What Mystery Conventions Are You Going To in 2018?

I’m definitely going to Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic. Crimebake is a strong possibility. And Bouchercon is “fingers-crossed”.

With the entire year yawning out before me, I decided to cruise through the net and see what mystery conventions are scheduled. I had no idea there were so many! Enjoy some pictures from Malice Domestic 29 as you cruise through the list.

Agatha Tea. Photo courtesy Greg Puhl.

Sleuthfest 2018. March 1-4. Boca Raton, Florida. http://sleuthfest.com/. Guest authors include Hallie Ephron, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), Hank Phillippi Ryan and James R. Benn.

Murder and Mayhem. March 17, 2018. Chicago, Illinois. http://murdermayhemchicago.com/. The keynotes will be Gillian Flynn and Jeffery Deaver and I recognize a few panelists’ names from previous guests on Mysteristas.

Left Coast Crime 2018. March 22-25, 2018. Reno, Nevada. http://www.leftcoastcrime.org/2018/. Guests of Honor are Naomi Hirahara and William Kent Krueger.

Nancy Drew Sleuths. April 25-28, 2018. Key West, Florida. http://www.ndsleuths.com/ndsconventions.html.

Anthology_10 signing
Malice Most Historical Signing. Courtesy Greg Puhl.

Edgar Awards. April 26, 2018. New York City. http://www.theedgars.com/. Grand Masters: Jane Langton, William Link, and Peter Lovesey. Raven Recipients are Raven Bookstore and Kristopher Zgorski.

Malice Domestic 30. April 27-29, 2018. Bethesda, Maryland. http://malicedomestic.org/. Guest of Honor is Louise Penny. Toastmaster is Catriona McPherson. Lifetime Achieve is Nancy Pickard. Amelia Award is David Suchet. Poirot Award is Brenda Blethyn. Special Amelia Award is Joan Hess. Fan Guest of Honor is Janet Blizard.

ThrillerFest XIII. July 10-14, 2018, New York City. http://thrillerfest.com/. Guests include George R.R. Martin, Lee Child, James Rollins and Lisa Gardner.

Pulpfest 2018. July 26-29, 2018. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. http://www.pulpfest.com/.

Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. August 4, 2018. Suffolk, Virginia. http://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.

Killer Nashville. August 23-26, 2018. Nashville, Tennessee. https://killernashville.com/. Guests include Ellery Adams, J.A. Konrath and Otto Penzler.

Mysterista alum Cynthia Kuhn with he 2016 Best First Novel Agatha Award.

Bouchercon 2018. September 6-9, 2018. St. Petersburg, Florida. https://www.bouchercon2018.com/. Guests include Karin Slaughter, Ian Rankin, Lisa Unger, Tim Dorsey, Judy Bobalik, Sara Blaedel, Sean Chercover, Mark Billingham, John D. MacDonald, Ayo Onatade.

Book ‘Em NC. September 22, 2018. Lumberton, North Carolina. http://www.bookemnc.org/.

Creatures, Crimes & Creativity. October 5-7, 2018. Columbia, Maryland. http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com/.  Guests include Jamie Freveletti and Ketih R.A. DeCandido.

Magna Cum Murder XXIV. October 19-21, 2018, Indianapolis, Indiana. http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/centersandinstitutes/ebball/magnacummurder. Guests: Reavis Z. Wortham and Peter Lovesey.

New England Crimebake. November 2018 (TBA). http://crimebake.org/.


Mysteristas: are there any conventions I missed? Which ones are you planning to attend?









The Dipped Hat: Adios to Longmire

longmire the hatDid anyone besides me binge-watch Longmire Season Six? Did you notice how many times Sherriff Longmire dips his hat? Seriously, they worked that image into every just about every scene he wore the hat, sometimes more than once.

So, what’s with the dipped hat? My theory is that if you can’t see his face, you can’t read his mood. Until he lifts his head, you have no indication what he’s feeling, what he may be thinking or what he’s going to do next. And, because he could lift his head at any minute, the dipped hat is a visual cue building up suspense. The filmmakers are training us to expect something significant to happen when Longmire dips his hat.

