Monday, December 12, 2011

Win BLUE CHRISTMAS by Mary Kay Andrews!

It's the week before Christmas, and antiques dealer Weezie Foley is in a frenzy to garnish her shop for the Savannah historical district decorating contest, which she intends to win. Weezie is ready to shoot herself with her glue gun by the time she's done, but the results are stunning. She's certainly one-upped the owners of the trendy boutique around the corner, but suddenly things start to go missing from her display, and there seems to be a mysterious midnight visitor to her shop.

Still, Weezie has high hopes for the holiday—maybe in the form of an engagement ring from her chef boyfriend. But Daniel, always moody at the holidays, seems more distant than usual. Throw in Weezie's decidedly odd family, a 1950s Christmas tree pin, and even a little help from the King himself (Elvis, that is), and maybe there will be a pocketful of miracles for Weezie this Christmas Eve.

Back by popular demand, this new edition of the holiday classic includes an essay by the author, tips for "keeping the happy in holidays," additional recipes, and more. Also beginning Friday 12/9 and thru Friday 12/23, the BLUE CHRISTMAS e-book will be marked down to $1.99 at all e-book retailers!

To win your own copy of BLUE CHRISTMAS by Mary Kay Andrews, just send an email to, with "BLUE CHRISTMAS" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US only. This contest is only going to run for a couple of weeks, so your odds of winning are pretty good - if you enter by December 23, 2011! Good luck!

Sunday, December 04, 2011



The Nero Award is presented each year to an author for the best American Mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City. The "Nero" is considered one of the premier awards granted to authors of crime fiction.

This year, the winner is Louise Penny for Bury Your Dead (Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group). Her award was presented by Jane K. Cleland, chair of the Wolfe Pack's literary awards.

The Black Orchid Novella Award is presented jointly by The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the Novella format popularized by Rex Stout. This year's winner is James Lincoln Warren for "Inner Fire."

About the Wolfe Pack
The Wolfe Pack, founded in 1977, is a forum to discuss, explore, and enjoy the 72 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout. The organization promotes fellowship and extends friendship to those who enjoy these great literary works of mystery through a series of events, book discussions, and a journal devoted to the study of the genius detective, Nero Wolfe, and his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin. The organization has more than 500 members worldwide.

To learn more, visit or send mail to

Monday, November 07, 2011

Guest Blogger: MEL TAYLOR

There must have been a teen in the late 1960’s who held a device called a transistor radio, listened to Top 40 music and wondered if technology had reached its zenith in pushing music through a half-inch speaker, sometimes from hundreds of miles away. Clearly, the answer was no. Technology was about to take off, just like those history-making flights to the moon. It was a time when computers filled up a room, and events were recorded on film. Fast-forward to today and you can buy a smart phone that talks to you. Technology is moving so fast, you’re concerned that new flat screen you purchased, fresh out of the box might be outdated before you get it set up. So, for mystery writers, how do you inject 3-D defying techno gadgets into your books without one day dating them right up there with BETA recorders, VHS, audio cassettes, analog TV, and Pong?

For writers, there is a balance of using technology with strong characters. Deborah Sharp, author of the great Mace Bauer mystery series, has this reflection: “I’m a technophobe, so I don’t know enough to toss around the names of all the newest gadgets. Still, I think it’s difficult to avoid any mention of cell phones, caller ID and the like, since they’re an integral part of our lives.”

Joyce Sweeney, award winning author and founder of a very successful critique group in south Florida, embraces technology: “I use current technology at the time of writing because there’s no way to really know what will happen next. If I think a certain item is waning, I would leave it out.” Even with a dated item, Sweeney says it should not be a problem. “I find that readers don’t mind ‘antiques’ in their books.”

I posed the technology question to author Paul Levine. I have read all of his books in the Jake Lassiter series: “A book has to be set in its time and place. I’m not going to worry about what technology will replace the cellphone or Netflix or Facebook. By the same token, it would be a mistake to have a character in 2011 constantly using pay phones! Technology is changing too fast to worry about it, so that what we write in 2011 might be somewhat dated by its publication in 2013, but that’s part of modern life.” Paul Levine, author of “Lassiter.”

For me as well, the key is technology can’t be avoided. The book is a snapshot of life. I mention gadgets in their proper place, as part of the flow of the story. After that, when it comes right down to the core, the direction is to pour all of my efforts into the characters, the plot, pacing, setting, and those delicious unexpected twists. In my first two mystery books, my main character is a TV reporter. Much of his world has not changed much except for the introduction of High Definition or HD, a bigger use of computers and the disappearance of the beeper. Technology will continue to flourish and that’s good. Still, in my experience, readers will share with others on what they like about how characters respond to the obstacles we writers present, rather than the model number of a fancy device.

I am sure that 1960’s teen trying to dial in Wolfman Jack would be proud.

Mel Taylor is the author of the Deadline books. Murder by Deadline and Encounter by
Deadline by Avalon Books. His character Matt Bowens is a south Florida TV reporter who works in front of a TV camera and solves crimes with the help of photographer Ike Cashing. He has just launched a collection of short stories called Deep Trouble, available on Kindle,Nook and iBooks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Miami Book Fair Giveaway!

As regular readers know, I love, love, love the Miami Book Fair! This year the fair runs from November 13 - 20. The complete schedule is now available online.

You can read about what a fabulous time I've had there the past several years in the archives. This year, the fair looks to be truly outstanding, with almost 500 authors participating.

I am really excited to be able to offer books from a few of the participating authors at this year's fair. There is something for everyone, from the literary to crime fiction to a graphic novel and great gift books.

Go the F**k to Sleep by Ricardo Cortes
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson
Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life by Michael Moore
Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
Chanukah Lights by Robert Sabuda
Habibi by Craig Thompson

If you would like to win one (or more!) of these books, send an email to with the title (or author) of the book in the subject line. Send a separate email for each title you want to win. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US only. The books will be sent directly from each publisher. This contest is only going to run for a couple of weeks, so your odds of winning are really great - if you enter by November 10, 2011!

Tell your friends and invite your book group to go meet your favorite authors at the fair. Trust me, the Miami Book Fair is a reader's paradise, not to be missed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Center For Fiction Announces New Crime Fiction Academy

New York, October 14, 2011 -- The Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, has announced the February 2012 debut of The Crime Fiction Academy, the first ongoing, rigorous program exclusively dedicated to crime writing in all its forms. Students accepted into the program will be taught by successful practitioners of the genre, including workshop leaders and master teachers Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Thomas H. Cook, Linda Fairstein, Susan Isaacs, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Joyce Carol Oates, SJ Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer, Karin Slaughter and more.

Crime fiction writer and CFA workshop leader Megan Abbott says, "Crime fiction doesn't just engage and entertain. It tells us volumes about the world we live in, and has helped form the foundation of American literature and storytelling. I am honored to be a part of a program that celebrates crime fiction and, more importantly, will serve as a launching pad for the next generation of crime writers and a vital incubator for hundreds of rich and exciting novels to come."

Classes will take place in The Center’s 8-story building at 17 E. 47th Street in Manhattan.

CFA’s challenging and thoroughly engaging curriculum will include:
• a 14-week writing workshop
• a monthly Master Class
• a crime fiction reading seminar
• special lectures and discussions with editors, agents and distinguished persons from the world of crime fiction and publishing
• 24-hour access to the Center for Fiction’s Writers Studio
• Use of the extensive circulating collection (the Center for Fiction recently won a Raven Award for their amazing in-depth crime fiction collection)
• Free admission to all Center for Fiction events.

CFA Program Director and crime fiction writer Jonathan Santlofer says, “It was time for someone, someplace to take crime fiction seriously enough to create an in-depth, ongoing program devoted exclusively to the genre. And what better place then New York’s own Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, an institution that has been dedicated to writers and readers for almost 200 years. A chance to hone one’s writing skills with successfully published crime fiction authors, to shape that novel or story you’ve been thinking about, working on, but just couldn’t finish, in one of New York City’s most intimate and nurturing environments — what more could any writer ask for?”

All classes, workshops, and lectures will take place in the evening. Students may enroll for one term, but a year-long commitment is suggested to take full advantage of the program. Admission is limited and competitive and is based on work samples. CFA will be accepting applications, beginning in November 2011 for the term beginning in February 2012. Visit for details.

