Agatha Nominees for Best First 2017

Julie here, hoping this blizzard was the last for New England.

Last year I had the thrill of having Just Killing Time nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel. My fellow nominees and I became good friends during the run up to Malice Domestic, and did a small blog tour. Sherry did the same thing the year she was nominated. We’re thrilled to give a wicked welcome to this year’s nominees.

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Today they are going to answer the question who would play the main characters in the movie or TV show made from your novel?

Alexia Gordon, author of Murder in G Major (Henery Press)

Gosh, that’s a difficult question. Truthfully, I don’t know. I could see Thandie Newton or Zoe Saldana as Gethsemane. Maybe Richard Harrington (from the Welsh TV series Hinterland) as Eamon. A member of a book club that discussed Murder in G Major suggested Kerry Washington as Gethsemane.

When I watch movies and TV shows I forget (on purpose) who’s “starring” in the role and focus on the character being portrayed. For instance, Hugh Jackman isn’t Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, he is Wolverine. Hugh Jackman ceases to exist for 120 minutes. Consequently, I’m pretty good with characters’ names but I’m pretty bad with actors’ names. Not what any actor wants to hear but I mean it as a compliment. It takes talent to convince a rational adult that you’re someone who doesn’t really exist.

I have this fantasy of WGBH Boston or BBC America turning my books into a series and holding an open casting call. Hundreds (oh, why not, thousands) of unknowns would line up to audition and the casting directors–the people who cast Midsomer Murders or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (David Suchet was brilliant as Poirot)–would discover the new “it” actors.

Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan), author of Design for Dying (Forge)

This is a tricky one. Can we name the 1930s actors who could play our characters instead, because that’s when Design for Dying is set? No? Very well.

Let’s start with Lillian Frost, the toughest casting call for one reason: the role has to be played by an actress good enough to make us believe she’s terrible. It’s Lillian’s lack of skill in front of the camera, after all, that chases her out of pictures. She’s also got to be resourceful, kind, and look stellar in period wardrobe. On second thought, it’s not so tough, especially if you’ve seen Brooklyn. The Oscar-nominated star of that wonderful film Saoirse Ronan would be perfect as a young woman making a new home for herself in a strange and distant place. We know from Captain America that Chris Evans can sport vintage attire, and he’s got the low-key charm of Detective Gene Morrow down pat.

We considered plenty of names to play Lillian’s partner in sleuthing, legendary costume designer Edith Head, and settled on the wild card: pop provocateur Lady Gaga. No, really. It’s not only the resemblance. Gaga has blazed her own trail in show business, developing a distinctive persona and ensuring that everyone knows her name. Just like Edith did decades earlier.

Oh, and the 1930’s version? Priscilla Lane, Dennis O’Keefe, and Mary Astor.

Nadine Nettmann, author of Decanting a Murder (Midnight Ink)

Although a fun question, it’s always a tough one. One of the main characters in Decanting a Murder is Detective Dean, who I describe as tall with slicked back blond hair. While I didn’t have a specific actor in mind for this role when I wrote it, I watched some recent work of Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I think he would be great as Dean. I’m also a fan of Jason Lewis, from Sex and The City, as he has the stoic look that Dean carries, as well as Ryan Kwanten from True Blood. Though, I wouldn’t mind a brand new actor to play the part. It’s always great to see new talent.

As for the main protagonist, Katie Stillwell, I purposefully don’t describe her in the book as I want the reader to identify with her and perhaps put themselves in her shoes. So I’ll hold back on any potential actresses and let readers decide who they would like cast in that role.

Cynthia Kuhn, author of The Semester of Our Discontent (Henery Press)

All of the following not only “look” the part but have something else that makes them seem like strong contenders. (The age of the actor may not align perfectly with the age of the character in these choices, but that’s where the magic of the movies comes in, right?) And now, without further ado: for Lila, someone like Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Connelly, who have played strong characters who sometimes fumble (with amusing results) in certain situations; Reese Witherspoon or Kristen Bell for Calista, either of whom could capture the poet’s quirkiness; Paul Rudd has the right blend of earnestness and laid-back vibe for Nate; Michael Ealy seems like a perfect match for the confident and determined Francisco; and Armie Hammer has the charming, smooth qualities of Tad.

Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta (Minotaur)

I’ve gone back and forth about who I would cast as Kelsey McKenna, but right now Cristin Milioti from How I Met Your Mother and Fargo is my top pick. (I’m sure she’d be thrilled to know that she’s even being considered for the part—ha!) Her deadpan delivery and comic timing won my heart as the Mother in How I Met Your Mother, and I really, really want her to have a role where she doesn’t have a terminal disease.

