Malice Domestic

Malice Domestic 2015: Highlights and Photos

The 27th annual Malice Domestic mystery convention wrapped up yesterday. I attended the traditional mystery convention as both a mystery fan and an author, so between being a fan-girl and putting on my professional writer hat, the three-day event was a bit of a whirlwind.

I'm at the airport, drinking plenty of coffee and green juice to recover from the long weekend, so it's time to share a recap and photos:

Welcome to Malice Domestic
Upon our arrival, this mysterious projection was waiting for us.

Malice Go Round

The first full day of the convention began with an introduction to Malice for first-time attendees, an informational session for people interested in volunteering, and then Malice Go Round: Like Speed Dating, But With Authors. 

There were 20 tables with eight readers and two empty seats; authors paired up and visited each table and gave a 2-minute pitch about their books. I passed out postcards of Quicksand and The Accidental Alchemist out of a magician's hat, since stage magicians are a common element between my two series. (Sorry, I was on California time, so I didn't think to take any photos of the event!)

Welcome Reception

This year marks Midnight Ink's 10th anniversary, so they hosted the welcome reception with a special cake and books by all of their authors. 
Midnight Ink authors at Malice.

Sisters in Crime

Malice Domestic and Sisters in Crime are probably the two most important groups that brought me into the mystery fold. I love connecting with my Sisters at Malice, and at a convention of several hundred, the SinC breakfast is one of the best ways to see everyone.

Don't worry, SinC President Catrina McPherson is left-handed, so a broken arm can't slow her down.
SinC President Catriona McPherson and
Vice President Leslie Budewitz at the SinC breakfast.

The Sisters in Crime Dorothy Cannell Guppy Scholarship was given out at the breakfast. The yearly scholarship that pays $1,000 for a SinC Guppy to attend Malice Domestic is being offered by agent Meg Ruley to honor her long-time client.
Dorothy Cannell and Leslie Budewitz presenting the first
Guppy scholarship to attend Malice Domestic.
Also announced at the breakfast was the exciting news that the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, originally planned as a one-time grant for an emerging writer of color, will continue!

Frankie Bailey and I were involved in the inaugural grant committee last year, when Maria Kelson was awarded the first grant. Her work in progress is terrific.
Frankie Bailey and Gigi Pandian.

Ellen Byron, Gigi Pandian, Diane Vallere, Kendel Flaum.
(Kendel is my editor at Henery Press - if you're enjoying QUICKSAND,
the third Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery, she's the one who saved it!)
Wondering about the boas? It was thought up a few years ago as a way for SinC Guppies to easily find each other at the large Sisters in Crime breakfast.
The Guppies gathering for a photo at the end of the Sisters in Crime breakfast.

The Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter meets for lunch every year, and it's a great opportunity to put faces to names we know online, in a smaller setting.
SinC Guppies gathering at Booeymongers for lunch.

Attending Panels

The Golden Age of Detection Panel

This was one of my favorite panels. I love Golden Age mysteries, plus check out the lineup of panelists! Mystery scholar Doug Greene moderating, with Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine reviewer Steve Steinbock, author and scholar Martin Edwards, and fiction and non-fiction writer (and Sherlock Holmes expert) Daniel Stashower. I'm tempted to do a recap of the entertaining and informative panel here, but I'd ramble far too long, so I'll post panel notes separately at a later date.

Steve Steinbock, Doug Greene, Martin Edwards, Dan Stashower.
I'm looking forward to reading this new book by Martin Edwards on the Golden Age of mystery fiction that's out this very week.

Academic Mysteries Panel
Susan Van Kirk, Lori Rader-Day, Debra Goldstein, Triss Stein, Neil Plakcy.

Best Short Story Agatha-Nominated Authors Panel
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine editor Linda Landrigan (moderating),
Kathy Lynn Emerson, Barb Goffman, Edith Maxwell, Art Taylor.

