Tuesday, January 31, 2023

What Hank's Writing? During Pre-Launch Jitters, an introduction

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: ​​I'm so excited, I just can’t hide it (yes, I am singing) because next week at this time,THE HOUSE GUEST will be in bookstores, and on shelves, and online, and, I deeply profoundly hope, in your hot little hands. So far, so good. It’s an Amazon Editors’ Pick for Best Mystery Thriller and Suspense, and was (so far) up to number 7 (yes, 7!) in new releases of psychological suspense. (It actually went to 6, but hey. This photo is handy.)

It got a starred review from Library Journal, which called it “binge-worthy!" And Publishers Weekly raved “Ryan is a master of suspense.” So that's very very very wonderful.

It does not, however, take away one bit of nerves. It really doesn't.

So in What We're Writing week, let me introduce you to the main character of THE HOUSE GUEST, Alyssa Macallen. Alyssa is reeling and baffled because her husband of eight years, to whom she thought she was happily married, has walked out. Without explanation, and without answering any questions about it. Just... gone. Why?

Even more, she's fearful that Bill, the powerful affluent and quite manipulative Bill, is scheming to ruin her. Why? She has no idea.

Though she is living alone in their gorgeous house right now, she knows Bill has been coming inside when she's not home. He has control of the alarm system, so she leaves her own special traps throughout. A flower on the front step. A vase in a certain place. And a few other things. (And you'll have to read more about that.)

One night, after a solitary miserable drink in a neighborhood hotel bar, Alyssa meets someone who seems even sadder than she does. And Alyssa decides that instead of wallowing in her own grief, she'll offer help to someone else. And here's a little bit of that.


She’d tried to help people too, starting in law school, but Bill had persuaded her to leave. Not really persuaded, she corrected herself, she’d swooned with wanting him. Being Bill’s wife, she’d soon learned, was a job in itself. No bar exam, but in this privileged world there were other tests, constant and sometimes intimidatingly puzzling tests. Tests of manners and money, of actions and clothing and hierarchy. Still, she hadn’t missed law school, or her friends from back then, not for a second. Not for eight years at least.

Then, a few months ago, Bill had grown—complicated. Moody. Seemed to become more high-strung, wielding his power. Criticizing her, snappish and belittling. Accusing her of being forgetful, pouncing on her mistakes. Closing his study door. She’d written it off as business, something in Bill-money-world.

She’d tried to be patient. But she couldn’t resist. She’d looked them up, the symptoms. How to know if your husband is cheating. Embarrassed but obsessed, she’d taken the quizzes in Marie Claire and Psychology Today. Moody, yes. Dismissive, yes. Changed, yes. Demeaning, vague, volatile. Yes yes yes.

On a scale of one to ten, does he seem to be trying to bait you? Does he go out of his way to taunt you? Scare you? Ten, she checked the box. Ten.

At least Bill never hit her. Never physically harmed her. Not like Bree.


She trudged upstairs, thinking of the woman in the bar. Alyssa knew unhappiness when she saw it. After tonight’s conversation, tentative steps on emotional thin ice, Bree let Alyssa pay for her wine, thanked her politely, then said goodbye. Alyssa had written her own phone number on a napkin, and slid it across the zinc bar to Bree. “Call me if you need anything. Really.” Alyssa had hesitated, fearing it might seem too forward. Too aggressive. Too intrusive.

But men did that without a second thought.

Bree had accepted the napkin, tucking it into a pocket, but had not offered her own number in return. And with a wave, she’d walked away, leaving Alyssa alone again.

Now Alyssa washed her face, drew on a big soft t-shirt. Sliding under the covers, she put her phone on the white bedside table, and plugged it in to charge.

She promised herself she’d stop being paranoid, stop wishing for secret messages, start facing reality. She closed her eyes, resolute. She thought of Bree, alone in that not-quite-seedy hotel, equally apprehensive and ambivalent. Why were women always the ones who were harmed?

The sounds of the night surrounded her, the sounds of her solitude, and her anxiety. Had someone moved the tulips? No one had stepped on the front-steps flower, so how could they– --Bill--have gotten in?

