywhere. When I mentioned I wanted to interview my alter ego Maddie Day  – and vice versa – she thought it was a great idea.

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With Sue Little

I found an Indiana cap, and brought my Quaker bonnet. I baked gingersnaps from the late 1800s (Fanny Farmer helped with the recipe) as well as Kahlua Brownies Robbie Jordan might serve in her country store restaurant (recipe in Flipped for Murder). I assembled a few door prizes. And I wrote up a number of questions for Maddie and me to ask each other.

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The audience kept building. I spied local writer pals, a bunch of Quakers, fans I’d met at previous library events, and more.

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Writers Connie Hambley, Mary Schaefer, Nancy Langmeyer, me, Laurie Mendoza, and Holly Robinson

My darling son JD helped dole out raffle tickets.

I’d started speaking when two Wicked Cozys slipped in – Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross, having battled traffic all the way up from the Boston area (we three slipped out for a drink and a late dinner afterwards, too).

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It was one of the more fun launch parties I’ve held. People seemed to like the alter egos talking to each other.

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After my script was done, I read a short first scene from each book, and then entertained lively audience questions.

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Afterwards? Wine, dessert, and signing books, of course.

And if anyone not local to north of Boston wants to order a signed copy of Called to Justice, please consider doing it via Jabberywocky! Just make sure to request a signed copy in the comments when you check out.mulch-ado-about-murder

Readers: Thanks to everybody for helping me celebrate! Which authors have you helped celebrate launches – or wished you had? Writers, favorite launch parties? Tips and downfalls? Remember, I’m giving away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today!

Antique Kitchen Utensils and Cookware

News flash: Kay Bennett is the randomly selected winner of Edith’s author apron! Congrats.

We are celebrating the release of When The Grits Hit The Fan today. Here’s a bit about the book:

Before she started hosting dinners for Indiana University’s Sociology Department at Pans ‘N Pancakes, Robbie never imagined scholarly meetings could be so hostile. It’s all due to Professor Charles Stilton, who seems to thrive on heated exchanges with his peers and underlings, and tensions flare one night after he disrespects Robbie’s friend, graduate student Lou. So when Robbie and Lou go snowshoeing the next morning and find the contentious academic frozen under ice, police suspect Lou might have killed him after their public tiff. To prove her friend’s innocence, Robbie is absorbing local gossip about Professor Stilton’s past and developing her own thesis on the homicide—even if that means stirring up terrible danger for herself along the way . . .

Robbie not only runs a cafe but she also sells antique cookware and utensils. Wickeds, do you have an old pan or utensil you love? Was it handed down from someone in your family? Do you remember them using it? Do you still use it or is it a treasure that provides warm memories?

Jessie: Congratulations, Edith on your latest release! I do have a favorite piece of cookware. I have a Bundt pan that belonged to my grandmother. She was an avid baker and every time I use the pan I think fondly of her. I imagine her peering over my shoulder encouraging me to tweak the recipe just a little bit. She was a big fan of adding a little something extra to whatever it was she was making. She’s been gone for many years now and often when I’m in my kitchen I wish I could pick up the phone and give her a call.

Liz: Congrats Edith! Can’t wait to read about Robbie’s next adventure. I don’t have a treasured piece of cookware, but as an Italian girl I do have an affinity for wooden spoons. My mother used to use them for many things – ostensibly for stirring sauce, but most notably as a threat to get us kids to do what she wanted!

Sherry: What an amazing journey to a tenth book!, Edith I’m so happy for you! I have an old butter paddle (at least I think that’s what it is) from my grandparent’s farm in Novinger, Missouri. I don’t have an recollection of seeing my grandmother use it or even seeing it at their house. But it was in a box of stuff from their basement that ended up with me. I’ve had it on display on and off in various homes. I put the pen in the picture to give a sense of it’s size.

Julie: Edith/Maddie, huge congratulations! I do have a few utensils that were my grandmother’s. A metal measuring cup that is bent up, and hand beater that gets a little stuck after a few rotations, and a glass Pyrex coffee pot that I have yet to make a decent cup of coffee with, but that reminds me of her, so it sits on my stove as a talisman.

Barb: I have lots of kitchen items from my family. I have my mother’s Christmas cookie cutters, very important because they need to be small, because the butter cookies are so short. I have pie plates from my mother-in-law I use all the time. I have the square, tin pans my grandfather made for my grandmother’s famous “cakes” that were really open-faced. fruit tarts. I have the recipe, too, but I’ve always been afraid to try it. And I have my Corningware casserole dishes from my wedding–which now are practically antiques!