My Sleuthing Duos Panel
Meeting for coffee to plan our panel.
Tracy Kiely, Gigi Pandian, Ritter Ames, Hannah Dennison, Wendy Tyson.
I hadn't met fellow panelist Ritter Ames before, and I was happy to learn about her Elizabeth Peters-inspired series. (My to-be-read pile of books grew exponentially this weekend...)

Stepping outside of the hotel to recharge

Green juice run with some of the Midnight Ink crew. 
Tracy Weber, Linda Joffe Hull,
Terri Bischoff (my fabulous Midnight Ink editor), Catriona McPherson.

Tulips were in bloom all around the hotel.

The Banquet

Pal Cynthia Kuhn (top row center) was awarded one of this year's William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grants for unpublished traditional mystery writers!
Past and present grant-winners with committee chair
Harriette Sackler (top left).

The Agatha Award Winners

My local Sisters in Crime chapter had not one but TWO
Agatha winners: Rhys Bowen and Penny Warner
(seen here with Parnell Hall - thanks to Penny for the pic)
Best Contemporary Novel: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best Historical Novel: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

Best First Novel: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran

Best Nonfiction: Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer's Journey by Hank Phillippi Ryan (ed)
(This is a book full of essays by members of Sisters in Crime.)

Best Short Story: "The Odds are Against Us" by Art Taylor

Best Children's/Young Adult: The Code Buster's Club, Case #4, The Mummy's Curse by Penny Warner

Sara Peretsky was given the Lifetime Achievement Award this year. Caroline and Charles Todd were the guests of honor, and Ann Cleeves was the International guest of honor.

Closing Ceremonies Tea
Cindy Brown and Gigi Pandian before the closing tea.
There were many hats to be found at the tea. It used to be more of a tradition, and there's a mini movement to bring it back. (I don't yet have a photo of the Henery Press authors with their hats, but I'll add it when I get a copy.) 

Poirot and Miss Marple were on hand at the tea, just in case anything untoward were to have occurred.
Poirot and Miss Marple.

And now it's nearly time for my flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I'm doing a week-long writers retreat with my local writers group to celebrate my 40th birthday. This was an idea I had while going through cancer treatments four years ago, and I can't quite believe it became a reality. But on the heels of Malice Domestic, it's perfect timing. As I type up this recap, I'm reminded again of how inspiring it is to connect with other mystery fans and writers. I'm going to take that inspiration with me to Scotland.

Malice Domestic 2014: Photos & Highlights from the Traditional Mystery Convention

I often joke that I was born in the wrong era, because I grew up devouring the traditional mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction that ended long before I was born. But there are so many wonderful mystery writers carrying on the tradition, many of whom I've learned about through Malice Domestic, so by living in the present time I get to enjoy reading it all!

Therefore, the true reason I was born in the wrong era is because I'm awful at posting on social media in real time — I much prefer living in the moment and posting photos later. I arrived home last night, and I've been smiling all morning as I look through my photos. Here are some of my highlights from this year's Malice Domestic.

The fabulous volunteer board that runs Malice Domestic.

The mysterious display above the hotel bar.
I arrived on Friday afternoon this year, after attending the Edgar Awards banquet the night before in New York City. (My first Edgars! I'll post pictures from the Edgars later this week.) The first event I attended was the Opening Ceremonies, which was especially exciting this year because I was up for an Agatha Award.

Agatha nominees LynDee Walker, Kendel Lynn, and Gigi Pandian
at the Malice Domestic Opening Ceremonies.

At the Henery Press dinner on Friday night.

