Great Escape Blog Tour

We are so very glad to share our schedule for a “blog tour.” Yes, in a time when travel is difficult and bookstores are working so hard to handle safely their regular business, a new kind of book tour is happening. Using the incredible resources of Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book “Death at Fair Havens” will be hosted for the next nine days by a wide variety of mystery blogs.

We will post a daily link on our Facebook page and a few words for each of the upcoming entries, but we wanted to give you the full schedule now. The second big gift to you? These are great blogs. We’ve had the opportunity to visit them as we prepared and have a to-read list that will serve us well into 2023! Enjoy getting to know the bloggers’ personalities and maybe choosing one or two that fit your reading enjoyment to follow. Thank you so much Brain Mill Press, tour directors and light-luggage advisors supreme.

Great Escapes Tour for “Death at Fair Havens”

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

June 21 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author

June 21 – Cozy Up With Kathy

June 22 – Brooke Blogs

June 22 – FUONLYKNEW

June 23 – Ascroft, eh?

June 23 – Maureen’s Musings

June 24 – Celticlady’s Reviews

June 24 – Readeropolis

June 25 – Baroness Book Trove

June 26 – Lady Hawkeye

June 26 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

June 27 – Literary Gold

June 27 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

June 28 – Mysteries with Character

June 28 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

June 29 – Christy’s Cozy Corners

June 30 – Ruff Drafts

Release day!

A frolicking novel bursting with friendship, community, and more than a bit of intrigue. This book checks every box—clever and punchy writing, the enjoyable setting of a newsy small town, and fall-in-love-with-me characters.

—Jane Willan, author of the Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery Series

Today’s the day! It’s the official release date for Death at Fair Havens. I heard from a few friends last night that the ebook dropped early, so I took myself on a sunset bike ride to celebrate. August 2014, driving to Horton Center in the White Mountains, my mother and I created the sketches for these characters. Five weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Two weeks before he was born (so a month shy of seven years ago), we finished the first draft. In September 2019, we finished the “final” draft. In February 2020, we found our agent, Ben Miller-Callihan. In April 2020, we connected with our publisher, Brain Mill Press, and after many Covid related delays, we arrived here. I wouldn’t change this ride for anything.

People having been asking me for years do you like writing with your mother? isn’t it difficult? do you fight all the time? I could never work with my mother! (That last one isn’t a question, of course, but is the comment I hear most frequently when people find out that we work together.) We’ve been writing together since I was seventeen, when she invited me to help with a book of prayers by young voices. We went to the National Youth Event, and we spoke to many teenagers, convincing them to share their writing with us for Blessing New Voices. I wrote my own pieces as well (which I refuse to look at now, because no one should be forced to reread what they thought was critically important before they even graduated high school), and that was the start of the best working relationship I could imagine.

Even when both of us primarily worked other jobs (she in ministry and leading workshops in writing, me, teaching and working in admin), we took turns pushing projects forward. Now I split my time writing and parenting two young children, and she’s supposedly retired from everything BUT writing (you have never met a worse retired person – she works more than almost anyone I know), so when I get stuck, she takes over, and if she gets overwhelmed, I can keep us going.

Is it always easy? That’s a tough one. I can’t answer for her, but for me, when it comes to the writing, yes. It’s more fun than working alone, and our books are better because of our relationship. That’s not to say every aspect of working together is, as my kids would say, “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” but writing is our happy place. I don’t think either of us is ever as energized as when we’re working on a book or story together.

In fact, there’s a little relief on this end to have the book out in the world because we can start to turn our focus to the free Rev and Rye short story we’re releasing over the summer, as well as the second novel, which is already in the hands of our agent!

With that in mind, if you haven’t gotten your copy of Death at Fair Havens, do it – you could be reading the ebook version right now!

Together again!

In just a few short days, Maren and I will be reunited (only to be split up again just days before the book is due out, but still!) after many months of long distance writing, editing, and promotion for the book. I’m so excited to have her here, because waiting for a book to be a released is a little like waiting for a baby to arrive (I’ve had two – babies, not books – that arrived late, and thus plenty of practice waiting…). It’s more fun to have someone as invested as you are to share the jittery anticipation and provide ample distraction!

Of course, it won’t be all fun and games (although we do plan on playing a lot of word games). We have two short stories that need to be coerced into some semblance of structure, which is the best part, especially when we can go get delicious coffee and scones to power our creative engines. We also need to reach out to more local bookstores to make sure they have Death at Fair Havens for release day, which is less fun, but we’ll inevitably buy a bunch of books, so it’s not all bad! Lastly, we desperately need new author photos, both together and separately. This will inevitably take far more time than we plan for, and since neither of us is very good at posing, we will need to use cookies to bribe some pint-sized entertainers to make us laugh.

