Anthony award nomination sighted, cap’n!

May 19, 2009

Ahoy, mateys! The latest scuttlebutt is that my story “Skull and Cross-Examinations” has been nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Short Story! If that’s not enough to make you want to dance a hornpipe or two, you’ve been at sea too long. Might I suggest a generous portion of rum to help you achieve the proper state of mind? That always does the job for this here pirate.

For you landlubbers out there, the Anthony Awards are given by the attendees of Bouchercon, the annual World Mystery Convention. The convention ships to various ports, but this year’s port of call is Indianapolis, IN in October, and you can bet I’ll be setting sail for the city as soon as I can figure out which body of water comes closest.

Now I wouldn’t be much of a pirate if I didn’t seize partial credit for one of the other nominated stories: my shipmate Dana Cameron’s story “The Night Things Changed.” And I’m not just stealing the treasure of a nomination! Dana’s story was published in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, the werewolf Christmas anthology co-captained by Charming Charlaine Harris and myself. So I’m entitled to a fair share! Anybody who says different will have Charming Charlaine to answer to, and we all know she’s a bloodthirsty wench if ever there was one.

Here’s the full list of short story nominations for your reading enjoyment. I’ve put in those new-fangled links for you to navigate to some of the stories, but some aren’t up yet and others aren’t being put up because publishers wanting to protect them against piracy. (Can’t be blaming ’em for that!) But as any new links show on me charts, I’ll put ’em up here.

  • “The Night Things Changed” by Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe (Ace) 
  • “A Sleep Not Unlike Death” by Sean Chercover, Hardcore Hardboiled (Kensington)
  • “Killing Time” by Jane K. Cleland, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine – November 2008
  • “Skull and Cross-Examinations” by Toni L.P. Kelner, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – February 2008
  • “Scratch a Woman” by Laura Lippman, Hardly Knew Her (William Morrow)
  • “The Secret Lives of Cats” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – July 2008

Now the reason I’m sharing these stories, which don’t come easy to a pirate, is so that any of you scurvy dogs meaning to attend Bouchercon can read them and know just which story to cast you vote for. Of course, if any other scalawags were to read ’em without even intending to go to Bouchercon, well, there’d be nothing we could do to stop ’em.


Who Killed the Pinup Queen?

May 13, 2009

That’s what Tilda Harper will be trying to find out in the next “Where Are They Now?” mystery. I turned in the manuscript for Who Killed the Pinup Queen not long ago, and my editor sent me the cover design last week.


I love the cover, but will have to wait until January 2010 to get my hands on the actual Berkley Prime Crime book.

Guten Tag!

May 13, 2009

I recently got a peek at the cover for the German translation of Wolfsbane and Mistletoe. Or should I say Werwölfe Zu Weihnachten, which translates to “werewolves at Christmas.” I’m happy to see they’re using the wundebar Lisa Desimini illustration from the original edition.


The book itself will be out from DTV in October of this year, which will be sehr gut.

Time to Howl: A Macavity Nomination!

May 13, 2009

So it was last Monday morning, and I was driving through the mountains of Pennsylvania on my way from Malice Domestic in DC to the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont. It’s rainy, so the scenery isn’t exactly spectacular, but I’m having a great time with writers Donna Andrews and Ellen Crosby, who’d generously allowed me to hitch a ride. Naturally we’re gossiping about other mystery writers… I mean, talking about literature. Then my phone rings.

It’s Dana Cameron, who I knew was in the DC airport to catch a plane back to Boston.

“Hey Dana!”

“Have you heard?” she asks.

My immediate thought was that there’d been a natural disaster.  “What?  What’s wrong?”

“You’ve been nominated for a Macavity!”


Excitement ensued, shared by Donna and Ellen. Eventually I get around to asking, “Who else is up for it?”

Dana pauses. “Well, me for one.”

Now that’s a true friend. She lets me cheer happily first, then gives me the chance to do the same for her. Which I did, again with Ellen and Donna’s aid. Since Dana’s story is in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, one of the anthologies that Charlaine, it was almost like a double nomination. 

In case you don’t know, the Macavity Awards (named for T.S. Elliot’s mystery cat) are nominated by and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International and subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal. They’re handed out at Bouchercon, which will be in Indianapolis in October.