The Sisters in Crime breakfast was quite early for those of us on West Coast time, but so worth it!
Sitting with Verena Rose and Tonya Spratt-Williams
at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
Frankie Bailey and Gigi Pandian at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
At the breakfast, members of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime wore boas as a fun way to find each other and see how many Guppies were in attendance. What a huge group we were this year!
The Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime, wearing boas to the SinC breakfast,
getting ready for a group photo.
The Guppies began as the "Great Un-Published" chapter, where new authors could learn from each other at the beginning of their writing careers. It's still the chapter for newer writers, but published authors are welcome to stay on and share their knowledge. I learned about the Guppies at my first Malice Domestic, before I was published, and I love the camaraderie so I've stayed on.
Kendel Lynn, Diane Vallere, and Gigi Pandian in our Guppy boas
at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
Hank Phillippi Ryan and Elaine Will Sparber announcing the new
Sisters in Crime book "Writes of Passage." Everyone attending
the breakfast got an Advance Reader Copy, hot off the press!

Hmm... I've realized this recap is going to be far too long if I keep posting individual photos, so I made a few collages!

Everyone was having a great time putting faces to names at a Guppy lunch. 

The four of us nominated for the Best Short Story Agatha Award were on the panel Short and Snappy, where we had such an interesting discussion that we didn't get to everything that we wanted to talk about! It was such an honor to be nominated with Barb Goffman, Barbara Ross, and especially the nominee who won, Art Taylor. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine says: "Art Taylor is quickly becoming one of the most distinguished short-story writers of his generation. Since his EQMM debut in 1995, he's sold nearly three dozen short stories, several of which have received critical recognition." Good company, indeed!

The Best Short Story Agatha Nominee panel, Short and Snappy:
Gigi Pandian (nominated for locked-room mystery "The Hindi Houdini"),
Barb Goffman (nominated for "Nightmare" and "Evil Little Girl"),
our moderator B.K. Stevens (a distinguished short story writer herself)
Art Taylor (whose story "The Care and Feeding of House Plants" won the Agatha),
and Barbara Ross (nominated for "Bread Baby").

For the Agatha banquet that night, I hosted a table. In honor of my latest book, Pirate Vishnu, I brought pirate treasure to share.
Filling paper treasure chests with goodies for my banquet table.
Henery Press donated cute mugs, and after Scooby Doo pirate characters
were a hit at my book launch party, I brought some to Malice. 
Pirate treasure and good fun at the banquet table.
Lifetime Achievement Award honorees
Dorothy Cannell, Joan Hess, and Margaret Maron.
Daniel Stashower (who won the Agatha for his nonfiction book
The Hour of Peril) and Gigi Pandian.
Leslie Budewitz, Gigi Pandian, Daryl Wood Gerber.
Gigi Pandian, LynDee Walker, Larissa Reinhart. 

The morning after the banquet, I was so glad I decided to stay an extra day and relax. Hanging out in the lobby, I got to catch up with online friends, some of whom I'd never met in person before. I met the generous Jenny Milchman online years ago, but only met her in person two years ago, and I'd never had the pleasure of meeting Kaye Barley in person until this weekend. 

Jenny Milchman and Kaye Barley. 
Harriette Sackler was the first person at Malice Domestic I ever spoke to. The Chair of the Grants Committee, she called me on the phone to let me know I'd won a grant for my work-in-progress (which became Artifact). After being speechless for quite some time, I recovered, attended Malice that year, and have looked forward to catching up with Harriette each year I'm able to make it to Malice.
Harriette Sackler and Gigi Pandian.
In between running into readers and writers in the hallway, I made it to fun panels, such as Witches and Werewolves and Ghosts, Oh My!, Mixed Genre Mysteries, and Authors Reveal Their Fictional Crushes, and insightful interviews. 
Authors dressing as their characters!
Dana Cameron, Jim Lavene, Juliet Blackwell, Leigh Perry (aka Toni Kelner).
Poirot Award Honoree Tom Schantz (of Rue Morgue Press)
interviewed by Jim Huang. 
As usual, I couldn't resist buying more books than would fit in my suitcase, including some that I already owned! 
A few of the books I had to get back to California.
Daniel Stashower's award-winning nonfiction is good, but his Harry Houdini mysteries are just brilliant. I already own them all, but not with these beautiful reissued covers, and besides, I needed something to read on the plane ride home! I already have Sujata Massey's The Sleeping Dictonary on my eReader, but I got her to sign a print copy for my dad. I also already read Steven Rigolosi's new book, The Outsmarting of Criminals, but it's so good I had to get a copy for my mom. And I picked up the new Mystery Writers of America anthology at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York the day of the Edgars. The sad thing for my pocketbook? This is only a few of the books I went home with. 

