Time to celebrate a new book!

Guilty as Cinnamon

What a crazy year this has been! By year’s end, I will have finished three books, and published three—and taken on the wonderful, daunting responsibility of serving as president of Sisters in Crime. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride!

GUILTY AS CINNAMON, second in the Spice Shop Mysteries, arrives this week, on Tuesday. Here’s the scoop, from the cover:

Pepper Reece knows that fiery flavors are the spice of life. But when a customer dies of a chili overdose, she finds herself in hot pursuit of a murderer…

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Springtime in Seattle’s Pike Place Market means tasty foods and wide-eyed tourists, and Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop is ready for the crowds. With flavorful combinations and a fresh approach, she’s sure to win over the public. Even better, she’s working with several local restaurants as their chief herb and spice supplier. Business is cooking, until one of Pepper’s potential clients, a young chef named Tamara Langston, is found dead, her life extinguished by the dangerously hot ghost chili—a spice Pepper carries in her shop.

Now stuck in the middle of a heated police investigation, Pepper must use all her senses to find out who wanted to keep Tamara’s new café from opening—before someone else gets burned…

You can find the book at all the usual outlets, including your local independents and several locations in Western Montana. Links here, on my webpage, along with an excerpt.

Events: I’ll be signing all my mysteries and chatting about books this Friday, December 4, at Think Local in downtown Kalispell, from 5-8 pm, as part of the Kalispell Holiday Art Walk, and Saturday, December 5 at Fact & Fiction in downtown Missoula, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, as part of the annual Author Extravaganza!

tea infuserBlogs and giveaways: On Monday, November 30, I’m participating in a blog hop starting Club Hen House, the blog of Henery Press, which publishes WRITES OF PASSAGE, the award-winning SinC anthology that I’m part of. More than two dozen authors are participating, with fun posts and giveaways. My offering? This adorable gingerbread man tea infuser—something I’m sure you could find at Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop!

On Tuesday, release day, I’ll be celebrating in two places, at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, where I’ll be sharing a recipe from GUILTY AS CINNAMON and giving one lucky reader a signed copy. I’ll also be a guest of the delightful Jungle Red Writers, talking about the memories triggered by what I’ve found in old books, and offering a signed copy of the new book and a tea infuser!


On Thursday, Dec 3, I’ll be interviewed at Wicked Cozy Authors, a super-fun group of New England writers, about Sisters in Crime and its impact on my career.

On Friday, Dec 4, I’ll be sharing spice trivia at Lori’s Reading Corner, where my publisher will be offering a copy of GUILTY AS CINNAMON.

And CINNAMON is one of the featured titles for December at BookBitch, where Stacy Alesi and the members of International Thriller Writers team up for a month-long giveaway of signed books!

I hope you’ll join me this week as this writing adventure continues, and remember, keep it spicy! 

The Saturday Writing Quote — on story, continued


“Because gossip often places people at the center of attention, it also, at least temporarily, enhances their status with others. This may explain why gossipmongers come from the most isolated, least popular members of a group. After all, they are the ones who most need something to make them socially acceptable.”

— Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke, “Gossip: The Inside Scoop,” in Dimensions of Language 92, 94 (Boyd H. Davis ed., 1993) (via Bryan Garner’s daily blog on usage)

Thinking about crowdfunding? Think first about the legal issues

Kickstarter. GoFundMe. Fundable. IndieGoGo. Donors Choose. Kiva. With each new crowdfund website I hear about, I wonder about some of the legal issues involved — and what the effect might be on individual artists and writers who fall afoul. Dan Lear’s blog post for the NW Lawyer, the Washington State Bar blog, Advising a Crowdfunded Creater: Avoiding Bob Ferguson’s Wrath, identifies some of the legal issues for creators who meet their fundraising goals but fail to follow through. Ferguson, the Washington State AG, and his office recently won a $50,000 fine against a creator funded through Kickstarter who failed to provide the promised goodies. The post is aimed at lawyers, but includes some tips for creators, and links to the cautionary tale.