A million ways, her mind rebuked her. Instead of sheep, she counted fears, individual nameless fears. She was afraid to go to sleep—what if she’d missed something? What if someone was inside? What was Bill trying to do? But if she stayed awake, there was danger in every sound. Sixty-five hundred square feet, and a guest house. And every square foot was paved with uncertainty.


Talk about every step paved with uncertainty—welcome to pre-launch week! But this sets up a few things: not only Alyssa’s situation, but women helping women, female empowerment maybe in the works, a double standard for men and women. 

 THE HOUSE GUEST has been called Gaslight meets Thelma & Louise meets Strangers on a Train.

Reds and readers, what would you predict that means? (And cross your fingers for me! I cannot do it without you, wonderful ones!)

Monday, January 30, 2023

What we're writing: Hallie on characters and their back stories

The winner of the clear puzzle from yesterday's post is Riley!!! Email Jenn and jennmck at yahoo dot com and she'll mail your prize! Congrats!

HALLIE EPHRON: Something I learned early on (from feedback to a rejected manuscript) was the importance of the main character’s back story. I’m fond of quoting the editor who offered this sage advice:
“I need to care about what happened to the character before the book started and what’s going to happen after the book ends.”

Of course this comes on top of apparently conflicting advice from writing instructors: DO NOT load the front of the novel with back story. Or as I tell my students, "avoid the back story dump.”

To reconcile the two caveats, I’m constantly thinking about my character’s back story… even when I’m not revealing it to the reader. It's the key to understanding why a character reacts in surprising ways -- past experiences cast a potent shadow

In a novel it often works best to wait until the reader is invested enough in the characters to care about their past. Then to reveal that back story gradually and strategically.

I'm struggling with that now.

A character I’m writing is based on a real person. She was a writer (call her Suzanne) whose husband died of cancer shortly before she gave birth to their second child (a daughter, call her Thea).

Soon after Thea’s birth, Suzanne was at home and a friend dropped by. Suzanne invited her in and offered her some tea and cookies. Suzanne seemed fine until the friend asked if she could take a peek at the baby.

Suzanne gave her a blank look. What baby?

Fortunately, the friend heard baby Thea crying. It turned out she was one the floor in the attic, swaddled in a blanket. Who knew how long she’d been there.

Somehow, Suzanne’s friend got help for Suzaqnne and baby Thea. 

By the time I knew Thea, she was in high school. Living with her mother and older brother and her grandparents. I don’t know how she knew about that early abandonment, but she did. I can only imagine how it must have hovered over her relationship with her mother.

So the story I have in mind has a fictional Thea as the main character. 

Though I was never abandoned, her experience speaks to me because I had a complicated relationship with my mother. My mother never physically tucked me in the attic and tried to forget about me, but still I can relate to the scars that would leave. It's something I'm interested in exploring through my writing.

I think that as fiction writers, we often work our own past traumas and experiences into the back stories of our characters. Even my villains have parts of me, experiences that echo my own, that shape who they are. Experiences that (I hope) make them believable.

Isn’t that the essence of, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW?

Today’s question: When you read a novel, do you sometimes wonder what experiences the author may have had that fed the development of a character?

And in case anyone is looking for more (hopefully not contradictory) advice for their own writing… I’ll be teaching a week-long, 2-hour morning class in Key West: HOW TO CREATE A COMPELLING PROTAGONIST. REGISTER, class size is limited. C’mon down! https://tskw.org/create-a-compelling-protagonist-with-hallie-ephron/

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Happy National Puzzle Day!

Jenn McKinlay: Hello, Puzzlers! It's National Puzzle Day! 

No, I didn't know there was such a thing either but here we are. I love puzzles, especially jigsaw puzzles. When my brother and I built them as kids, we both hide one piece so we could be the last one to put the final piece of the puzzle in. So, yes, days could pass before the last two pieces were finally put in place and it was usually on a count of one, two, three... 
And, yes, like any good mother, I taught the Hooligans to always hide a piece as well so the stand off continues. 