Now that I'm home, I'm exhausted but so inspired. I already can't wait until next year. I had a great meeting with my editor to go over her feedback on a draft of the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, so now it's time to get back to work on the book! It'll be out shortly before next year's Malice. 

Malice Domestic: My Introduction to the World of Mystery Writing

I'm feeling rather sentimental as I'm packing to leave for the Edgars and Malice Domestic, because Malice was my introduction to the world of mystery writing, back in 2007, and this year I've been nominated for an Agatha Award for my locked-room mystery story "The Hindi Houdini." It's a tremendous honor to be nominated by the community that got me to take my writing seriously.

Seven years ago, the Malice Grants Committee selected my work-in-progress for a grant, showing me there was promise in my scribblings. When I arrived at the convention to accept the award, I didn't know a soul in the mystery community. By the time I left three days later, I had a local writers group, an online community, and a convention I knew I'd be back to every chance I got. 

With Malice Grants Chair
Harriette Sackler
at Malice Domestic in 2007.
I was looking through my photos from Malice Domestic over the years. I'm posting a few of them here, along with some thoughts about how this community has impacted my writing and my life. Hey, it's better than packing, which is what I should be doing right now!

Maybe in the process of walking down memory lane I can also help those of you who are attending the convention for the first time feel more comfortable. Malice Domestic is the friendliest convention I've ever attended--and I've been to a lot of wonderful conventions over the years.

Though I often credit the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant as giving me the push I needed to take my writing seriously, in truth it was the whole traditional mystery community at Malice Domestic that convinced me I could be a writer.

With Juliet Blackwell.
At the opening ceremonies in 2007, I met Juliet Blackwell, who was up for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel for Feint of Art, a book I'd read and loved. She and I got to chatting, and it turned out she was the president of my local Sisters in Crime chapter in Northern California! The following month I attended my first Sisters in Crime NorCal meeting, and the following year I began serving on the board.

As I wandered the halls during that first convention, I was also hailed over to a table by a friendly group who told me about the Guppies, an online group of aspiring mystery authors. I'd never heard of the Guppies, but since then I've learned more than I ever imagined about both the craft of writing and the business of writing--not to mention finding the greatest camaraderie I could ask for.

When I returned to Malice, I knew a few people, but I still felt like a tiny fish swimming blindly in a huge pond. But by then I knew that everyone was so friendly, it didn't matter that I was a newbie. It was wonderful chatting with mystery readers who shared my passion for traditional mysteries, getting to know fellow aspiring writers, and meeting authors whose books I loved. I even discovered that a woman who knew me when I was a baby was now a mystery writer!

With Aileen Baron, who taught anthropology with my parents years ago.

Sisters in Crime Northern California members at Malice Domestic in 2009.
I was waylaid by a breast cancer diagnosis and couldn't attend while undergoing chemo, but one of the few positive aspects of cancer is the way it clarifies life priorities. As soon as I was well enough, I threw myself into my writing and came back to Malice. That was a special year for many reasons, the first of which is that I had the opportunity to meet Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters, whose books I devoured as a teenager and who inspired me to become a writer (and who I've gushed about elsewhere).

Meeting Barbara Mertz (Elizabeth Peters), whose Vicky Bliss books
inspired me to become a mystery writer. 

I reconnected with dear friends I met through the Malice community. The chance encounters I've made over the years have led to wonderful friendships and collaborations. 

With Kendel Lynn and Diane Vallere, as we plotted Other People's Baggage
our collection of interconnected mystery novellas.

