Monday, April 27, 2020

Remembering Sheila Connolly


LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Friends, we are heartbroken to tell you of the passing of our dear friend, Sheila Connolly, on April 20, 2020, from cancer, in her beloved cottage in County Cork, Ireland. Whether you knew her from her books, her years of sharing stories and recipes here, her posts at Killer Characters, the Wicked Cozy Authors, and Poe’s Deadly Daughters, or in person as many of us did, you loved her. She was smart, and funny, and insatiably curious, and she told us the best stories.

Though I’d known her online for ages, through Sisters in Crime and the Guppies chapter, we first met in person at Bouchercon, the international mystery convention, in San Francisco in October of 2010. We walked down to the Ferry Terminal Market, where we ate, shopped, and chatted with the vendors. Naturally, she knew all about the apples.


Daryl, Sheila, Roberta and Krista
and books, books, books! 

The next year, Bouchercon was held in St. Louis, and we shared a room in a historic hotel a few blocks from the convention center. We’d planned a day of sight-seeing, but it was pouring. We went anyway, laughing as we crammed into the tiny elevator for the ride up to the top of the Arch, following the trail of Lewis & Clark in the Interpretative Center, eating cro-nuts—they were new and weird and we had to try them. Blog readers well remember her delight at discovering new foods, especially in Irish shops and markets. No surprise that a lot of our memories of Sheila involve food!


Sheila had an amazing variety of careers over the years—it seemed like I heard about a different one every time I saw her—but clearly the one she loved best was “writer.” She’d always wanted to write, but when 9/11 happened, she decided to commit to writing seriously and to pursuing publication. And we are all so glad she did.
Daryl, Sheila & Leslie in our pretty dresses
for the Agatha Awards banquet in 2017

Sheila joined Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen in 2010, posting every Friday through last June, when she began alternating with Vicki Delany, until early this year, when Edith Maxwell stepped in. She published more than forty books, in her Glassblowing, Museum, Orchard, paranormal, and Victorian village mysteries, and perhaps her most popular, the County Cork Mysteries. Her blog posts about traveling in Ireland, buying her cottage, and exploring nearby villages were treats for us all. She even let blog readers weigh in on what color to paint the front door of her cottage!




Janet Bolin, Linda Wiken, Vicki Delany, Kaye Geroge,
Daryl Wood Gerber, and Sheila Connolly
Malice 2019
Our dear friend, enjoying life

Sheila regularly attended Malice Domestic, and we have fond memories of sorting our group recipe cards while drinking wine, sharing a table at the banquet, and cheering for our friends who were nominated for Agatha Awards. Sheila's first novel, Through a Glass, Deadly, written as Sarah Atwell,  was nominated for the 2008 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She served as president of the Sisters in Crime New England chapter, and was active in Mystery Writers of America and other writers’ organizations.

She is survived by her husband, daughter, and sister, and a brand-new grandchild. And thousands of readers, including all of us, who miss her already.

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LUCY BURDETTE: Leslie has already told you a lot about Sheila, so I will be brief. I met her in 2005 or so through Sisters in Crime New England not long after I was published, and before she landed a contract. You might underestimate Sheila because she could come across as cheerfully befuddled from time to time. But underneath that, she was a whirling dervish. In the time one of us could figure out the plot for one mystery, she would have written three. And she was fearless in the kitchen--she'd try cooking anything, the odder the better. (Peruse all her recipes on this blog to see what I mean.) I so admired her drive--she wanted to be in Ireland and she made that happen. She wanted to live her last days in her beloved cottage, and she made that happen too. Sheila, we loved and admired you--rest in peace, our dear friend.


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MADDIE DAY/EDITH MAXWELL: I met Sheila at my first Sisters in Crime New England chapter meeting in 2006, and she announced she had just signed her first two cozy contracts. She blurbed my first book. She preceded me as SINC-NE president. She showed me it was possible to write two, three, even four books a year, and I tried to channel her energy (I still do). She never lacked in good cheer or for ideas. I always loved her Friday recipe posts on this blog. Most important, she persisted writing stories readers wanted to read - and had fun while doing it.

Four SINC-NE presidents: Sheila, Barb Ross, Edith/Maddie, and Connie Hambley
Sheila, my dear friend, I will miss you for a very long time.