If you would like to interview any of the writers involved, please call or email Noreen Tomassi, or (212) 755-6710.

About The Center for Fiction

The Center for Fiction is the only nonprofit in the U.S. solely dedicated to celebrating fiction, and works every day to connect readers and writers. Time Out called The Center one of the top three reasons to stay in Manhattan for literary events, citing the innovative panels, lectures and conversations that take place in its beautiful building on East 47th Street. The Center provides workspace, grants, and classes to support emerging writers, reading groups on classic and contemporary authors, programs to help get kids reading, and to connect readers and writers around the country. The Center recognizes the best in the world of fiction through its annual awards, publishes fiction by emerging and established authors in its online magazine The Literarian, and operates one of the few independent fiction book shops in the country. The Center for Fiction is also an important piece of New York City history, continuing to build its renowned circulating library collection of 85,000 fiction titles, begun in 1820 by New York City merchants before the advent of the public library system.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I was just delighted to learn that Erica Jong's FEAR OF FLYING is now available as an e-book. I was a kid when it came out and had to sneak it past my mother to read it. I'm sure my perspective now would be much different so I'm anxious to take another look at it.

You can read an excerpt here: FEAR OF FLYING EXCERPT

Friday, October 07, 2011

Guest Blogger: LISA BLACK

This week, forensic scientist and author Lisa Black answers a question we have all asked ourselves: why are there so many people in uniforms just standing around at any crime scene or accident?

First of all, any scene serious enough to warrant crime scene tape will have one officer there to record who enters the scene and who leaves, and when. That is their entire job. They can’t perform other duties and be absolutely sure about personnel going back and forth at the same time. Also officers will be stationed, one in front, one in back (at a minimum) to make sure no unauthorized person enters the scene. Otherwise an attorney will say someone snuck into the scene and planted the evidence that implicates their innocent client. If you are that client, you want that scene secured. In other words, once we leave we cannot come back, so these officers will remain there until we have done everything we think might possibly need to be done, which could be hours to days. The PIO may be gathering information to give to the press. The traffic homicide investigator willl be noting skid marks and taking measurements. Then you have people like me, who spend a lot of time walking out to my vehicle and back to get various pieces of equipment as I need them. I may be waiting for a co-worker to finish videotaping before I go inside to photograph, during which time they will wait outside for me. I may be waiting for a co-worker to bring some unforeseen piece of equipment from the station. We could all be waiting for a search warrant, which, though detectives will tell you they’ll have it in twenty minutes, always takes several hours. We also have to wait for the Medical Examiner’s Office investigator to arrive before we can touch or move the body. The crime scene is our jurisdiction, the body is theirs, and they cover three counties, so if they’re having a busy day we have to work around their schedule, almost always an hour or more. Higher-ups may arrive in order to do what they should do: get their butts out into the field to see what their subordinates are doing. Almost always they are disciplined enough not to enter the scene if it is not necessary, so they will be standing out by the road. Yes, some may be those who simply wanted to get out of the office or those who feel the need to stick their nose in to everything, but believe it or not, that’s fairly rare.

So yes, as in any aspect of human life, a large part of crime scene or accident work means standing around and waiting.

Lisa Black’s fourth book Defensive Wounds was released by Harper Collins on September 27. Forensic scientist Theresa MacLean battles a serial killer operating at an attorney’s convention. Lisa is a full time latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida.

Visit Lisa Black online

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

Really excited about this new book! And you should be too - you can win your own copy!

THE KITCHEN COUNTER COOKING SCHOOL: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks is essentially “What Not to Wear” meets Michael Pollan. Inspired by a supermarket encounter with a woman loading up on processed foods, Le Cordon Blue graduate, and author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry, Kathleen Flinn decided to use her recent culinary training to help a group of nine culinary novitiates find their inner cook. These students invited Kathleen into their kitchens where she took inventory of each person’s refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits. After kitchen “makeovers” and a series of basic lessons where they learned to wield knives, trust their taste and improve their food choices, the women found a common missing ingredient—confidence. In this new book, Flinn follows these women’s journeys and includes practical, healthy tips to boost readers’ culinary confidence, strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar and simple recipes to get readers cooking.

Now this gets interesting...Kat Flinn has her own YouTube channel with some really great videos. Check out the official book trailer.

Demo and shopping tips videos: Learn knife skills, vinaigrette lesson, and how to make Pasta Pomodoro for example. Check out Flinn’s YouTube Channel for more!

Finally, check out the author's website for recipes and more.

To win your own copy of the Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn, just send an email to, with "KITCHEN COUNTER" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US or Canada only. This contest is only going to run for a week, so your odds of winning are pretty good - if you enter by Columbus Day, Oct. 10, 2011!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

More good deals on ebooks

Harper Perennial is offering 20 ebooks for less than $20, or just $.99 each. There is more information on their Facebook page, but I can tell you that the ebooks are available for the month of August at all major ebook retailers like and, and also at independent booksellers. They also posted more info on their Olive Reader Blog, with the added incentive of having a place for you to ask for recommendations if you're not sure which book you want. But frankly, at that price, I'd buy them all!

Finally, I saved the best news for last. Harper is also running a promotion on Facebook where you can enter to win a $20 gift card for the e-reader of your choice!

Prize Eligibility: Only persons residing in United States who are at least 15 years of age can enter.
Sweepstakes Starts: August 03, 2011 @ 08:00 am (EDT)
Sweepstakes Ends: August 10, 2011 @ 05:00 pm (EDT)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lisa Unger giveaway!

BookBitch regulars know that Lisa Unger is one of my favorite authors (and favorite people, for that matter!) So I am delighted to share a giveaway that Lisa is doing. Here's all the info:

One lucky reader will win...

Set of signed/first edition hardcovers.
$100 giftcard from a bookseller of your choice.
e-Reader of your choice.

DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND goes on sale in one week!
If you pre-order now, and let Lisa know you did, she will enter you in a contest that she's been running on Facebook. You can also email. August 9th, Lisa will draw a winner for an e-Reader, set of signed/first edition hardcovers and $100 bookseller giftcard.

ANGEL FIRE also re-releases in one week!

Lisa's first novel (writing as Lisa Miscione, her maiden name.) And it is currently available to pre-order for just $0.99 (limited time offer for ebook version from Random House).

Lisa will be heading out on the road next week, and really looks forward to seeing a lot of you in person! Everything kicks off on August 9th, so please check her events page for the most up to date details.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Win FALLEN by Karin Slaughter!

A couple of weeks ago, I was in New York City for the International Thriller Writers annual event, ThrillerFest. I had a blast, and tweeted my way through #ThrillerFest. I was really excited to learn that Karin Slaughter was being presented with the ITW Silver Bullet award.

Hailed by critics as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post), #1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter’s signature trademark is her ability to weave unrelenting suspense and provocative human drama into unforgettable stories. Her latest novel FALLEN combines these two elements with razor-sharp precision into a tale of a cop willing to go to extreme lengths to save her family.

Off the page, Slaughter is going to extreme lengths of her own to save our libraries. She is passionately spearheading a multi-faceted fundraising initiative called Save the Libraries ( to help raise community awareness and support for the needs of public libraries.

Slaughter has long used her writing as a means of social commentary and to explore crucial issues such as prejudices against those with disabilities, racial divides, corruption, and failings in our correctional and justice systems. In FALLEN, these issues are paramount as Will Trent, Sara Linton and Faith Mitchell return and must confront the “thin blue line” that hides police corruption, bribery, even murder. The personal and the criminal collide, and conflicted loyalties threaten to destroy reputations and ruin lives as they search for truth in all its complexities.

The fiscal crisis the entire American Library system is facing: for nearly 85% of children living in rural areas, libraries provide their only access to books outside of school. For urban children, libraries are often their only safe haven to grow and learn. According to the American Library Association, library use increased 23% from 2006-2009, but the 2012 federal budget proposal will cut $20 million from library funding.

The pilot Save the Libraries event at the Dekalb County Public Library in her home state of Georgia, which, with fellow bestselling authors and long time library advocates Kathryn Stockett and Mary Kay Andrews, raised over $50,000 for the 25-branch library.