The following year was the 25th anniversary of the convention. Aaron Elkins was being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. There are three authors who get a full shelf on my bookshelves devoted to their books: Elizabeth Peters, John Dickson Carr, and Aaron Elkins. After meeting my first literary idol the previous year, I was excited that I'd get to see Aaron Elkins in person for the first time. (John Dickson Carr passed away shortly after I was born, so I won't be meeting him any time soon.) 

My encounter with Aaron Elkins exemplifies the spirit of the Malice community. He knew I was a huge fan of his Gideon Oliver books, because of articles I'd written online that he'd seen. Barbara Mertz was scheduled to conduct his Lifetime Achievement Award interview, but when she was ill and couldn't make it, Aaron thought of me and asked me if I'd like to step in and do the interview. We'd never met before that weekend, but he'd read my first novel that had recently come out. After a few moments of disbelief about being asked, I said yes (of course!). I had a great time chatting with my idol, asking him all the questions I always wanted to know the answers to. 

Filling in for one of my literary idols to interview another.
The Aaron Elkins Lifetime Achievement Award interview at Malice 25. 

After that, I knew I was no longer a newbie to Malice. Now I look forward to getting together with old friends and new, such as at the Sisters in Crime breakfast and Guppy lunch. It's difficult to take more than a few steps down the hall without getting caught up in an interesting conversation. 

Lucy Burdette, Shari Randal, Kathy Krevat; me and Edith Maxwell.

Hallway conversations:
Barb Goffman and Leslie Budewitz; me and Daniel Stashower;
Maddy Hunter and me; Kendel Lynn, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Diane Vallere.

Dorothy St. James, moderator Becky Hutchison,
Penny Warner, me, and Susan C. Shea.

This year I'm also hosting a table at the Agatha Awards banquet on Saturday night. Attendees choose which table they's like to sit at when they check into the convention. If you'll be there and want to sign up for my table, you'll get some pirate table favors (since Pirate Vishnu is the latest Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery). Having read all the fantastic short stories nominated for the Agatha (you can read all of them here), I'm not expecting that I'll have to give an acceptance speech, meaning I get to sit back, relax, and enjoy the evening. 

Another first for me is that I'm not flying home until Monday, meaning I get to attend the tea on Sunday for the first time. If you're attending this year's Malice, I hope you'll stop me in the hall to say hello!


My Surreal Life: An Agatha Award Nomination!

Earlier this week, the list of 2013 Agatha Award nominations was released. My locked-room mystery short story "The Hindi Houdini" has been nominated for an Agatha!

Thank you to everyone who has congratulated me this week on the nomination! The whole thing is a bit overwhelming (I'm still pinching myself), so I didn't take a step back and post the news here on the blog until now. Here's the scoop:

The Agatha Awards are given out at the Malice Domestic mystery convention that takes place every year in Bethesda, MD. The convention celebrates the traditional mystery — i.e. mysteries typified by Agatha Christie and other authors who wrote when puzzle plots were at the heart of mystery stories, and no gratuitous sex or violence was on the page.

My pet gargoyles with the anthology featuring my story.
This is my genre of mystery. I grew up devouring the books of prolific traditional mystery writers Elizabeth Peters and Aaron Elkins, who were writing clever twisty-turny plots with characters I adored. Books like that are why I wanted to become a mystery writer. And that's why this nomination means so much to me.

My nominated story, "The Hindi Houdini," is an impossible crime story starring Sanjay Rai, Jaya's magician best friend from the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series. As a magician, he's the perfect person to solve locked-room impossible crimes, which he does in Fool's Gold as well. This story was published in Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology by Wildside Press in April 2013.

The Agatha awards will be given out on May 3, 2014, at the banquet at Malice Domestic. I love this convention, and this year it'll be even more fun!

