Memories of Malice 2018

Five of the Wickeds and two of our accomplices attended the 30th Malice Domestic conference last weekend. Malice celebrates the traditional mystery, and we celebrate alongside hundreds of mystery fans and authors (although we sorely missed Liz and Jane joining us). Here are some of our highlights.

Sheila:  Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethyn. Need I say more? Delightful and talented women who were gracious to the adoring throngs of fans. I asked and was told that “pet” is a term that applies to both men and women and is regularly used by Geordies (those who live in Northumberland, I understand).

Apart from the miles of walking from one end of the convention hotel to the other, everything went smoothly, and I saw many happy faces, and talked to more people than I can count.

Edith: So many highlights!  The core Wickeds started off with dinner together, minus Liz, alas.

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Jessie and I found our Agatha-nominated books on the special table in the bookstore!

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The Sisters in Crime breakfast is always a wonderful gathering. Those of us present from the Sprint Club – which Ramona DeFelice Long runs every morning – got a group shot in, too.  The sprints get me writing every morning at seven and I am grateful.

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Sprint Leader Ramona DeFelice Long at far right.

The Kensington signing and book giveaway on Saturday was very popular, with an entire box of my books going in under an hour. I had a delightful crew at my banquet table that night, including the Wickeds’ agent, John Talbot, and a bunch of avid fans, plus Map Your Mystery blogger Christine Gentes (standing at far left).

Mybanquettable

Sunday was topped off by a fabulous interview between Catriona McPherson, Toastmaster, and Lori Rader-Day (who could do stand-up comedy if she wished), then the Agatha Tea. But I don’t want to monopolize the blog! Next?

Sherry: One of the highlights for me was introducing Dorothy Cannell and Marcia Adair at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast on Saturday morning. Every year a scholarship is given in Dorothy Cannell’s name to a member of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime so that member can attend Malice Domestic. This year the winner was Marcia. I had a great time getting to know her during the conference. And as I said in my post yesterday it’s just about getting to hang out with members of the crime fiction community be they readers or writers.

Jessie: On Thursday I started out the weekend by spending the day with most of the Sleuths in Time for a plotting and chatting session. They are a fun group of women! Friday evening I had a great time at dinner with the Wickeds own Kim Gray and a host of other friends both old and new.  On Saturday I really loved signing books for some new readers at the Kensington book giveaway! I also had a wonderful time meeting some of the lovely ladies who have already read some of my work at the table I hosted for the Agatha banquet. They were a lively and fun group!

Barb: In the photo below I’m with two members of the Maine Crime Writers, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett and Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd. Bruce Robert Coffin and Maureen Milliken were also there, though I only saw Maureen once, passing in the long hallways.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett, Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd, Barbara Ross. No, we did not coordinate our outfits!

I had loads of fun on my panel Murder at the Improv, making up a mystery on the fly from audience suggestions with Sheila Connolly, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Parnell Hall.

Murder at the Improv with Barbara Ross, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sheila Connolly and Parnell Hall.

Julie: I am still exhausted from Malice! Favorite parts? Seeing folks, even in passing.  My panel with Sherry, Shari, and Leslie that Sherry talked about yesterday.  Barb and I hosting a really fun table of folks we didn’t know at the banquet. Seeing Catriona McPherson shine as the toastmaster. Edith and Jessie’s excellent panel (with Rhys Bowen, moderated by Harriet Sackler). Breakfast with Jacki York, who we first met when we carried her on a stick a few Malices back. Seeing Annette and Ramona, the sisters de Felice. Meeting people, as always. But the best part? Laughing. What a great group of folks at Malice. SO much laughing!

Malice going friends, what was your favorite part of the weekend?

Ah Malice Domestic

By Sherry — I’m home recovering from the lack of sleep and all the fun at Malice

Malice Domestic is the annual conference for fans of the traditional mystery. The first time I went was in 2003 as fan and hopeful writer. I was amazed by the crime fiction community then and continue to be now. I didn’t know a soul at that first conference. I stood in line at the restaurant for lunch and the woman in front of me turned and asked me to join her and her friend. It turns out that she was the prolific writer Lee Harris.

I have talked often about meeting Julie Hennrikus at Malice and how that changed the trajectory of my writing life. I gave Malice a shout out in the acknowledgements of my first book, Tagged for Death. For me Malice is all about connecting with people – seeing old friend and making new ones.

