Celebrate with me! Release Day for Treble at the Jam Fest

leslie budewitz's treble at the jam festOh, look, a book! By me! You may be used to it by now, but if it ever stops thrilling me, it will be time to hang up my pen — or my keyboard!

TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, #4 in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, officially launches today, from Midnight Ink, in trade paperback and e-book. Watch for the audio book later this summer.

From the cover:  Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

If you shop online, here are the links:
IndieBound
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Fact & Fiction 

If you shop in person, you can find TREBLE and my other books in Whitefish at Bookworks, in Kalispell at the Bookshelf, Montana Marie (formerly Think Local), and the Hockaday Art Center, in Missoula at Fact & Fiction, Shakespeare & Co, and Barnes & Noble, and in Bigfork at Roma’s Kitchen Shop, Bay Books, and the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center.

And here’s where I’ll be this summer, live events and blog tour stops–posts about the book and writing life, interviews, reviews, and the occasional giveaway! And remember, you can find me and a recipe at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays, and on Killer Characters on the 27th of each month.

Thanks for being part of the fun! And remember, wherever you go this summer, be sure to take a good book!

Let the music play — Treble at the Jam Fest is on the way!

leslie budewitz's treble at the jam festAfter a short break, Erin and the villagers return on June 8, in TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, the 4th Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, from Midnight Ink (trade paperback and e-book; audio later this summer).

When the body of an internationally renowned guitarist is found on the banks of the river outside town during the annual Jewel Bay Jazz Festival, Erin investigates to protect the community, and keep the music playing.

More details, and an excerpt, on my website.

I’ve got a lot of fun planned, and I hope you’ll join me along the way—in person, or on the screen. Here’s where I’ll be live:

Wed June 7, 2017, 7 pm, Tattered Cover, Aspen Grove (Denver) Book talk and signing

Thurs June 8, 2017, 7 pm, Rocky Mountain chapter, Mystery Writers of America (Denver) CADA (see RM-MWA website for specifics)
Common mistakes fiction writers make about the law

Sat June 10, 2017, 5:30 Bigfork Art & Cultural Center
Celebrate the new book in the hometown!

Tues June 13, 2017, 7 pm Fact & Fiction, Missoula
Whitefish mystery writer Christine Carbo and I celebrate our new books together!

Thurs June 15, 2017, noon Seattle Mystery Bookshop
Signing and chatting, with Martin Walker, author of the Bruno mysteries! 

Thurs June 15, 2017, 7 pm Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park (Seattle)
Book talk and signing

Saturday, July 1, 2:00 Montana Book & Toy Co., Helena
Signing and chatting about mystery!

Sat-Sun, August 5-6, 2017 Bigfork Festival of the Arts
Celebrating and signing, in the Village!

And join me on line for a great blog tour–posts about the book and writing life, interviews, reviews, and the occasional giveaway! And remember, you can find me and a recipe at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays, and on Killer Characters on the 27th of each month.

June 6 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

June 6 – Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder – REVIEW

June 6 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

June 7 — Cozy Wednesday on Escape with Dollycas — talking about music festivals

June 7 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 7 – A Cozy Experience – REVIEW

June 8 — Dru’s Book Musings — A Day in the Life of guitar phenom Gabby Drake

June 8 – I Wish I Lived in a Library – REVIEW

June 8 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST

June 9 — Mysteristas – interview

June 9 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

June 9 – Books,Dreams,Life – SPOTLIGHT

June 10 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

June 10 – Bookworm Cafe – SPOTLIGHT

June 11 – 3 Partners  in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT

June 11 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 12 – Author Annette Drake’s blog – INTERVIEW

June 12 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 13 – Books Direct – GUEST POST

June 13 – Queen of All She Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 14 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

June 14 – Deal Sharing Aunt – INTERVIEW

June 15 – Classy Cheapskate – REVIEW

June 15 – Cassidy’s Bookshelves – GUEST POST

June 16 – Varietats – REVIEW

June 16 – Teresa Trent Author Site – SPOTLIGHT

June 17 –  Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW

June 18 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW

June 19 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 19 – My Journey Back – REVIEW

Wherever your summer takes you, be sure to take a good book!