If you would like to win a copy of FALLEN, just send an email to, with "FALLEN" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US or Canada only. This contest is only going to run for a week, so your odds of winning are pretty good - if you enter by August 3, 2011!

Karin Slaughter is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of eleven thrillers, including Broken, Undone, Fractured, Beyond Reach, Triptych, and Faithless. She is a native of Georgia.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Authors Academy at Murder on the Beach

First Workshop Saturday, June 11

Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore Presents:

The Authors Academy
Writing Workshops for Tomorrow's Authors

Saturday July 16 from 10am - Noon.

What a Character! Creating and Developing Characters that Withstand the Test of Time.
An interactive workshop that will explore the different roles characters play, how to create and develop them, and what makes them memorable. Hands-on exercises involving building your own characters and making them come alive through complexity, consistency, appropriate dialogue, and "show versus tell" techniques.

Instructor: Sharon Potts
Sharon Potts is the award-winning author of In their Blood and Someone's Watching, suspense novels about ordinary people in extraordinary situations set in South Florida. Her work received the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Award for best mystery/suspense novel, as well as a starred review in Publishers Weekly. A former teacher-turned-CPA-turned-business-exec-turned-writer, Sharon is currently VP of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Workshop cost: $25 per person.

And coming up:
Sat Jul 23 You Are There: How to use setting to shape your characters and drive your story forward.
Sat Jul 30 Stay on the Yellow Brick Road: Keep your story from wandering.

Sessions are held at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Ave, in Delray Beach. The charge for each session is $25 per person for a two hour workshop. Reservations are required. Cash, Check, Mastercard, Visa, Discover and American Express accepted.

Reservations: 561-279-7790 or

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Live video chat with Elin Hilderbrand!

On Wednesday, July 27 at 3 p.m. ET, come to and celebrate summer with style! We are having the “Queen of the Summer Novel” herself, Elin Hilderbrand, for an online e-vent with live video chat to celebrate the release of her absolutely fabulous, New York Times-bestselling novel SILVER GIRL!

Elin will discuss SILVER GIRL, Nantucket, and answer your questions! Fifteen lucky party-goers will win an exclusive Silver Girl tote bag courtesy of The Elegant Setting along with an autographed copy of the book. Below are details and more about SILVER GIRL.


“Another winner from Hilderbrand….A sensitive and suspenseful tale.” —Booklist

“Longtime fans and newcomers alike will delight in this timely, touching story of loss, love, friendship and forgiveness.” —Publishers Weekly

Recommended by the Los Angeles Times and Orlando Sentinel as a perfect beach book!

With several bestsellers under her belt and over a million copies of her books sold to an ever growing audience, Elin Hilderbrand has established herself as the go-to writer for expertly plotted, gorgeous summer novels. However, don’t be mistaken: Hilderbrand may write against the backdrop of a blistering Nantucket summer, but her books are anything but fluff. She brings complicated, fully realized women to life, making each book moving and full of dramatic truths, while also presenting each as a scorching page-turner. Never has that been more evident than in SILVER GIRL (Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown 6/21/11), Hilderbrand’s highly anticipated new novel.

Meet Meredith Delinn, a woman whose husband has cheated rich investors out of billions of dollars and, in the process, humiliated Meredith so fully that she’s lost everything: her friends, her homes—even contact with her beloved sons. More down-and-out than she ever thought possible, Meredith reaches out to the only person she has left: her oldest friend, Constance Flute. Despite a painful rift between the women, Constance, who is herself mourning the loss of her adored husband, can’t turn her back on Meredith and takes her to Nantucket to hide—and to heal. When it seems as if the present is too difficult to endure, Constance and Meredith revisit their shared history. A surprise visit from Toby, Constance’s brother and Meredith’s high school sweetheart, forces Meredith to confront both her present and her former self, and decide who it is she will become in the aftermath of her personal tragedy. Amid the salty sea air and sandy dunes, both women must learn how to forgive each other, and themselves. In SILVER GIRL, Hilderbrand has added depth and humanity to a character we thought we already knew, and has crafted a suspenseful story of friendship, love, and the power of forgiveness.

Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and is an enthusiastic Philadelphia Eagles fan. She has traveled extensively through six continents but loves no place better than Nantucket, where she enjoys hogging, cooking, and watching her sons play Little League Baseball. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins university and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The 2011 Duffer Awards: Legendary Characters. Ridiculous Awards!

For the month of June, will host the first annual Duffer Awards. Each day she will post a new poll featuring two beloved characters.

Post a comment beneath your vote, and you'll be automatically entered to win weekly prizes including signed copies of Alafair's books and $50 gift certificates to your favorite bookseller.

And while you're there, read about her new book, Long Gone, coming out June 24th and available for preorder.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Follow up on Joplin - please help!

The Joplin Public Library has established a fund to assist the ten employees
who lost their homes and were injured during the tornado. Please send checks
to the Joplin Public Library Staff Relief Fund, c/o Jacque Gage, Joplin
Public Library, 300 South Main Street, Joplin MO 64801. The library is on
Facebook at and messages of support are

The Missouri Southern State University Foundation has also established a
fund to assist faculty, staff and students who lost their homes and were
injured during the tornado. You can donate online at then click
on Giving, or by check to Missouri Southern Foundation, 3950 East Newman
Road, Joplin MO 64801. Please write: Tornado Emergency Relief Fund on the
memo line of the check.

The Joplin Public Schools were very hard hit by the tornado. Seven students
and one staff member were killed, and many have lost their homes and were
injured. Three schools, including the high school, were completely
destroyed; three schools were severely damaged, two schools have possible
roof damage, and several district support facilities were damaged. The
school district has also established a relief fund. You can donate at any
U.S. Bank in the country or send checks to Joplin Schools Tornado Relief
Fund, Attn: Kim Vann, 102 North Gray Avenue, Joplin MO 64801. You can follow
the Joplin Schools recovery on their web site at

St. John's Regional Medical Center was severely damaged by the tornado and
six people were killed. Many hospital employees lost their homes and were
injured. The medical librarian and her family are safe and unhurt. The
hospital has already established a temporary facility to continue to treat
patients. You can donate to Mercy Co-Worker Tornado Relief online at and click on Donate Now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Please help the Joplin Public Library

I received this email today, forwarded from the American Library Association. I want to share it in case anyone out there is trying to find a way to help. Sometimes people send money to organizations like the Red Cross, which is always a good thing, but if you would like to help on a more personal level, maybe this is good place to do that.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jacque Gage
Date: Tue, May 24, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Subject: [Mpld] Joplin

JPL in a kind of nutshell:

Again, the library received NO DAMAGE. We are enough north of the storm area that our building is fine.

Of our staff, 8 completely lost homes. Two others sustained significant damage. Two employees sustained minor injuries -- one girl a broken arm -- one guy with thousands of abrasions on his back sustained when the place in which he took shelter collapsed.

The library is open normal hours today. We still have a skeleton crew, with some just not able to find clear routes to get to the library -- well, actually they could head west into Kansas and come around from the north, or east far enough to circle around and come in from the north..... but other staff has had no difficulties getting in.

Yesterday library usage was virtually non-existent, even for the computer lab. We've tried to get word out through the media and through every FB relief page we could find that we are open for cell phone/computer charging and have good internet connection. Today people are beginning to come in for computer use. We have set up our labtop lab for overflow from the regular lab.

As far as library help, if the demand for computer access continues to grow, we might need some help preparing computers we have in stock to get them online. We have about 50 computers still in boxes that have arrived to replace older computers, but they are not formatted etc etc etc. If anyone is capable of this type activity and willing to, I can forward names to my IT person. She IS particular and volunteers would have to follow her directions on how she wants them set up...... :-)

Also, if library personnel from across the state were so inclined, if any financial support is sent to me in care of JPL, I will see that affected staff received this aid. 5 of the 8 who lost their homes are only employed part-time, including a single mom (with a now-broken arm and no medical ins) with kids, already struggling before this hit.

