Six Years and Going Strong!

Edith here, thinking about how this blog started six years ago this month. We Wickeds have come a long way in our publishing careers since 2013, so I thought I’d share our very first blog post from May 1 of that year, where we reprise how we met each other!

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay.

How did we all meet?

Malice, Sisters, and Seascape

Sherry: In the spring of 2005 as I headed to my seat at the Malice Domestic banquet I hoped there would be an agent at my table. There wasn’t but I sat by Julie Hennrikus, which started a cycle of events I couldn’t have imagined. Julie lives near Boston, and my family was moving to Hanscom Air Force Base, fifteen miles from Boston, that summer. In minutes I had Julie’s email, information about the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Crime Bake, a mystery writers conference.

In the fall I joined the chapter and attended Crime Bake. Julie introduced me to so many fabulous, talented, inspiring women. New England started to feel like home. A few years later, I signed up for the Seascape Writers Retreat run by Hallie EphronRoberta Islieb, and SW Hubbard. One of the other attendees wanted to carpool. We met in a mall parking lot and I was relieved to recognize Edith Maxwell from SincNE meetings. I tried not to be too obvious as I sent a text to my family saying Edith didn’t appear to be an ax murderer. We happily yakked all the way to Connecticut.

seascape2009_3
Part of our subgroup at Seascape 2009: Edith second from left, with Liz and Sherry second and first from right, respectively.

The days were crammed with learning but the nights were a sleepover for adults. Liz, Barb, Edith and I, along with a few others, we stayed up late talking, sharing wine and laughing. The second night we convinced Liz to stay over. Long after our more sensible retreat attendees had headed to bed we were creeping around the halls looking for a rollaway. My apologies to anyone we woke dragging the rollaway back to our room. Nothing like things that go bump in the night at a mystery writers’ event.

In the summer of 2010, after I moved back to Northern Virginia, I started hearing about Jessie Crockett. I finally met her at Crime Bake last fall. Her energy is contagious or maybe it was the vitamin B12 she sprayed in our mouths.

Barb, Edith, Jessie and Liz all have the same agent, John Talbot. And they went out of their way to make sure Julie and I met him at Crime Bake last year. Barb ran into a room, grabbed me, and half dragged me into a hall where she’d spotted John. Then when he was free she actually shoved me in the back so I stumbled in front of him before anyone else could snag him.

We’ve critiqued each others manuscripts, met for dinners, had coffee and wine, shared rooms at conferences, and Jessie has generously opened her beach house for writers’ weekends. Not meeting an agent that night at Malice is one of the best things that ever happened to me. There is more to this story but that will be saved for another time.

Barb: Julie gets around! In the fall of 2006 when I went to the New England Crime Bake I had a secret. My story, “Winter Rental” was receiving an honorable mention for the Al Blanchard Award. I sat across from a woman whose name tag said we were from the same town. We starting chatting, and when the Blanchard honorable mentions were called, both of us stood up. Same town, both short story writers. A relationship was cemented, and now Julie’s succeeded me as President of Sisters in Crime New England.

At the New England Crime Bake in 2011, Jessie was the one who had a secret. Our first novels had come out in the same month in 2010. When we got into the elevator, positively drooping at the end of the first day, I asked her what was new. “It isn’t announced, but I think I just sold a series to a major publisher,” Jessie said. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day!” I responded, because it was.

As to the debauchery with the rest of you at Seascape—the less said, the better!

Edith here: I think I met Barb before any of the other Wicked Cozy authors. We were at a SINC New England workshop on revision with Elizabeth Lyon about six years ago. It was one of my first meetings and I knew almost nobody. During the introductions, Barb said she’d just been offered a contract for The Death of an Ambitious Woman. Wow, I thought. She’s made the big time! Sherry hosted a fabulous workshop at the Air Force base the next year that featured the female base security commander, who told a bunch of mystery writers about fighting crime in an insular military community. But, as Sherry said, we didn’t really get to know each other until we drove in my Prius to Seascape. She’s a crack editor and writes mystery with one of those funny voices you can’t put down.