Murder on the Nile — The Continued Influence of Agatha Christie

A few weeks ago, I was asked to introduce the Bigfork Community Players’ production of “Murder on the Nile,” Agatha Christie’s stage play based on her book, Death on the Nile. That got me thinking about Dame Agatha’s continued influence on readers and writers. The play is great fun—different from both book and movie—and it was a delight to be a part of the show for a night. My comments:

Thank you.

I’m Leslie Budewitz, author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in a fictional version of Bigfork, and the Seattle Spice Shop mysteries.

When Karen Koler asked me to join the fun tonight, we chatted a bit about the play, and our amazement at how widely read – and watched – Agatha Christie remains today.

And that got me thinking about Agatha Christie and her continued influence on mystery writers and readers.

For many of us, her books were the gateway into adult literature. When we’d had enough of Nancy Drew, we gravitated naturally to Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and my favorites, Tommy and Tuppence. I still remember buying my first Agatha Christie, a paperback, in a dime store in Burlington IA when I was ten or twelve. With my own money. I read it by the pool and begged my mother to let me go back and buy more.

Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and died in 1976. She wrote 75 novels, not all of them mysteries, 100 short stories, more than a dozen plays – some based on her novels, and two autobiographies. She was also a prolific diarist. I’m pleased to have won two Agatha Awards, named for the great lady herself, for nonfiction and best first novel. The year I was nominated for Best Nonfiction, one of the other nominees was John Curran, a Brit who’s written two books looking at her secret notebooks, where she sketched out her plots and character ideas, and occasionally wrote the first drafts of her short stories. Her books are still bestsellers, and her plays still draw crowds.

Why?

Because she was first and foremost a tremendous storyteller. John Curran attributes that in part to her unconventional education. She also had a tremendous curiosity about the world. She traveled widely with her mother, with her first husband, an army officer, and with her second, an archaeologist. Those trips inspired several novels, including Murder on the Orient Express. Her trip to Egypt was no doubt the spark for her 1934 short story called “Death on the Nile,” featuring Parker Pyne, one of her lesser-known detectives. She then expanded it into the 1937 novel, featuring Hercule Poirot, and later adapted it for the stage as Murder on the Nile, making significant changes along the way.

She wrote what are typically called traditional or cozy mysteries, where a murder happens in a discrete, defined community, and has a deep ripple effect. The murder disrupts the community, and a surprise – even though one happens in every book. The murder must be solved not only for justice to prevail, but to restore the community, and help the individuals get their lives back on track – something we’ll see in this story.

She also created highly memorable detectives. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are instantly recognizable. They’re both intriguing, he for his experiences, and she for her astuteness despite her apparent lack of experience. That nosy village woman lurks in many of us, and she’s the inspiration for so many modern amateur sleuths, including my own.

Both Miss Marple and Poirot were typically outsiders, although Miss Marple did occasionally investigate an incident in her own village, St. Mary Mead, and that outsider status gave them the ability to see things and make connections others – including the police – couldn’t see. That’s very much an element of the modern traditional mystery, as is the counselor or sounding board role that each often played.

Some of her secondary characters feel like cliches now, but I think that’s the result of time and imitation. She did a brilliant job giving her minor characters the telling details that made them come alive. She also used our assumptions about certain types of characters against us, such as our belief in the innocence of a caring doctor or a devoted child.

We also love her intricate plots. She often recycled plots, or wrote variations of them, which the very prolific can do. The mystery writer Robert Barnard wrote that she could use the same trick a second time – and still fool us. She hid clues in plain sight, and she was a master of the red herring. In fact, we’ll see tonight how she used misdirection to make us think one thing while something entirely different was going on.