As for the supporting roles, there’s only one that I can picture perfectly, and that’s Mrs. Abernathy. Now, I’d probably get outvoted because she’s slightly more “mature” than the role calls for, but Susan Sullivan (AKA Castle’s spitfire of a mom) would be the perfect choice to play the Mother of the Bride in Terror in Taffeta. I had so much fun writing the demanding Mrs. Abernathy, and I can perfectly picture Susan Sullivan delivering lines like, “Put your shoes on, girls. This is a wedding, not a hoedown!”

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Marla Cooper is the author of Terror in Taffeta, an Agatha and Lefty nominee for Best First Mystery and book one in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries. Her second book, Dying on the Vine, is set in the California wine country and comes out April 4. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, from advertising copy to travel guidebooks to the occasional haiku, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her series. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. Learn more at www.marla-cooper.com.

Alexia Gordon has been a writer since childhood. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiers July 2017. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas, she listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at www.missdemeanors.com. AlexiaGordon.net

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches English at MSU Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has visited wine regions around the world, from France to Chile to South Africa, but chose Napa Valley as the setting for her debut novel, Decanting a Murder. The next book in the Sommelier Mystery Series, Uncorking a Lie, releases in May 2017. Chapters are paired with wine recommendations. NadineNettmann.com

Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Malice Memories with guest Annette Dashofy

WithAVengeance cover FRONTAnnette, thanks so much for taking time to stop by during the launch of With A Vengeance the fourth Zoe Chambers!

By the time you read this, Malice Domestic will have been long past. But as I’m writing this post, I haven’t even unpacked yet. Seriously. I need to do laundry. Later.

Wow. What a fabulous weekend.

Sherry Harris, Joyce Tremel and Annette Dashofy

Sherry Harris, Joyce Tremel and Annette Dashofy

Malice, for those of you who have never experienced it, is one big family reunion. Every year the family grows by leaps and bounds. The moment I walked through the hotel doors, I spotted Dru Ann Love charging toward me with her lovely smile and her arms open wide for the first of many hugs. Yeah. It’s like that. All weekend long. I’ve learned to start out at least fifteen minutes early to get from Point A to Point B because there will be many stops along the way for embraces and squeals of delight at seeing an old friend or meeting a new fan.

Last year I had been nominated (along with Wickedly Wonderful Sherry Harris!) for Best First Novel. I didn’t think it could get any better than that.

I was wrong.

IMG_8756This year, I went to Malice carrying the mantle of nominee for Best Contemporary Novel (for Bridges Burned). With fellow nominees like Hank Phillippi Ryan, Margaret Maron, Catriona McPherson, and Louise Penny, I went in with low expectations for a win, but with high expectations for breathing rarefied air. My Cinderella weekend. It was definitely that and more.

Does an author ever tire of having readers stop her in the hall to tell her how much they love her books? Or having readers and fellow writers whisper, “I voted for you!” as they scurry to the next panel? I think not.

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Looking back at the weekend, there are a lot of special moments that stick with me and keep the smile on my face. Some big, like Opening Ceremonies, sitting in the front row next to Guest of Honor Victoria Thompson, a fellow Pennwriter, whom I’ve long admired and adored. On my other side, none other than Best First nominee Julie Hennrikus herself! Then having my name called, walking up to collect my nomination certificate, and standing with Hank, Margaret, and Catriona for the photo. Let’s just say tears were very close to the surface.

IMG_8909Speaking of tears, Amanda Flowers’ sweet speech following her win for Best Children’s or YA Novel in which she shared emotional memories of her parents will also stay with me.

But there are those smaller moments. Quieter moments. The ones with no photos to document the occasion. Sitting in a corner catching up with a long time friend. Chatting one-on-one with a reader I’d just met, and with a wonderful pair of fans—a mother and daughter I met two years ago who have become my good pals. An unplanned Working Stiffs (my old group blog) lunch reunion. And of course, hanging out with all the Wicked Cozies!

Speaking of… You ladies rock! Congratulations to Julie and Edith on your nominations! I loved watching both of you bask in the limelight. And while none of us brought home the tea pot this year, here’s my biggest take-away from Malice Domestic 28. Those Cinderella moments don’t necessarily only happen once. Never take them for granted. But don’t completely count out the idea of starting a collection of those nomination certificates!