Here are Jessie and Edith with Rhys Bowen getting their certificates for their Agatha Best Historical nomination.

I don’t get to see the Wickeds very often. While it may seem like we are running over to each other’s houses for tea every other day, the truth is we are spread out all over the place. And poor me – I’m the farthest away. So Malice is one of the three or four times a year that I get to see them.

Photo by Eleanor Carwood Jones

This year I was on a panel, Murder in New England, with friends Shari Randall and Julie Hennrikus  — how lucky is that? The other panel member was writer Leslie Meier who writes the Lucy Stone mystery series. I confess when I saw her name on the list of panel members I went total fan girl, but managed to maintain my cool on the actual panel.

Some people you only see long enough to give them a quick hug. Others you are lucky enough to sit down with for a chat. And some people you see photos of and wonder how you never managed to glimpse them!

 

This year my publisher Kensington gave away books. I sat by Debra Goldstein. Her new book, One Taste Too Many, doesn’t come out until December 18, 2018, but she passed out bookmarks. Then she said to each person, “I only have a bookmark, but Sherry has a great book you can get.” Did I mention how generous the crime writing community is? Oh, and Debra’s book is available for pre-order.

Attending the Sisters in Crime breakfast and the New Authors breakfast is always fun but oh so early when you’ve stayed up late so you don’t miss a minute of talking to someone. I keep campaigning for New Authors cocktail parties but no one listens to me. I confess I was a bit late to the New Authors breakfast but got to hear most of the authors. The short interviews are always a lot of fun. Here are just a few of the many wonderful debut authors:

Then there is getting to meet people you’ve only known online. The banquet, the Agatha Awards… Aw, heck, I could go on and on about how wonderful Malice is, but I’m guessing you get the point.

This year my Malice experience was extended for a bit because author Leslie Budewitz came home with me. We yakked until the wee hours and then got up at 5:30 to get Leslie to the Metro station for her flight home. Boo-hoo – why do you live so far away Leslie? And now it’s all over for another year. I’ve gotten some sleep (including a two hour nap Monday morning) and am now recharged and renewed.

I hope if you’ve never been to Malice that you get to go some day. It’s special. They give out scholarships to people who might not otherwise be able to attend. Here is the contact information: MaliceAngels@comcast.net

Readers: Is there a place you go to see old friends and meet new ones?

 

Agatha Nominees for Best Contemporary Novel 2017

Hi Barb here. Since the nominations were announced, the Wickeds have hosted this year’s Agatha Award nominees for Best First Mystery, Best Short Story, and Best Historical. Today we’re bringing you the nominated authors for Best Contemporary Novel.

The Agatha Awards, given at Malice Domestic, honor the “traditional mystery,” and this year’s nominated novels span the length and breadth of the category–from cozy to edgy, amateur sleuth and professional, female protagonist and male, series mystery and standalone. I’m excited to be on this list with some of my favorite authors.

Agatha Award Nominees Best Contemporary Novel for 2016:

Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Here’s our question for the nominees: Did you know at the outset that your main character was strong enough to carry a book/series? How did this character change as you got to know him or her better?

Ellen Byron: I didn’t know for sure if my protagonist could carry a series, but I knew she had to. I was too in love with the fictional world of Pelican, Louisiana – and the real world of Cajun Country – to stop writing about it after one book. What I find exciting is how I’m always discovering new things about Maggie Crozat. A friend who was trying to wrap her head around the amateur sleuth angle of my series once asked me, “Does she see things other people miss because she’s an artist and very visual?” To which I replied, “She does now!”

I’m currently working on the fourth Cajun Country Mystery, and Maggie just shared she’s an only child, and was lonely growing up. This came as news to me because originally I gave her a brother, but then put him on the back burner because he didn’t contribute to the story. I always thought he’d come back someday, but Maggie has spoken. She’s declared herself sibling-free. I feel so close to her that sometimes I forget she’s not real. Those are the moments when I think, “Hmm, might be time to go back to therapy.”

Catriona McPherson: Oh, I wish this was a series! I miss them all now that the book’s done, even though it took me a while to get to know Jude – my heroine – well enough to write about her with confidence. I knew she was a librarian and she lived in London, but I wrote and wrote and couldn’t get the essence of her. She was flat, while all the other characters came to joyous life around her.