She was daring, as anyone who’s read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd will remember, but I won’t say anything more, for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

I admire her ability to create a world. Tonight, we’ll feel ourselves part of the group on the cruise, and feel the friendships and tensions that develop. She had an uncanny eye and ear for the subtle conflicts between people, and as one writer friend pointed out, her subtle hints of inappropriate sexual obsession were way ahead of time. Morality is a recurring theme in her work.

She had wit. The same friend recalls her describing a character’s eyes as the color of “boiled gooseberries.” My friend had no idea what a gooseberry was, but the image totally painted a picture.

And she’s inspired modern day authors quite literally. There’s a mystery set a conference on Christie’s work, another hypothesizing that she wrote a long-lost play during her mysterious 1926 disappearance, and another involving a Golden Age of Mystery book club, structured like her novels. In my books, I use a Cast of Characters, as she often did, as a way to help readers remember who’s who, but also as another form of storytelling.

Dame Agatha remains popular because her stories still tell us something about human nature, and because they’re fun.

I’ll be in the lobby at intermission and after the show, chatting about mysteries – both Dame Agatha’s and my own. And I do have books and bookmarks available.

Thank you – and enjoy your trip down the Nile.

(Thanks to Art Taylor and his article in the Washington Independent Review of Books for the origins of “Murder on the Nile,” and to my friend Ellen Byron for sharing her memories and observations.)

 

Word Scramble — the results

Guilty as Cinnamon

On my Facebook Author page in late December, we played a game of Word Scramble, seeing how many words of three letters or more we could make from the title, GUILTY AS CINNAMON. My readers have proven they are smart and funny!

Here’s the list, as of December 27. If you find a new one, let me know in the comments!

(Yes, there are some duplicates, and some words that could be made plurals. And since this isn’t Scrabble, I did allow well-known proper names!)

 

Ugly
Man
Not
Gin
Can
Yam
Gilt
Glam
Minnion
Caning
Taming
Moan
Colt
Tug
Tin
Tan
Not
Nut
Sin
Son
Sit
Gut
Guy
Tiny
Mug
Monty
Say
Sat
Salty
Lint
Nil
Tinny
Moaning
Malt
Snug
Snit
Loan
Silt
Slit
Guilt
Silty
musty
must
sunny
Sing
gaming
taming
Mug
salt
salting
salty
cling
Clingy
Lust
lusty
Santa
long
Along
multi
yin
yang
mint
minty
minting
last
lasting
Minty
ASCII
nasty
mist
misty
Mangy
Manly
minus
music
maul
gas
canon
cannon
Moan
Mountain
Gamut
Minion
Saint
Mosaic
Malt
Cast
Slant
slanty
Stir
Mincing
Lit
List
scald
Gun
Cast
Stay
Stamina
Nasty
Guy
Manic
Salmon
nominal
lost
gist
cyst
manna
Yanni
Stalin
Clinton
most
mast
talon
salon
coast
long
clang
Lint
Loan
Litmus
tam
Glint
tiny
slimy
sling
mango
scam
scan
mount
cunning
Magic
Magi
Cast
Coma
Tug
Nanny
Among
coil
slug
nominal
oil
nail
cyan
Yam
Naming
Manila
cumin
cult
Slam
Glut
Canny
column
slot
Gusty
lug
slug
Talcum
clog
CAT
canning
lama
clam
gloat
Manic
nag
nog
snog
Nougat
Spicy
Toning
Canning
Conning
cunning
Mount
Omit
Aiming
Mainly
Molt
molting
Limn
annoys
lumin
luminous
mining
icy
icon
nylon
inane
Slim
gam
cling
yum

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!

The CINNAMON Celebration Continues!

IMGP2086Cold and wet and downright yucky outside these days, but your comments and notes have me feeling all warm and fuzzy. My favorite note this past week has to be the Facebook post from the reader who said she bought GUILTY AS CINNAMON on Tuesday, release day, only to have her sister snatch it up. “Please write books my sister doesn’t like so much,” she pleaded.