Edith: Thanks so very much, my dear Wicked Cozy friends! I love all these stories. I still use my mother’s biscuit cutters, frosting spreader, pie pan, and sifter, along with a pair of cookie shapers – or are those butter ball rollers? Can you detect a theme? She loved baking – and was talented at it – but didn’t really care for savory cooking, although she made nightly dinners for our family of six.kitchenutensils

Readers: Do you have an old pan or utensil you love? What is its story?

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My Tenth

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith here, aka Maddie Day, on a glorious occasion – my tenth novel releases today!

I am delighted and happy about this third Country Store mystery, which is already garnering some pretty darn nice reviews. Dru’s Book Musings said, “Done to perfection…tightly woven mystery…cleverly placed clues…engaging dialogue…lovable cast of characters…the best book in this delightfully charming series.” From Kings River Life Magazine: “Intriguing plot will draw in even those who skim past tantalizing treats and elaborately depicted preparations. Yet who could resist those? This blend of academia and small-town secrets satisfies on so many levels.” And the fabulous cooking blog Cinnamon &Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder wrote, “Solid addition to a terrific series…nails both the [Midwestern] setting and the characters…well-plotted…suspenseful and exciting conclusion.” apronI’m grinning and  blushing at the same time.

To celebrate, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter! (US only.)

In a flourish of riches, my eleventh novel (Called to Justice) will be out April 8 and my twelfth (Mulch Ado About Murder) at the end of May. I just figured out that as of now, I am contracted through my twenty-first mystery, which will be Cozy Capers Book Group #3.

But I guess the tenth hitting bookstores and ereaders makes today a milestone book birthday, and it got me to thinkingEdieFifthgrade about other tenth milestones in my life.

My tenth birthday took place in the fall of my fifth grade year. I was a pretty goofy kid, always youngest and shortest in my class. A good student, but prone to getting up to mischief, and often bewailing the injustice of stuff the boys got to do that I wasn’t asked to (can you say Young Feminists of America?). Little Eva released “The Loco-Motion” that year, and I was in Girl Scouts. I don’t remember much else, frankly.

The tenth house I lived in was an apartment in a double triple-decker in Somerville, which might be unique to the Boston area. It’s a three-story apartment house which has two apartments on each floor. I had the bottom floor on the right, with the bow windows. 223SummerStreetWhen I lived there, eventually with my good friend Jennifer, the front part was open covered porches (now closed in). After our apartment was burgled in broad daylight when neither of us were home, we made the landlord install bars on the windows – and then found somewhere else to live.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was eight, but remarkably haven’t changed frames very often. I do believe my current model is my tenth pair! It’s possibly my favorite set of frames, too. After my second pair, which I wore into high school (until I transitioned to contacts for a few years), I have only worn wire rims of one kind or another. But two years ago I need new glasses. Everybody was getting bold dark frames, and I couldn’t quite stomach rectangular black specs. But when I saw these turquoisey-print glasses, I fell in love, and have been complimented on them regularly since.NewGlassesCrop

And I calculate that the quilt I finished this winter, which my dear mother designed and began for me but didn’t finish, is probably my tenth completed quilt. I started putting together quilts when I was in college, so I’m clearly not a regular in that hobby if I ‘m only up to ten, but I do love setting up the machine, laying out the components, and assembling them. Is there any more practical product than the beautiful cover you sleep under? (The pink border cloth and the backing are fabrics I brought home from West Africa years ago which were sitting in my cloth bank just waiting for their time.)

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So, dear readers, help me celebrate by telling me some of your own tenth milestones. Anybody have ten children? Ten cars (I’m only up to seven)? Ten countries you’ve lived in (I’m only up to six) or the tenth you visited? The tenth school you attended? What about your own tenth birthday, house, car, glasses, or hobby result? Do tell! Remember, I’m giving away one of my fun new aprons to one commenter. (US only.)

Wicked Wednesday — Adding Romance in Mysteries

we-love-our-readersfebruary-giveaway-1We are having a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Jane and one from Sheila.

All of our books have at least some romantic elements. When thinking about your series, did you have a plan in mind for what kind of relationship your protagonist would have? Has it been an integral  part of your series or a subplot? Has anything surprised you about the relationship? Any other thoughts about the role of romance in mysteries?