I have not personally seen the devastation except through pictures to which you all have access online. I live 40 miles north and have not a purpose to drive through the area. Despite my curiosity, I have stayed out of the way of workers. Those to whom I have spoken who HAVE seen it, say the pictures absolutely do NOT do justice to the situation. I can only fathom. The library is location on Main St. in the center of town. There are so many emergency vehicles running with lights and sirens blaring up and down Main St., it is incredible.

On another personal note, my 24 yr old daughter was working in ER at the remaining hospital during the tornado. She is still in shock from it. She has *almost* completed her radiology tech training and Freeman had hired her for PRN work. What she experienced is very much akin to wartime casualties. She has not worked in the medical field enough to have developed the thick skin needed, so it was really hard for her. I only heard her describe a couple cases, and just thinking about those with having my "baby" have to deal with them, hurts a mother's heart. I know she barely scratched the surface with those incidents, since Freeman was designated as a place for only life-threatening cases.......

Your prayers for the City and my daughter are appreciated. I may post updates from time to time on our FB page or through the MPLD list.

Jacque Gage, Director
Joplin Public Library
300 S. Main Street
Joplin, MO 64801
417.623.7953 - voice
417.625.4728 - fax

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Workshops for Tomorrow's Authors

Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore Presents: The Authors Academy
Writing Workshops for Tomorrow's Authors

Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore will be sponsoring writers workshops for beginning to intermediate level writers on Saturday mornings throughout the Summer. Topics range from the fundamentals of writing, to getting the final book published. The eight instructors are all multi-published local authors with experience in writing, publishing and teaching, with almost 100 published books, and 20 writing awards among them.

Sessions are held at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Ave, in Delray Beach. The charge for each session is $25 per person for a two hour workshop. Register for all eight for $175, and get one free! Reservations are required.

The schedule is as follows:

Saturday June 11, 10am - Noon
Where Does Your Novel Start? Show me the story and I’ll show you the book.
Instructor: Randy Rawls, author of the Ace Edwards PI mysteries.

Saturday June 25, 10am - Noon
From Idea To Novel. Plotting, the backbone of every book.
Instructor: Karen Kendall, author of Take Me For a Ride.

Saturday July 16, 10am - Noon
What a Character! Creating and developing characters that withstand the test of time.
Instructor: Sharon Potts, author of Someone’s Watching.

Saturday July 23, 10am - Noon
It’s Not Just Scenery. How to use setting to build emotion and drive your story forward.
Instructor: Allison Chase, author of Outrageously Yours.

Saturday July 30, 10am - Noon
Stay on the Yellow Brick Road. Keep your story from wandering.
Instructor: Jonathon King, author of Midnight Guardians.

Saturday August 13, 10am - Noon
Point of View. Whose head are we in and why are we there?
Instructor: Diane A.S. Stuckart, author of the Leonardo da Vinci

Saturday September 10, 10am - Noon
How To Get Published. Learn what it takes to get your work published.
Instructor: Joanna Campbell Slan, author of Photo Snap

Saturday September 24, 10am - Noon
Finding an Agent. Query letters, synopses, and the pitch!
Instructor: Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mysteries.

Contact Murder on the Beach Bookstore at 561-279-7790 or

Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2010. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 65th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur Books)


Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty Associates – Forge Books)


Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard (Random House - Bantam)


Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity
by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry (University of Nebraska Press – Bison Original)


Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his
Rendezvouz with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton)


"The Scent of Lilacs" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)


The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler (Albert Whitman & Co.)


Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price (Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers)


The Psychic by Sam Bobrick (Falcon Theatre – Burbank, CA)


“Episode 1” - Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)


"Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Evan Lewis (Dell Magazines)


Sara Paretsky


Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, Illinois
Once Upon A Crime Bookstore, Minneapolis, Minnesota

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 27, 2011)

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

# # # #
The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011



NEW YORK, NY, 4/26/2011--Macmillan announces the launch of a new crime and mystery-focused community website with a focus on sharing and enriching the experience of crime story fandom. Liz Edelstein, Senior Manager and editor at Macmillan Community Network, made the announcement, and said that the site will highlight different areas of the genre, from noir to cozies and everything in between.

The site will feature pre-release excerpts, original short stories from various authors in the space, topical blog posts, and will eventually be offering downloads and podcasts. It’s a place for fans of the genre to come together in one exciting online space. At launch there will be excerpts, original fiction and articles by authors Joseph Finder, Steve Hamilton, Rosemary Harris, Charles Ardai, Luis Alberto Urrea and more.

Much like its successful sister sites, science fiction community and romance community, is "publisher neutral," meaning that it will include author participation from all publishers and other content creators, and is not exclusive to Macmillan authors.

“This is not a typical review or promotions site,” says Edelstein. “We think of as a community for fans, by fans, and the focus is on editorial content rather than on marketing.” will have a social media presence on both Facebook and Twitter as well; visit and respectively.

With, Macmillan is leading the charge in creating a themed community for authors and fans to interact and share their love of crime fiction and nonfiction.

Original short story submissions and pre-release excerpts from authors at any publishing house or other interested parties are truly welcome. Those interested should contact Liz Edelstein at

About Liz Edelstein, Senior Manager and editor,

Working in the intersection of the digital publishing revolution, Edelstein started her career in technology as a product manager at Netscape/AOL and later moved into online book marketing. Prior to taking on this latest role, Edelstein was the Digital Content and Marketing Manager at Macmillan Audio. Edelstein is also an award-winning author, having published thirteen romance novels under the pseudonym Liz Maverick. Edelstein and her books have been featured in USA Today, Cosmopolitan, San Francisco Magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Toronto Star, and more.

For more information on, please contact Liz Edelstein [] or Sarah Melnyk []

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Blogger: ED LYNSKEY

Why I Titled My Latest Noir Lake Charles

Lake Charles, Tennessee, the setting, and title, of my Appalachian noir, doesn’t exist as far as I know. The manmade body of water is a product of my imagination. Later, I discovered there is a Lake Charles in Louisiana while I was reading a title in James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, either The Tin Roof Blowdown or The Glass Rainbow. But Charles just happens to be my middle name, and it fit nicely when I was looking for the name of my lake. Lake Charles takes place in the Great Smoky Mountains, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time.

Back when those “dirty hippies infested” the mountains (as one of the cranky locals told us) in the early 1970s, I hiked on the Appalachian Trail for 150 miles. We embarked on our long trek from Fontana Dam, a hydroelectric dam actually located in North Carolina. The Appalachian Trail spans the top of the lofty dam built by the TVA during the 1940s to generate cheaper electric power to the region. Anyway, the backed up lake submerged the mountain hamlet of Fontana. Learning this bit of trivia as a kid had a strong tug on my imagination.

The TVA also constructed my Lake Charles. But mine is impounded by an earthen dam that my hero, Brendan Fishback, observes is leaky and growing unstable. So, his regard for Lake Charles further dims. The marina where he puts in his bass boat was a happening spot—a lot of dancing, laughing, and smoking—with the youth of his parent’s generation. Not so much nowadays.

Brendan is freaked to find a putrid green scum covers the once pristine water’s surface. His friend Cobb voices their mutual contempt, declaring only carp can thrive in such a “cesspool,” and their hopes to catch any bass are dashed. A stubborn cuss, Brendan refuses to turn around and leave, as most visitors would do. He persuades Cobb how they should make a day of it. The fun-loving Cobb agrees, and with Brendan’s twin sister Edna racing on her jet ski, they head out to the middle of Lake Charles.

Brendan is besieged by vivid dreams, how he communicates with his girlfriend Ashleigh. She’s dead. He was arrested for her murder and then bailed out of prison. He wanted to forget his legal troubles and escape his disturbing dreams by getting away to Lake Charles. Unfortunately, the polluted body of water is a cursed lagoon where a person’s hard life can only turn harder.

Before the day is finished, Edna has disappeared on her jet ski. So, Brendan and Cobb decide to hunker down for the night and get up at dawn to launch their search for her. Late after they’ve fallen asleep, unseen combatants swarm and bushwhack them. First blood is shed when one bushwhacker is shot dead in the chest. The next morning, they deep six the corpse in the lake’s scummy depths, break camp, and slog along the thicketed shores.