Then one day I was writing a scene in the dusty, disordered bookshop where the story takes place and the thought of all the dirt and mouse-droppings and dust-mites was making me feel itchy. Suddenly, I got that tingly feeling (different from the itching) and I knew that Jude was a cataloguer who’d given up working on the desk with the general public because she’s a germaphobe and the way people treat library books distresses her too much. I used to work in a public library and I know this from bitter experience. Worst bookmark I ever found in a returned book? Bacon rind. Anyway, germaphobe Jude came instantly alive and the book was plain sailing after that.

But it’s not the start of a series. The story of Jude, Lowell the bookshop owner and the irrepressible pregnant nineteen-year-old Eddy is done. Unless I think of another one . . .

Louise Penny: Initially my main characters were going to be the artist couple, Clara and Peter Morrow.  But as I thought about it more, I could see that while strong secondary characters, making them the center, the core of the series simply would not work, for all sorts of reasons, primary that I was afraid readers, and I, would tire if they had too much of them.

The other reason was that the head of homicide seemed so fully formed when he first appeared and I realized he was the one I needed.  Gamache could hold the series together, and that would allow the secondary characters to shine without the burden of carrying the series.  But he needed to be someone whose company I would enjoy, perhaps for years.  And so I made him a man I would marry, since this is, in effect, a marriage.  As it turns out, far from creating Armand Gamache, I actually transcribed him.  Gamache is inspired by my husband, Michael.

Barbara Ross: When I go back now and look at the original proposal for the Maine Clambake Mysteries, it’s amazing to me how much of Julia Snowden was there. Her family was there–her mother, sister, pain-in-the-neck brother-in-law, and niece were there, as was the still acutely felt absence of her late father. Her parents’ unusual marriage between a summer person who lived on a private island and the boy who delivered their groceries in his skiff was there, too.

This last was particularly important to me, because I am not and would never claim to be a native Mainer, so I needed to be able to write with the perspective of someone on the outside looking in. In her view, her parent’s marriage has left Julia forever on the outside, belonging to neither tribe in her resort town. (Her sister Livvie, on the other hand, doesn’t feel that way at all. Which is something that fascinates me, how people can be brought up by the same parents at more or less the same time, yet experience their circumstances utterly differently.)

But there was huge thing I didn’t know at the beginning–how Julia would act and react when put in a series of extraordinary situations. While I had a sense of her character, there was no way to know until those scenes were written. In that sense she continuously reveals herself to me.

Hank Phillippi Ryan: That is such a great question, because it made me examine my choices, and realize I hadn’t asked myself that question at all.

When I began the Jane Ryland books with The Other Woman, that started with a plot. And forgive me, here is a tiny bit of backstory: I had been reading about Governor Mark Sanford, who told his wife and constituents that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail “when he was actually off with his mistress. And I started thinking about why anyone would be the other woman. It’s so destructive in every way. So someone was quoted as saying “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”

And I thought: that’s my book.

So I needed a main character to tell that story. And it couldn’t be my first series character, Charlotte McNally, because the story was too big and textured for first person.
But I knew she would be a reporter, a tough, strong, curious, honorable, caring reporter.
And a reporter’s life is all about the search for the next big story. That is natural! So once I decided on “reporter,” it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But the fabulous part is how she came to life! Jane Ryland is 33-ish, when the book starts, so 64 year-old me, at the time, could not really draw on my experiences at that age, since that was a million years ago. That made me channel her through a different time…how that age would behave now. And I love how she showed up on the page! Confident, and not self-centered, and a little fearless when it comes to asking questions. Sometimes I am too worried about what other people think, and I was delighted to say she is somehow less timid than I am.

SAY NO MORE has her tackling a very difficult and sensitive subject. Not only testing her responsibilities as a journalist, but her emotional capabilities when dealing with victims and perpetrators of campus sexual assault. She turns out to be compassionate, and caring, and I love how she weighs her responsibility to the subject of her story with her responsibility as a journalist.

Yes, I know I wrote it, but you can’t MAKE a character do something they wouldn’t do. That’s when I know the plot is driving the story, not the character. Jane lets me know when I am doing that—it comes across awkward and “written.” And I think, oh, that’s Hank, not Jane. So when I am lucky, Jane reveals herself to me on the page, and I am so proud of her in SAY NO MORE. (Well, eventually.)

Readers: What do you look for in a character to carry you through a book–or series?

Ellen, Catriona, Hank and I will be at Malice at end of this month. If you’ll be there, we’d love to have you attend our panel, “Simply the Best: Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees,” moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons on Friday at 1:00 pm. (Or honestly, come talk to any one of us at any time.) Louise, we’ll all be thinking of you!