I know you’ll never fail to keep your promises. But maybe one of your characters does, or gets in trouble using a crowdfunding source to raise capital for a business, which involves a whole other set of issues and regulations, or to raise money for litigation. It’s an area ripe for conflict, which makes it ripe for story.

I also spotted these articles or guides on crowdfunding for individuals, such as writers or artists. Do note, I’m providing these links to help you understand the issues; I do not vouch for the info provided, I am not providing legal advice, and reading this blog does not create a lawyer-client relationship — if you’ve got legal questions about crowdfunding, or heaven forbid, a problem, consult a lawyer in your own state who has the appropriate knowledge!

Legally Speaking, It Depends – Crowdfunding Legal and Business Issues, from Script Magazine, May 2014

Kickstarter Legal Guide, from a Portland OR law firm

The Problems and Promises of Crowdfunding, from Forbes Magazine, July 2013


The Saturday Writing Quote — on story

leslie reading

“Stories are about how we deal with the unexpected. And when that happens, your protagonist would instantly and innately call up her own subjective narrative – that is, her past life experience – to figure out what the hell to do.”

Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed, 10/8/15


(Leslie reading The Bobbsey Twins, ca. 1968.)

My excellent weekend — the New England Crime Bake

SinCI’ve always wanted to go a clam bake—you know, where they roast clams and lobsters and other fun stuff in a fire on a beach, and you pick up sea shells and drink beer and slather butter on every food in sight. The crime fiction equivalent is the New England Crime Bake, co-sponsored by the New England chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. The SinC-NE chapter invited me to the fourteenth annual weekend workshop, as the national president, while MWA-NE welcomed my counterpart, Executive VP Donna Andrews. It was a weekend filled with energy, creativity, inspiration, practical advice, and just plain fun.

I’m only a month into this SinC president gig, so it may be early to call something a highlight, but this will definitely be on the short list!

elizabethandleslie-300x199The guest of honor was the great Elizabeth George—whom I first met 16 years ago when she taught an intensive mystery writing workshop at Book Passage Bookstore outside of San Francisco. (That’s where I met my friends Leann Sweeney, Deborah Lacey, and Tim Wohlforth, all now busy writing, publishing, and otherwise staying active in the mystery world!) In her honor, the weekend had a British theme.

Crime Bake debutsFriday afternoon began with master classes, including Elizabeth talking about beginnings, Barb Ross on Revision, Janet Reid on querying, Gayle Lynds on thrillers, and Steve Kelner on motivation. That evening, after a pizza party and more sessions, came a welcome reception with desserts, and the main event, the celebration of TWENTY-TWO attendees whose first books had been published in the year since the last Crime Bake. Donna and I did the honors, introducing the authors and giving them lovely blue ribbons they sported all weekend! Later, an episode of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries aired.

SinC NE board meeting

Saturday, I joined the SinC-NE board for their breakfast meeting. It’s an impressive chapter, and I was delighted to learn more about their activities and their plans.

Unlike the fan conventions, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, or Malice Domestic, which bring readers and writers together, Crime Bake is for writers. Programming was practical, and dealt with the daily realities of getting our stories on to the page. Attendees have opportunities to craft and deliver pitches to agents and editors, and to have a partial manuscript critiqued by a published author. I moderated a panel titled A Traitor to Memory: Writing about the Past — all the panels were named for one of Elizabeth’s books — featuring historical mystery authors Kathy Lynn Emerson, Dorothy Cannell, Mary Lawrence, and Jim Benn. This was Mary’s first conference as a published author, and her first panel ever—what a pleasure to share in the nervous excitement! I read a book by each author, and I can tell you, if you love historicals, these are all great fun—and beautiful illustrations of why the historical mystery is more popular than ever.

Over lunch, Julie Hennrikus, SInC-NE co-chair and national board member, who writes as Julianne Holmes, interviewed Elizabeth. I have always loved Elizabeth’s books, and been impressed by how methodical she is in her planning—as she says, getting the craft in place so when she begins writing, she’s made room for the art.