By now, it’s obvious to the reader that only dire things can ensue from spending any time near Lake Charles. In the distance, Brendan sees the gray-black columns to forest blazes pluming the sky. He encounters no wildlife. All the prime hardwood has been lumbered. The sunken foundation to the homes of former residents warns him that they had better also desert Lake Charles while it’s still possible. An enterprising criminal has adopted the remote area to grow the illicit marijuana crop that sells quite well.

Once again, tragedy strikes Brendan. He then calls in Cobb’s father. Mr. Kuzawa, a Korean War vet, knows how to deal with the criminal element. They leave behind Lake Charles and the narratives shifts into an almost detective novel mode as they go track down Edna and pry Brendan off the hook for murder. As the noir’s title suggests, Lake Charles is still not yet done with Brendan. He can’t secure any real peace of mind without his final return despite his fervid vow to remain away from it.

Geography doesn’t usually play such an instrumental role in my novels. Lake Charles is my first book taking its title from a specific place. Whether this was a conscious decision in my writing strategy isn’t clear. The dying lake as a cancerous blight in an otherwise picturesque landscape provided a central theme to hang the narrative on. That’s how Appalachian noir works.

Ed Lynskey is the author of the P.I. Frank Johnson mystery series (including The Zinc Zoo out in 2011) as well as a small town cozy mystery, Quiet Anchorage, also now out.

Read the first chapter Lake Charles to learn more about the book and author.

Lake Charles is up for pre-order sales at Amazon Books.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Ken Follett to teach at CraftFest.

Karin Slaughter to be awarded the 2011 Silver Bullet Award for her “Save the Libraries” program.

Joe McGinniss to receive the ITW True Thriller Award.

AgentFest to be the largest event of its kind in the world! Over 55 agents will join us this year!

ThrillerFest VI is less than 4 months away!

Joining us are 2011 ThrillerMaster R. L. Stine, 2010 ThrillerMaster Ken Follett, and Spotlight Authors Diana Gabaldon, John Lescroart, and Robert Crais.

Back at the Grand Hyatt in New York City from July 6-9th, 2011.

Get a terrific room rate at the Grand Hyatt of only $209.00 per night!! This room block is selling out, so make your reservations right away to ensure that you get this fabulous room rate. (You must be registered with the conference to receive this hotel room rate.)

Just call: 1-888-421-1442 to make a room reservation, or click on the link at

Time is running out. Register now:

Can't wait to see you there!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


If you didn't see all my Tweets and Facebook posts about Sleuthfest, why aren't you following me and/or friending me?! I'm here to tell you that Sleuthfest is a blast!

If you're not familiar with it, Sleuthfest is hosted by the Mystery Writers of America, Florida chapter. It is primarily geared towards writers, but I will let you in on a secret: it is a fabulous conference for fans too - but only if you like small, intimate gatherings where you can chat one on one with some of your favorite authors, share lunch and brunch with them, and hang out in the bar with them. Yes, you can do that at other conferences like Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime, but then you are fighting the crowds. Here you are with a much smaller, friendlier crowd.

For me it all started Thursday afternoon with a terrific talk about the importance of genre by two-time Edgar winner S.J. Rozan. She was witty and smart and just plain interesting. Her next stop is Singapore!

Friday was a full day of fun, starting with an early morning panel on the eternal conflict between good & evil, PERFECT PROTAGONISTS & VILE VILLAINS. Jerry Sanford moderated a panel with Michael Palmer, Paul Levine, Julie Compton, and Michael Koryta. It was a full house despite the early hour, with a lot of interesting conversation.

Next was a panel called THE FRACTURED FAMILY. Here authors discussed their characters and their families. This panel featured Hannah Dennison, Deborah Sharp, James Grippando, Sharon Potts, and Lori Roy and was moderated by retired judge Irene Sullivan. Lori Roy is a newcomer, her first novel, Bent Road, comes out at the end of the month to rave reviews. It received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, who said "This Midwestern noir with gothic undertones is sure to make several 2011 must-read lists." I know it's on my list.

The most difficult part of each hour was choosing the panel I wanted to attend, there are usually three or four going on at the same time. I did notice that some people would just hang out in the back for a little while, then they'd move on to another panel.

Next stop was THE PUBLISHING PROCESS: A publisher and an agent give the inside scoop on publishing. Neil Nyren is the Vice President of G.P. Putnam & Sons and he edits some of the biggest names in publishing; W.E.B. Griffin, Clive Cussler, John Sandford, Robert Crais and Patricia Cornwell, to name but a few. The agent on the panel was Meg Ruley, who represents Michael Palmer as well as the moderator, James O. Born. Anytime Jim moderates a panel you can be sure it will be entertaining and this was no exception. They discussed what happens from the time a manuscript is finished until it lands on the bookstore shelf and I found the whole process fascinating.

Lunch on Friday featured Sleuthfest Guest of Honor Meg Gardiner as they keynote speaker. She talked about her publishing process, which was quite unusual. She's an American living in London and her books have been published in England and the rest of the English speaking world, except America - until Stephen King got involved. (see the interview with Meg for more details!)

After lunch I hit the THE POWER OF PUBLICITY: Creating your own brand - packaging, writing and social media with publicist Maryglenn McCombs from Oceanview Publishing, a small press, Joanne Sinchuk, bookseller and manager of Murder on the Beach Bookstore, Oline Cogdill, syndicated mystery reviewer, and the aforementioned editor Neil Nyren. Author Sharon Potts was the moderator, and this was an informative discussion followed by a lively question and answer period. That is another thing about Sleuthfest - every panel I attended took questions at the end, which is really useful and always interesting.

The last panel of the day was so important that it stood on its own with no competition. This was for a new nonfiction book called Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America.

FINDING ADAM WALSH’S KILLER & BRINGING ADAM HOME tells the 27-year-old story - the good, the bad and the ugly - of how one cop accomplished what an entire system of law enforcement could not. The book was written by Les Standiford along with Det. Sgt. Joe Matthews, the cop who finally solved the case.

Les started by reading a bit from the opening chapter, which was the scene when Adam first went missing at Sears. It was heartwrenching, and as a mother it just brought me to tears. Then he skipped ahead a bit and read us some background on Joe Matthews, a very funny story about having his gun stolen during his time in the police academy. All I can say is this book made me laugh and made me cry, and how often can you say that?

Late Friday afternoon found a group of people sitting around a table by the pool, discussing China Lake: An Evan Delaney Novel. The discussion was moderated by Stephanie Levine, a terrific bookseller from Murder on the Beach Bookstore. And best of all, the author, Meg Gardiner sat in too!

There was a "Fiesta Buffet Dinner" for those who wanted to stay at the hotel. After dinner there was a showing of the film Gone Baby Gone, based on the book by Dennis Lehane. After the movie, there was a discussion led by Lehane himself.

Saturday dawned bright and early and I sat in on JUST FOR GIGGLES: Dying is easy, comedy is hard, with authors Elaine Viets, Paul Levine, Toni Kelner, and Steven Forman, moderated by Vincent O’Neil. Despite the early hour there were lots of laughs! After that I was ready for REINVENTING YOURSELF: What to do if your series has run its course or you need a change. This panel featured Lisa Unger, Jonathon King, PJ Parrish (Kris Montee,) and Carol Cope. The moderator was the always entertaining Elaine Viets.

The next panel was called ALTERNATIVES TO PUBLISHING: How ebooks are changing publishing. Paul Levine, Jonathon King, Mike Jastrzebski were moderated by Neil Plakcy. Neil really explained the whole e-book business really well, he was very knowledgeable about it. Levine is also on board with this and told us he has put his backlist of the Jake Lassiter series on Amazon for $2.99 each! His next book, Lassiter, comes out in September so if you don't remember that series or haven't read it, do yourself a favor and get it. I loved that series and I'm really excited about the new book. Start with TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD (The Jake Lassiter Series). And if you don't have a Kindle, reserve Lassiter!

The lunch on Saturday was a lot of fun. First up was the auction! People had the chance to bid on having their manuscript critiqued, drinks with Neil Nyren and a tour of Putnam, a trip to New Orleans for Heather Graham's writer's conference, and to name a character in Lehane's next book. The money raised goes for some good causes and to the MWA. After the auction, featured keynote speaker Dennis Lehane took the stage. He is a terrific speaker, very bright and personable. He spoke about his ten rules of writing, and was really interesting and entertaining.