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Agatha Best Short Stories 2017

Edith here, super delighted to welcome my fellow nominees for this year’s Agatha Award for Best Short Story!

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Let’s have a Hip-Hip-Hooray for:

  • Gretchen Archer for “Jinx” (Double Jinx: A Bellissimo Casino Crime Caper Short Story)
  • Barb Goffman for “The Best-Laid Plans” (Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional)
  • Edith Maxwell (that’s me!) for “The Mayor and the Midwife” (Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016)
  • BK Stevens for “The Last Blue Glass” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
  • Art Taylor for “Parallel Play” (Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning)

Because it’s also St. Patrick’s Day today, let’s dish on an Irish connection in your story.

Gretchen: In my Agatha nominated short story “Double Jinx,” the luck of the Irish is with July Jackson, Holiday Host at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, as she tries to locate the missing body of a previously undead zombie, foils a thief trying to make off with three million of the casino’s dollars, and meets the man of her dreams.

“Double Jinx,” is a Halloween story, complete with Asylum, the Musical playing to a sold-out audience in the theater, a Spooky Rich slot tournament in full swing, and a Black and Orange Ball after a Biohazard Buffet. Chances are if we could visit with July today, she’d be hosting the casino’s Lucky Leprechaun poker extravaganza, where her players would be shamrocked from too many Four Leaf Clover martinis, and the pot of gold at the end of the tournament rainbow has gone missing.

What a great idea! I’m off to write it. Read “Double Jinx” here: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/uQrJO

BK Stevens: Around the end of the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadores came home from South America with plundered Incan gold and also with a strange new vegetable—the potato. In Ireland, potatoes soon became the staple crop, star ingredients in dishes ranging from colcannon to stew. But when the 1840s brought the potato famine, over a million Irish people died, and a million and a half more had to leave their homes, mostly for the United States. Apparently, some Irish-Americans still observe the tradition of defying the weather to plant potatoes in their gardens on Saint Patrick’s Day. So, in good times and bad, potatoes have played a role in Irish history. They also play a role in my Agatha-nominated story, “The Last Blue Glass.” Until Edith challenged us to link our stories to Ireland, I didn’t really realize that —I’d never thought of my characters as having any particular ethnicity, and I’d definitely never thought of potatoes as symbols. But they do crop up (horrible pun) at crucial points in the story.

“The Last Blue Glass” is framed by two dinner parties. At the first, newlyweds Cathy and Frank entertain four guests. A novice cook, Cathy has to call her mother long-distance for advice on how to keep peeled potatoes from turning brown—and to endure her mother-in-law’s snide remarks when the potatoes are underdone. Cathy becomes a far more skilled cook after Frank suddenly decides to ditch his insurance job and buy a bar. She labors to create a bar snack called Spud Balls—scooped-out spheres of potato browned in butter and carefully spiced, designed to draw in customers and support Frank’s dream. It’s a labor-intensive dish, reflecting Cathy’s devotion to her charming, impulsive husband. But their marriage is undermined by Frank’s weaknesses and by the manipulations and betrayals of people he trusts. At the end of the story, the newly widowed Cathy invites the same four people to dinner again. As she cooks up a final batch of Spud Balls, she thinks about the revenge she’s planning to take on one of her guests, the one she sees as most responsible for Frank’s death. You can read “The Last Blue Glass” at http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com/book/the-last-blue-glass/ ; and if you’d like to try the recipe for Spud Balls, you can find it at http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com/recipes-from-the-stories/.

Barb: “May the luck of the Irish be with you.” That sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s debatable whether the sentiment truly is. Some say the phrase stems from the Irish people being lucky—having overcome so much adversity. But others think it’s a sarcastic saying—something you’d say to someone you don’t like. My main character in “The Best-Laid Plans,” Eloise Nickel, would run with the latter meaning when it came to her nemesis, Kimberly Siger.

Both Eloise and Kim are mystery authors, and both are about to be honored at this year’s Malice International convention, Eloise as the lifetime achievement honoree and Kim as guest of honor. They once were friends, but Kim long ago moved on to friendships with more useful authors. Now, with the convention looming, Kim has been rude to Eloise in a big magazine article. Eloise vows revenge—a series of mishaps to occur at the convention to poor down-on-her-luck Kim. But to her dismay, it seems the luck of the Irish might really be with Eloise.