I haven't had much time to do jigsaw puzzles of late, but I did achieve a record over the summer when I put together a particularly difficult butterfly puzzle in two hours when it had taken everyone else days. I'm not positive but I think it came so easily because I was a bit tipsy on Nova Scotia wine. Drunken clarity and all that 😁

Did you know jigsaw puzzles were invented by a cartographer? The Los Angeles Public Library shares this: 
John Spilsbury, a London cartographer, and engraver is believed to have produced the first "jigsaw" puzzle around 1760. It was a map glued to a flat piece of wood and then cut into pieces following the lines of the countries. These early puzzles were known as "dissections," and they were beneficial for teaching geography. But they were not just for children; they were a trendy pastime among the (wealthy) adults as well. Made of wood and handcrafted, only the very wealthy could afford them.
For more on the history, click HERE.

And here's another fun fact, the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world is according to the Guinness Book of World Records is this enormous lotus flower with six petals symbolizing the six areas of knowledge envisaged by the Mindmap study method: human beings, geography, history, culture, education and economy.

The puzzle, which was put together at the Phu Tho Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City on September 24, 2011 was made up of 551,232 pieces and was completed with an overall measurement of 14.85 x 23.20 m (48 ft 8.64 in x 76 ft 1.38 in). It took 1600 students 17 hours to complete the puzzle. 


So, how about you, Reds and Readers, are you a puzzler? Leave a comment and one lucky reader will win this nifty crystal clear puzzle courtesy of the Jungle Red Writers! (And, no, I did not hide a piece, I swear). Winner announced on tomorrow's blog post!!! Stay tuned!

Bwa ha ha ha!!! It's a stumper!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Back to the Gym by Jenn McKinlay

First the winners of the giveaway from Barbara Ross and Edith Maxwell are Celia and Judi!!! Yay!!

Please send an email to  edith@edithmaxwell.com to claim your prizes!!!

Jenn McKinlay: Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not like structured exercise. In fact, I hate it. Running on a treadmill, lifting weights, using the sweaty machines...bleck!  I'd rather stand in line at the DMV. In fact, I wrote about my first attempts at more traditional exercise five years ago on Jungle Reds: Fit Happens!

Not much has changed...or has it? I remember when my sister-in-law asked me many years ago if I wanted to go run on the beach during our family vacation in California. I said, "Only if a scary clown is chasing me with a very big knife." 

Now, if she'd asked if I wanted to go boogie boarding, I'd have knocked her down to get out the door to the beach. Same if someone suggested a bike ride or a pickup game of basketball. I love to PLAY. I do not love to workout. Notice "work" in that word. It's off putting, no?

In a karmic twist of you get what you deserve, I apparently birthed a health nut (Hooligan 2) who has been on my butt about working out in a more structured way (the gym) because of what he perceives as my health issues (also known as middle-age). My sciatica!

And so, we enter 2023, with me back at the gym. (H2 had me going fairly regularly before Covid shut it all down). And now here's the plot twist: I freaking love it! Crazy, right? There isn't even a demented clown chasing me! 

I'm not sure what changed but I think it had to do with having a trainer, Tina, who is a little older than me and who actually asked me, "Why are you here?" I had thought my answer would be "Because other than walking my dogs, I literally sit all day every day and need to move" but instead what came out of my mouth was "I'm angry all the time." This was, of course, after I'd been joking around with her so she looked confused. Yeah, you're not alone, Tina. 

We talked a little bit more and discovered we'd both suffered the loss of our brothers recently. It was an immediate bond. She took me over to a sand filled medicine ball and said, "Lift that over your head and throw it into the mat as hard as you can." M'kay, I thought, not really certain how this was going to be helpful. 

Well, let me just say the simmering fury that I'd been feeling for the past two plus years, which I hadn't been able to exorcise with work, denial, jokes, distractions, or any other slap on bandage I could think of, bubbled up out of my core, shot up my arms, poured from my hands into the eight pounds of rubber ball and then blasted down into the mat. It felt glorious. I did it twelve times and at the end of it I felt...lighter. 

Tina put me through my paces for another hour. I've been going to see her three times a week for a while and will continue to do so. When I called H2 and told him about it. He was quiet for a minute and then said, "I'm proud of you." And I have to say that felt really good - like icing on the cake good. 

Hey, did someone say cake...I'm working out now, does that mean I get extra slices? LOL.