The afternoon panel with Dennis Lehane, James Hall & S.J. Rozan was standing room only, so I headed over to KEEPING IT REAL: How to make your character’s absurd behavior believable with Sandra Balzo, whose books I adore, Con Lehane, Suzanne Adair, Nancy Cohen, and Michael Palmer. My last panel of the day was MAKING HISTORY: Melding history and storytelling from 1919 Boston to WWII to Miami’s past and present to Kansas in the 1960s. This panel featured Dennis Lehane, James Benn, James W. Hall, and Lori Roy, and was moderated by Bill Hirschman and was just fascinating.

Saturday night was a big night. First there was the poolside book discussion with Dennis Lehane about Gone, Baby, Gone. That was followed by THE AGENTS AND EDITORS COCKTAIL PARTY, also poolside with a complimentary buffet. Then there was musical entertainment by Father Don Bruns and Michael and Daniel Palmer. Finally, at 10:30 p.m. Heather Graham threw a party in the grand ballroom with her band performing. A good time was had by all!

Sunday morning featured a light breakfast but no one got up that early for the food. They were there to see Oline Cogdill interview Neil Nyren and Dennis Lehane. What a perfect ending to a fabulous weekend. Can't wait for the next Sleuthfest!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Florida Book Awards

2010 Florida Book Awards Competition Winners

Children’s Literature
Gold: Jan Godown Annino, She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader (National Geographic Society)
Silver: Mary GrandPre and Jack Prelutsky, Camille Saint-Saens’s The Carnival of the Animals (Alfred P. Knopf)
Bronze: Henry Cole, A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home (Katherine Tegen Books)
Bronze: Brad Meltzer, Heroes for my Son (Harper Collins)
Bronze: Harvey E. Oyer III, The Last Egret: The Adventures of Charlie Pierce (Middle River Press)

Florida Non-Fiction
Gold: Margaret Ross Tolbert, AQUIFERious (Fidelity Press)
Silver: Julian M. Pleasants and Harry A. Kersey, Seminole Voices: Reflections on their Changing Society (University of Nebraska Press)
Bronze: Lu Vickers, Cypress Gardens, America’s Tropical Wonderland (University Press of Florida)
Bronze: Anna Lillios, Crossing the Creek (University Press of Florida)
Bronze: Randy Wayne White and Carlene Fredericka Brennen, Randy Wayne White's Ultimate Tarpon Book (University Press of Florida)

General Fiction
Gold: Mark Mustian, The Gendarme (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)
Silver: Patricia Engel, Vida (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic, Inc.)
Bronze: T.M. Shine, Nothing Happens Until it Happens to You (Crown Publishing Group)
Bronze: Mary Jane Ryals, Cookie and Me (Kitsune Books)

Gold: Carol Frost, Honeycomb (Northwestern University Press)
Silver: Lola Haskins, Still, the Mountain (Paper Kite Press)
Bronze: Kelle Groom, Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press)

Popular Fiction
Gold: William Culyer Hall, The Trouble With Panthers (Florida Historical Society Press)
Silver: Randy Wayne White, Deep Shadow (GP Putnam's Sons)
Bronze: Joyce Elson Moore, The Tapestry Shop (Five Star/Gale/Cengage)
Bronze: Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us (Broadway Books)
Bronze: James Grippando, Money to Burn (Harper)

Visual Arts
Gold: Jason Steuber, Laura K. Nemmers and Tracy E. Pfaff, with a foreword by Rebecca Martin Nagy, editors, Samuel P. Harn of Art at Twenty Years: The Collection Catalogue (University Press of Florida)
Silver: Margaret Ross Tolbert, AQUIFERious (Fidelity Press)

Young Adult
Gold: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Red Umbrella (Alfred A. Knopf)

Spanish Lanugage
Gold: Jose Alvarez, Los Alamos del Parque (Editoral Voces de Hoy)

Gold medal winners will be honored at the Cultural Heritage Day ceremony in Tallahassee on March 23 and all award winners will be honored at a banquet on May 5 during the FLA Annual Conference in Orlando. For more information about the banquet, contact Sharon Gray at Sharon Gray at Additional information about the Florida Book Awards is available at

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dennis Lehane, the library, & Sleuthfest!

If you're not going to Sleuthfest and you'd love to meet Dennis Lehane, swing on by the Hagen Ranch Road Library Friday night (3/4/11) at 6:30 p.m. for Wine & Words with Dennis Lehane. It's $30 at the door and you get two glasses of wine, some snacks and best of all, a chance to rub elbows with Dennis Lehane! Murder on the Beach Bookstore will be there selling books and the author will also be speaking and signing those books! For more information: Writers Live!

Dennis Lehane is also the guest of honor at this year's Sleuthfest, and the following is an interview they did with him:

"So much of learning to write involves one step forward and two steps back-but failure's okay."

Dennis Lehane has built a writing career that most writers dream of. He has published nine critically acclaimed novels, including his most recent release, MOONLIGHT MILE, and the New York Times bestsellers GONE, BABY, GONE; MYSTIC RIVER; SHUTTER ISLAND; and THE GIVEN DAY. His novels have been translated into over 30 languages. Three of his novels have already been made into major motion pictures. Two of his short stories are currently being adapted into feature films. He has written for several television programs, including THE WIRE, and is now busy developing an original pilot for F/X and gearing up to both write the screenplay for and executive produce (along with George Pelecanos) a movie for HBO. Somehow, he still finds time to teach creative writing at Eckert College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It's an understatement to say we're very fortunate to have him as a Guest of Honor for SleuthFest 2011. In the third of our interview series leading up to this year's conference, Joanna Campbell Slan once again put on her interviewer's hat and asked Dennis to share his thoughts about his writing process and career.

Q: You wrote a book in three weeks and tossed it in a box. Then you revised it, and it became A DRINK BEFORE WAR. Tell us about that revision. What had you learned since writing the book that helped you turn it into such a power house of a novel?

A: It went through so many revisions I lost count. The first draft had Patrick's voice and most of the plot structure. That was it, though. In terms of language or depth, it was execrable. First drafts are often like that for me.

Q: You teach writing. What's the one thing you tell your students over and over that no one believes? What do you wish you had heard as a novice writer?

A: If you can't tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as a clearly established main character who takes an active role in that story, then all the pretty prose and wink-wink allusions and meta playfulness will not save you. The other side of that coin is that if all you have is some high-concept plot but you forgot to attach it to three-dimensional characters, depth of language and depth of insight, all you really have is wrapping paper over an empty box. You don't have a novel, at least not as I define one.

Q: Expand, please, on these sentences from an interview with you: Accident or not, Lehane has kept a firm hand on the professional aspects of his writing as well as the creative, understanding as he does the reverberations that a small thing can have on an entire career. "Where you enter the ladder," says Lehane in relation to a writing career, "I think, indicates how far you're going up it."

A: The key missing word here is "can." Where you enter the ladder can indicate how far you're going up it. And, yes, I feel it's better to enter the game with a strong hand. I wanted my first book to be published by a major New York publisher in hardcover. I felt if I were published by a small press and/or as a paperback original, I'd have that much more ground to cover. Several friends of mine did start with paperback originals and went on to considerable success--Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman spring immediately to mind-so what's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander. It's all relative. My way is just my way, it's not the way.

Q: Do you keep a journal? You've said, "There's the idea that any incident reverberates, anything that happens in your life. The smallest thing. So if the smallest thing reverberates, then the biggest thing has a consequence." How do you track those small incidents?

A: In my head. Journals and I just don't work.

Q: How is the real world the enemy of the writer? What can we do about this?

A: Wordsworth has a phrase, "the world is too much with us," which I think applies as much to our era as it did to his. Which is also to say the world was always thus. Writers always had to fight the intrusion of the real world into their creative life and the intrusion of the creative into their domestic life. It's a balancing act. Those who balance it best, tend to have writing careers. Those who don't, don't. Like most things about the profession, there's no easy fix, no magic pill, no instruction manual. You just have to find your way, knowing that many others have come before you and confronted the same dilemmas. So at the very least, you can find comfort in knowing you're not alone.