Well. I love my readers, but I’m not going to promise THAT!

 

Untitled-5The reviews are delicious! I hope you’ll let me share a few quotes from reviews. Suspense Magazine will review CINNAMON in an upcoming issue. The reviewer calls it “s a zesty mix of a mystery with all the right ingredients to keep readers turning pages as quickly as possible. Delicious!”

The Open Book Society’s reviewer calls CINNAMON “[w]itty and at times intense,” saying “[t]he author’s love for the Seattle Marketplace, cozy mysteries, cooking, and spices comes through every page.” “The plot is rich with as many twists and turns as the alleys in the Marketplace, one that kept this reader revising her suspect list with each new twist. … The author has flawlessly executed a plot that had many twists and interrelationships I could not have anticipated. The main characters have a depth this reader also would not have anticipated in a relatively young series; I can’t wait for the next one to see how much better it will get!  I highly recommend ‘Guilty as Cinnamon’ to foodies who enjoy exploring new tastes and ideas (with many recipes included), cozy mystery lovers who appreciate an exceptionally well-plotted and written novel, and those who enjoy the Pacific Northwest area.”

And at the Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore in Toronto, CINNAMON is one of bookseller Marian’s picks for December. She loves mysteries that cook up murder, and picked up ASSAULT AND PEPPER because she loves spices and knows and loves Pike Place Market.I was delighted to hear that she quickly snatched up CINNAMON, and says of the pair, “A well written series with all sorts of info on spices.”

King’s River Life gives a fun recap of the story, and courtesy of the publisher, a giveaway!

Next week in the blogosphere: On Monday, December 14, I visit Auntie M Writes to talk about how movies set in Seattle influence my writing. Tues, December 15, is my day on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen—we’re sharing ideas for Christmas celebrations. I’m pouring Pepper’s new favorite cocktail, the Negroni, and serving up Sandra’s Spiced Nuts. I’m also a guest that day on the Gotta Write Network, with a post titled No Chance of a Ghost. And on Friday, December 18, Moonlight Rendezvous will offer a review and a book giveaway.

deskcat on deskThe supervisor—aka Ruff the Cat—and I are staying home this week. No events to report. I’m planning to write. He’s planning to nap, and dream of mice. And then, I’m summonsed for jury duty in state court. Will I finally be picked for a jury—I would love to serve, but maybe not during Christmas week—or will the combination of a lawyer and a mystery writer in one woman have the lawyers scratching me off the list and taking their chances with the next pick? Stay tuned …

See you on the page —

Leslie

 

My favorite writing books

IMGP3065

A reader spotted this photograph I’d posted of dictionaries and other references on my desk, and asked what books I think every writer should have. Besides Books, Crooks and Counselors, of course.

Language and style references:

A good dictionary and thesaurus, of course. In addition:

GarnerGarner’s Modern American Usage, Bryan Garner (Oxford; 3d Ed, 2009) Many of us remember the old Fowler’s Modern English Usage. This is better—smart, American, and up-to-date, by a lexicographer who shies not away from opining.

Chicago Manual of Style, a recent edition. Most publishers rely on the CSM, and if you use it, you can’t be accused of serious stylistic errors, even if some publishers or individuals have other preferences.

The Elements of Style, Strunk and White (various editions). The classic. Dated, maybe, but still a useful guide to many nuances of good writing.

The Emotion Thesaurus, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (2012) Readers read for emotion, but writers often use cliches and limited descriptions to show emotion in action. The lists of physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and more will help you deepen your writing and show the internal and external signs of emotion in stronger, fresher ways.

I also love the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, in part for its essays on language and word meanings, but it isn’t an essential.

