Saturday, November 27, 2021

Edith/Maddie Day is on a roll! A new cozy capers book group mystery... and more

 

HALLIE EPHRON: It gives me great pleasure to welcome our own Edith Maxwell into the spotlight as she debuts with yet another book by her alter ego, Maddie Day. I'm always fascinated by how a writer's personal life intersects with the worlds they create. Today Edith/Maddie talks about what inspired MURDER AT THE LOBSTAH SHACK and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery series.

EDITH MAXWELL/MADDIE DAY: Thank you, Hallie, for inviting me back to the front of the blog to help celebrate the release of MURDER AT THE LOBSTAH SHACK on November 30th! I’m also celebrating because I recently signed a contract for more books in the series, which now will extend through book #7.

The Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries take place in Westham, a fictional town on Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts. As with any fiction set in a place that attracts an influx of seasonal visitors, I need to place some of the stories in the off season. The later fall, winter, and earlier spring are times when the tourists go away. The locals are laid off jobs even as they struggle to pay rents and feed themselves.

When I started the series, I knew I wanted my protagonist, bike shop owner Mackenzie Almeida, to have a big heart and to know how lucky she’s been in her own life. Mac and her friend Gin, owner of Salty Taffy’s candy shop, both work to give back by helping the homeless and hungry in Westham.

Yes, these are cozy mysteries. That doesn’t mean they have to ignore real social issues. The murder and the mystery surrounding it are primary in each book, of course, with the subplot of things like food pantries and the homeless encampment in the park taking place in the background.

We have an amazing organization called Our Neighbors’ Table in my small city of Amesbury in the northeast corner of Massachusetts. Our Neighbors’ Table feeds people in twelve towns north of Boston who need dinners and groceries. A few years ago, Greg Jardis, a generous local hardware store owner, donated an entire building and the funds to develop it to the charity.



Now they don’t have to operate out of a cramped space at the Congregational Church, and the market is bright and airy.



While I was writing Murder at the Lobstah Shack, #3 in the series, I took myself by the Jardis-Taylor Center on my walk one day and got the complete tour from a volunteer named Rose. I learned they call it a free food market, not a food pantry. People – who do not need to declare anything about their income – push a shopping cart around and select what they need. They have coolers and freezers and fresh produce and baked goods and packaged food, just like the for-pay supermarket.



The dinners are similarly called Free Dinners, not a soup kitchen. Both these simple acts of renaming allow their patrons more dignity and sense of normalcy, not easy to come by when you’re hungry.

I used all those details in scenes in my book, including the charity’s name. In Westham, the free food market run by Our Neighbors’ Table is in the basement of the UU church, where Mac’s father is the minister. The Free Dinners take place in the church’s fellowship hall. I even named a character who volunteers in the market after Rose.



In fact, I dedicated the book to Our Neighbors’ Table. Because I’ve been pulling back from several volunteer activities lately, I don’t do a work shift at the market, but I definitely send them donations regularly. (And you can too, here!) And I’ll be dropping off a copy of the book, too.



Learning the mechanics of how Our Neighbors’ Table operates was one of the most uplifting pieces of research I’ve done for a book.

Readers: How does your town help feed the hungry? I’ll send one commenter a signed copy of Murder at the Lobstah Shack – my box of books came in early.


I hope everyone will join another frequent Reds guest, the fabulous Ellen Byron, and me for our fabulous fun conversation December 1 at 7 pm EST in a virtual event at Belmont Books in the Boston area. Register here. We’ll have prizes and maybe games and for sure lots of laughter.

In Murder at the Lobstah Shack, Tulia Peters’ Lobstah Shack offers locals and tourists in Westham, Massachusetts, some of Cape Cod’s most delectable cuisine. But when the body of Annette DiCicero is discovered in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer—with a custom-made claw-handled lobster pick lodged in her neck—spoiled appetites are the least of Tulia’s worries. After a heated public argument with Annette, Tulia is a person of interest in the homicide investigation. To clear Tulia’s name, Mac and the Cozy Capers book group snoop into Annette’s personal life. Between Annette’s temperamental husband, his shady business partner, and two women tied to Annette’s past life as “Miss New Bedford”, several suspects and multiple motives emerge. And they’re getting crabby about Mac intruding on their affairs.

Maddie Day pens the bestselling Country Store Mysteries and Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. As Edith Maxwell, she writes the Agatha Award-winning Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. She’s a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America, and lives north of Boston with her beau, where she cooks, gardens, and wastes time on Facebook.

