Monday, November 24, 2014

Bouchercon Outtakes

A convention as busy and long as Bouchercon means lots of stories. Most of which I remember after I post a summary. So here are a few more bits and pieces of memories from the event....

First, one of the last-minute tasks I took care of for the convention organizer was to introduce Michael Connelly and Sebastian Rotella, who had a session "in conversation." All I had to do was read the bios the publisher had sent over, but I thought, hey, I'll get a photo with them before it starts (I had to run off to other duties and didn't stay for the talk). I even dragged a friend with me to take the photo ... only to realize too late that the men were waiting in a corner of the big room. My friend/photographer did what he could, and since I couldn't stop and smile for the camera while handing the mic over to Michael, this is my proof. Worst photo ever (not my friend's fault), but proof!

And another moment of connection with William Kent Krueger. I met Kent in late 2011, and when I saw him again six months later, he sat me down to compliment me on my first book. Six months after that, he agreed to blurb my second book. And he greets me with big hugs every time I see him. You won't find a nicer man in the mystery world. 

Another author who keeps raking in the awards is Catriona McPherson, who won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original at Bouchercon (for As She Left It) and who was officially installed as the national president of Sisters in Crime the same day. The seal of office for SinC is a stuffed white seal. The Anthony Award was a crow on a beach ball. Here's Catriona with her to-go bag of animals, ready for anything!

And finally, I have my own reminder of Bouchercon at home with me. Ingrid, the organizer, had trophies made for all of her volunteers as well, with the job titles we selected. So sitting near my writing desk at home is my own crow with my name and my role: Girl Friday.

Next time: more Poisoned Pen Press group photos, more photos with the friends I'm so eager to see (Tina Whittle, Rochelle Staab, I'm looking at you). And maybe less running around like a crazy person.... See you there!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Four Poisoned Pen Cover Reveals!

Coming in March, April, and May, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan
by Vasudev Murthy
It’s 1893. King Kamehameha III of Hawaii declares Sovereignty Restoration Day ... Tension grows between China and Japan over Korea ... The Bengal Famine worsens ... A brilliant scientist in Calcutta challenges the system … The senior priest at Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji temple is found dead in mysterious circumstances.

Dr John H. Watson receives a strange letter from Yokohama. Then the quiet, distinguished Mr. Hashimoto is murdered inside a closed room on a voyage from Liverpool to Bombay. In the opium dens of Shanghai and in the back alleys of Tokyo, sinister men hatch evil plots. Professor Moriarty stalks the world, drawing up a map for worldwide dominion.
Only one man can outwit the diabolical Professor Moriarty. Only one man can save the world. Has Sherlock Holmes survived the Reichenbach Falls?

In a seriocomic novel that radically ups the ante, Sherlock Holmes and Watson find their match in more than one man (or indeed, woman) as a clock inexorably ticks. History, mystery, romance, conspiracies, knife-edge tension; a train in Russia, roadside crime in Alexandria, an upset stomach in Bombay, careening through Cambodia, nasty people in China, monks in Japan–here’s a thrilling global chase that will leave you breathless (occasionally with laughter) as the Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years series begins.

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About the Author
Vasudev Murthy was born in Delhi and has meandered around the world with lengthy stopovers in Tallahassee and Dallas. His books span a variety of interests, from Indian classical music to crime fiction, humor, and business management. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India where he runs a consulting firm.

False Tongues
by Kate Charles
The Reverend Callie Anson should have learned her lesson by now: revisiting the past is seldom a good idea. But she succumbs to peer pressure and attends a reunion at her theological college in Cambridge, where she is forced to confront painful memories – and the presence of her clueless ex, Adam.

Margaret Phillips, the Principal of the college, has a chance for happiness but before she can grasp it she has to deal with her own ghosts – as well as corrosive, intrusive gossip. Both Margaret and Callie learn something about themselves, and about forgiveness, from wise retired priest John Kingsley.

Meanwhile, in London, police officers Neville Stewart and Mark Lombardi are involved with the latest stabbing of a teenager. Was the victim – gifted, popular schoolboy Sebastian Frost – all he seemed to be, or was there something in his life that led inevitably to his death? The police find themselves plunged into the queasy world of cyber-bullying, where nothing may be as it seems.