Another excellent and useful session: Ask the Experts, a drop-in session where writers can run their scenarios and questions by experts in law (me), death investigation, law enforcement, and audio books.

That evening at the banquet, many attendees dressed up as characters from British mysteries. Donna, Margery Flax of MWA, and I were the contest judges. Most Original? Clearly the couple dressed as the Edward Gorey characters from Masterpiece Theater — she even had the moan down. Best Couple or Group, though they may not have intended to a be group: the Hogwarts Contingent, including Hank Phillippi Ryan as Beatrix LeStrange and her husband Jonathan Shapiro as Dumbledore, and Nikki Bonanni as Harry Potter. Most British? A tie between Amelia Peabody, with a mummified cat, and QE2, with a stuffed Corgi.

For dour New Englanders, these people do like to have fun. The Flashwords contest was particularly clever: Write a 150 word flash story using at least ten words from Elizabeth’s titles—not counting a or the. You know, easy-to-use words like consequences, vengeance, and deception. The winners read their pieces out loud, some surprisingly funny. (You can read them all, including mine, which wasn’t eligible for a prize, on the Crime Bake website.)

Sunday sessions included two writer-cops updating us on the profession, in a fun and useful way—they’d also staged a mock crime scene for writers to investigate and solve over the weekend—and an expert in cyber crime, a hilariously funny man with absolutely horrifying information to share. In the wrap-up session, Hank interviewed four authors of how-to books for writers: Elizabeth, Hallie Ephron, Kathy Lynn Emerson, and Paula Munier.

Wicked Cozy lunchThe Wicked Cozy Authors have all become good friends of mine over the last couple of years, and each was at the Crime Bake. I joined 6 of them for lunch Sunday, as the token northwesterner. (Jule Hennrikus, Sherry Harris, me, Barb Ross, Sheila Connolly, Liz Mugavero, and Jessie Crockett. Photo by Jessie’s husband!)

I forget to take photos, but here’s a raft and another raft of them from the Wickeds, and more from official photographer Mo Walsh on the Crime Bake memories page.

I came home energized and eager to write, as I’m sure all the attendees did. This is a terrific writers conference, and I recommend it to anyone serious about writing crime fiction. Next year’s conference is November 11-13, 2016, with guest of honor William Kent Krueger, whose Ordinary Grace remains high on my list of great reads. Kent’s from northern Minnesota, so I’m picturing the costumes: lots of plaid shirts and camo, half a dozen Paul Bunyans, maybe even a fish or two. After all, it is a crime bake.

(Photos by Mo Walsh.)

The Saturday Writing Quote — on story

IMGP2188“Narrative is our internal attempt to figure out how the external world works, and—most importantly—why people do the things they do, the better to not get clobbered for saying the wrong thing. Story isn’t what happens, externally; story is how we make sense of what happens, internally.”
Lisa Cron, on Writer Unboxed, 10/8/15

Law & Fiction — a few recent discoveries

The “law” half of this blog has been fairly quiet recently. My apologies; I’m not as good at splitting myself in two (or more) personalities as I ought to be! I’ve come across a couple of articles recently that I thought worth sharing, even without a full blog post on the topics.

What happens when a person dies alone, without close friends or relatives, and not under a doctor’s care? This NY Times story, The Lonely Death of George Bell, describes the detailed process undertaken by the NYC Public Administrator and its agents and investigators. Other cities and counties follow a similar process, though not always so thorough.

I’ve written before about houses where crimes occurred, and the obligations of a seller or real estate broker to disclose murders on the premises — “When Crime Taints a House,” and “Ghostly Tenants and the Duty to Disclose.”  Now, there’s an app for that. (Hat tip to Seattle Mystery Bookshop.) “Died In House” tracks confirmed deaths by residential address, using obits, news accounts, and other searches. Many buyers want to know, and not just because they’re afraid of ghosts or because stigma can lower the price or make resale tricky. State laws on disclosure vary, and enforcement is difficult, so where there’s a gap, there’s an app.

I’ve also written about girls in the justice system. The Washington State Bar blog presents an in-the-courts-and-trenches view about girl-focused reform.