Also, I did promise her we would be spending quite a bit of time with our neighbors’ new puppy, which will absolutely be a highlight…until she gets home and her beagle sniffs out this violation of dog code (thou shall not pet other dogs, nor smile at them, nor give them treats). And we’re going to see CODA finally – it has been so hard to wait until we’re together for this one, but I know it will be worth it – we might even go to to a movie theatre! I haven’t done that since February 2020.

Two more days, and then we can lay aside our other work for a while. Anyone else looking forward to such a luxury?

Authors for Ukraine

We are part of a wonderful auction to benefit Ukraine, organized by mystery author Amy Patricia Meade. If you’d like to bid on Death at Fair Havens, you can, but there are also many other titles (some of which we’ve bid on!) for you to peruse. This is a small thing when compared to the horrors of war, but a even a small thing can move the needle if enough of us join together.

Goodreads Giveaway

We are thrilled to be able to offer a Goodreads Book Giveaway for Death at Fair Havens! From today, March 21st through the end of the month, you can enter to win one of 10 free copies!

And yes, dear reader, I’m sure you’re saying, “But I already preordered! What could I possibly do with a SECOND copy of the book?”

Well, first of all, gold star for you if you’re facing this problem! Thank you so much for the support and enthusiasm! Secondly, can you ever have too many books? (What, you’re saying you don’t keep multiple copies of the same title around in case a good friend’s birthday rolls around? This has been one of my favorite practices in the last few years – sometimes I hand them out to people even when it isn’t a special occasion, because what day isn’t made better by receiving a free book? Seriously – that feeling when the sun hits your face as you leave the library with a bag of books to read? It. Is. The. Best.

Along those lines, find a Little Library for your extra copy! We love Little Libraries and stop to peruse them every chance we get. My personal favorite is about half a mile from my house – the builder painted a sleeping Snoopy on the door, and everytime I see it, I’m reminded of my Grandma Liz. I spent many wonderful hours of my childhood reading with her, and she absolutely loved Charlie Brown. Now, every time I walk by, I get a little frisson of joy thinking of her.

You could also donate it to a shelter. I’ve talked to many of the unhoused folks in our neighborhood and they’re always looking for books to read. In fact, two years ago, my older son put together care packages for some of these neighbors, and along with gloves, hand warmers, and snacks, he picked a book for each bag. The memory of him asking me to take him to the store to pick out books for that project is one of the best of my life. Is there anything more pure than children recognizing the great gift that is a book? (And thank you, Leo Lionni, for the wonder that is Frederick, a picture book celebrating the importance of feeding our souls with words, especially when we’re wrung out and empty.)

And you know what? If none of that appeals, it’s okay. We’re all tired right now, and it can be hard to do one more thing. But if you want to feed yourself, don’t forget a good book…

Snow Day

It is snowing today, and it’s the best kind of snow, because it is thick and beautiful in the air, but the ground has been so warm recently that the streets are clear. I took a walk at 7am and no one was up to witness the world with me, and now I have tea and a fire to keep me company. (I also have a little bowl of fool’s gold and Lucky Charms because the leprechauns – two adults and a toddler, apparently – visited and threw chocolate coins and mini marshmallows everywhere. You may be wondering how I know the approximate ages of the magical creatures that came to snack and rest awhile in the little home built for them by my children, and I will tell you. I know toddlers. I taught them, I raised them, and only toddlers would dump, willy nilly, so much sugar on the living room floor on a school day. Not even a leprechaun parent would be so foolhardy…) 

I also have a book (This Here Flesh, by Cole Author Riley) that I would love to be reading right now, but it’s still a work day, so that will have to wait. I might sneak in a few pages at lunch, but I’m more likely to pop in a headphone and listen to an audiobook then, when I’m making a sandwich/cleaning up/throwing in laundry – all the exciting tasks that have to be done when working from home. (Well, chores don’t HAVE to be done, but I’ve found if I don’t do them, little fairies do not appear to take care of them for me, more’s the pity.) Right now, I’m hooked on the Russell and Sherlock series by Laurie R King, and it’s wonderful, so that’s no great hardship. In fact, sometimes I “work” around the house longer than I need to just so that I can listen to one more chapter.

I like to tell myself that it’s valuable research time, and that if I don’t take time to read, my writing will suffer. The truth is…well, it will. It has. When I spend too little time reading other people’s brilliantly ordered words, my own dry up. The only time this isn’t true is when I’m deep into writing one of the novels. When Maren and I are plotting and getting through a lot of scenes quickly, I can’t be distracted. I have to hit pause on other stories (thankfully, it’s usually only for a week or so at a time) until our characters have taken their foot off the gas. 

