Spicing it up with a short story!

We all love a party, right? Join me for a party taking place over the next few weeks on my FB Author page, with fun posts, spice trivia, prizes — and you, I hope! It’s all in celebration of the upcoming launch of Between a Wok and a Dead Place, the 7th Spice Shop mystery. Each week until mid July, I’ll be talking about the origins of one book in the series, starting this week with my contribution to the newly-launched Murder at Sea: A Destination Murders anthology. In “Seafood Rub,” Pepper and Nate take a long weekend getaway, only to find that trouble boarded the same ferry, and that killer whales are not the only mammals who circle their prey.

Although I’ve written seven Spice Shop mysteries, this is Pepper’s first appearance in a short story. I enjoyed writing short — about 12K, compared to the novels at 75-80K — for several reasons. It’s always risky to take a series character with a strong tie to a particular place away from it, without losing part of what readers love. In a short story, I could take Pepper away from her shop, Pike Place Market, and Seattle, making references to it, but because of the compressed time and word count, readers know we’ll be back. I had an idea I wanted to explore — the not-uncommon experience of seeing a stranger repeatedly while traveling and wondering if there’s a reason — that I didn’t think would support a full novel. Only one recurring character, Pepper’s boyfriend Nate, is along for the weekend, so I was able to focus on a new cast — a tour group visiting the same island and making some of the same excursions as Pepper and Nate — without having to work in the usual cast of recurring characters.

I’m one of eight contributors, and of course, we’re all hoping that readers who pick up the book because they know and enjoy one author’s work will discover new-to-them authors and pick up our books.

Earlier Destination Murders volumes are Murder at the Beach (I’m not in it) and Murder in the Mountains, which includes my story “The Picture of Guilt,” featuring characters from my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries.

I hope you’ll take a little vacation on the page — and join me on Facebook as we celebrate the Spice Shop mysteries!

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.)

Carried to the Grave — A Food Lovers’ Village Short Story — free!

CarriedToTheGrave_final_1875I am delighted to announce the release, next week, of CARRIED TO THE GRAVE, my first Food Lovers’ Village Short Story, featuring Erin Murphy and her village neighbor, Wendy the Baker. When Wendy’s family gathers after her grandmother’s funeral, she and Erin discover a decades-old secret that could prove still deadly.

The story will be available free to my newsletter subscribers. The summer edition will go out Tuesday, August 9, and will include the link and password to the Members Only page of my website, where you’ll be able to download the story in mobi, epub, and pdf formats. Newsletter subscribers receive seasonal updates, announcements of new books, and news of special events and giveaways. Subscribe on my website or through this link.

After writing only full-length novels the past few years, I wrote TWO short stories in June! The other is a historical set in Montana in 1885—more on that later!

And if you subscribe to this blog, thank you! The newsletter is separate, and I hope you’ll join my little community. Nonsubscribers will have a chance to buy the story later.

Many thanks!


a mystery story for you

In lieu of this week’s post on a legal topic, I have a small gift for you.  Kings River Life reprinted my short story, The End of the Line, originally published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in Dec 2006.

My husband and I were traveling in Greece, exploring the stone towers of Vathia, on the tip of the Mani Peninsula, when I spotted a spent shotgun shell on the dirt path, and wondered how it got there … .

Think of it in honor of Father’s Day, if you like. Enjoy!