Liz: I didn’t really have a plan for Stan (ha, I love saying that) other than I knew she was dating a jerk when the series opened, and I knew she needed to find a “really great guy” somewhere along the way in Frog Ledge. I had a vague idea of Jake and the pub, but as I got into the stories, he and his family became a major part of the story. Stan works with one of his sisters and the other is the resident state trooper, so she’s been thrust into another set of family dynamics to navigate as her romance moves along. It’s been fun to write. As far as the role of romance in mysteries, I do like having a romantic subplot, but I don’t like when they overshadow the mysteries themselves. I mean, dead bodies are why we’re here, right?

Jessie: All of my books have featured romance so I know it’s in my subconscious but it isn’t at the top of my mind. That being said, I’m always delighted when I see how it unfolds. I think the relationships between characters are what makes readers return to a series over and over again. It certainly can’t be less true for the romantic storyline than those involving friendship or family. Some of my favorite scenes in all of my books have been surprising doses of romance. I agree with Liz however, that when writing mysteries the romance should not be the most important part.

DeathOfAmbitiousWomanFrontBarb: Someone once said, “Most mystery authors would rather have their protagonist kill someone than kiss someone.” That may be an exaggeration, in cozies our amateur sleuths rarely blow people away, but for me, just barely. The main character in my first mystery, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was happily married–and that was the point. Unlike so many professional sleuths with tortured personal lives, I wanted to show a happy home life as my idol Ruth Rendell had done in her Wexford series. But I realized in the writing that did cut off many sources of tension and I looked forward in the Maine Clambake Mysteries to writing a main character who was younger and single. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a triangle, because I get impatient with those when they go on too long. And I didn’t want every man she met to fall for Julia, because that really drives me crazy. Now I’m to the point where Julia and her boyfriend Chris need to move forward or move on. Don’t know yet which it will be!

Sherry: I think I have a romance writer lurking in me. I think I’d rather kiss than kill and I adore a good love triangle. That said I had no intention of writing one when I set out to write the Sarah Winston books. What I did want to do was look at complicated relationships. In Tagged For Death, Sarah is put in a position that she has to help her ex-husband clear his name when he’s accused of murder. She thinks he’s a schmuck, but she knows him well enough to know he wouldn’t kill someone. After Sarah had a one night stand I wondered how to further complicate her life and that happened by having the one night stand be the DA that would be prosecuting her ex. It all just took off from there and a triangle was born.

Julie: I love romance in my mysteries. Writing the Clock Shop series I knew that I’d want Ben to be a potential for Ruth. I also knew that Moira and the Chief liked each other. But how to add the romantic tension, without going stale, or speeding up Ruth’s journey back to Orchard? She was, after all, recently divorced. I’m having fun adding the romance. That said, I suspect a future protagonist will be single and not speed into anything.

when-the-grits-hit-the-fanEdith: A pattern developed in the first two books in both my Local Foods Mysteries and Maddie Day’s (my) Country Store Mysteries, where the guy I had set up to be the romantic interest just wasn’t working out and he wrote himself out of the books. Luckily, another prospect strolled in in each case, the state police detective in the farming books and a hunky local electrician in the Indiana series. I didn’t plan on either of these, but they seem to be working out. My 1888 Quaker midwife Rose Carroll starts out with a handsome doctor and she’s sticking to him – but other tensions present themselves, both from the clash in their faiths and from his high-society mother who frowns on Rose for a number of reasons. I do like romance in my mysteries. Almost all of us have or have had romance in our lives – it’s just part of the human condition. And if cozy/traditional mysteries don’t reveal the human condition, what do they do?

Readers: What do you think about romance in mysteries?

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Where I’d Rather Be

Edith here, north of Boston. And yes, it’s full winter.

I’ve been spending the month of January in frigid northeastern Massachusetts. YouBarbKeyWest might think this blog is going to be about wishing I was on a sunny tropical island, like a couple of people I know (ahem, Barb Ross and Liz Mugavero). But it isn’t.

For the first half of January I was writing about an unusually warm and dry late May in northeastern Massachusetts for Mulch Ado About Murder. That’s not so odd. Authors’ deadlines often require us to write in seasons that don’t match the season when the story takes place, and sometimes to write about places where we don’t live.