The dipped hat is more flexible, and so more intriguing, than hiding behind a mask. Darth Vader rarely takes off the mask. He stalks about the scene, cape snapping in the wind, growling threats. Even without seeing his face, after one movie, you pretty much know what he’s going to do. The Lone Ranger never takes off his mask and you have a good idea of what to expect from him. It’s the same thing with the masked super heroes: they don the mask, go out and kick butt.

In Jaws, we had the auditory cue: sinister music forecasting death-by-shark. It worked. But, to my mind, the dipped hat, because it is so subtle, and because the reveal can be anything: laughing Longmire, shooting Longmire, digging-a-hole Longmire, is-he-ever-going-to-kiss-Vic Longmire, the uncertainty of what is about to occur is even more suspenseful.

Mysteristas: What do you think? Is it possible to work in a cue like this into fiction without coming across as trite? Are you aware of a writer who used such a technique, well or otherwise?

Comfort vs. Punishment

Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus series, raised some eyebrows recently when he was alleged to have said, “Maybe good will be seen to triumph and ordinary people will overcome crises in psychological crime novels.”  He noted that after 9/11, Alexander Smith McCall’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series flourished.

London Sunday Times article, 11/12/17

In the article, booksellers disagreed with him in that they had not seen a surge of cozies selling over psychological thrillers. I think they misinterpreted Rankin’s suggestions. In Facebook comments, I noticed some very adamant posters insisted that people need to see punishment.

I’ve noticed the trend in myself. Recently I read a book written by one of our Mysterista visitors known for creepiness. Without giving away spoilers,  I noticed in I felt uplifted by the ending and I was thankful to that writer for that gift.

I don’t think I would have felt this way, say, before November of 2016. These are bleak times. I may be particularly sensitive. When you in the Lower 48 here about increased air patrols over the coast of Alaska, I hear fighter jets taking off outside my office window as my building is a few miles from air force base where those jets are stationed. And when you hear about North Korea making threats, Alaska is within their range. It reminds me of the Cold War when as a child, I drilled for bomb attacks by hiding under a desk. I was keenly aware of my own mortality when I was eight years old.

The general thought is that the purpose of mysteries is to reinforce justice to the readers, the good guys win the end. Every psychological suspense and thriller book I’ve read did the same thing, just in a different way. Some focus on punishment and others focus on hope, and the difference between those two endings can be a small as a few phrases.

So, Mysteristas, my questions to you today are:

  1.  Cozies, traditional, thrillers or any of the various permutations thereof?
  2. Why do you read them? For a feeling of hope or to see the bad guys get theirs, or something else?






It’s a Family Affair.

If it wasn’t for the support of my daughter and son-in-law, and if it wasn’t for the understanding, patience and encouragement of my grandchildren, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the mystery community.

I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this while I work on my acknowledgements for the DEADLY SOLUTION, which I think has a longer word count than the first chapter. At first, I thought: who am I going to acknowledge? I wrote it. I researched it. Where is everyone when I’m pounding on the keyboard day and night.

Indulging me, that’s where they are. And there is loving support from all over the mystery community for new writers. I’m sure there is an element of competition; I’m neither young nor naïve. But I don’t see it with the writers I’ve had the privilege of knowing.

So in this season of giving thanks, I am thankful for my genetically-related family, who put up with me and read for me, for my Alaskan family, those friends I’ve come to know in the past three decades, you know who you are, even the legal community who provides so much fodder for drama and comedy, and the editors and the beta readers and the publishers and all those agents and publishers that rejected my work but took the time to tell me why.

And my high school English teacher who told me I should write. She could have just been trying to keep me occupied so I wouldn’t talk to the guy sitting behind me, but I took her seriously.

Thanks to you all.

Mysteristas, what about you — who pushed, pulled, and/or supported you in this crazy adventure?



Hallowe’en Party

My month-long Hallowe’en celebration begins with in increased consumption of chocolate and Agatha Christie’s Poirot television episode, Hallowe’en Party, with David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker.

Halloween Party

The episode begins with a children’s party attended by Ariadne Oliver, the fictional writer of mysteries. A child is murdered during the party and Mrs. Oliver calls her old friend Hercule Poirot to investigate. During the investigation, a second child is murdered. Although there is a limited amount of characters who could have done it, who and why the children were killed make for a complex puzzle.