While they're apart, Callie and Mark's relationship is on hold, and his Italian family continues to be an issue. Will Mark realize, before it's too late, that while his family will always be important to him, he is entitled to something for himself?

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Kate Charles, a past Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Barbara Pym Society, is a Midwest native who has lived in England for more than twenty years. Her involvement in the Church of England has provided both backdrop and inspiration for her novels. 


Collar Robber
by Hillary Bell Locke
How can you make money from a painting that you don't own, can't steal, and couldn't fence even if you succeeded? What if you convince people you already had stolen it? 

An assortment of shady and brutal players in Collar Robber think that—leaving a corpse or two along the way—they can use that bright idea to gouge fifty-million dollars from Jay Davidovich's employer, Transoxana Insurance Company.  Davidovich, first met in 2012's Jail Coach, is a Loss Prevention Specialist. Fifty million would be a good loss to prevent.

Cynthia Jakubek from But Remember Their Names has jumped from the gilded drudgery of lawyering with a big Wall Street firm to the terrifying adventure of starting her own solo practice in Pittsburgh. One of her clients wants to help Davidovich—for a hefty price—and stay alive in the process.  Another wants to get married in the Catholic Church to a fiancĂ©e who was briefly wed years before to someone who now has an interest in the painting. An annulment is needed.

As Davidovich and Jakubek face brawls on street corners and in court rooms, confrontations in brothels, confessionals, and Yankee Stadium luxury suites, and Tasers, machine guns, and religious vestments used as weapons, they have to remember that “take no prisoners” isn’t always a metaphor…

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Hillary Bell Locke graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, worked for a prominent New York law firm, and now practices law in a city far from New York, but not under that name.

Beyond Suspicion
by Catherine A. Winn
Shelby is an average girl with the normal desires of a fifteen year old and possessed of a generosity of spirit that used to be called sweet. Shelby’s average life is rocked when her divorced Mom remarries Roger, another average man, but one who knows nothing about parenting, and treats Shelby as if she were a girl half her age living in the previous century.

Dashed expectations, some gut-wrenchingly bad parenting, a major blow-up, and the kidnapping of Shelby’s little brother Josh while under her care rock the family to breaking point.  Shelby tells the police she’s seen a white van cruising the neighborhood lately, and she thinks she saw it just before Josh disappeared as well. But to her horror, the police are not interested: Pointing to angry texts to her girlfriends about getting back at Roger for his refusal to let her attend a party, they accuse her of murdering Josh. The police focus on the woods around the park, driving Shelby wild with fear and anger that the kidnappers will get away. With TV reporters all over the front yard, Shelby sneaks out the back to find her brother, any way she can.

So begins Shelby’s race against time—and against a world that has turned on her, particularly via social media, where kids she thought were her friends call her a freak and a murderer. But Shelby finds deeper friends along the way. There’s mysterious Matt, who helps her search. And there’s Jess, who watches out for Shelby as she tracks down the kidnappers down even as they pull up stakes to leave town.

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Catherine A. Winn, a former art and elementary school teacher, lives and writes in Texas. An avid reader of all types of mysteries from cozies to thrillers, she’s found writing them to be equally thrilling. She is currently working on her next Whispering Springs mystery.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Backstage and Onstage at Bouchercon

The epic Bouchercon - Murder at the Beach is over. I think it's fair to say it was epic, in a positive sense, for almost everyone. It was for me. It was also epic in terms of how I was busy almost all day every day (as part of the organizing committee) and how I felt responsible for everything going well. The hardest part was not taking personally any criticisms I heard (I didn't hear many, thank goodness).

I was fortunate to be on a couple great panels, including one on "the setting as a character" with the winner of all awards (for the fantastic Ordinary Grace) William Kent Krueger, as well as the ever hilarious John Connolly (not to mention Mark Pryor and Julia Spencer-Fleming). I was just happy to be on the same stage as the rest of them ... but even better, I came out of it with my favorite panel photo ever (l to r: Connolly, me, Krueger, Pryor).

A close second was my selfie with Jan Burke, fellow (and actually famous) Long Beach author, before the start of our panel on research.

I was also lucky enough to moderate the closing panel featuring all the guests of honor—and believe me, there was little for me to do besides point the ship. They were all funny and warm, true pros to the end. And I was able to get a photo with my pal, Simon Wood, and the delightful Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl books (you need to read them, trust me).