So, how about it, Reds and Readers, how have the past few years impacted your exercise regimen? What are your favorite ways to get fit or at least get moving? 


Friday, January 27, 2023

I Have An Idea! by Vicki Delany

Jenn McKinlay: As a huge fan of the Sherlock Homes Bookshop mysteries, I am just thrilled to welcome Jungle Reds friend and fellow author Vicki Delany. And today, she is letting us glimpse behind the curtain. 

Vicki Delany: “Where do you get your ideas?”

As writers we’re often asked that.  I’d love to get my ideas from the Idea Factory, or maybe Ideas-R-Us. But so far I haven’t found such a convenient place.

What is an idea anyway when it comes to a novel? What does that even mean?

The idea is the spark from which all else flows. Coming up with an idea is pretty easy.  I can give you the ‘idea’ behind one of my books in one sentence. That’s idea is the spark, the germ of the story.

The task now is to turn that one sentence, even one word, into 80,000 words. And that is not so easy.

What has me pondering the origin of an idea at the moment, is my current work-in-progress. I’m writing the fifth in the Tea by the Sea cozy mystery series.  I was in Italy in October with my good friend, the Canadian writer Barbara Fradkin. We were, as one is in Italy, overwhelmed with great art. We’d been to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and were walking through the streets heading for either more art or more food when I told Barbara I was having some trouble coming up with an idea for the next Tea by the Sea book.  One of the paintings we’d most admired at the Uffizi was Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656).  

(Incidentally, the story behind the famous painting is a mystery writers’ idea in itself.) Barbara laughed and said, “How about a beheading? The main character finds a headless body in a bed at the B&B.”

As I write cozy novels, that wouldn’t quite suit.  Barbara thought some more and said, “a headless doll then. A gift, given anonymously at a bridal shower.”

Bingo! I had my idea. A headless doll is rather creepy, but not out and out gory or repulsive.

What the idea does, in this case the decapitated Raggedy Ann doll given as a shower gift, is provide the inciting incident. The point from which all else that happens in the novel flows.  It also sets the scene for character revelations: obviously not all is well between the bride and her friends and family.

How not well?  Someone is murdered later on. Is the shower gift pertinent to the murder? It might not be, but it sets the scene, starts the action, and gives our amateur sleuth character a reason to ask questions.

And, most importantly, it gives me, the author, a jumping off point.

In the Sherlock Holmes bookshop series, the idea is even less than a sentence. It’s a word. In the latest book, The Game is a Footnote, the word is “haunted house”. Okay two words. In next years book, as yet untiled, the word is “séance.” In last year’s novel, A Three Book Problem it’s “country house weekend.”

The idea is the germ from which all else flows.

Another thing most writers can relate to is the experience of someone offering to tell them their great idea, and then suggesting the writer use that idea and they can split the profits from the subsequent bestselling book. Uh, sorry.  If someone provides one word or one sentence, and I provide the other 79,999 words I’m not sharing anything.

Because it’s not the idea, it’s all that flows from the idea.  And that’s the hard part.  Lay down the clues, build the plot, create the characters, put them in an attractive (or otherwise) setting, have a believable sub-climax when the protagonist is threatened or all seems lost. Build it all to a climax and the grand reveal.  Then wrap it all up. 

I have over fifty published books now, and I’ll admit, an idea for something vaguely original is getting harder to come by.  One of the things I’m most struggling with is a way of having the protagonist catch or trick the killer.  You can only have your character eavesdrop on conversations so many times and leap out from behind the curtains to say, “J’Accuse” with pointed finger.  She can only wrestle so much with a deranged killer at the edge of a cliff in a storm at night.

But I’ll get it, eventually, because I started with ‘an idea’.

I’d love to know how the Reds (who have so many fabulous ideas!) generate their own ideas for such amazing and original plots. And readers, any ideas you’d like to share with us?

Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are back on the case when a body is discovered in a haunted museum in bestselling author Vicki Delany's eighth Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.