Q: Many of us who write mysteries want to see justice prevail. In your books, right does not always win out, or at least enjoy a happy ending. In some ways, you seem to be following in the footsteps of Patricia Highsmith with THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY because your characters do commit murder, and yet we cheer for them. Comment on that.

A: I hope you're not cheering for murder in my books. That would suck. Yikes. Otherwise, at the end of the day, if I have to be pigeon-holed, I'll accept that I'm a noirist. And most people who write noir seem to think justice does not prevail. Or, if it does, it's a very relative thing. We've just had the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and everybody of reasonable intelligence knows exactly who's responsible. And yet not only are those people not in jail, they've gone back to engaging in the same practices which led to the meltdown. Meanwhile, we blather on about taxes, birth certificates, border fences and all sorts of odious sound and fury, fiddling while Rome burns. And I'm to believe that justice, in such a world, prevails? Doesn't mean you stop fighting for justice, though. Which is a paradox, yes, but paradoxes are dramatic gold.

Q: Tell us about depth of language. How can you teach that? How can a writer improve this skill?

A: If you don't have it naturally, read for it. You'll take some missteps of course-so much of learning to write involves one step forward and two steps back-but failure's okay. There are some writers who are well-known for their language. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Martin Amis, and Cormac McCarthy. So read those people and emulate them. At some point, your own voice will bubble up.

Q: Tell us about epiphanic moments in your books. Since you don't outline, how do you make sure these happen?

A: I was trained to look for epiphanies. I mean, that was the whole point. A novel is about the moment when a character learns something about himself and/or the world at large that he didn't realize before. The moment when Othello realizes he "threw away a pearl richer than all his tribe" for vanity or when C.W. in THE LAST GOOD KISS realizes his own inability to truly see women has kept him from seeing the truth in front of his face from about the third chapter on-those are the moments I read for. So they're the moments I write for.

Q: You admire Edith Wharton, and her HOUSE OF MIRTH brought destruction to a woman's life through a whisper campaign. As a society we are fixated on physical violence, but you also use emotional violence as a catalyst in your books. What techniques do you employ so that emotional violence seems as real as physical violence?

A: I have no idea. (It should be obvious by now that I don't speak to process well. Sorry. What I find so appealing in Wharton is how she gets at the ways tribes use whatever's at their disposal to eradicate any person or thing they perceive as a threat to the tribe's primacy. That's a pretty noir concept, because in noir the individual who goes against the machine is usually destroyed. Think Harry Fabian in NIGHT AND THE CITY or Eddie Coyle in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE. What's hopeful in noir and in Edith Wharton novels is that the hero tries to break from the pack. That alone is a life-affirming concept.


Our Friday night movie this year is GONE, BABY, GONE, based on the novel of the same name, to be followed by a discussion with our SleuthFest Guest of Honor Dennis Lehane. On Saturday, Dennis will be our Saturday lunch Keynote Speaker, and in the afternoon he will participate on two panels: "Characters Who Withstand the Test of Time" and "Making History." In the afternoon, join him poolside for a discussion of GONE, BABY, GONE, the novel. Finally, in a not-to-be missed session on Sunday morning, reviewer Oline Cogdill will interview Dennis and Neil S. Nyren (Senior VP, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of G.P. Putnam's Sons) about the publishing industry, writing, and the mystery genre.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Michael Palmer, Daniel Palmer, Meg Gardiner, the library, & Sleuthfest!

and did I mention Dennis Lehane?!!

I am just thrilled that these fabulous authors will be visiting our local libraries. They are all in town for Sleuthfest, the annual convention of the Mystery Writers of America. It starts Thursday and runs though the weekend at the Deerfield Beach Hilton. Go to the Sleuthfest page if you'd like to sign up.

If you can't go, then maybe you'd like to stop by one of our Boca Raton libraries to meet these terrific authors. On Wednesday, March 2, at 2:00 p.m. the Glades Road Library will be hosting both Michael Palmer, author of A HEARTBEAT AWAY, which just came out, and his son, Daniel Palmer, whose first novel, DELIRIOUS, came out a couple of weeks ago.

Meg Gardiner has made time out of her busy schedule to swing by the West Boca Branch Library this Thursday, March 3, at 2:00 p.m. This is a rare U.S. appearance for the American living in London.

If you'd like to sign up for either of these events, or for the Dennis Lehane cocktail party/fundraiser on Friday, March 4 at 6:30 pm at the Hagen Ranch Road Library in Delray Beach, it's easy & all online here: Writers Live!

I received this terrific interview with Meg Gardiner, courtesy of Sleuthfest - and if you are not familiar with her work, after reading this you will want to be!

Questions and answers with Guest of Honor Meg Gardiner
February 2011

Time is running out!
Register NOW for SLEUTHFEST 2011!
March 3 - 6
Deerfield Beach, FL

"Writers are troublemakers. It's our job to give readers heartburn."

A common question posed by aspiring writers is: How do I get published? Every published author has a story, but the plot to Meg Gardiner's "big break" story is as twisted and surprising as any you might read in a mystery novel.

In the second of our interview series leading up to SleuthFest 2011, Joanna Campbell Slan interviewed Meg and asked her, among other things, about her publishing journey. It's an interview you won't want to miss, and it's just a small taste of the great information you'll be privy to at SleuthFest. Haven't registered yet? What are you waiting for?

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford law school. She practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her novel CHINA LAKE won the 2009 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original. THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008. Meg lives with her husband, Paul Shreve, and their three children near London. LIAR'S LULLABY is her eighth novel.

Q: CHINA LAKE has non-stop action. What's your process? Do you outline or use any format? Since it was your debut book, what did you learn by writing it that you now use regularly?

A: Nonstop action - glad it seems so. The characters actually go to a museum and play soccer on the beach in between being chased by violent religious fanatics. So if the action feels nonstop, I'll fist-pump that the plot succeeds in maintaining suspense. I outline because that's the only way I can keep from becoming hopelessly lost and entangled in a story. Outlining allows me to build a plot, to make it coherent, and to keep it from wallowing or wandering. What did I learn by writing China Lake? I was powerfully determined to get it published, so I wrote and rewrote and turned the plot inside out and, whenever I saw a straight, flat stretch of story, I attacked it again to twist it, layer it, or add surprises and emotional complexity. I threw everything in. I ripped out the kitchen sink and pitched it into the plot, then tore the pipes from the wall and tossed them in too. I don't feel the need to do that anymore. But in CHINA LAKE, it seems to have worked.

As for what I now use regularly: if I find myself writing a scene where a character mulls, reflects, ponders, or muses - while nothing else happens - I cut it. That's not actually a scene. It's place-holding, or self-indulgence. Out it goes. Back to the action.

Q: It's every beginning author's dream to be noticed by a big name. You were singled out by Stephen King. Tell us how that happened so we can fantasize about it more accurately!

A: It was serendipity. Several years back, Stephen King was packing for a book tour to the UK. Looking for a novel to read on his flight, he opened a box of books his British publisher had sent him. He pulled out CHINA LAKE. I wish I could say he read the first paragraph and felt overwhelmed by the prose. But he decided that the print was large enough for comfortable reading on a long flight. So he took the book along. And by the time he landed in London, he'd finished it. He asked our British publisher who published me in America. The answer was nobody. For me, at the time, this was hugely frustrating. After all, I'm a Californian. I happened to be living in London because my husband's job had been transferred there. And I was excited that a British publisher was putting out the Evan Delaney series. But as an American, I keenly wanted to be published in my own country. However, after five books in the series, and translation into a number of foreign languages, American publishers had said no to all of my novels. Over and over. And over.

Mr. King read my entire series, and liked it. Then, because he's extraordinarily generous and supportive of other writers, he posted an article on his website urging readers to seek out my books. And, to my everlasting joy and gratitude, he wrote a column in Entertainment Weekly saying I deserved to be published in the U.S. and telling people to read the Evan Delaney series. Within 48 hours, fourteen American publishers had contacted me. Two weeks later, I had a contract with Dutton. They signed up the Jo Beckett series, which I was just developing, and their Penguin sibling, NAL, published the Evan Delaney novels. CHINA LAKE was finally published in the U.S. in 2008. In 2009 it won the Edgar for Best Paperback Original.

