Why You Should Attend the Writers’ Police Academy – #WPA2016

WPA 2016If you write mystery or crime fiction, or romantic suspense, or anything where bad stuff happens, you need to know about police procedure and investigation, forensics, arson investigation, how PTSD affects law enforcement officers, emergency response teams, and all that stuff.

The best way to learn, hands down, is the Writers’ Police Academy, founded and run by Lee and Denene Lofland, with major sponsorship from Sisters in Crime. As you can tell from the photo, tThey make sitting in the BACK of a police car something to GRIN about!

The 2016 WPA was held at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College outside of Green Bay, home to a terrific law enforcement training academy. It’s a hands-on, action-packed weekend. A few of the topics covered: Arson investigation; Asian and Native gangs; the Steven Avery investigation; ballistics; blood spatter (surprisingly popular!), courtroom testimony, common mistakes writers make about the law (I taught that one), death scene investigation, defense and arrest tactics, PTSD, drug ID, explosives, fire 101, force on force room clearing, forensic art, poisons, police talk, private investigation, undercover work, and more.

Hands-on sessions included driving, shooting, a shoot-don’t shoot scenario, and defense tactics. Each day, real-life scenarios were played out in front of us—a fatality collision, a stabbing on campus—so we could see who responded and what they did. The drone demo was great, and I’ll tell you, the SWAT armored vehicle is huge!

WPA 2016 2My personal favorite was the PIT maneuver driving class. I did it! I intentionally hit and spun another car! (Not easy for a personal injury lawyer to do that, but the instructor, Colleen Belongea, absolutely rocks!)

For perspective from other writers who attended, check out these blog posts:

Jessica Ellis Laine: Top Ten Reasons I Love the Writers’ Police Academy

Stacy Green: Writers Need the WPA Because Readers Are Smart

Terry O’Dell: Why Writers’ Police Academy? (This woman is serious—she’s attended 5 of the 8 WPAs!)

WPA Banquet photo #1I had a great time meeting so many Sisters in Crime—more than two-thirds of the attendees are members—and am gratified to know how valuable the experience is for Sisters, and others. (Banquet photo by Ohio Sister Jan Irvin.)

 

Planning for the 2017 WPA is underway. Watch the WPA website-–registration will open in February 2017.

Receiving “The Raven” and Celebrating the Traditional Mystery

Malice 2016 Raven

I’m just back from an amazing trip — two trips in one, to New York and Bethesda, MD, just outside Washington, D.C. Sisters in Crime received the Mystery Writers of America’s Raven Award for “outstanding achievement in the mystery field, outside the realm of creative writing,” and as the current president, I was honored to accept the award at MWA’s Edgars Awards dinner last Thursday in New York. 

MWA 2016 with Catriona and SaraWhen I arrived at Malice at noon Friday, a board member greeted me by saying, “I heard you kicked ass.” Well, maybe, in a sparkling navy gown, black kitten heels, and a purloined necklace. So, since I’ve been asked for the acceptance speech, here it is — and here I am with immediate past president Catriona McPherson and past president/founding mother Sara Paretsky.

UPDATE: There’s video! Watch it at your own risk!

Thank you.

This award is a tribute to the vision that a roomful of women crime writers had nearly 30 years ago, and it’s a most fabulous prelude to our birthday celebration, which we’re beginning this fall. That it comes from our partners in crime makes it especially fitting, and especially wonderful.

This award also acknowledges all the officers, chapter leaders, and members who have made Sisters in Crime a true sisterhood, and who have done the hard work of bringing about change – bettering the lives and careers of all crime writers, because when women prosper we all prosper.

And in that spirit, I would like to ask everyone in the room who is a member of Sisters in Crime, including our brothers in crime, to please stand, and let me thank you.

And to the rest of you, we can take care of that.

I’d like to thank the past presidents and current board members here tonight:
Sara Paretsky, past president and a founding mother,
Margaret Maron, past president,
Catriona McPherson, immediate past president,
and Lori Roy, our treasurer.

I also want to acknowledge our Executive Director, Beth Wasson, who is not here tonight. She will be at Malice Domestic this weekend, so if you’re headed down there, please congratulate her when you see her. Sisters would not be what it is without her.

Of course, there is still work to be done.

When a man says he won’t read a book by a woman, there is work to be done.

When a bestselling male author says from the stage at a major writers convention that women cannot write thrillers, there is work to be done.

And when there are white readers, some of them writers, who can’t tell you when they last read a book by an author of color, there is work to be done.

And so, we will continue doing the work for the next 30 years, and more.

Thank you for giving us the wings.

 (I’ll tell you more about the rest of the trip, including the weekend at the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention later this week.)

 

Wrapping up the CINNAMON fun

IMGP2110Thanks to all of you for celebrating with me the release of GUILTY AS CINNAMON, and for making it so much fun!

This week, I’ll be at the Fresh Fiction blog, revealing my 10 Favorite Things About Seattle — or at least, my 10 top faves on the day I wrote the post! I think the publisher is offering a giveaway, so check it out!

And speaking of giveaways, the Book Bitch’s December giveaway runs through Dec 31. Enter for a chance to win 4 signed books — GUILTY AS CINNAMON, TRICKY TWENTY-TWO by Janet Evanovitch, and the latest from Lawrence Block and the trio who write the winemaking detective mysteries, set in France!

Untitled-5A couple of guest blogs are still waiting in the wings, including one on what I’ve been reading recently — I’ll let you know when it’s up. And I’ll post a list of some favorite reads from the past year shortly.

Many of you have sent me kind notes, by email or on Facebook, saying how much you enjoyed GUILTY AS CINNAMON. I’m so happy! Would you please take a few minutes and post a short review on Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N.com? Your help can make a difference in how the recommendation algorithms work, and in helping other readers find my books. THANK YOU!

IMGP2188And now, life returns to normal. I’m working on the fourth Food Lovers’ Village mystery, still unnamed, and expecting edits on the third Seattle Spice Shop Mystery, KILLING THYME (October 2016), and the cover any day now. I’m working on a couple of other projects as well, along with this blog, and my regular gigs at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen (1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays) and Killer Characters (the 27th of the month.) We’re working on several new projects at Sisters in Crime. And I hope to get out and enjoy that snow — or maybe stay inside and curl up with a good book.

Thanks for joining me! Keep it spicy!

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!

SinC

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! 

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.)