Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Animals in Mysteries

I’ve been thinking about this in connection with the Fat Cat book I’m writing. There’s Quincy (the adorable, clever, and handsome, but pudgy cat), of course. But I’ve added a rascally parrot for variety. I wonder if I should include another kind of animal for the third Fat Cat book. I know, you haven’t read any of them because the first one, FAT CAT AT LARGE, comes out in September.

For the same reason, to have something out of the ordinary, I gave Nancy Drew Duckworthy a pet pig. A certain reader has been pressing me to add a goat to their menagerie, but I’m not quite convinced yet. I AM planning a pack of wild Chihuahuas. It’s too bad I haven’t written that book yet, because it turns out that Phoenix is having a problem with them, for real. I’m too late for that to be original!

Besides cats and dogs, what animals do you like to see in a mystery? Have you written about any unusual ones? I consider anything besides a cat and dog to be unusual.

All photos from

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's all relative

I guess you’ve heard that an asteroid missed us a couple of days ago. It missed by two million miles. That sounds like a lot, except that most things in space are light years away. One light year is equal to this many miles: 5.87849981 × 1012 miles. I’m not even sure how to say that. So two million is pretty close!

So many people have been so cold this year. But you haven’t been this cold. In Oymyakon, you can’t wear glasses outside because they’ll freeze to your face. Everyone has outhouses because the plumbing doesn’t work!

Even 20 below doesn’t seem cold compared to what these people live with, an average temperature of minus 58 F. 

In real life, extremes aren’t all that good. Nice, medium temperatures and nice, even temperaments are the easiest to deal with.

However, in fiction, that’s dull fare! The asteroid just missing earth (better still to miss by 50 miles) and the extreme cold (maybe without adequate clothing for an intrepid hero or heroine) make people keep reading, don’t they? It’s all about tension and danger. 

That’s why it’s essential to make fictional people bigger than life, more extreme, more out there. It took me a long time to learn this, but what’s a long time? It’s all relative.

photos from

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Murder in the Magic City AND on the Menu

Last weekend, I attended these two sister mystery conferences in Alabama. Murder in the MagicCity, sponsored by the Sisters in Crime group in Birmingham, meets in the huge Rockwood Library meeting room.  Twenty-three authors were featured on panels and signings. We were fed extremely well and chauffeured around by cheerful, willing locals. The event was well-attended by eager book lovers.
Saturday group by Steve Herring

short story panel: me, Tony P. Kelner, Paula Benson, Jim Jackson (Denise Swanson & Bert Goolsby not pictured)

Signing with Tony P. Kelner
The huge advantage of a meeting this size was the opportunity to get to know almost all the authors a little bit better. The pace was relaxed compared to Malice Domestic, where everything seems to start at around 7 AM.

On Sunday, most of us stayed and were driven to the neighboring town of Wetumpka, for Murder on the Menu. The audience was served lunch and got to chat with the authors between our panels. This event was put on by the library association and located in the civic center. It had a great attendance, too.

Wetumpka Civic Center

Location panel, Mike Orenduff in foreground, Brynn Bonner, Paula Benson, me, Robert Dugoni, Jaden Terrell

signing with Dee Phelps and Bert Goolsby

It’s a twin conference well worth considering!

group photo by Steve Herring
other photos by Bob Witchger

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Third Agatha Nom!

I’m beyond thrilled to announce that DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel of 2013!!! Thanks so much to my faithful readers for making this happen.

The announcement by Malice Domestic is here.

This vindication is especially sweet because I had a very difficult time getting this book published at all. Agent after agent told me they loved the book, some even said they liked what I had done with Neanderthals better than what Jane Auel had done. BUT, each and every one said they had no idea how to sell it.

I had worked VERY hard on this book and it was breaking my heart that, maybe, it would never find a publisher. I could always self-publish, of course, but that would doom it to relative obscurity.

Then, one night I was lamenting its fate on Facebook and Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads contacted me saying he’d like to see it. They had already published a few of my short stories, so he knew my writing. I had worked my way through every possible agent, but hadn’t started on small presses yet. Untreed accepted it!

Then, the unbelievable happened. It won a nomination, my third for the Agathas. (My first was for Best Short Story and my second was Best First Novel, so three different categories.)

I’m not even sure this IS historical since it takes place before there was history. Prehistory is what it really is, but this category is just fine with me!

Again, if you’re reading this and you had a hand in this nomination, thanks from the bottom of my heart--I love you!

I love my publisher, too! Here is some of what my publisher is doing for me:

How cool is that?