73 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Edith. It sounds delightfully intriguing; I’m looking forward to reading it . . . .

    Our Neighbors’ Table sounds like an amazing group of people that have really stepped up to help others.
    In our community, we feed children at school, we offer free clothing, and we have food banks and pantries, and local groups to help folks in need . . . .

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    1. Thank you, Joan. ONT is a pretty amazing effort.

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  2. EDITH (MADDIE): Congratulations on your upcoming release of MURDER AT THE LOBSTAH SHACK, and your new contract for more books in the series!

    I agree that just cozy mysteries can include plots dealing with important social issues, including food insecurity.

    Ottawa (ON) has the Ottawa Food Bank as the main organization providing food for those in need. We also have community hubs/pantries with local farmers donating fresh produce to low-income neighbourhoods. We also have 3 homeless shelters in the downtown providing take-out lunches and dinners everyday (no indoor dining due to pandemic social distancing rules).

    Sadly, with the pandemic and associated job losses, the demand for these services have more than doubled in the last 20 months.

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    1. Thank you, Grace.

      Food insecurity is way up around here, too. I always love hearing about local farmers connecting with the hungry.

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  3. Edith, I'm so thrilled there will be more Cozy Capers Book Group books. Congratulations on your upcoming release.

    My neighborhood holds several events to feed and clothe residents in need.

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    1. Thank you, Dru Ann! I know many places are doing what they can to support those in need.

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  4. So thrilled for you, Edith! Wishing you a big success with it!! With prices on everything rising seemingly overnight this is a good time for all of us to get acquainted with our local food pantries. For years we've supported the Walk For Hunger in the spring here in Boston -- run by Project Bread. We did the walk with our kids (they have a half-walk route for younger kids.)

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    1. I did the whole 20-mile Walk for Hunger for years, Hallie! And now support a friend who does it with her daughter and grands.

      Thank you so much for having me over on the front blog today. (Did you see my email about the links?)

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  5. Congratulations on this book's release, Edith, and on your contract for more. Yay!

    The rise in both food and housing insecurity is so unsettling; the homeless encampment by a bridge I regularly drive over is truly distressing. So much support is needed and, fortunately, there are community members who step up with both practical and political support.

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    1. Thanks so much, Amanda.

      Yes, we need both kinds of support. I would think an outdoor encampment anywhere in Canada would be getting very cold about now.

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    2. Yes, you're right, Edith. Winter is setting in and I don't know how people without secure shelter make it through this season. And, of course, tragically, many don't.

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  6. Congratulations on the new book release and the new contact, Edith! Sort of like 'book insecurity' until you get that contract in hand :-)

    Our community has active clothing and food assistance programs, including a Little Free Pantry--like the Little Free Library (which we also have), but the pantry is stocked with nonperishable items-anyone can take what they need or add to the pantry. Since the pandemic, there have also been food 'events'--periodically an announcement will appear in the paper that food is available in the high school parking lot, for example. Anyone can drive in and receive a bag of groceries for free. The bags contain everything a person needs for meal prep--not just random stuff. These are recent innovations--food insecurity has been an issue here for decades, unfortunately.

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    1. Thank you, Flora. Book insecurity is no fun...

      A neighboring town has a Little Free Pantry on the main shopping street. I was happy to see it last week - although not happy it is needed.

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  7. Congratulations on both the upcoming release and the new contract extending this fabulous series!

    We live in a rather small city (even though we are the county seat), but we like to consider our southern hospitality like the Mayberry of Arkansas. Although there is no wonderful place like Our Neighbors’ Table, we do have several churches/organizations that are always what they call community gatherings with meals. Often there are events specifically to raise money for these gatherings which are well attended. There are several free food pick up spots (like the free book cabinets only much larger - some as big as large sheds) around town where people free to take out whatever they need and folks also put in what they wish to donate. It's good to remember that people in need could be ourselves but for one stroke of good fortune. It's also good to remember that it's a year round thing and not just at holidays when most think of to donate. Help for the organizations and the people they help need our help all year long.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Thanks, Kay. Yes, it is a year-round need, alas. Glad your community has stepped up.

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  8. Thanks for the backstory on your books, Edith! Here in the Harrisburg PA area we have the Capital Pennsylvania Food Bank which serves 27 counties. Their mission is to eliminate hunger by 2025 which is ambitious but doable is enough support is available. My husband and I support them monthly and just recently donated a portion of profits from a business event we held. I love your comments about preserving the dignity of those in need. Thanks for shining a spotlight on this social issue.