Scarlet House, now a historical re-enactment museum, is the oldest building in West London, Massachusetts. When things start moving around on their own, board members suggest that Gemma Doyle, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, might be able to get to the bottom of it.  Gemma doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she agrees to ‘eliminate the impossible’. But when Gemma and Jayne stumble across a dead body on the property, they’re forced to consider an all too physical threat.  
Gemma and Jayne suspect foul play as they start to uncover more secrets about the museum. With the museum being a revolving door for potential killers, they have plenty of options for who might be the actual culprit.
Despite Gemma's determination not to get further involved, it would appear that once again, and much to the displeasure of Detective Ryan Ashburton, the game is afoot.
Will Gemma and Jayne be able to solve the mystery behind the haunted museum, or will they be the next to haunt it?


Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than fifty: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy.  She is currently writing the Tea by the Sea mysteries, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, the Year-Round Christmas mysteries, and the Lighthouse Library series (as Eva Gates).


Vicki is a past chair of the Crime Writers of Canada and co-founder and organizer of the Women Killing It Crime Writing Festival.  Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards. Vicki is the recipient of the 2019 Derrick Murdoch Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Sailing...Take Me Away...For, Like, A Year

JENN McKINLAY: Hi, Kids! Welcome to my latest rabbit hole. How did I end up searching apartment rentals on cruises? Well, I was listening to the audio book Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan (our Debs recommended it and she's right, it's fabulous) and there's a character in the book who lives in an apartment on a cruise ship. I had no idea this was a thing!

And so I began searching apartments on cruise ships because now I know what I want to do with that 401K! Just kidding, I don't have a 401K. But still, I found the entire idea of living aboard a ship - permanently - absolutely fascinating. Here's a ship that features 165 residences from studio to three bedroom: https://aboardtheworld.com/residences/ 

Please note in the picture above they list a garden and a library as part of the amenities. I wonder if the library is hiring?  Here's the YouTube trailer if you need to see more:

One of the ships I saw even had pet exercise areas, so you can bring the furry ones with you! 

I also stumbled upon this blog post: https://judedeveraux.com/travel/ 
from the amazing Jude Deveraux where she talked about going on four-month-long world cruises every year from January-May for YEARS. And the most interesting part (to me) was that she said she got massive amounts of writing done. With no cooking or cleaning, or errands to run, well, of course she did! It's a brilliant plan, I tell ya!

Now I've only been on one cruise and since I was (surprise!) newly pregnant, I slept through most of it. I was three months along and the exhaustion was unreal. My memories are seriously of sleeping in a lounger poolside and then sleeping in my bed, snuggled up to my towel which had been magically folded into the shape of a frog (awwww) and that's about it. 

I imagine because you're traveling the world and surrounded by history, wildlife, geography, and because you wake up to a different incredible view every day, there's loads of inspiration everywhere you look (unless you're pregnant and sleep through it). Also, living on a floating village I'll bet your fellow passengers will give you plenty of writing material - good and bad. Bwa ha ha.

Now if only I could talk my publisher into letting me set a mystery series on board on of these ships...hmmm. 

How about you, Reds and Readers, any interest in living on a ship permanently? If you were to cruise, where would you go?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Two Irish-Themed Stories from Maddie Day and Barbara Ross

Jenn McKinlay: Having just returned from Ireland myself, I can not tell you how happy I am to welcome -- Fàilte -- two of the  Jungle Reds fave mystery writers with their Irish-centric mysteries! Yay!

Hello to all. Maddie Day (then known as Edith Maxwell) and Barb (aka Barbara Ross) have traveled a lot of the same roads on this publishing journey. Our first books were published by small presses. Our first series with Kensington debuted in the same year. We’ve been blogging together over at Wicked Authors for nine years. We already knew each other from Sisters in Crime New England and the New England Crime Bake. And both of us have been mentored and supported by several Reds. 


And this month we have books with the same theme coming out on the same day. We’re giving away two each!


In Four Leaf Cleaver, by Maddie Day, a cooking competition on Saint Patrick’s Day at Robbie Jordan’s Pans ‘n’ Pancakes goes seriously awry.



In Irish Coffee Murder, a collection of novellas by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross, the holiday is Saint Patrick’s and the signature drink of the day is murder.



To celebrate, Maddie (L) and Barb (R) sat down at the (virtual) kitchen table to talk writing, research, mysteries, and series.

