The Agatha Award nominations are out — celebrate with me!

cat sleeping with tea potsThe Agatha Awards are given every May at Malice Domestic, the convention celebrating the traditional mystery. It’s always fun to see the list of nominees — and to try to read as many as I can before “the con,” so I can cast my vote.

It’s even more fun to see the list when I’m on it! “All God’s Sparrows,” my first historical short story, is nominated for Best Short Story. It was originally published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May-June 2018; it’s now available, free, on my website. The authors of the other nominated shorts have also posted their stories — it’s a tradition, because so many stories would not otherwise be available — see the links below.

In 1885 Montana Territory, “Stagecoach Mary” Fields and Sister Louisine encounter a young mother and her daughter whose plight requires an inspired intervention. Mary is a historic figure who was born in slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and moved to Montana Territory to care for the ailing Mother Superior at St. Peter’s Mission near Cascade.

I’ve got a pair of Agatha teapots, for Best Nonfiction (2011) and Best First Novel (2013) — that’s Ruff, our late kitty, lounging with them in the library window sill. But honestly, that makes me even more excited, because I know what an honor a nomination is. And I’m sure you’ll agree that the other stories are terrific — I feel like we’re all winners already.

Here’s the full list, courtesy of Malice Domestic:

Announcing the 2018 Agatha Award Nominees

Best Contemporary Novel

Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Beyond the Truth by Bruce Robert Coffin (Witness Impulse)
Cry Wolf by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

Best Historical Novel 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
The Gold Pawn by LA Chandlar (Kensington)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)
Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington)
Little Comfort by Edwin Hill (Kensington)
What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell (Level Best Books)
Curses Boiled Again by Shari Randall (St. Martin’s)

Best Short Story

“All God’s Sparrows” by Leslie Budewitz (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“A Postcard for the Dead” by Susanna Calkins in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)
“Bug Appetit” by Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
“The Case of the Vanishing Professor” by Tara Laskowski (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Best Children’s/YA Mystery

Potion Problems (Just Add Magic) by Cindy Callaghan (Aladdin)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Henry Holt)
A Side of Sabotage by C.M. Surrisi (Carolrhoda Books)

Best Nonfiction

Mastering Plot Twists by Jane Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J Cohen (Orange Grove Press)
Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (Random House)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)
Wicked Women of Ohio by Jane Ann Turzillo (History Press)


The Agatha Awards will be presented on May 4, 2019 
during Malice Domestic 31.  

(Picture of “Stagecoach Mary” Fields courtesy of the Montana Historical Society.)

The Saturday Writing Post — the spark

Spark: How Creativity Works A few weeks ago, I read Spark: How Creativity Works, by Julie Burstein (Harper Collins, 2011), based on interviews broadcast by Public Radio’s Studio 360 program, conducted by Kurt Andersen and produced by Burstein. Subjects included novelists, poets, filmmakers photographers, painters, an architect, and others. This month, I’ll quote a few of my favorite observations.

“Lots of things I choose to write about, inevitably they’re something I’ve known about for years but that for some reason or another never migrated into my imagination as something I could use. You could also say that the pantry was getting bare, and I was looking back behind the first row of cans. For me, even if they’re not cataclysmic events—9/11 for instance—events around me have to settle into the ground and then percolate back up through my feet.”

— novelist Richard Ford

The Saturday Writing Quote — the habit of persistence

Get going, I’ve been telling you this month, but just as important: Don’t stop!

“People who want to write either do it or they don’t… my most important talent – or habit – was persistence. Without it, I would have given up writing long before I finished my first novel. It’s amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up.”

— Octavia E. Butler, American science fiction writer (1947-2006)

The Saturday Writing Quote — a month to get started

Get started. Get going. Pick up the pen or brush, the guitar or camera. Who cares if your first effort or your first hundred stink? Sentence by sentence, line by note by image, you’ll get better. You’ll connect with your tools and your subject, and most importantly, your heart and creative spirit.

The rest of this month, the quotes will focus on getting started.

“You’re going to write a lot fewer songs, fewer poems, fewer books if you sit around and wait for a bolt of lightning. I think you should put a pencil in your hand, put the guitar on your lap and get to work.”

— Musician and songwriter Jeff Tweedy, on NPR, Nov 11, 2018

Lilypad photo by my friend Brooke


The Saturday Writing Quote — on finding joy in the work

“In a way, regaining the joy in writing is nothing more complicated than getting out of your own life and taking a vacation in the world of your story. That’s not so hard. It only takes ten deep breaths. It’s as simple as a walk down to the harbor. It may not seem that there is time for that. If you feel so, let me ask you this: Is there anything more important to do with the next two minutes than to nurture your soul and dream your story’s dream?”

— Don Maass, literary agent, teacher, and writer, on Writer Unboxed, 9/5/18

The Saturday Writing Quote — on magic and hope

I’ll end this month of focusing on the sense of hope inherent in any act of creativity with a line from one of today’s most inventive artists.

“To engender empathy and create a world using only words is the closest thing we have to magic.”

— Lin-Manuel Miranda

I wish you much magic in the year to come, in your studio and beyond. 

The Saturday Writing Quote — on magic and hope

Creative work — no matter what the medium — challenges us to dig deeply into life, into our experiences both our own and not our own. To think and feel deeply, and share our findings through our work.

“People are primarily motivated by a sense of meaning. We want to lead a good life. How do you live a good life if you haven’t thought deeply about life?”
– David Brooks, columnist and speaker, speaking at the University of Montana, 9/10/18, quoted in The Missoulian 

(Photo by Rebecca Bauder)