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    1. Emily, you are so welcome, and thank you for supporting your food bank.

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  9. Congratulations, Edith! On publication of #3, and the contract for the next four, too. Yay!

    We have the Freestore Foodbank here, and they do a yeoman job of feeding the hungry, although it's such a big job these days. Their website says they provide 37.7 million meals to the hungry annually in the tri-state area (Oh, Ky, In).

    One event that supports them is the Empty Bowls project, which I think is a national effort. Here in Cincinnati it's put on by the Clay Alliance, whose artisan members make and donate 400 handmade bowls to sell along with the food. There is music and a social aspect to the event, too.

    We were in Portland, OR in April, and the number of homeless living under every possible shelter was mind-boggling. A friend who lives there now but moved from LA says it's twice as bad there. It just makes me sick to know that many people have such a tenuous link to the safety of shelter and the comfort of a meal, such basic needs that are not being met for a big percentage of Americans.

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    1. Thank you, dear Karen! I am taking note of the Freestore Foodbank for a future Country Store Mysteries mention. ;^)

      It's terrible - and wrong - how many people are in need.

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  10. Also, if any of you wish to donate but don't know a good place, in addition to being a depot for donated clothing and household items, St. Vincent de Paul takes donations of both money and unexpired and unopened foodstuffs. They distribute to the needy all year long, and they put their money into more of that sort of charity.

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    1. Good tip. Our local St. Vincent de Paul also has a lending "library" of medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs for folks who only need one temporarily after a surgery. A great service.

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    2. That's really good to know, Edith!

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  11. Congratulations Edith! Our little church in Key West runs a wonderful program called Cooking with Love. Every Saturday homemade meals and bags of groceries are delivered to people in need. I've set several scenes there:)

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  12. It is a good day for me when you present us with a new book Edith. Only three days to wait.
    I’m happy for you that your contract is extended to seven books.

    I like the concept of Our Neighbour’s Table
    In the little city near home, we have a volunteer center where people in need can find food, clothing and necessities.
    We also serve free or low cost meals and we deliver low cost meals to elderly, sick or recovering persons.

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    1. I hope you love the story, Danielle-momo! What a wonderful service you provide.

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  13. My vwery rual area eccompasses several small villages and they all do their part to help feed the hungry, from food pantries to free meals for all. Then there is the back pack program at the schools where kids in need take home a full back pack of food for the family for the weekend. When the schools were in lockdown the parents could pick up the back packs or ask to have them delivered.

    While food is the number one priority other things are essential to. One local bank is collecting toilet paper! Things like toiletries, deodorant, toothpaste, diapers, etc. are also available from another group.

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    1. We have another wonderful local charity that provides goods for families, and toiletries is always on the list, Judi. They also run a school-supplies push in August, to give each child a new backpack filled with notebooks and pens and everything else for school.

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  14. Edith/Maddie, congrats on MURDER AT THE LOBSTAH SHACK, and on netting a new contract for more Cozy Caper mysteries! I love the fact that in lieu of the kitty on the table, seen so often on cozy covers, you have a thieving seagull! Your cover artist must know New England...

    My church, St. Luke's, contributes money, donations and staffing to Portland's Preble Street Soup Kitchen and Pantry, along with several other charities and congregations. I have never thought about the matter of names, but of course as soon as I saw "Free Market" and "Free Dinner," I recognized those were much more dignified. I hope that becomes the trend quickly.

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    1. The cover artist is great. This series has an African gray parrot as a pet (Mac is allergic to cats and dogs), and I keep waiting for Belle to make a cover!

      I hope the "free" descriptor gets wider use, too.

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  15. Congratulations on Murder at the Lobstah Shack and the new contract - YEA!

    The concept of Free Market and Free Dinner is great. Thank you for calling it to my attention. It opens up the doors to so many who would be put off by the more common terms.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kait. I really liked learning about how they describe their services.

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  16. Edith, congratulations on the publication of book #3 and on the extention of your contract to 7! That's fabulous news!

    Thank you for sharing the back story on Our Neighbors' Table. I love that you have incorporated this type of issue into your stories!

    There are many efforts in Connecticut to feed those who cannot buy enough food for themselves and their families, including a huge food bank that operates out of Hartford and distributed huge volumes of food during the pandemic at several drive through locations; many smaller food banks including one at Town Hall; and even a Kosher Food Bank because of dietary rules of keeping Kosher.

    My husband doesn't usually get excited over charities but several years ago he decided that the food bank and Operation Fuel were speaking to him. Since then, he has been a loyal and vocal supporter of both organizations. It makes me very proud.