The slate of short story nominees is…

  • The Night Things Changed” by Dana Cameron (Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner, Ace)
  • “A Sleep Not Unlike Death” by Sean Chercover (Hardcore Hardboiled, edited by Todd Robinson, Kensington)
  • Keeping Watch Over His Flock” by Toni L.P. Kelner (Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner, Ace)
  • “Scratch a Woman” by Laura Lippman (Hardly Knew Her, by Laura Lippman, Wm. Morrow)
  • “Between the Dark and the Daylight” by Tom Piccirilli (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Sept/Oct 2008)

Dana and I have temporarily posted our stories online for members of Mystery Readers International to have a chance to read them, and we hope Tom’s will be posted on the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine web site. (I’ll post the link if that happens.) Sean and Laura are constrained by their publishers from doing the same, but the books in which their stories appear are easy to find and well worth buying.

For the full slate of nominees for all awards, click here. There are some awesome books and writers on the list, and some good friends, too.

As for the rest of the ride through the rainy mountains, it’s amazing how much better the scenery looked after that.

Festival of Mystery

May 13, 2009

Last Monday was my first visit to the famous Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA, but it won’t be the last. What a great event!

Each year, the folks at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont set up a virtual store at a hall in Oakmont, and invite a slew of mystery writers to entertain the crowd. And I do mean crowd! People lined up outside the door for hours to be among the first inside. Heck, there was even a crowd of authors–forty-two were there to sign and speak and schmooze. 

Now if that weren’t enough, there was a tea beforehand for the authors to meet local librarians, and a pizza party afterward for the authors to munch and relax.

The organization was nearly flawless, and store owners Mary Alice and Richard managed to make each and every one of us feel welcome. Plus there was a platoon of store employees and local Sisters in Crime members on hand to help out. It was just wonderful from start to finish.

It was particularly special for me for two reasons. One, because I had copies of Curse of the Kissing Cousins hot off the presses. And two, because I was sitting next to John Lamb, my daughter Maggie’s very favorite mystery author. Okay, maybe I’m her favorite, but it’s pretty darned close. 

Another treat was meeting fellow Berkley Prime Crime author Mary Ellen Hughes, who supplied these pictures of me and Mary Ellen herself, and then of me and Rosemary Harris with her latest book.

Mary Ellen



It was a lot of fun. If you’re anywhere near Oakmont, mark your calendar now for the Festival of Mystery. With any luck, I’ll be there waiting to meet you.

Malice Domestic XXI

May 12, 2009

Let me start out by saying that I LOVE Malice Domestic. Malice Domestic III was the very first mystery convention I attended, and as surely as the swallows return to Capistrano, I attend Malice each year, making this my nineteenth. So don’t expect a lot of criticism.

This Malice was smaller than some years, but despite economic woes, the committee pulled it together and arranged smaller meeting rooms which made everything (appropriately) cozy without being crowded. They even negotiated a lower room rate than what had originally been advertised, which I call handsome.

I started out the convention participating in Malice Go Round, which is kind of like speed dating for mystery fans. Every five minutes, a duo or trio of writers would visit a new table of fans and introduce themselves and their books, plus hand out cards/bookmarks/chocolates. Twenty tables, twenty repetitions of each spiel.  It was fun, but by the end, I ‘d nearly forgotten my books’ titles, let alone what they were about.

And I want publicly thank Monica Ferris and Kate Carlisle. Each table was supposed to have two authors, but I missed out on the fact that I was supposed to show up ten minutes before starting time, so by the time I got to the room, all the tables had two authors. I was told to pick one at random, and sat down with Monica and Kate, not realizing that would mean that they’d have their time shortened as a result. Monica and Kate had every right to resent my intrusion, but couldn’t have been nicer.  So go buy their books!

I was on two panels this year. First up was “Make it Snappy:  Our Best Short Story Nominees” with all five of this year’s Agatha nominees for Best Short Story, along with moderator Barb Goffman (herself a short story Agatha nominee in 2006). So that meant that Dana Cameron, Jane Cleland, Carla Coupe, Nancy Pickard, and I got to talk enthusiastically about writing mystery short stories. What’s not to like?