Maddie: Barb, y
our novella solves a cold case, a crime from the past. Have you written other cold cases in your Maine Clambake series? Is it easier or harder than having your protagonist evade a criminal lurking in the present?


Barb: In mystery novels, it’s not unusual to have a crime in the distant past informing a crime in the present. What’s different about this novella is there is no crime in the present. (Is that a spoiler?) Therefore I had to really work at maintaining suspense and keeping the reader interested in a very cold case. The novella length is part of what made that feasible.


Barb: Maddie, why did you choose to write about St. Patrick's Day?


Maddie: I usually come up with my own book idea, unless I’m asked to write a Christmas novella, for example. For this book, my (and Barb’s editor) at Kensington suggested I could do a cooking competition. Or, he said, “What about a St. Patrick’s Day theme?” I found the combination irresistible, so I did both! Batter Off Dead, the previous book in the series, takes place in July, but after that was “Scarfed Down,” a Christmas novella. A mid-March story slotted into book time perfectly.


Maddie: This is your fifth novella, and you've said before you like writing that length. Would you consider writing only novellas in the future? Why, why not?


Barb: I do love writing these 25,000 to 30,000 word stories. I’m writing one now to be published in the spring of 2024. (Red Julia Spencer-Fleming was part of a brainstorming session for this one.) I’m very lucky my publisher, Kensington, has offered me the opportunity to be a part of these collections of stories. However, I wouldn’t write only novellas for two reasons. 1) I would miss the opportunity to tell longer stories, And 2) getting novellas published outside the confines of these anthologies is very difficult.


Barb: This is the 11th book in the Country Store Mysteries. What do you find more challenging and what is easier when writing this far into a series?


Maddie: I’m writing book 12 now and have a contract through  book 13, which is kind of astonishing. What’s easier is that I know the world. I’m pals with my chef’s staff, hugely fond of her Aunt Adele, and adore Robbie Jordan’s husband Abe almost as much as she does. I know how hilly Brown County is and what fictional South Lick looks like. I love when it comes time on my rotation to write a new Country Store book so I can plunge back into that world and hang out with my imaginary friends.


As with any long-running series (looking at more than half the Jungle Reds right now), the challenges come in keeping the stories fresh. Making sure protag Robbie Jordan keeps changing and growing in her personal life and in her sleuthing. Finding plausible new people to murder and that Very Good Reason for Robbie to have to investigate. 


Maddie: Do you have Irish heritage? Or doesn't it matter for writing about an American holiday with little resemblance to actual Ireland? 


Barb: “Perked Up” takes place entirely in Maine, though Julia and friends do go on a roadtrip to the middle of the state while investigating the mystery. I knew next to nothing about the Irish in Maine and found a marvelous book, They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine, a collection of scholarly  essays edited by Michael C. Connolly. When we think of Irish emigration to the United States we tend to think of famine-driven immigration to big cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago. But that is only a part of the story. Did you know the oldest surviving Catholic church building in the US is in Newcastle, Maine? (Next town on the coast from where the Clambake mysteries take place.) Still in use, Saint Patrick’s was built  in 1807 by Irish immigrants who became wealthy shipbuilders.


As for me, last summer in Dublin, I had a really fun visit with a genealogist at EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum. I have Irish ancestry, somewhat distantly, on both sides. My father’s great-grandmother, Eleanor Armstrong, was born in 1843 County, Armagh, now in Northern Ireland and my mother’s great-great-great grandfather was born in 1812 in Dublin.


Barb: How about your Irish heritage? What kind of research did you do to write this book?


Maddie: My maternal grandfather, Richard Flaherty, was a classic bullheaded Irish-American in San Francisco who didn’t speak to my mother from shortly before I was born until he died, as stubborn as ever and with a full head of dark hair, at ninety-four. He had twin brothers who didn’t speak to each other. On the other hand, one of those twin’s sons, my mom’s cousin Bill, is a sweet and devoted family man I’ve gotten to know a bit. I look forward to finally getting to Ireland sometime soon and digging more deeply into the Flahertys of my great-grandparents’ generation.


Unlike you, Barb, I didn’t dig too far into the Irish in Indiana, and my Maxwell family roots there are Scottish. For research, I adapted and tested lots of Irish-flavored recipes, and otherwise went full-on American interpretation of the holiday (except green beer). 