    The other things which are terrific projects in our community include My Sister's Closet (come in and try on clothes for your job interview) and the Dignity Project which distributes personal items and diapers. There are so many other projects that I have know about over the years but I don't know how they've been affected by the pandemic. I'll visit the websites you've shared later today. Thanks, Edith!

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    1. Thank you, Judy! And let's hear it for your husband and for all the supporters.

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  17. In my community of St Clair, Michigan, the combined efforts of the St Vincent dePaul Society and Ecumenical Food Pantry provide clothing, furniture, gasoline vouchers as well as help with rent, utilities, medical costs and more to several hundred families each year. Over 38,000 pounds of food, including Thanksgiving and Christmas meals served 1350 families last year. Volunteers from nine area churches staff the pantry on a weekly basis. Prior to the pandemic, my church, First Congregational Church UCC, served a free simple meal once a month geared to bring people together who live alone to enjoy a meal and companionship, although anyone was welcome. We hope to continue these when it becomes safe to do so. Our church also maintains a Little Food Pantry on the church grounds open to all.

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    1. The pandemic really did a number on indoor services. ONT has been online (or phone) grocery orders and curbside pickup for over a year. I know they can't wait to get people back inside again.

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  18. Such a great service you do, Edith! And fabulous that you can spread the word through fiction. And thank you for doing the walk for hunger! It has been such a joy to be involved with those over gosh, decades! Amazing.
    And here will be book 7! Hooray!

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  19. Edith, CONGRATS on your newest book. In addition to the food pantry in Somerville and homeless shelters, there are two community refrigerators where people can put food in and take out 27/7.

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  20. Congratulations on the new publication and new contract. Looks like you will be writing about the good people of Westham, Massachusetts for a while.
    There are food banks in town and the region. I remember members of our church volunteering there while I was still in high school. At the beginning of the pandemic, before I moved, I would wait while a semi-truck backed into the parking lot of a low-income housing complex to deliver food to those who couldn't get to the local bank.

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    1. Thank you, Deana - I will!

      The permaculture non-profit farm in western Puerto Rico where my son lives and works has been delivering meals to the town seniors since lockdown. It was more frequent but they're still doing it weekly. Delivery is such an important service.

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  21. What a wonderful organization. I wish we had a similar one here in Studio City. We have the North Hollywood Food Pantry. But this is amazing. Can’t wait for our chat!!

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  22. Edith, congratulations on the new book and the new contract!! So many books to look forward to! I loved learning about Our Neighbor's Table and the background for the book. We have the North Texas Food Bank here, as well as small local free pantries, and our Episcopal church organizes a great Empty Bowls event every year to raise awareness of hunger in the community.

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    1. Thank you, Debs! Glad to hear of your local efforts.

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  23. This free market sounds brilliant. I read recently that often the foods donated to food pantries aren't really what is needed. Canned food but no can opener, for example.
    This is a great solution.

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    1. Agree, Libby. In the book, one shopper who is without a home comments that something like a box of macaroni and cheese does her no good, because she has nowhere to cook.

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  24. Edith,

    Sorry that I'm just getting here today. Moving a bit slower obviously though I don't actually feel bad. Which is annoying the crap out of me.

    Anyway, I know there is a food pantry (which is still what it is called here the last time I checked) here in town but beyond that I don't know much else about what the town does. I've seen newspaper blurbs about various dinners and such being held so I know churches pitch in as well.

    As for MURDER AT THE LOBSTAH SHACK, you know that I'm eagerly awaiting the Tuesday release of the book. I'm sure that it will be as great a story as all your other books of which I'm an enthusiastic cheerleader for. And since today is Small Business Saturday, I'm thinking I might just order my copy from Titcomb's Bookshop in East Sandwich.

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    1. Oh, and I forgot to say congrats on the new contract too!

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    2. Thank you, Jay! I signed some books at Titcomb's last month, but the new one wasn't in yet.

      Keep moving slowly - gotta do it to heal up.

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  25. Congratulations, Edith, on the new book, the new series, and the new contract! You're clearly on a (Lobstah) roll!

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  26. Hooray for you, Edith! New book, new contract! Houston has quite a lot of resources for those in need. And we need them with our large and varied population.

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    1. Thanks, Pat! Always good to hear about resources.

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  27. Congratulations on the new contract! That’s great news for us readers, too!

    My church has a clothing “store” filled with free baby and toddler clothing, much of which consists of brand new clothing donated by stores. We also have a food pantry for those in need of food. Our senior center has something similar. Most of the churches in town cosponsor a homeless shelter and soup kitchen.