Q: Jesse is the male protagonist in CHINA LAKE. He's in a wheelchair. Unlike Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme, you were very specific about how he could/could not have sex. You also cover how someone in a wheelchair is received in daily life. How did you research this? Why did you decide to make Jesse less mobile? How do you make sure that he isn't a passive character?

A: Jesse Blackburn is a young man who had the world at his feet: He was a world-class athlete, a star student, an All-American with a brilliant career laid out ahead of him. Then he was run down by a hit-and-run driver and left for dead. I did that to put an irreparable crack in the characters' lives, and in the story. I wanted Jesse and Evan to live with the effects of violent crime, in a way that would never disappear. They can't ignore it or forget about it. It's always there. So the story is about how they deal with the physical and emotional consequences. It's about how Jesse rebuilds his life, and they build their relationship, in the aftermath.

But the point is that life does go on. As Evan says, Jesse learns how to navigate the world without walking it. And, physically, he's not completely disabled - he can walk, with difficulty. He gets around. And there's no chance Jesse could be a passive character, because that ain't his personality - he's cocky and sarcastic, a hotshot lawyer who drives too fast and who hates to back down from anything. Plus he's young, strong, and determined to find a way to do whatever he wants. Where'd he come from? From the way I've seen friends and family handle tragedies and challenges in their lives. From the way that, after a heavy blow, people get back up and keep going. I not only did a lot of research and reading, but also talked to people about how using a wheelchair affects their lives (and how able bodied folks sometimes react to them). They were generous enough to share their experiences with me. Bottom line: living an active life is about character, not the ability to jump.

Q: Evan and Jo, your female protagonists, both have gender neutral names. Why? You chose very romantic names for your male protagonists, and the couples have a rich romantic life yet your books are clearly suspense. How do you juggle both the romance and the suspense elements?

A: Evan is a middle name - her first name is Kathleen - and Jo is short for Johanna. I chose gender neutral names partly because frilly names just struck me as silly for thriller heroines. Partly because they're girls next door, with a bit of tomboy and outdoorswoman in them, and I wanted that to come across. As for the guys in their lives - well, these are women who live to the full, and I wanted them to have partners and families. Evan and Jo aren't broken detectives. They're not alcoholic, or abused, or ruining their relationships by devoting themselves obsessively to their jobs. It's more fun that way, for me, and for them.

The novels are suspense, first and last. They aren't boy-meets-girl, or will-they, won't-they. The romance in the stories grows out of the characters' lives. So it's deep, sometimes risky, and worth fighting for. As it is for all of us.

Q: People look at Jo and wonder, "What is she?" Meaning, they wonder about her heritage. In Jo's profession, she looks into peoples' pasts and wonders, "Who were they?" That sense of identity seems to be very important to you. Tell us about it.

A: Jo performs psychological autopsies to find out whether a victim's death is suicide, accident, or murder. Her job is to unearth the victim's history, and to piece together a jigsaw of the victim's life into a whole picture that illuminates the circumstances of their death. She asks: Who was this person? What goes on in the human heart? In her job, this is more important than dry stains on a lab slide. Understanding the victim's identity is crucial to uncovering the truth. Learning "Who were they?" allows her to find out how they died. Jo happily calls herself "pure California mutt." She's got Irish, Japanese, and Egyptian ancestry. She loves all aspects of her heritage, even when her family's arguing during Christmas dinner. But of course she's aware that she doesn't look like a 1950s poster for Susie Wonderbread. And in America we're fascinated, for good and ill, by people's ethnicity and heritage. But Jo is the increasingly typical California girl. She's who I see, more and more, when I look at my own family.

Q: You are an ex-pat. How has that had an influence on your writing? Or has it? How do you balance writing and being a wife and mother? What's your schedule like? How do you keep your writing time sacred? Or do you?

A: Being an ex-pat has taught me that we live in a big world. What we consider to be "the way it is" sometimes turns out to be just a local attitude. When you get out of your own little neighborhood you meet people who see things from a different vantage point. And that's enlightening. In my writing, it's made me careful to explain American terms and customs for an international audience. I can't expect readers in Amsterdam to know that CHP stands for California Highway Patrol, or that "Red or green?" refers to my heroine's choice of salsa. The big thing I learned is that people in Britain consider California to be exotic. I thought Santa Barbara was an ordinary place to grow up, but my English friends pictured it as Baywatch - all bikinis and jet skis and automatic weapons. And hey, I was more than happy to write stories set in a world I love, and that they find fascinating.

As for my schedule, I write every day, come high water, snakebite, or my mother-in-law. Once my kids started school, it got simple: the school bus came at 7:55 a.m., and returned at 3:45 p.m. Those were the hours when I could write. I thought it was perfect. However, once, while under deadline pressure, I opened my office door to find that the kids had taped a note to it: "Warning - she eats her young."

Q: In CHINA LAKE, you captured the voice of religious extremism in a pitch-perfect way. How did you manage it without getting clich├ęd or too weird to be believable?

A: At the time I thought I was exaggerating for effect. But looking around now, much of what I wrote about the Remnant (the Bring-on-Armageddon sect in the book) could be dropped into a news broadcast without anybody batting an eye.

When I first imagined the story, I had in mind the radical violence of the Oklahoma City bombing. But today, when we hear "terrorist attack," we more or less assume it has been launched in the name of religion. Meanwhile, on the nasty 'n' wacko front, we've got the Westboro Baptist "Church" picketing the funerals of soldiers. There are billboards of a buffed-out Jesus ripping himself off the cross, like a WWF superstar, with the tagline: "You drew first blood, but I'll be back." And last week, a self-proclaimed "bible prophecy expert" joined Glenn Beck on his national television show, on what's ostensibly a news network, to warn America that we may be in the End Times, and that Islam thinks the Antichrist is a good guy. The phrase "wet my pants" was used. Too weird? What's that?

Q: There are a handful of attorneys who write suspense and mystery, including Jeffery Deaver, Jamie Freveletti, and Steve Berry. What is it about being an attorney that prepares someone for writing suspense and mystery?

A: Attorneys have experience writing persuasive documents. It's their job to convince the court, in the teeth of zealous opposition, that their client's case is just. And all legal cases are stories.

Every court case is a narrative. It's a tale of conflict - of something going desperately wrong between people. And it's the attorney's job to frame her client's case in the most compelling way possible, to convince a judge or jury of its merits.

Of course, in a novel, unlike a court case, the author can guarantee that the story ends the way she wants. Or maybe attorneys are natural fibbers. As my son said, aged four: "Lawyer, lawyer, pants on fire."

Q: Gabe has a daughter and Evan is devoted to her young nephew. Someone once told me there's a "rule" against having kids in mysteries because the kids should never be in danger. (I broke that rule, and you have, too.) Any thoughts about how children as characters? They certainly do humanize your other characters. Do you ever worry about putting them in danger?

A: I'm glad I never heard of such a rule. I wrote Luke, Evan's six-year-old nephew, into the heart of the story before I ever dealt with publishing do's and don'ts. And in fact my first editor told me the opposite - she encouraged me to include children in my novels precisely because they humanize the surrounding characters. And I'm a mom of three. With a house full of kids, it seemed completely realistic to include youngsters in my stories.

Sometimes I worry about putting children in trouble in my books - it can be nerve-racking, oppressive, or disturbing. I have never written about abuse or shown children suffering. But writers are troublemakers. It's our job to give readers heartburn, to keep them biting their nails and flipping the pages to see what happens to all these delightful characters who are at such risk. And I don't actually put children in danger. Only on the page.

Friday Guest of Honor Meg Gardiner will speak during lunch on Friday, March 4, in the Grand Ballroom and will be on several panels throughout the weekend. On Friday afternoon at poolside, she'll participate in a book discussion moderated by Stephanie Levine of Murder on the Beach Bookstore about the award-winning China Lake. Don't miss it!

CLICK HERE to register for SleuthFest or, if you've already registered but would like to add Third Degree Thursday to your registration, contact Sharon Potts at

March 3 - 6, 2011
Deerfield Beach, Florida at the Hilton Deerfield Beach/Boca Raton

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