Maddie and Barb: Thank you to Jenn for hosting us! We hope you’ll all join us at the Wicked Authors blog every weekday, and find us at our web sites and on social media. We wish you happy Irish-styled reading.


Readers: What’s your favorite holiday to read about? Do you celebrate any obscure holidays nobody writes about? Do you have a St. Patrick’s Day tradition? We’ll each give away a copy of our new book to two commenters (that is two commenters, two books each).


In Four Leaf Cleaver, there’s no mistaking Saint Patrick’s Day at Pans ’N Pancakes, where  the shelves of vintage cookware in her southern Indiana store are draped with Kelly-green garlands and her restaurant is serving shepherd’s pie and Guinness Beer brownies. The big event, however, is a televised Irish cooking competition to be filmed on site. Unfortunately, someone’s luck has run out. Before the cameras start rolling, tough-as-nails producer Tara O’Hara Moore is found upstairs in her B&B room, a heavy cleaver left by her side. Now, not only does Robbie have a store full of festive decorations, she’s got a restaurant full of suspects . . .


In “Perked Up,” Barb’s novella in Irish Coffee Murder, It’s a snowy St. Patrick’s night in Busman’s Harbor, Maine. When the power goes out, what better way for Julia Snowden to spend the evening than sharing local ghost stories—and Irish coffees—with friends and family? By the time the lights come back, they might even have solved the coldest case in town . . .


Maddie Day pens the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, and the new Cece Barton Mysteries. As Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell, she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-nominated short crime fiction. Day/Maxwell lives with her beau and cat Martin north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Find her at EdithMaxwell.com, Wicked Authors, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and on social media: BookBub,Twitter, Facebook, Instagram


Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Barbara’s Maine Clambake novellas are included along with stories by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis in holiday anthologies from Kensington Publishing. Barbara and her husband live in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com, on her blog at Wicked Authors and on BookBub, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram.



Tuesday, January 24, 2023

COVER REVEAL: Sugar Plum Poisoned!!!

I haven't shared this anywhere else yet, so you are getting the first look at the newest cupcake bakery mystery! 


JENN MCKINLAY: It's always a thrill when my editor sends me the cover design for a book! And this one is no exception. I haven't written a holiday centric mystery before so when I saw the cover with the nutcracker with a cupcake for a hat (LOL) and the gingerbread man peering over the title with his mischievous smile, I swooned. 

Yeah, yeah, we all know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but of course we still do. It's the first impression your work will make on a reader, so it's hugely important. As a reader, the cover is what draws my interest and hopefully gives me a clue as to whether I'm going to like it or not. I don't know about you, but I have been snookered by a few really great covers on sub-par books in the past. And I am positive I've missed out on some wonderful novels because I found the covers off putting.

Now as I delved into the topic of books and their covers, I remembered an ad that popped up in my Instagram feed. It was a bookstagrammer type person who was shilling the idea that you can make money selling books without having to write them. What???!!!

Naturally, I had to see what this cod liver oil salesperson was up to and it turns out that she was telling viewers for a mere fifty dollars they could subscribe to her video series, teaching them how to take a public domain book and repackage it (new cover) and release it as the publisher of said book and make money on the sales because...public domain. I'm quite proud of the fact that this horrible grifter and their broken moral compass did not turn me into a day drinker.

Naturally, I had to look and see if people were actually doing this. Well, check out these multiple editions of The Great Gatsby - all published within the last two years (because the book became public domain* on 1-1- 2021) under sketchy publisher names. So, in short, yes, people are doing this. 

  • *The copyright on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby expired on the first stroke of 2021 and the book entered the public domain. The classic 1925 novel of love foiled, ambitions foisted, class and betrayal sold fewer than 25,000 copies before Fitzgerald died. It has since sold nearly 30 million.

You know, if they had put in the tiniest bit of effort, I might have been able to forgive them, but these covers are just so...meh...and not reflective of the novel at all. I mean...come on!

It's a strange new world out, y'all. So, tell me, have you ever been burned by a cover - either an oversell or an undersell of the book within?