Crime Bake 2009
Singing our song about Agatha Christie

I met Liz at Seascape as Sherry describes, and became immersed in the intriguing darker, non-cozy she was working on then. I hope she publishes it eventually, too. Jessie I first met at a potluck in Portsmouth before a Sisters in Crime event. She wore a rakish cap and impressed me with her self assurance and her published first novel, Live Free or Die. Julie and I bonded at a Crime Bake banquet table where we, with Sherry and the rest of the table, came up with lyrics to a song lauding Agatha Christie, and then performed it with great aplomb! Julie’s short stories are wicked awesome.

Liz: Some things are just meant to be. I wasn’t even planning on attending Seascape the year I met Barb, Sherry and Edith (and one other amazing friend and fellow writer from Australia, Christine Hillman Keyes). I was minding my budget. I’d gone to Seascape the prior year and had a wonderful time, but thought I just wasn’t going to make it that year. But Roberta Isleib sent me an email a couple of weeks before the event and told me she had one spot left, and would I like to go? Something told me to say yes, so I signed up as a commuter and packed my manuscript.

seascape2009group
The Seascape class of 2009. The front row includes Edith in the turquoise shirt, Liz in red, and Christine from Australia on the far right. Further back are Barb to the left of Liz’s head and Sherry popping up just to the left of Barb’s head!

Well, as soon as I ended up in their group I knew I’d made the right choice. We became instant friends, and all of them were such great writers! Sherry’s novel-in-progress about a gemologist drew me in immediately. Like Edith said, I was impressed with how far along Barb was in her career, and her calm, sensible approach to everything. And Edith was a trip from the get-go! We also have a six-degrees-of-separation connection too – she once worked with one of my oldest friends, and the two have since reconnected through our friendship on social media. How cool is that?

But what really solidified the bond was the horrible road construction on I-95 that weekend. Since I was commuting, I headed home on Friday night. What should’ve taken 40 minutes took two and a half hours. So the next day, I brought an extra outfit and hoped someone would let me crash. My new friends didn’t let me down. As Sherry mentioned, we stayed up way too late and drank wine and exchanged stories. Then we needed to find a bed. Although if I recall, Sherry, I ended up sleeping on some mattress thing on the floor, right? Either way, it was one of my favorite weekends ever.

I met Julie officially later at Crime Bake (the best conference around for mystery writers, in my opinion!). We hit it off immediately – she’s got amazing energy and always has positive things to say and inspirational tips on how to look at life. And Jessie I met (finally!) once we realized we were all represented by John Talbot. Another instant connection, and her weekend writing retreats are something I’m always looking forward to. I’m wicked glad I can share this journey with all of you girls!

Jessie: I remember starting to recognize Barb and Julie and Edith from attending the New England Crime Bake for several years. All three of those ladies seemed so much like the “It Girls” from high school, only nice. They knew all the panelists and all the Sisters in Crime New England board members, often serving on the board themselves.

I was thrilled when Barb and I sat at the same table for something at the Crime Bake and I was able to compare notes with her about releasing our first books at the same time. Barb always radiates competence and authority.  Just by having something in common with her on the publishing front made me feel like I was actually becoming a professional.

I am not sure when I really met Julie since she makes you feel instantly like you aren’t strangers. She is one of those rare individuals who leaves you with the sense she was truly listening when you spoke to her. She also has great taste in sweaters. I’m a knitter and I love sitting somewhere at an event where I can get a good long look at what she’s wearing. I’m not sure I am always getting as much as I should out of the speakers because I end up spending considerable time pondering how to reconstruct her knitwear!

Edith and I both attended a Sisters in Crime meeting in Portsmouth, NH in 2010. Edith was so friendly and easy to talk to and she let me try her netbook computer. It was the first time I had seen one up close and trying it opened up all sorts of ideas about how portable my writing could be. Thank you, Edith! Edith was also the inspiration for the writing retreat already mentioned by others. She posted on her blog about a wonderfully productive retreat she had recently undertaken. By this time, Edith, Barb, Liz and I all had contracts for mystery series and shared an agent. I asked Edith if she would be interested in another retreat up at my beach house. She readily agreed and we invited Barb and Liz to join us.