We mystery authors like to make our characters suffer. It keeps things interesting, and boy does Eloise suffer during the convention. Yet she soldiers on despite multiple setbacks. As she does, the reader gets a good glimpse into her psyche and even, at times, her humanity. But is the luck of the Irish with her or not? You’ll have to read the story to find out. It’s available at http://www.barbgoffman.com/The_Best_Laid_Plans.html. Happy reading and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Art: When my dad reached the question about ancestry in the 1980 U.S. Census, he read me the list of suggested answers, and when one or the other of us said, “Irish. Let’s be Irish,” he marked it down and made it official. The odds are good that we do indeed have Irish background; North Carolina is rich with Scotch-Irish heritage, and one of the earliest Scotch-Irish communities in the state was founded in the same small county where my parents were born some two hundred years later. Plus, given that my birthday is the day before St. Patrick’s Day (yesterday as you’re reading this!), I’ve always felt an additional kinship here—always on the lookout for any potential Irish ties, whether they’re really there or not.

Given the question on the blog today, I’ve found myself in a similar situation—since there’s nothing Irish in my story “Parallel Play,” which follows a young mother and her son through a perilous afternoon in Northern Virginia. It was pointed out to me that there’s lots of rain in my story, since folks often think of Ireland’s rainy weather, and in one scene, that young mother and the father of another child in the same play group share a pot of tea, which I could probably call Irish Breakfast (one of my own favorite flavors) except for the fact that I already called it Lapsang Souchong in a post on the story at Mystery Playground a few weeks back.

So I was basically at a loss here… until circling back to that image of my father and me tackling the census: the two of us teasing through, at some fundamental level, who we were, our family, our larger connections—not just by birth but literally, in our case, by choice. To a degree, that’s what “Parallel Play” is about: what it means to be a family, the choices you make for your family, and in my story at least, the consequences too. That’s a loose connection to something Irish, I know—but it’s the one for me that stands out most. “Parallel Play” is linked here: http://www.arttaylorwriter.com/books/6715-2/

Edith: First – happy birthday, Art! But I now realize what a silly idea this was, to ask my fellow nominees to link their stories to something – anything – Irish. I am hard-pressed to do so with my own story, “The Mayor and the Midwife.” No, I’ve got it! Amesbury Detective Kevin Donovan is definitely Irish. When the mayor of New Orleans comes to the northeast corner of Massachusetts in 1888 to visit his pregnant daughter, he meets Quaker midwife Rose. He tells her he had also arranged a meeting with the town’s bigwigs – but none of them would have a drink with him. Rose takes him to meet Irish Kevin, who she is quite sure would be happy to discuss crime-fighting with the mayor over a tankard of ale. But when the mayor’s son-in-law is murdered, he and Kevin – and Rose – end up working a lot more closely to solve the crime. You can read the story here: https://edithmaxwell.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/the-mayor-and-the-midwife.pdf

Who we are:

DOUBLEJINXfrontGretchen Archer is a Tennessee housewife who began writing when her daughters, seeking higher educations, ran off and left her. She’s the bestselling author of the Davis Way Crime Caper series by Henery Press. She lives on Lookout Mountain with her husband, her son, and a Yorkie named Bently.

Malice 11 front cover proof 2 - FINALBarb Goffman edits mysteries by day and writes them by night. She’s won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver Falchion awards for her short stories, and she’s been a finalist for national crime-writing awards nineteen times. Her newest story, “Whose Wine Is It Anyway,” appears in the mystery anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet, which was published earlier this week. When not writing, Barb runs a freelance editing and proofreading service. She blogs every third Tuesday at www.SleuthSayers.org. In her spare time, she reads, reads, reads and plays with her dog.

cover-herren-blood-on-the-bayou-200x300pxNational best-selling author Edith Maxwell is a 2017 double Agatha Award nominee for her historical mystery Delivering the Truth and her short story, “The Mayor and the Midwife.” She writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to served as President of Sisters in Crime New England. Maxwell writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston where she lives with her beau and three cats. She blogs here at WickedCozyAuthors.com, at Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors.

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B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens is the author of Interpretation of Murder (Black Opal Books), a traditional whodunit offering insights into deaf culture, and Fighting Chance (Poisoned Pen Press), a martial arts mystery for young adults. She’s also published over fifty short stories, most of them in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Eleven of her stories are collected in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime (Wildside Press).