Who knows. One day we might add a teapot.

Readers: What dream are you waiting to accomplish?

Dashofy-1559 (534x800)Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, published by Henery Press, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and BRIDGES BURNED was an Agatha Award finalist for Best Contemporary Novel of 2015. Her latest release, WITH A VENGEANCE, is the fourth in the series.

Welcome Terrie Farley Moran!

By Sherry

crhteeWe are so please to have Terrie Farley Moran with us today. I got to know Terrie last spring when we were both nominated for an Agatha Award in the best first novel category. Congratulations, again to Terrie for her win with Well Read Then Dead! Terrie is giving away a cute Caught Read-Handed (isn’t that a great title) T-shirt to a commenter today. So leave a comment and an email address!

CaughtReadHanded_newcomp.inddHi All. Caught Read-Handed, the second book in the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series was released a few weeks ago and I am having a fine time wandering around the blogosphere visiting friends both old and new. I’m so excited that the Wickeds invited me back to visit them and all their terrific readers. (Thanks Sherry.)

Happy as I am that book two is out in the world, I’m struggling along writing book three of the series. I’d love to say “writing cozy mysteries is great fun” but that would be less than truthful. Writing anything is work. Hard work.

But you take research—that’s where the fun is! I am so pleased that my daughter recommended the gorgeous and tranquil (excluding the occasional cozy murder) Fort Myers Beach as the home of the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore. As part of my research naturally I read all the books that the café’s book club members read, and it would be silly not to dabble in the book-related food the café serves. (Think Old Man and the Sea Chowder, Green Eggs and Ham or Harper Lee Hush Puppies.) I freely admit there are few things I enjoy more than books and food but I am happily surprised at how much I’ve come to love the study of the flora and fauna of southwest Florida.

FTMyrsBchshellsFor one thing I had no idea the extensive variety of sea shells that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, although I did know that all sea shells start out as the home of mollusks. Did you know that clams, mussels, oysters and scallops live in bivalve shells? That’s what you’d recognize as two sided hinged shells. How about those elegant tulip shells? Did you know they are called gastropods? Say what? Gastropods—it seems that gastropods are univalves and have snails inside with a large foot-like stomach that pushes through a hole in the shell wall to propel the gastropod around.

I still have a lot to learn about shells but one thing I can tell you for sure is that in Fort Myers Beach it is against the law to collect an occupied sea shell. If the mollusk is at home, you must leave the shell alone.

mcgregor_blvd_sb_app_victoria_aveAnd what about those splendid palm trees decorating beaches, streets, parks and lawns—every surface imaginable? I am astounded by the sheer variety of palms, ranging from Dwarf Palms that max out at ten feet high to the more usual palm trees that reach twenty to thirty feet at maturity. For absolute grandeur there is the Florida Royal Palm which reaches a height of one hundred thirty feet and seems to live forever. In fact when Thomas Edison wintered in Fort Myers a hundred years or so ago, he bought and planted a couple of hundred Royal Palms along the roadway now known as MacGregor Boulevard, which led to Fort Myers earning its nickname “City of Palms”.

And of course there are alligators, red-shouldered hawks and large orange sulphur butterflies, not to mention the Florida panther, which lends its name to the state’s ice hockey team. I spent far too much time studying them all. And don’t get me started on the massive assortment of fish. Oh, and flowers, dazzling flowers. Some varieties bloom nearly all year. If you want to know about snakes, you’ll just have to read Caught Read-Handed.
Okay, okay, you’re right. I am having way too much fun, but hey, when was the last time you canoed through the mangrove trees on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River and called it “research”?
A writer’s life is always interesting.

Bio

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Agatha Award winner Terrie Farley Moran is the author of Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series including Well Read, Then Dead and Caught Read-Handed. Her short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Her stories have been short-listed twice for Best American Mysteries. Terrie’s web address is http://www.terriefarleymoran.com She blogs at http://www.womenofmystery.net and can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/terriefarleymoran

Best First Agatha Nominees on Writing

I’m humbled and thrilled to be one of the nominees for an Agatha Award for Best First novel this year. I asked my fellow nominees Annette Dashofy, Terrie Farley Moran, Susan O’Brien, and Tracy Weber to join me to talk about getting published. Is the book you are nominated for the first book you wrote? And from the time you decided to write a novel how long did it take you to get published?