I met Liz a few weeks later at a seminar given by Donald Maass on Writing the Breakout Novel. Funky and irreverent, funny and enthusiastic, she was the perfect fourth for the retreat quartet. You get the sense from her that she might just be up for anything. In addition to her other qualities she has great taste in coffee and generously offers to share her supply with fellow writers in need of a fix.

Sherry was the last one I got to know but certainly was worth the wait. She has the biggest, most welcoming smile and I felt like I had known her just as long as I had all the others within just a few moments. We met at the 2012 New England Crime Bake and it was so nice to finally put a face to the woman Barb, Edith and Liz all kept mentioning so fondly. Sherry is the one who first got the idea of this blog and without her we would all still probably be Wicked and most likely Cozy but we wouldn’t be Wicked Cozy. Thanks, Sherry.

Edith and Julie at Crime Bake

Julie here: I love going last on this post. For me, it all comes back to Sisters in Crime and Malice. Many years ago I met a woman named Regina Roberts in a mystery writing class. She personified outgoing, and I did not. We decided to go to Malice Domestic that year, and try to network. While standing in a line, Regina met Dana Cameron, who was then the VP of Sisters in Crime New England. Regina found me and said “we need to join this group.” And so we did. Two years later I went to Malice with my mother—Regina had lost her battle with breast cancer. That is when I met Sherry, who was a gift—she has the best personality, and is one of the nicest women I know. The short story I won Honorable Mention for when I met Barb? It was inspired by Regina (long story). As a fundamentally shy person who goes through life faking it, I am amazed by Edith and her energy and enthusiasm, and remember sitting with her at Crime Bake and writing a song in homage to Agatha Christie. I was a Jessie Crockett fan before we officially met—she had published her first novel, and was rocking the marketing of it. And Liz? We sat together at a Crime Bake and just laughed. We six are a great team, and I am really looking forward to this blog. It is going to be a wicked good time.

Edith: And it has been!

Readers: Tell us how you discovered this blog!

28 Thoughts

  1. I don’t remember how I discovered the blog. I do remember entering a “Malice on a Stick” contest. I was going to Malice but I figured that since there was often more than one panel I wanted to go to at any given time, I could actually be in two places at once…Then, at Malice, I got on the elevator and there was a woman who I recognized from the photo on the blog as one of the Wickeds, but not which one. I asked her if she was one of the Wickeds – it was Julie. A couple of floors later another Wicked got on the elevator – it was Sherry. Sat at Liz’s banquet table.

  2. I’m sure I learned of this blog from Save the Cozies on FaceBook. I enjoy it a lot. Thanks for keeping it going. I’ve meet many new to me authors on this site.

  3. I learned of this blog from Barb. She also convinced me to go to Malice four years ago and I got to go to lunch with all the Wickeds. Hilarity ensued! I’m an avid fan of all your writing and especially appreciate the diversity in style and subject matter.

  4. Congratulations on six years, my friends! I met all of you either through Crime Bake or Sisters in Crime New England and I have been lucky enough to work with you on various committees over the years. You’re an amazing group of authors and leaders, but what sets the Wickeds apart is the willingness of each of you to pay it forward to help other writers. Here is to many more years of wicked good mysteries!

  5. Congrats on 6 years!

    I don’t remember how I stumbled on this blog, but it was the following spring and I was unemployed. Surfing the internet one morning and I followed a link from somewhere and found your blog. So glad I did since only one of your books was on my radar at that point, and I might not have found all of them without the blog, or it would have been a lot longer before I did.

      1. Of course, I have been unemployed once again since then. However, the temp job I’ve had for 9 months is finally going permanent this coming week!

  6. What a great way to find out how you all met. 🙂
    I started reading Edith’s books back in 2012, when she was Tace Baker. I met Liz at the same WPA event where I met Edith and added her books next. I discovered the blog sometime after discovering Barb, Jessie, and Sherry as writers, and added Julie to my mystery reading list as soon as she pubbed her first Clock Shop Mystery. LUV the Wickeds! The blog has been a source of great information for writers, as well as just plain fun.

    1. It was a delight to meet you ten years ago, Patti, and you are such a huge supporter of our work! Both Kerrigan’s Notebook and your reviews (and tweets) are an important contribution.