Memories of Barbara Mertz / Elizabeth Peters, 1927 - 2013

I can't imagine the world of mystery novels existing without the dozens of books written by Barbara Mertz under her pen name, Elizabeth Peters.

Barbara Mertz passed away on Thursday, August 8, 2013, at the age of 85. She brought readers countless hours of joy through her amazing books, plus inspired so many of us to become mystery writers ourselves. I doubt I would have discovered either the joy of reading or tried my hand at writing if it hadn't been for her.

I started with the Vicky Bliss mystery series when I was in high school. American art history professor Vicky Bliss traveled to foreign lands on mysterious and romantic adventures that were fun, incredibly clever, and full of memorable characters and settings. That was the gateway series that led me to the Amelia Peabody Egyptology mysteries set in the late 1800s, and the Jacqueline Kirby (intrepid librarian) series. Not to mention her stand-alone novels... It's no wonder I've devoted a full shelf, two rows deep, to fit her books on my bookshelf.

Shelf devoted to Elizabeth Peters books.

This shelf of Elizabeth Peters books is two rows deep.

In 2012, the Malice Domestic mystery convention honored Barbara with the Amelia Award, a new award created in honor of the Amelia Peabody character she created. She hadn't attended the convention in several years, and I had never previously met her. It was incredibly meaningful to meet her in person and tell her how much her books had meant to me.
Barbara Mertz signing books at Malice Domestic 2012.
As I stood in the signing line, I learned that my feelings were far from unique. One woman even burst into tears upon meeting her. I wasn't quite that demonstrative, but I admit I may have babbled. Yet you'd never know it based on the gracious reaction from Barbara Mertz. She congratulated me on Artifact and signed my beloved old copy of Borrower of the Night, the first book in the Vicky Bliss series, that I've held onto for decades.
My beaten-up old copy of Borrower of the Night that I've read countless times.

I'm saving this book forever!

Meeting Barbara Mertz at Malice Domestic 2012.

If you've never tried one of her books, here are a few that are good ones to start with:

  • Borrower of the Night (Vicky Bliss Book 1)
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody Book 1)
  • The Murders of Richard III (Jacqueline Kirby)

She will be missed by her family and friends as well as the scores of readers whose lives she brightened. Her marvelous books live on.

The Aaron Elkins Lifetime Achievement Award Interview at Malice Domestic

I had the honor of being asked to fill in to conduct an interview with Aaron Elkins, who was being given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th anniversary Malice Domestic. I wrote a little bit about the interview in my Malice Domestic recap blog post earlier this month. 

Since then, several people who weren't in attendance have asked for more details about what we talked about in the interview. Here are some of the fun things I learned about one of my favorite authors:

Learning a Literary Idol is a Real Guy – and a Great One
Aaron Elkins is one of the nicest guys imaginable. Even though we'd never previously met, because he enjoyed my debut novel and he knew how much I loved his books, he thought of me to fill in for Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters), who was scheduled to conduct the interview but was sick with pneumonia. We met for the first time for coffee the day before the interview, and after my initial star-struck-fan moment, we hit it off as much as we'd hoped.

Travels with Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters
Because Barbara Mertz couldn't be there, it seemed fitting to kick things off with a couple stories about her. The two of them have been friends for decades. In the '90s, Aaron and his wife Charlotte took a Nile Cruise with Barbara. Barbara's most well-known mystery series is the Amelia Peabody Egyptology mystery series, so the trip location was fitting – and straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. Aaron recounted how several of the other passengers seemed to have stepped straight out of a classic detective novel – so much so that he didn't think anyone would believe it if he'd put it in a book!

Writing What You Know
Aaron Elkins' first Gideon Oliver mystery novel, Fellowship of Fear, was the first novel he wrote. It's about a physical anthropologist who gets an assignment teaching at military bases in Europe. Which happened to be just what Aaron was doing at the time. He had some really ingenious plot points that involved deductions Gideon made about skeletal remains. It turns out Aaron never thought those forensic anthropology deductions would be the hook for a continued series. But because he's such a smart guy and made the subject so fascinating, that's what all the readers and reviewers responded to. Thus the Gideon Oliver "skeleton detective" mystery series was born. (And he confirmed he never fudges the forensic details in the books.)