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CLEO COYLE: It is almost beyond comprehension that we would lose her so soon. Because Sheila was always so full of life and always excited to share her love of Ireland, I'll just add two links for her many fans and friends to enjoy, once again, her own wonderful words, beautiful photos, and inspiring enthusiasm. Sheila’s last post for Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen was on November 8, 2019. Here is a link to her celebration of favorite Irish foods. She called the post “Irish Food Reprise,” and she started with a photo of that famous “full Irish” breakfast. And here is a link from her post in early October, when she first arrived in Ireland. She titled this gorgeous photo View from my front window...
Rest in heaven, Sheila, may God’s sun shine warm upon your face,
and his rains fall soft upon your fields.

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ESSIE LANG: One of my favorite memories of the very memorable Sheila was at Malice Domestic a couple of years ago. Sheila, Mary Jane Maffini and I were making our way back to the hotel after an enjoyable afternoon event put on by our agents at BookEnds Literary Agency when we all heard the call of the olive oil siren. So, of course, we had to go into this delightful specialty olive shop and sample, and compare with each other, and buy a variety of olive oils. Shopping is fun but especially so when it's related to food and cooking, and in such great company. I will miss seeing Sheila at future conferences and catching up. Godspeed my friend.

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MAYA CORRIGAN: I didn't know Sheila as well or as long as the rest of you did, but every time I saw her at mystery conventions she was friendly, funny, and full of sage advice for a less experienced writer. I'll miss her posts about Ireland and her recipes. And I'll miss seeing her smiling and enjoying the company of mystery writers and fans. 

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KRISTA DAVIS: Sheila and I go way back to our days as unpublished Guppies in Sisters In Crime. We were both nominated for an Agatha award for Best First Mystery the same year. Nevertheless, when the winner of our category was being announced, Sheila sat next to me and we held hands. Alas, neither of us won, but we went off and enjoyed champagne together anyway. I will miss her terribly. Sheila once posted a photograph of herself sitting on the steps of a building. I think it may have been a European cathedral. I loved that photo of the young Sheila. I looked through her blogs, trying to find it. But I found something else instead. Sheila wrote a blog that was never posted. It was her last one and we didn't realize it was there. She left us, her fellow Mystery Lovers' Kitchen bloggers, a goodbye in the first sentence. The blog is classic Sheila. She's exuberant about the things she loved. We'll be posting it here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen on Thursday. Please join us. It will be posted exactly as we found it.

Daryl:  Sheila, I will remember fondly our many chats at the conferences, Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and more. Most often with a glass of wine in our hands.  You told such delicious stories. Your wit and, yes, your snark, will be missed.  "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; Love leaves a memory no one can steal." Rest in peace.
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We have the books, the recipes, the memories. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing your extraordinary life and spirit with us. 



Readers, we invite you to share your memories of Sheila and her books in the comments. 



50 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear this news. Sheila was smart and fun and such a wonderful writer. You've all written a lovely tribute here to her.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. "Smart and fun" says it perfectly!

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  2. I’ve read most of the books that she wrote. They were all enjoyable. She had the ability to make you care about her characters. I still to this day want to visit with some of them. Sheila Connolly and her talent were taken too soon. One of her lesser known series was only available in ebook form. It was also one of my favorites. She created a character who saw her ancestors in the Salem area. Then she created a boyfriend with touches of the gift who tried to discover the secret to their ability scientifically. I kept waiting for more in this series. Just as in her other series, she left us wanting to know more about what happened in their lives. Sheila Connolly you were loved and admired by many.

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    1. Yes, the Relatively Dead series, Sue.

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    2. If I remember right, that was a series she'd been playing with before she decided to write seriously. So glad she eventually found a way to share those stories.

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    3. I didn't know about the paranormal series, but I knew of all the others.

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  3. I've read so many of her books, and just finished "Fatal Roots". As soon as I finished one of her books, I started looking for another one to read. I'm truly saddened this morning to hear of her death.

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    1. With more than 40 books, she kept us entertained for a long time! I admit, I haven't wanted to start Fatal Roots, knowing it's the last.

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  4. I had read some of Shelia's other series, sampled really, but the one I caught with the first book and devoured eagerly was her series set in Ireland. Every book was like a mini-vacation to Ireland. Seems unreal that she's gone.

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    1. I'm reading The Cruelest Winter right now, and you can really feel her love for the place, can't you? So glad she shared it with us, in the books and here on the blog.