Right now, I can tell I’m gearing up for writing the third novel in the series, as well as a couple of shorts (free this summer) because my brain wants ALL the input. I can’t get enough reading time, and my mind feels like it’s starving for books but I can’t feed it enough to feel satiated. It’s a strange feeling – maybe it’s a little like carbo loading for a big race. At some point soon, probably in the next few weeks, my own ideas will start pouring out, and Maren and I will get to tuck into the brainstorming and organization that comes before the novel itself. I love that moment, and I can’t wait because I’m ready for Rye and Wanda to kickstart another adventure.

In the meantime, I might just listen to a few chapters while I clean the basement…

~ Maria

Enter, the blog

Death at Fair Havens is the fun part – the plotting, the writing, the negotiations having two authors always brings – even the edits! We hope you have as much fun reading it as we did writing it.

After spending a month learning how to build this site, Maren and I now must tackle another rung on the fiction author’s ladder – the newsletter. This is far more her domain than mine. She has written a recycle truck’s worth of newsletters in her day. She also subscribes to the newsletter of every author she enjoys. I know this because at least twice a week, she forwards me one that she loves. (Of course, this is balanced out by the fact that she gets most of her books from the library, and I buy the majority of mine on Audible or Kindle so that I can read while making dinner or waiting for the kids to get out of school. She knows what I like, so when I see that newsletter pop up, there’s a 100 percent chance I’m going to click through and drop a new book on my digital TBR pile.)

Of course, newsletters are a useful beast – informative, funny, good for publicity – but I came up on the internet with blogs. If you have a blog, I’ll probably follow it. I probably already follow it. I don’t get tired of blogs the way I do of email, constantly popping up to ruin my Inbox 0. I can read a post on my own time, and it doesn’t ask anything of me in return. There’s not much on the internet these days that can say the same.

Do you want to know the best thing about being on a writing team though? You’re allowed to like different things. You’re allowed to be good at different things. You are even allowed to believe, in your heart of hearts, that your partner should be responsible for writing those newsletters she loves so much!

When I think of Maren writing newsletters, I still see her old office in her sunporch. It was always a little too warm (unless it was freezing) and either way, on the futon would be a dog curled up in an afghan. There was a certain smell to the room when either the radiator or sun warmed it, and there were always dust motes settling as she sat with a legal pad in her lap. She did not prioritize dusting the way she did writing, and I understood that if she spent time cleaning, she wouldn’t have time to finish the thing she had to do (a newsletter, a sermon, a workshop) and still have time for the things she wanted to do (poetry, prayers, and fiction).

Unfortunately, I did not inherit her passion for doing all the things. She is the person to call if the world needs loving. She will teach anywhere, march if it will save one person from a great injustice, sit with you as the world falls down around your shoulders. I, on the other hand, am the person to text (or email if you must, but please, never call) if you need a lasagna or someone to play in the creek with your children or dog. I will also dust for you, and water your plants, and clean stubbornly stained tea mugs. I will even take those bags out of your trunk and drop them at Goodwill for you. (Do not call her for those things. Please see note about dusting above.)

All this is to say, we will have a newsletter. It will most likely not be written by me because I am much better at delegating than Maren is, and also, I don’t want to. Instead, I will do the thing I love best, which is to ramble on about books, the garden, women who make everything more interesting, how strange and wonderful it is to blend writing across generations…the good stuff.

Feel free to come along for the ride.

Maria 

New book out April 26, 2022

We absolutely can’t wait to share our new series with you in just a few short months! Rye and Wanda have become dear friends of ours over the last few years, and we’re so happy they’ve found a home with Brain Mill Press.

Wanda Duff is an unconventional New England clergywoman, addicted to chicken wings, high-octane ice cream, and saying yes to anyone in need of a prayer, even the folks her town might think don’t deserve one.

When parishioner Niels Pond dies unexpectedly at the Fair Havens assisted living facility, Wanda’s duty to minister to his family is beset by her suspicions about the circumstances of his abrupt passing. Wanda finds an unexpected co-detective in high school vice principal Prudence Rye, who fled town on graduation night a decade ago and returned only recently.

Rye puts her job on the line to investigate the mourning Ponds with the surprisingly edgy Wanda. As they expose difficult family truths and uncover a dangerous operation operating out of Fair Havens, Rye and Wanda discover curiosity has an unanticipated cost.

Comfortably gossipy, with a fresh take on the characters and ethos cozy mystery fans will love, Death at Fair Havens launches a series that celebrates intergenerational women’s friendship and the power of inclusion, curiosity, and love.

Due out in April 2022, preorder here.