    DebRo

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  28. Edith, congratulations on the new book and the new contract! You are such a versatile writer with so many wonderful stories to tell. One of the highlights of my reading life is the inclusion of my mother's jam cake recipe in your Strangled Eggs and Ham book in the Country Store Mysteries. I am a tad behind there, but Candy Slain Murder is on my list of Christmas reads.

    In our town we have a large homeless shelter called The Daniel Pittino Center, and they had a huge Thanksgiving Day meal on Thanksgiving Day. There are some smaller shelters, too, a men's shelter and a woman's shelter, and they feed those who need it, too. There was a piece by newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. (a favorite columnist of mine) in today's paper asking why we let people go hungry in this country. He mentions a book entitled Living on the Edge by Celine-Marie Pascale that deconstructs popular myths about what it means to be poor in America. I'm going to be looking it up. He also quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying, "“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” I like the idea of Our Neighbors' Table, Edith, in that it seems to consider the dignity of people and remember that so many people are just one emergency bill away from homelessness or a downward financial spiral. Of course, Leonard Pitts is talking about a major overhaul of our nation's attitude and understanding of the poor and homeless, which I'm not sure this country is capable of anymore. I do have more hope now, as the current administration is one for the people, but it is such a battle to get legislators to do the right thing, and so, people continue to suffer and try to survive.


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    1. It is such a long and hard battle, Kathy, but we can't give up.

      I loved including your recipe!

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  29. My town gets donations from the Salvation Army to use to feed those in need.

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  30. Our church has a donation box for ongoing donations to our local community food pantry. Both of our Catholic churches worked together to provide for 100 families for Thanksgiving and will for Christmas. This year, due to COVID we are using gift cards in place of our usual list of items to fill boxes. I enjoyed shopping for the donated items each year but safety comes first.

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    1. I'm sure gift cards are much appreciated, Emily.

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  31. Your town and Our Neighbors Table sound idyllic, Edith! Our food pantry where
    we normally live in rural East Texas, has a small food pantry, which I visited on my last job working for a non-profit organization. It's only open a few hours on certain days and not nearly as nice as in Amesbury! They could use a lesson from you! I can't wait to read
    Murder at the Lobstah Shack!

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  32. Thank you, Lynn. Our Neighbors' Table has very much benefited from the generosity of Greg Jarvis. I hope someone will step up to help your town's charity in the same way.

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  33. I love that quite a few of my favorite cozy series address social issues in some or all of the books. I look forward to reading your newest contribution to the joys of my retirement! Congratulations on your newest release!

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    1. Thanks so much Jeanie! Always happy to contribute to joy. ;^)

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  34. Congratulations, Edith! I read an advance copy of Murder at the Lobstah Shack and absolutely loved it, not in small part because of your deft and sensitive handling of social issues like homelessness and helping our neighbors in need. You are amazing!

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  35. Congratulations, Maddie! Sorry to be so late. Traveling with spotty wifi!

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  36. Congrats on the new book. In Chicago they have slot of places for people to get food and they serve up food to the needy at Thanksgiving and all year long. Thanks for your great generosity. Linda Mau

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  37. Congratulations! Our city has many churches, including my own that have programs to help the poor and needy. There is also a ministry that serves a hot meal everyday.

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  38. The books sound good, particularly your latest and yes, food insecurity and homelessness is a way of life for far too many up here. It’s hard to believe I can remember a time when food banks did not exist and, while I’m sure some people were homeless they were more likely to be tucked away in some corner of a long, lost relatives home or camped out on a friend’s sofa. Now it’s a swirling mess of homeless shelters, food banks, broken promises but far fewer homeless camps because the government got rid of most of them because of f Covid. Still here too. but the Amesbury house and charity sound lovely.

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  39. Dear Edith/Maddie: I’m thrilled for your release and I’m awe of your dedication and help to these social situations facing just about every town and city in America. Our town has a food pantry where groceries and fresh fruit and vegetables and bakery item are donated by the community and lic grocery stores and bakeries! We have a number of churches and organization who collect clothing and shoes and other items for people in need to “shop” for! And it makes me feel so good to know someone is warm/warmer from our extra clothing especially outerwear now that “winter” is here in our state of MA. With being confined to bed for three months means I don’t need as many jackets this winter so donating now was a real boost to help others and to me knowing they would be worn by those who were outside enduring bad weather . Thank you.
    Cynthia

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