My other panel was “Wine, Flowers, and Murder:  The Role Romance Plays in Mysteries,” in which moderator Dana, myself, Mary Burton, and Kate Collins talked about doing “it” on the page. Or, in my case, between chapter breaks. My characters are oddly shy.

Of course, the big event at Malice is always the Agatha banquet. This year was a great one. First off, I was an Agatha nominee, which makes it fun. Second, I was sharing a table with fellow nominee Dana, who made up amazing gift bags for everybody at the table. (And let me throw in some pirate items.) And third, the people at the table were great fun, particularly Dana’s agent, the irrepressible Janet Reid.  We played with toy werewolves from Dana’s gift bags, ate some pretty darned good banquet food, and laughed our tails off until time for the grand announcement of the winner of the Short Story Agatha. Which I didn’t win.

Dana won, for “The Night Things Changed.” And I couldn’t be happier or prouder.

Sure, I like winning awards. But I like seeing good stories win, and I like seeing friends win, and I really like seeing a story that Charlaine Harris and I edited winning. Dana’s story appeared in our anthology Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, which means Charlaine and I get a nice editorial glow from her win. I tried to convince Dana that Charlaine and I should also get the lid to the Agatha teapot, but she didn’t buy it, and she had a werewolf strike force on her side.

Here we are after the Agatha banquet.

Agathas 2009

That’s Chris Grabenstein on the left, with his Agatha teapot for Best Children’s/YA Novel, me, Dana, and our fellow short story nominee Carla Coupe.

Malice ended with the traditional tea on Sunday afternoon, and left me worn out but happy. I’ve already signed up for next year.

Murder 203: Connecticut’s Mystery Festival

May 10, 2009

I am way behind in my blogging because I’ve been awfully busy. So I’m going to try to post stuff in chunks until I catch up.

First up, my trip to Connecticut for Murder 203, which was held in Easton and Westport CT on April 18 and 19. I have to praise the convention staff. It was the conference’s first year, but you would never have known it. These people had things organized! Four tracks of programming, raffles, books for sale, meals, and even a special lounge for the authors. Outstanding! They even supplied a free family pass for Steve and the girls to visit the nearby Beardsley Zoo while I was at the conference.

The Guest of Honor and lunch speaker was Linda Fairstein, and if you ever get a chance to to hear her speak, do not hesitate. She’s funny and perceptive as all get out, whether talking about the writing life her or work as a sex-crime investigator or her advocacy for woman lawyers.

I was on two panels. First I moderated “Darkness, carefully dispensed…” with an incredibly talented and diverse crew:  Brunonia Barry, Robert Ellis, Jennifer McMahon, and Jason Starr. It was a vague panel title, but I found enough common themes and strengths in my panelists’ work to come up with questions, and they did a great job coming up with answers.

Later I was on “Reporters on the case…” with Jan Brogan, Persia Walker, and Hank Phillippi Ryan, which was moderated by Alison Gaylin. This was about the use of reporters as protagonists, which we all do in very different ways. Jan has a newspaper reporter in a big city, while Persia has a gossip columnist in historical Harlem. Hank covers TV news, and Alison has the tabloids. (I took care of entertainment reporting, of course.) Such a wide of characters to all be reporters.

The last event of the day was a generously catered cocktail party, complete with music and a heaping stack of door prizes. 

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the second day of programming, which had the added complication of being held at more than one venue, but I imagine they handled it as well as they did the first day.

On a personal note, the day after the conference Steve, the girls, and I went to the P.T. Barnum Museum in Bridgeport.


As a long-time circus fan, this was a delight. It’s a fascinating collection in a gorgeous building, with exhibits ranging from photos of the original Siamese Twins to items that belonged to Tom Thumb and his rival Commodore Nutt–they wooed the same little lady–to a miniature circus. There were also items from the many industries of Bridgeport, including Singer sewing machines and Frisbies’ pies.

We did have one mysterious encounter. While driving through the Bridgeport streets on Sunday morning, we saw a lone man in mariachi regalia walking through downtown. There must be a story there. If anybody can offer an explanation, I’d be happy to hear it.

But there was no mystery about Murder 203. It’s a winner.