People Confusing Writers With Their Characters
Aaron mentioned how readers often imagine Gideon Oliver to look like him. Well, Aaron is guilty of the same thing – when we first met, the first thing he said to me was "But you're so tall!" He was confusing me with my character Jaya Jones, who's five feet tall. As for me, I'm six feet tall in heels.

The Gideon Oliver TV Show
In the late '80s, ABC made a series of Gideon Oliver mystery movies. I remember watching them at the time, and thinking how funny it was that they were so different from the books. Gideon Oliver was played by Lou Gossett, Jr. as a Columbia University cultural anthropology professor who solves cases with his daughter – not the childless, White, West Coast physical anthropology professor of Aaron Elkins' books. Aaron was paid a consulting fee, but wasn’t asked to consult on the accuracy of the episodes. And with much of the media attention he received after the TV show came out, interviewers assumed the books were just like the show. I've tried to find the series on Netflix to watch it again, but sadly it's not there!

Writing With a Spouse
Aaron has written several novels with his wife Charlotte. How are they still happily married? It turns out they don't actually write "together" in the same room at the same time, but pass things back and forth. That sounds like a much more sensible arrangement.

Fan Gifts
Notice the skeleton tie he's wearing in the photos above? He has several skeleton ties, all of them gifts from fans.

Thank you to event photographer Greg Puhl for the wonderful photographs!

Malice Domestic 25: Interview of a Lifetime, Friends Winning Agatha Awards, and More Fun!

I didn't think the Malice Domestic mystery convention could get any better, but it keeps on surprising me. Here are some photos and highlights from this year:

Me and Aaron Elkins after his Lifetime Achievement Award interview.
One of the things I was most looking forward to at this year's Malice was getting to meet one of my two favorite mystery authors, Aaron Elkins. Even more exciting was the fact that Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters), my other favorite mystery author, was scheduled to conduct his Lifetime Achievement Award Interview.

It turned out Barbara Mertz came down with pneumonia and wasn't able to make it (don't worry, she's doing better now!), so Aaron asked me to fill in for her. As you can imagine, the thoughts running through my brain amounted to the extremely eloquent OMG OMG OMG!

He knew that I was a huge fan of his books, especially the fantastic Gideon Oliver "Skeleton Detective" series, so he correctly assumed that I'd have lots to talk about in the interview. We'd never previously met, but he'd read and enjoyed my debut mystery novel and gave it a blurb—which, until the day of the interview, was the biggest thing that made me feel like I'd made it as a mystery author regardless of what else happened with my books.

The interview was so much fun! The hour flew by, and I was glad to hear audience members tell me they had as much fun as I did.

*UPDATE: Several people who didn't attend the interview have asked me for details about what we talked about, so I wrote up some interview highlights here (including fun facts about Aaron and great photos from event photographer Greg Puhl). 

After the interview, there was more fun to be had. I headed over to my Treasure Hunt panel.

Dorothy St. James, moderator Becky Hutchison,
Penny Warner, me, and Susan C. Shea.

Later that night, Penny Warner was awarded the Agatha Award for best Children's/Young Adult mystery for The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse! Coincidence that she'd appeared on our treasure hunt panel hours before? I think not ;)

Penny Warner with her husband Tom and the Agatha Award teapot.

Susan Boyer won the Agatha for Best First Novel for her wonderful debut, Lowcountry Boil.
The Henery Press crew celebrating with Susan: Christina Freeburn, Diane Vallere,
me, Susan, Kendel Lynn, LynDee Walker, and Larissa Reinhart.

Me and Susan—with her super-cool teapot award.

Additional highlights:

The Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter lunch.
Lucy Burdette, Shari Randal, Kathy Krevat; me and Edith Maxwell.