An otherwise dark and creepy story, there is are lighter moments during Mrs. Oliver comments upon her writing. During the party, a child asks her why her protagonist, Sven Hjerson, is Swedish. In response, she gives a deep sigh and says, “I wish I knew.” Later we see her struggling with incorporating what she believes to be a clever twist, a denouement that takes place in a hot-air balloon, as she is dictating notes to teenaged girl. Finally, Mrs. Oliver says she will just have to kill her baby, horrifying the girl. I feel her pain even if the balloon twist was bizarre.

Many of my favorite actors are in the cast. Paolo Dionisotti plays a cleaning lady who appears as a witch as the party, complete with green make-up. She makes for a terrific crone, the scary old lady who sees everything. She also played Miss Hinchcliffe in “A Murder is Announced” (1985). Julian Rhind-Tutt plays Michael Garfield, a weird character. You may have seen him in “Ordeal by Innocence” (2007). Amelia Bullmore plays Judith Butler. She also appeared in three episodes of “Happy Valley” aired in 2016, “The Hounds of Baskerville” (Sherlock, 2012), “Wild Justice” (Inspector Lewis, 2011), and several seasons of “Scott & Bailey”.

Chocolate and Agatha Christie. What could make for a better Hallowe’en?

How about you, Mysteristas, do you a favorite Hallowe’en tradition?


Coping with Earrings

I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m really stressed, I buy earrings. And I have lots of earrings from my days as a full-time trial lawyer. I still remember the day I walked into Nordstrom’s and realized I had a pair of earrings from every rack. (In Anchorage, Nordstrom’s is conveniently located between the state courthouse and the federal courthouse, a mere ten minute walk from any law office.)

I have kitschy earrings I never wear but they make me happy when I look at them. From my Swarovski period, I have crystal studs and big flashy crystal clip-ons. ACrystal earringst least I think these are Swarovksi. I got these for my mother of the bride outfit and then didn’t wear them.

It’s all a blur now.  Being the MOB is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had. It’s like childbirth only it lasts from the moment the engagement is announced through the inevitable tearful break-up after you’ve spent thousands in deposit, to the tearful reconciliation to the rebooking. By the time, they get married and ALL your ex-husbands show  up, you’re reading for a trip out of the country. But I digress.

The clip-ons are pictured here with the Dumbo I won on the  California Adventureland boardwalk. Dumbo has nothing to do with this piece but he’s cute and so I thought you might enjoy seeing him.

I have white pearl studs and black pearl drops.  I had little diamond chips but I lost one so I’m looking for a pirate to give the other one too. It’s good karma, you know.

But mostly I wear silver hoops these days because – ahem – they match my hair.

Anyway, I find myself suffering over what earrings to wear to the Crimebake banquet. I decided on a black velvet duster with matching camisole and pants. I can pretend I’m Miss Phryne Fisher. It’s November 11 in Boston.

I don’t want to wear rhinestone or crystal because it seems a little too early in the season for glam.So Mysteristas, I’m open to suggestions.

The Long Dark Night of the Soul is Over


So the wait is over. I have a book deal. The book I’ve nursed through I-don’t-know-how-many revisions will be published.

In high school, I had thought about writing as a career. I had a particularly skilled hand at morose self-absorbed poetry as a teenager. And, for some odd reason, I thought I was unique! (That’s what you get for not talking to other morose, self-absorbed teenagers. On the other hand, morose, self-absorbed teenagers don’t talk to anyone, do they?)

I thought about art school which in turn led to visions of teaching high school. Grant Wood could teach high school. Angels can teach high school. If I didn’t like teenagers when I was one, I didn’t expect I’d like them when I wasn’t.

So I went to law school and I get to write my little heart out: legal briefs. It’s a form of technical writing but sometimes there are opportunities to finesse a story. Not lie, mind you, just develop it in such a way that hopefully resonates with the reader.

And then the beginnings of my first started coming together for me five years or so ago.  An untimely death. A character. A plot twist. I felt like I was sitting in a theatre audience watching the story take shape. It wasn’t the whole story; that came with a lot of work. But it was enough. And it was important enough for me to want to tell, so I wrote. And studied writing. And read more than I’ve ever read in my life. And wrote some more.

So in a few months, my first book in the Maeve Malloy series, Deadly Solutions, will be published by Level Best Books. Right now, I’m feeling like Cinderella. Let the ball begin!