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  5. This is sad news . Loved her books. Hugs and prayers of comfort to family and friends.

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  6. I always enjoyed Sheila's contributions to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen and the peeks she would give us into her kitchen and her beloved Ireland. My prayers are with her family, friends and readers ~

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    1. Wasn't it fun to share her delight at exploring Ireland?

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  7. So sad to hear of her passing. Her books were so enjoyable. She will be missed greatly. Prayers and healing thoughts for her family.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your memories of Sheila. I enjoyed every book of hers that I read. She had a way of making the characters very real. The County Cork Mystery series brought the villages of Ireland to life. My condolences to her family and friends.

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    1. Rose, I think the stories of Ireland were the ones closest to her heart.

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  9. So sad to hear of Sheila's passing. I loved her writing and her books, and she will be missed. Thoughts to her loved ones.

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    1. Much sadness here at the Kitchen, but much joy in having known her!

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  10. I enjoyed reading Sheila's apple orchard series and antiquarian society series because they were so well-researched. Every time I read one of her books I learned something new.

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    1. You're so right, Michele! She called on her experience working in museums and fundraising for the Museum series, and took us to places I would never have imagined were so interesting. She used some family history and a house her family had lived in for the Orchard series, and even learned to graft so Meg could!

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  11. I'm a relative newcomer to the fan club for Sheila's writing. I met her a couple years back when I went to a signing for Edith at a local library. Barbara Ross and Sheila were also taking part in the event and it was a really good time.

    I got to talk to Sheila before and then after the event. I've said in a couple of spots that it was great to talk to someone about Ireland who had actually been there.

    I've really enjoyed her County Cork series but I hadn't finished it yet. So this past weekend, I started reading A TURN FOR THE BAD to honor her memory in an admittedly small way.

    I also ordered the first book in the Orchard mystery series so that I can start reading that series as well.

    It was just a brief moment in the grand scheme of things but getting to meet Sheila was a real thrill because she was so passionate about what she had to say about Ireland.

    It was mentioned there was a final blog from Sheila that was to be posted this coming Thursday. I know that I'll be looking forward to that as well as the two forthcoming books due for publication according to what I read online.

    Sheila will be missed by her friends and family, but those of us who are coming strictly from the fan side of things share the loss with you all as well.

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    1. Thank you, Jay, for a lovely tribute. Those small moments can really matter. I'm behind on the County Cork series, too, and started The Cruelest Winter over the weekend. You can really feel her love for the place on the page, can't you?

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  12. I have read all of her series. I loved and learned so much from each. I even have the entire Relatively Dead series on my Nook ( turns out you can only get this series through e-readers).
    I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but every time I open one of her books I feel as if I am settling down for a visit with a friend. Selfishly I mourn the new books that will not come, conclusions never reached.
    RIP Sheila, know you were loved by so very many.Go raibh Dia leat

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    1. Yes, that series was e-only. I was amazed at how quickly she was able to write them, as though the stories had been playing in her head, waiting for her!

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  13. I first "met" Sheila here at MLK. I enjoyed reading her recipes and comments about ingredients and substitutions. I was lucky enough to win one of her apple orchard books. I still have to catch up on that series! I know I have more of her stories on my Nook to enjoy. My favorite series is her County Cork mysteries. The love for Ireland certainly shines through. I will miss her.

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    1. It's a comfort to have stories waiting, isn't it? I've got a couple of the Irish books left and don't want to finish them, knowing that's the end...

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  14. I've been following Sheila's stories from way back. I was gifted a copy of one of her books by a close friend. I followed her on FaceBook and her web site. We messaged back and forth and I always found her comments to be entertaining and friendly to an online stranger. Then I met her. I was turning away from talking to Linda O'Johnston's place at RWA NY a few years back and not looking where I was going bumped into someone... That someone was Sheila. She looked down at me (I'm only 5'7.5") and said to me... "don't I get a hug?" She gives the best hugs in the world, and now I and many many others will never get to experience that ever again... Bon Yoyage Dr. Connolly... I hope your new adventures will be great ones.

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    1. Ah, NoraAdrienne -- how lovely! That's such a perfect glimpse of Sheila!

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  15. I really enjoyed her books so much. Sheila was a amazing writer I'll miss her books. She had a beautiful smile so full of life. RIP Sheila

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