A few other good memories ... sitting in the bar/atrium area, chatting with friends and watching the mystery world walk by. Standing on the empty stage at the Terrace Theater, prepping for the Anthony Awards, and wanting to belt out "Starting here, starting now..." (but resisting the urge). I did take a photo of Ingrid, the convention organizer, however, with the empty house behind her.

Other memories? Cadaver dogs in a session (they sniff out bodies or people or bones). Hanging out with my friend Rochelle Staab and Bogie (in the women's bathroom at the Sky Room).

And watching my fellow Poisoned Pen Press author Reavis Wortham cheer with a team that gave us an impromptu show in the hotel lobby. See if you can pick him out of the crowd....

Then there was the backstage look I got at the awards—the really amazing Anthony Awards for this year, which featured a crow on a beachball, for murder on the beach (a murder of crows, right?). Here's a set of them awaiting nameplates. And then there was the box of murder.

But maybe my favorite photo of all about Bouchercon actually happened a week before the event. It was taken by Brittany Murray, a staff photographer for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, and it featured me and Ingrid Willis, the event chair. We laughed through the whole photo shoot, as we reclined on a pile of books and smiled for the camera. Because it's all about the books.

See you at Bouchercon 2015!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Joy of Community (and of Being Alone)

I've been prepping for the coming week for a couple years now. I'm on the organizing committee for the annual, four-day, international mystery convention called Bouchercon, and the big week is finally here.

I'm very excited about it—in large part because I will get to spend four days with my "tribe": fellow mystery fans and writers. It's going to be a fabulous long weekend of talking about how to plot mysteries, how to improve my writing process, and how to kill people. I'll get to see friends I only see once or twice a year, and I can't wait. (Note: this is exactly how I feel when I'm getting ready to attend a big race weekend.)

But I'm also gearing up for just how exhausting it will all be. That's the downside of being an introvert. I'm not shy, and I don't dislike talking with people. But it drains me. 

By a stroke of luck, however, I'm giving myself the perfect prep for four days of 2,000 crazy mystery people. I'm spending three days almost totally alone, in a quiet, hillside retreat. I didn't actually plan this (it was a last-minute thing), but I'm soaking up the peace by sitting on a porch and counting the cars that go past (I'm up to 10 for the day).

Yes, I'm doing a little writing, blogging, emailing, and helping with last-minute Bouchercon tasks. But mostly I'm sitting, reading, and enjoying the silence. And looking at the occasional rainbow.

See you at Bouchercon!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Making Routines

I'm a creature of habit. My husband laughs at me about that. He isn't, but rather is actively processing what's around him at all times. Me? I'll stumble over shoes that are in a walkway, because I'm not looking where I'm going.

Really ... why should I look? Why should shoes ever be in a walkway?

For me, habits and routines are reassuring, because if I have and follow a routine, I don't have to remember everything I might need to pack for a trip or everything I need to do to close up the house for the night. Or where I put my keys. (Or how much coffee I have ... but that's a matter of safety for everyone around me.)

Those kinds of routines aren't so tough. If only other routines were easier to establish....

What I always struggle with are the two big, time-consuming needs, after sleep and the day job: book writing and exercise.

My typical pattern is that I develop a pattern for a couple days, weeks, or months, and then my routine is interrupted by holidays or busy times at work or other commitments. And then I need to develop the habit again.

So I'm trying again with writing. I'd gotten a good habit going for a while or doing some work every morning before going to work. Then a bunch of unusual stuff happened the last couple weeks ... and boom, no writing.

But now it's the start of November, and I know people doing NaNoWriMo. I'm not doing the full 50K-word commitment (too much going on this month), but I'm committing to half of that. My goal is to write every morning for the 45 available minutes, and then to write for just a little while in the afternoon also ... just enough to make my word-count goal and also do a little planning work for later portions of the book.

I'm hoping that a month of this will set me up with a good routine to carry me through December and January--and the completion of a first draft. Fingers crossed. Because a routine that means I bite off regular, small chunks of my next book is a lot easier to face than the idea of "I must write 80,000 words of a book."

Maybe it's all about managing the panic. And routines. I do love a good routine.

How about you all? Do routines help you? Or do you like to change things up?