CC_StormWarning_FINALArt Taylor is the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. He has also won two Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction, and his work has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University.

Readers: What’s your favorite short story of all time? Do you prefer reading short or long crime fiction?

 

Wicked Congratulations to Barb, Jessie, and Edith!

Malice Domestic is a conference that celebrates the traditional novel. The Agatha nominations were announced this week, and Barbara Ross, Jessica Estevao, and Edith Maxwell were on the list! The awards will be given out April 29. We’ll all be there, dancing in the aisles.

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My Big Fat Toast To The Wicked Cozies — Guest Michele Dorsey

“Surprise, surprise, surprise.” (Gomer Pyle)

I am not an extrovert. Forget that I look and sound like one. Trust me on this.

dinner with friendsI was reminded about this heading to my first Malice a few weeks ago. I was confident having survived my first Bouchercon in October that I would sail through smoothly. I forgot how overwhelming a condensed weekend conference filled with events could be, no matter how much fun, how many old friends you get to see, or new ones you get to meet. For me, it can feel so over-stimulating, I may as well wear my nervous system on the outside of my skin. Upon my arrival from a tropical island to a dank and drizzly Bethesda on Thursday evening, I was offered an umbrella that would symbolize the warmth of the Wicked Cozy Authors during the entire weekend.

So here’s to the Wicked Cozy Authors, affectionately referred to by me as the Wicked Cozies, whose skirts I clung to for nearly 72 hours straight.  I have known all of them for years now, some better than others. I’ve suffered through and celebrated the path to publication with them and had a lot of fun along the way.

Julie on the Best First Novel panel.

Julie on the Best First Novel panel.

To Julie, who gently prodded me to attend Malice, thank you for reaching out and including me in the Pre-Con dinner and for recommending I stay at a residence-type hotel two blocks away from the Marvelous Madness of Malice. When I hit a wall Friday evening and opted to order pizza in and go to bed early, I knew this respite was why she had suggested I give myself permission to take a conference time-out.

To Sherry, whose understated words of warning merely cautioned without instilling panic. Yes, avoiding the crush of the pre-Agatha Awards Banquet, was a good idea. So were so many other of her little baubles of wisdom. And Sherry, like all of the other Wicked Cozies, never failed to know who needed a friendly face in the audience during a panel.

Michele on her panel!

Michele on her panel!

To Jessie, with Wicked Cozy Accomplice Kimberly Gray Hurth, for joining me at my table at the New Author Breakfast at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. after a wild night at the banquet, and for cheering me on, assuring me the fact that I couldn’t hear the interview questions (bubble in ear after plane ride, of course) wouldn’t matter at all.

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Michele at the New Authors Breakfast!

To Barb, for volunteering that I did well in the interview, even if I couldn’t hear the question or the answer, for that matter. Barb’s direct, businesslike honesty made me believe her, and I knew she was facing a deadline, so there was no time for fluff. Encouragement is such a  balm.

IMG_8948For Liz’s equanimity during the entire weekend. Also facing a deadline, Liz’s calmness and generosity was impressive. Sitting near her, I couldn’t help but absorb some of her serenity and chuckle at her quiet quick wit.

IMG_8879To Edith, whose good-natured advice about what to miss or what could be skipped, for helping me sort through the “abbreviated” 50 page “Malice at a Glance Guide.” And for the fun we had trying to figure out the check at the Lebanese tapa restaurant that foolishly declined to give our end of the table separate checks. We’re writers, not accountants.

My takeaway from Malice is that it can be a fun-filled and informative conference where new friendships are born and old ones nurtured.

Michele in the audience for Barb and Sherry's panel.

Michele in the audience for Barb and Sherry’s panel.

But my lesson from the Wicked Cozies is even better. In a profession where self-doubt, isolationism and pressure constantly abounds, there is no better remedy than the warmth and generosity of a group of writers who understand how mutual support and encouragement breeds confidence, accomplishment and joy. The Wicked Cozies get that success comes to writers who are collaborative and inclusive.

So here’s to the generosity the Wicked Cozies bring to the writing community. May it be the gift that keeps on giving.

No Virgin IslandReaders: What kinds of encouragement and support do you most appreciate? Writers: Who has lent a helping hand along the way in your journey as a writer?

C. Michele Dorsey is the author of Sabrina Salter Mystery series. First in the series is No Virgin Island and Permanent Sunset releases October 11, 2016.

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.