Running into writer friends at every turn.
Top row: Barb Goffman and Leslie Budewitz; me and Daniel Stashower;
Bottom row: Maddy Hunter and me; Kendel Lynn, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Diane Vallere.

Kaye George, Tracy Kiely, Larissa Reinhart, Diane Vallere.

Even on west coast time, the early morning breakfasts were worth getting up for.
Top: SinC President Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Bottom: Diane Vallere, one of my fellow debut authors featured at the New Author Breakfast.

I'm looking forward to Malice 26 next year!

Malice Domestic 2012: Celebrating the Traditional Mystery with Elizabeth Peters This Year!

I'm home after attending the Malice Domestic mystery convention. If you're asking yourself what on earth "Malice Domestic" means, here's a quick explanation: Agatha Christie wrote traditional mysteries with puzzle plots that involve characters we get to know, quite different from conspiracy thrillers or gritty hard-boiled stories that also live in the mystery genre. Malice Domestic celebrates traditional mysteries. It's what I write and what I love to read.

Meeting Elizabeth Peters!!!
One of the authors who epitomizes this genre is Elizabeth Peters, whose books I have adored since I was a teenager. She stopped attending mystery conventions years ago, but she attended one afternoon of Malice Domestic this year to receive the Amelia award, an award named for her spectacular character Amelia Peabody.

It was a highlight of the convention when I got to meet her! What a lovely, gracious author. When I met up with my friends afterward, I believe I was giggling like I was thirteen years old. 

I moderated a Travel Mysteries panel featuring Hilary Davidson, Janice Hamrick, Maddy Hunter, Marie Moore, and Sara Wisseman. These authors have books set around the world in Egypt, Peru, and Europe, so it was fun to hear their travel stories that impacted their fiction. (UPDATE: Marie's husband took a photo of the panel, which I've added below.)

Our Travel Mysteries panel.  

Kaye George and Jenny Milchman.
Although panels at conventions are great, one of the best parts is who you meet informally, such as running into Kaye George (a fellow member of the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime who was up for an Agatha this year) and Jenny Milchman. If you haven't heard of Jenny's "Made It Moments" blog where authors share their stories about the moment they feel like they've "made it" as an author, you need to check it out. It's one of the most inspiring things you'll read all day.

A couple of my friends arrived late to a panel we had all planned to attend, so I ended up sitting and chatting with Sujata Massey, who writes the Rei Shimura mysteries. I learned she's working on a new book, The Sleeping Dictionary, set in colonial India, that sounds very cool.

With Sujata Massey.

In addition to chance encounters, I also planned in advance to meet up with two writers I knew through the Guppies, Kendel Flaum and Diane Vallere. The three of us first got to know each other when we traded works-in-progress. We really liked each others writing, so we decided to embark on a joint project together (more details to follow later this summer). The project has been going great, in spite of the fact that we hadn't ever hung out in person! I had met Diane very briefly once before, and Diane had met Kendel, but the three of were very much virtual friends—until this weekend.

Hanging out with partners in crime Kendel Flaum and Diane Vallere.

At the Agathas Banquet.

Guppy Leslie Budewitz won an Agatha award for her non-fiction guide for authors BOOKS, CROOKS, AND COUNSELORS.

Leslie Budewitz accepting her Agatha Award for BOOKS, CROOKS, AND COUNSELORS

At lunch with Leslie Budewitz, Avery Aames, Tracy Kiely, Kaye George, and Sandra Parshall.

Last but not least, I'm happy to report I finally met Nicole Peeler! I was starting to believe this urban fantasy author was a figment of my imagination. Turns out I was mistaken—she's real! And very fun.

Meeting Nicole Peeler in person for the first time.

p.s. I played hookie from the convention for a few hours one afternoon to see the gargoyles on the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. I'll post more photos of the gargoyles over at Gargoyle Girl next week.

A gargoyle on the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.