On Retreat

Barb here. It’s that time of year again, when the Wickeds scamper off to Old Orchard Beach for our annual retreat. Hard to believe it is our fifth one! Each of the retreats has had a different personality. On the first one there were just four of us–Edith, Liz, Jessie and me–and we wrote like crazy. We all had first-in-series books due, and the question weighing on each of us was, could we write commercial-quality mystery fiction on a deadline? None of us had ever done that before.

By the next year Sherry and Julie had joined us, and the talk was all about marketing. The subtitle for the retreat could have been, “I’ve written a book. What happens now?”

This year promises to be a mix of things. Several of us are writing the last contracted book in a series, so brainstorming about our proposals for the next books in the series, and about other projects will be a big feature. And, of course, writing and industry gossip.

Wickeds, what will you be working on at this year’s retreat?

Sherry: I can’t wait to see everyone! Someone always seems to be in book jail but it’s not me this year. I’m going to be working on book five in the Sarah Winston Yard Sale series — I Know What You Bid Last Summer. I only have some general ideas about what the book is about. I know how it opens so I’m looking forward to talking the story out with the Wickeds and having a good solid plot by Sunday.

Liz: I’m not in book jail either – yay!! I’m going to be diving into book six in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, the holiday book. So while we will be enjoying the beach, I’ll be writing about…snowstorms. Yep. But looking forward to getting some Wicked input on the plot and getting inspired. Also want to work on revisions for another project – which I hope you’ll all hear more about sooner rather than later.


Jessie: I am working away on my next Change of Fortune mystery. It’s set in Old Orchard so I’m looking forward to being inspired by the setting. There is just something about the beach that gets my fingers flying across the keyboard! Having the Wickeds around for inspiration doesn’t hurt either!

Julie: I am in the home stretch of book #3 of my series, so editing Chime and Punishment is on the docket. I’ll also be working on blog posts for Clock and Dagger, which is coming out August 2. Maybe some brainstorming is in order as well.

Edith: I am smack in the middle of Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3. So far it’s going well, but ya never can tell in the middle of a first draft. It’s the last one under contract for the series, so I’ll also be bouncing ideas for three more Rose Carroll stories off the Wickeds. As well as soaking up wise and fun companionship along with ocean breezes and sand under my toes! Can. Not. Wait. (And by the time most readers see this, I’ll already be at Jessie’s fabulous cottage just blocks from the shore.)

Barb: The synopsis for Book 6 in the Maine Clambake Mystery series is due the week after the retreat, so you know what I’ll be working on. My editor and I mutually agreed to scrap the original book six from my proposal, so at the beginning of the month, I really was staring at a blank page. Now I have a mystery (I think), but there are lots of other important bits missing, such as what’s going on in Julia’s personal life and –oh, by the way–what is the title? I had titles for all five previous books before I had stories, so it feels really weird not to have one. I hope to get some help on the retreat with all of this.

Readers, what are your plans this fabulous weekend?

26 Thoughts

    1. I went to a great 80th birthday party recently. Actually, the honoree had three parties, one in the city, one at his suburban hangout, and one at the race track where he still races cars!

  1. I’m going to the Ottawa Jazz Festival tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday night (and most nights next week). I may go to a movie and I may go to Ribfest.

  2. The retreat sounds wonderful, but at the same time, taking a true break from your writing (in all its aspects) can clear your mind and help you focus. I know because I’ve just spent two weeks thinking mainly about water pumps and electric company billing and buying insurance. But at the same time I could feel my writer brain ticking along in the background, when I saw something unusual or interesting, and would file the details away for the future. And, yes, there were a couple of “aha!” moments–like when I saw the old suitcase in the attic, and some part of my brain suddenly kicked into high gear. So we as writers never stop thinking as writers, but we shouldn’t obsess. Stop and smell the roses! Watch a sunset. Eat great food. Enjoy each other’s company.

    As for what I’m doing: picking up all the pieces I left behind, and the ones that got dumped on me while I was gone. Not one but two sets of edits, and a book I promised to have finished by August (I’ve got 15 chapters).

    1. I’m a writer who has to take a true break from time to time. I’ve been following your Facebook posts religiously, Sheila. What an adventure!

  3. Off to Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus, in Nashville to talk and sign my new book, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery Sunday at 2. Best thing, sharing the signing with my friend, Beth (Jaden) Terrell.

  4. Your retreats always sound like such fun. Can’t wait to read the results of all this brainstorming.

    My weekend? It’s my third of three obstacle races in June. This time I’m doing the ROC (Ridiculous Obstacles Challenge) race. This is the one obstacle race without mud, but I’m looking forward to the water since it’s supposed to be triple digits and I’m in an afternoon wave plus have no AC in my car. So lots of water is also on my agenda for the weekend. I’m looking forward to it, however, because they have some crazy obstacles. Think Wipeout but scaled down to a human level.

    1. Wow! You know Liz is the Wicked who shares your love of mud runs and related mayhem, thought she has dragged Julie along for the ride from time to time.

  5. I usually go on three retreats a year. I’m lucky enough to have a writer friend with a time share in the Berkshires (1 retreat), and another with a beautiful (large, multibedroomed, multibathroomed) house in Vermont (2 retreats). There is nothing that is quite so motivating and energizing (other than maybe a fat advance check, LOL!) than hanging out with a group of professional writers whom you can trust to not only help you brainstorm, but tell you when something doesn’t work, or give you a kick in the pants if needed. The Vermont retreats have some structure in that we sit around the big dining room table and do a roundtable plotting session for anyone who wants one. (There are usually 8 – 10 of us) We all get about the same amount of time (30-45 minutes) and everyone of us comes out of the weekend with a fully plotted novel, or for the pantsers like me at least the major turning points. (We are efficient plotters, and with that many people in sync, plots come together with alacrity) That usually takes a couple of 2 hour sessions. When that’s done, we all work on our own projects. Food is potluck style (and with a lot of good cooks in the group, always amazing). We all help assemble meals and clean up, so it’s not a burden for anyone. When you find a group that clicks, and all understand and respect why you’re there, and don’t have egos that get in the way of helping and being helped, a retreat is magical. And it sounds like the Wickeds have that! Retreat on, ladies! I can’t wait to see what comes out of this weekend for you.

    1. Your Vermont retreat sounds wonderful, Susannah–like a well-oiled machine. I was just at a retreat with some of my Maine Crime besties. It was a first one, but we did some plotting, some reading of pieces and lots of pot luck.

  6. It sounds like you have a great weekend ahead of you! My weekend, not so exciting, but I have a busy week next week! So, a meeting for the local chapter of internal auditors on Saturday morning and then some serious pool time. Sunday morning is yoga in the park and then reading!

  7. You’re retreat sounds amazing. I’m diving back into my manuscript this weekend, I got it back from my agent so I need to make a few (okay, slightly more than a few) changes. Hope your weekend is loads of fun and productive!

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