Tagged for Death mech.inddSherry: My journey was a long one. I joke that I started writing on stone tablets with a chisel. In some ways I’ve always written stories whether they were for my high school yearbook, my job in marketing for a financial planning company or writing humorous Christmas letters. What pushed me to write a novel was a short story contest advertised in the newspaper when we lived in Dayton, Ohio. I quickly realized the story was too big and ended up writing two and half books that still sit in the proverbial drawer.

I learned a lot by writing those books, taking classes, attending conferences, reading books about writing, and editing books for other authors. So when the opportunity to write a series with a garage sale theme came to me via a New York City editor, agent, and finally through friend Barbara Ross, I was in the words of Barbara, “ready”. From writing the proposal for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series to contract was a month and a half. From contract to the publication of Tagged for Death was a year and ten months.

Circle of Influence Cover FrontAnnette Dashofy: My first writing implement was a crayon, so that should give you an idea of how long I’ve been doing this. In high school I wrote “novels” longhand in spiral-bound notebooks. Now it would be called fan fiction. Back then I simply created a character that was me and stuck her into my favorite TV shows. My “fans” read my stories in study hall. They’d pass them around and eventually the notebook came back to me with orders to keep writing.

I didn’t get serious about publishing my fiction until decades later when the bug bit me in 2004. I wrote one novel that no one will ever see again. Trust me. It was bad. A second novel snagged me two agents, but no publisher. I kept writing. Circle of Influence (Zoe Chambers Mysteries) was the fourth manuscript I wrote, but the first to be published—finally—in 2014.

WellRead_2Terrie Farley Moran: I have always known that I would be a mystery writer someday. Lo and behold “someday” finally showed up in early 2003 when I started writing Driven to Death. It took me a few trial-and-error years to finish the first draft. In 2006 at the exact moment I started the second draft, my Sisters in Crime chapter put out a call for submissions for short stories for a chapter anthology. I wrote a story called “Strike Zone” and two things happened. First, I discovered that I absolutely loved writing short mystery fiction and second, my story was accepted and the anthology Murder New York Style was released in 2007.

I continued writing short stories and was lucky enough to have them published in various venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and an MWA anthology. All the while I edited and polished Driven to Death. Finally, in February 2012 I met a fabulous literary agent, Kim Lionetti of Bookends LLC. When she turned down Driven to Death, Kim said she liked my voice and style and asked if I would write something else, which led to Well Read, Then Dead the first in the Read Em and Eat Mystery series and a 3 book contract with Berkley Prime Crime. Typical writer’s path. Up, down and all around.

FINDING_SKY_front_under_2mb-2Susan O’Brien: In the middle of writing Finding Sky, the first in the Nicki Valentine mystery series, I was hired to write Child Abduction and Kidnapping, an educational book for young adults. The pay was relatively low (with no royalties), but I’m passionate about children’s safety, so it just felt meant to be. Part of my earnings from Finding Sky are donated to missing children’s organizations. Also, I got quite sick while writing Finding Sky and wrote a spiritual/medical memoir, which I can’t wait to edit when I “have time” someday!

It’s funny to think about the time from deciding to write a novel to pursuing publication. I’ve wanted to be an author since childhood, so in a way, it took decades! Finding Sky was written over many years while I was busy raising children and freelance writing. Once I started querying, it took a little more than a year to have a signed contract. I chronicled the experience on Twitter in hopes of connecting with other writers. My first tweet was about sending my first query letter! I’m thrilled and grateful to be on this journey with each of you and the entire, incredible writing community!

Murder Strikes Pose full sizeTracy Weber: I am so incredibly lucky.  Yes, Murder Strikes a Pose is my first novel and the first of the Downward Dog mystery series.  In fact, it’s my first attempt at writing fiction except for a short story I wrote in college at age 20 and a three-page very bad flash fiction piece I wrote a few years ago.

I thought about writing Murder Strikes a Pose for almost two years before I actually sat down and put fingers to keyboard.  Once I started, the words poured out of me and I wrote the first draft in three weeks!  (Subsequent drafts took significantly longer.)  😉  I refined the work for about a year with the help friends and a wonderful freelance editor named Marta Tanrikulu.  When I started submitting, things went quickly.  I signed with my agent, Margaret Bail, within a few weeks and she sold the first three books in the series a few weeks after that.  Murder Strikes a Pose was on bookshelves nine months later.

So, from typing “Chapter 1” to publication was about two and a half years.  Only one year of that was actually writing.  😉

Sherry: Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to share a bit about your writing journey! I really enjoyed each of your stories.