For the second half of the month I’ve been immersed in February in southern Indiana during an exceptionally cold winter, polishing When the Grits Hit the Fan. And soon I’ll be back in a steamy 1888 July putting in editorial comments on Called to Justice (and after that returning to the first draft of Mulch, too). It’s enough to give an author whiplash.murdermostfowl

People often ask me which of my series is my favorite. And my answer, to copy what my author pal Holly Robinson says, is, “the one I’ve been working on most recently.” How can I choose? I picked, or rather, created each of my settings and story premises because I like spending time there. When I’m on the farm with Cam Flaherty, her chickens, and her locavores, I’m happy digging in the dirt and digging up dirt right along with her.

When I’m flipping pancakes with Robbie Jordan in southern Indiana, listening to Officer Buck drawl out his colorful southern sayings, or watching Robbie ride her bike up and down the scenic hills of Grilled for MurderBrown County, I’m content. I enjoyed experiencing the slower pace of life in that part of the world for a few years and it’s always nice to be back.

And when I’m hanging out with Quakers and friends in 1888, I love the long skirts, the men’s hats, the graceful carriages, even the wood stove and the chamberpot. It’s so confusing, when I’m immersed in writing a Quaker Midwife mystery, to walk the streets of my town where the books are set and see all these modern cars and electric lights. At least the Friends Meetinghouse looks very much the same as it did when my series takes place.

Sometimes when I’m writing about my characters, I wish I could find a picture of them (a picture including a head). I Delivering the TruthCoverknow what they look like in my brain, and how I have described them, bit by bit, in the stories. My characters, especially my protagonists and their main sidekicks, are so real to me. It seems strange that I can’t Google them and find Cam’s picture on the farm web site, the photograph of Robbie with her late mom, or Rose’s portrait. (Although my story “A Questionable Death,” featuring my 1888 characters and setting, is up for a free read over at Kings River Life Magazine right now, and they came up with some great pictures to illustrate it.)

We’ll all just have to settle for words. And that’s what we do here, after all – paint pictures with words and do our best to transport our readers into the worlds of our stories.

Readers: Which books transport you? Can you picture how the characters look, or doesn’t it matter? And anybody want to sign up to create a portrait of our protagonists?

Wicked Wednesday: 2015 Sprint

Well, Wickeds, it is December! The last month of the year. So, here’s the question of the week–what does that mean to you? Any goal sprints you still want to tackle? Or are you all about getting through the holidays, and starting fresh in 2016?

Edith: That was a fast year! One of these days this month I’ll be getting copyedits onDelivering the TruthCover Delivering the Truth, so I’ll be sprinting to finish those after they arrive. I have a few weeks of revision and polish to accomplish on When the Grits Hit the Fan, and plan to get that done before Christmas. Some cookies to bake and a tree to trim in there. Oh, and several gifts to come up with and obtain. Why do I always leave it so late? But our holidays are pretty low key these days, and I mostly just want to enjoy my son when he’s here. The rest can slide.

Barb: I’ve learned that all the excitement of the holiday season makes it challenging to finish out the 2015 goals, much less take on new ones. I’ll be treading water, and resurfacing with new goals in 2016.

Liz: Yikes. It’s a long story, but I’m still working on book one in my new cat cafe series with St. Martin’s Press. My goal is to have that wrapped up by the end of the year. Gulp. Wish me luck!

Jessie: I’ve got some goals on my list for the year that I won’t complete before the calendar turns but I can say that all of them are further along than they were at the beginning of the year. For me, that is the point. My goals help me to live with more intention and to spend my time and energy mindfully. Even if I don’t reach a goal on schedule, I am usually far ahead of where I started or where I would have been if I hadn’t tried in the first place. So, I’ll use these last four weeks to make the progress I can and then look forward to what 2016 will hold.

IMG_6980Sherry: Tagged for Death came out a year ago this Friday! I still can’t believe an entire year has gone by! I plan to enjoy the holidays more this year because last year I was on pins and needles. My proof pages showed up for book three All Murders Final! so that is an unexpected task to complete before Christmas. And I really hope to have the first draft of book four done by mid January so I have a lot of words to write before the end of the year.

Julie: Definitely sprinting a bit. I’ve plotted Book #3, and want to get more words written before the end of the year, for sure. Also have copy edits for Book #2, and a couple of other small projects to get done. That said, December is busy, so I need to enjoy the season as well.

Readers, do you have any goals or plans you’d like to reach before the end of the year? Do you give yourself a pass instead when it gets to be this late in the game?