      1. You always bring a smile to my day, Edith. Many thanks for your kind words. 🙂

  7. Reading today’s posts warms my heart! The friendship and warmth and fun absolutely tumble off the screen, and what started as an abysmal day (by spilling a huge cup of tea over my desk – crammed with papers as usual – and keyboard) with far too much needing to be done and no time to do it has me deciding to use some of that time I don’t have to respond here. And it’s undoubtedly the best use of my time all day.

    Sherry was the first Wicked I got to know. I’d encountered her at Malice at a panel (I think it was the New Kids on the Block panel in 2015). I’d already read Tagged for Death (to prep for Agatha voting) and liked it very much, so I said hello.

    After that we started having brief, impromptu conversations at subsequent Malices when we’d pass in the halls. Finally, I think it was at Malice 29 in 2017, we ended up having a longer conversation. We were in a group of about five or six people. I know we talked about people assuming that she was a professional garage sale organizer who did a bit of writing in her off hours (and that one was a good laugh)!

    And then I started whining about a story I was working on that had me blocked and stymied over a plot point. Sherry sort of cocked her head and said, “Why couldn’t your character just come across the dead body?” When I think back on it, her suggestion was so completely obvious that ANYONE should have seen it as the solution to my Gordian knot. But I had been struggling with it for months and was to close to my material to see what was right in front of me.

    That same year I met Jessie, at the Best Historical Novel panel. We talked for a good bit after. I had been blown away by Whispers Beyond the Veil and, although it didn’t win, I thought it was head and shoulders above the other nominees in the category. (I need to add, the other nominees – one of whom was Edith – were all very good and each would have been a worthy winner, it’s just that I felt that Whispers went so much deeper into both its characters and its time and place).

    I think it was at that same Malice that I first met both Barb and Edith (very briefly for each) and started reading and loving their books as well.

    And I’m very sure that one of them, Sherry, Barb, Edith, or Jessie, handed me my The Wickeds bookmark. I looked at the faces and names and said, “Hey, I know most of these women!” and decided to check out their blog. The rest is history.

    I’ve now read everything that those four have published. Until this year’s Malice, I had a couple of Liz and Julie’s books sitting on my Kindle in the To Read queue (with about 200 other books), but hadn’t gotten to them yet. I shared a table at the Agatha banquet this year with Sherry and Julie and we had a whale of a time. I must say that, in person, Julie is … a presence. And meeting her in person made me decide that she had to move to the front of the queue.

    I’d purchased the first book in Julie’s Theater Cop series (largely because the subject interested me since I’m a theater junkie and former actor) in hard copy since it wasn’t available on the Kindle. I knew I was going in for surgery and didn’t want to take the kindle with me (where it might be an attraction for sticky fingers), so I figured it was the perfect moment to jump in. I fell in love with the characters and the environment. Julie, please hurry up and write another book with Sully, et. al.!

    Which leaves Liz. Since my reaction to reading each of the other five Wicked authors has been an urge to get everything they’ve published and read all of it straight through (which I’ve actually done with almost all of them), And I have little doubt that I’ll have the same reaction to Liz’s books. So, Kneading to Die has just been promoted to the front of my To Read queue. Besides, I’m a sucker for any book with a dog in it.

    Well, as usual, I’ve wandered way off topic, but my bottom line is this. That same exuberance, openness, welcoming, and friendship they found as they met each other absolutely hurtles off the screen and envelops every one of us who regularly reads and/or contributes to The Wickeds.

    What a joy you all are, and what a privilege it is to know you and meet with you here!

  8. This was really fascinating to hear about all the interconnections that led to this group and this blog.

    I knew the group existed from the time I first came to Crime Bake several years ago. I was also shy, like Julie, so I basically hid out at that conference, but I did get wind of the Wickeds. I might have already read one of Barb’s books and thoroughly enjoyed it. You were always an impressive group, outgoing, helpful and knowledgeable. I assumed you’d been together for life not just six years, so it was very fun and funny to hear how this group evolved.

    Recently, I’ve had some one-to one contact with Edith and now with Barb. I appreciate all the warmth. I’ve learned that’s true of the mystery writing community in general.

    Thanks for sharing this history. Great fun!

    Sarah Osborne

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