You should have a decent guide to grammar, as well. Contrary to your grade school recollections, they need not be dull. What’s most fun is to read not a prescriptive guide, but a volume or two by writers who clearly love the language and have strong opinions about it. I loved Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose; any of her books will be a fun read.

I was recently reminded of the late William Zinsser’s On Writing Well; it’s a classic, geared towards nonfiction, but helpful to all serious writers. I hear tell that there’s an audio version, read by Zinsser, perhaps abridged, that a friend enjoyed tremendously.

Writers should love words and cultivate an interest in them. My favorite sources won’t necessarily be yours, but I do think any serious writer needs to spend time simply playing with words and reading writers who play with them. Read poetry. Listen closely to song lyrics. Heck, do the crossword puzzle and play along with Will Shortz, NPR’s Puzzle Master. It’s all words.

Writing Craft:

Lately, I’ve been diving into James Scott Bell’s craft books for writers, and highly recommend them. Plot & Structure (Writers Digest, 2004) is a detailed guide to structure, with excellent sections on plot problems, how to generate ideas, and more. It’s a book to use over and over. Write Your Novel from the Middle (Compendium, 2014) explores Bell’s observation that the best stories have a “mirror moment” or midpoint shift in context; he shows how both plotters and pansters can find that moment, and write to and from it. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue (Compendium, 2014) is another winner, and I’m eager to dive into his new book on voice.

The Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel, both by Donald Maass (Writers Digest, 2009 and 2001), are classics every writer should reread regularly. I’ve just started his Writing the 21st Century Novel (2012), and love, love, love his exercises and suggestions for diving deeper into character and emotion. If you like his columns on Writer Unboxed, you’ll recognize the approach—much of that material is here.

For something totally different: Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (2007) is a slim volume I love for its lessons on meter and rhythm, on finding the right word and the exact meaning, and on learning to love working a line. I also enjoyed The Art of Description by poet Mark Doty.

Other faves:

elizabethandleslie-300x199

 

Write Away, by Elizabeth George. I took a week-long intensive writing workshop with her eons ago, and it changed my writing life.

Self-Editing for Writers, Renni Brown and Dave King

Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose

IMGP3435For Mystery Writers: 

Lee Lofland’s Police Procedure and Investigation  (Writers Digest, 2007)

DP Lyle, Murder & Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forenscis Questions for Mystery Writers The book that inspired me to write Books, Crooks & Counselors.

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know (Linden/Quill Driver Books)

Inspiration:

tnWritesOfPassageYou know the usual suspects: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. And Steven Pressfield’s War of Art and other titles. A wonderful new entry is Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, ed. by Hank Phillippi Ryan, with essays by 60 members of Sisters in Crime, including me.

I find inspiration in reading a good writer. I hope you do, too.

More suggestions? Tell me in the comments.

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.)

Hey, butter, butter …

A few updates in Book World:

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BJ (Barb) Daniels and I had a great time talking and signing at Barnes & Noble in Billings earlier this month. IMGP3159One of Barb’s readers created this amazing model of her characters’ homestead.

 

 

 

My short story, The End of the Line, first published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in December 2006, is now available in a free podcast. I read, followed by a short interview with AHMM editor Linda Landrigan.

My summer blog tour is now on my website, with links to all my essays. The most recent additions: Writers Read — A few favorite recent reads — or more precisely, recent listens. The Page 69 Test — Just what it sounds, featuring BUTTER OFF DEAD. And Mystery Playground — the Interview!

Coming up: I’ll be at the Montana Book Festival in Missoula on Friday, Sept. 11, talking about how grief, place, and our own experiences influence character and plot, with mystery writers Christine Carbo and Sarah Layden.

guilty as cinnamon

 

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, Ruff the Cat and I have just finished the final proof pages of GUILTY AS CINNAMON (Spice Shop #2, December 2015) and we’re working hard on Spice Shop #3, KILLING THYME. 

We hope you’re enjoying a summer of great reading, and plenty of BUTTER!