As most folks reading this blog already know, Kate, Lea, Dorothy, Brenda and I spent last weekend at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland, along with six hundred or so like-minded folks. I stayed over till Monday before flying home to Maine. By the time you read this on Thursday, my brain may be functional again, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. I may be caught up on laundry . . . or not. What I will be, is glad I went. I always am. I can’t say for certain how many Malice Domestics I’ve attended, but I’m thinking it’s upward of twenty. I started with Malice III and this year was Malice 27. I don’t know when they switched from Roman numerals, either. I should find out.
Anyway, don’t expect too much coherence in this post. I’m just going to ramble a bit about this year’s experience. I was going to take pictures and did, in fact, take a few, but I’m a terrible photographer. The blurry ones are mine. The ones in focus were taken by people with more skill and steadier hands than I have.
It’s always a shock to head south in the spring. Maine still had brown grass, no leaves on the trees, and precious few flowers when I left on the last day of April. The Washington D.C. area, including Bethesda, is incredibly green. Plus all those flowering trees and bushes. And it’s warmer than here. And it’s humid!! It always takes me a day or so just to adjust to being at sea level. Did you know that our nation’s capitol was built on a swamp? Still feels like one when you’re used cold and dry.
But onward to Malice itself. I flew down on the same plane with Lea, and with Steve Steinbock, who has guest posted here. He does the book reviews for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. We shared a cab to the hotel, about a half hour ride through all that greenery. It didn’t take long after arriving to start seeing familiar faces. In fact, my room was right next door to Sherry Harris from the Wicked Cozy blog. We were on the first floor, which is kind of cool. You can take the elevator down, or you can walk through the area used for book signings and down the grand staircase to the lobby. There’s also an excellent view of the lobby bar, since the hotel is designed atrium style (I think that’s the right term)—good for spotting who’s already there.
Now I don’t want you to think I’m a barfly. In fact, I don’t usually drink at all (bad reaction with my blood pressure meds), but the hotel lobby bar is THE place to meet both old friends and new ones. I had a very interesting chat with Cheryl Hollon, who is writing a cozy series based around a stained glass shop. The first entry, Pane and Suffering, will be out in September. I connected with old friend Jan Giles, who comes to Malice every year . . . from her home in Bahrain. That’s an 18 hour flight. I finally met and had the chance to talk with Mo Heedles, from New Hampshire, who won character-naming rights in a future Liss MacCrimmon novel at last year’s Malice Domestic charity auction. Mo will be in this fall’s entry, The Scottie Barked at Midnight. And of course I reconnected with long-time conference-going pals—yes, Dina, I mean you—and caught up on cats, books, and all the other things traditional mystery readers have in common.
Historical mysteries seem to be alive and well. Jessie Crockett, another of the Wicked Cozies (we think of them as our “sister blog” because we share Barb Ross) is researching one, which led to a conversation about library and historical society holdings. And speaking of history, the first session I attended was put on by two archaeologists who explained how they discovered the identity of a body found in an iron coffin during an excavation. Thanks to DNA testing, they succeeded in reuniting this young man with his family after nearly two hundred years. Fascinating stuff.
Some of my own favorite authors are old friends as well as Malice regulars—Rhys Bowen, JoAnna Carl, Margaret Maron, and Victoria Thompson (who is next year’s Guest of Honor). If you haven’t read relatively new writer Gigi Pandian, give her Jaya Jones series a try. Then there was what’s becoming a semi-regular tradition, going out to eat on Friday night with Lea Wait, Maddy Hunter, Kathleen Earnst, and Kathleen’s sister Barbara.
I met with my agent, Christina Hogrebe, with unexpected (but good) results. You never know how those conversations will turn out! We’re planning ahead. Way ahead. For the time after I turn in the tenth book in the Liss MacCrimmon series. That manuscript is currently “resting” so I will have a bit of perspective on it when I go back to it to revise. First though, sometime very soon, I will be receiving edits from my new editor for the Rosamond Jaffrey historical mysteries. I have no idea what to expect there, but my fingers are crossed that not much will need changing. On the other hand, a good editor makes a book better, so I’m always open to suggestions.
My panel, consisting of the nominees for best short story (me, Barb Goffman, Edith Maxwell, and Art Taylor), was moderated by Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and was a continuation of the blog tour we all went on together during the last couple of months. In person, it was even better. I enjoyed spending time chatting with the other nominees and even ended up getting some valuable feedback from Barb Goffman, who is very good at that sort of thing, during a casual conversation on the lobby bar. Oh, did you want to know about the Agatha award? Nope. Didn’t win. It went to Art Taylor. His acceptance speech mentioned our blog tour and the good feelings it engendered among us. Sure, I would have loved to bring home a Malice teapot, but I don’t feel bad about returning to Maine without one.
I spent some time in the dealer room with old friend Chris Cowan, who makes and sells jewelry. Not as much as I’d have liked to. My arthritic ankles were giving me fits, making it hard to do a lot of walking around. Chris found an adorable Scottie pin to go with The Scottie Barked at Midnight. I’ll save a picture of that for a later post.
Another new acquaintance was Morgan Elwell, Communications and Marketing Manager for Kensington Books. She brought freebies: little sewing kits with Kensington’s name and a URL printed on them. She tells me she brought 400. They disappeared fast. Someone else was giving away pill cases. For the most part, though, the PR material consisted of postcards, flyers, pens, and buttons.
I did warn you I was going to ramble. Oddly enough, one of the prevalent topics of conversation was other conferences, particularly ones where some of us might meet again in the not-to-distant future. Some of us will be at the Historical Novel Society conference in Denver next month. Others are already registered for Bouchercon in Raleigh, North Carolina in October. Registration is about to open for the next New England Crime Bake in Massachusetts. And it wasn’t too soon to talk about the next Maine Crime Wave, either, even though it doesn’t yet have a set date. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the Malice people make it to Maine next April.
One thing everyone at Malice has in common is a love of mysteries. This year, three of the remaining long-time mystery booksellers were represented in the Dealer Room: Aunt Agatha’s, Mystery Loves Company, and Scene of the Crime. I made a point of buying books from all three of them, even though, to be honest, these days it is easier for me to read on my iPad and enlarge the font. Why? Because if we don’t support independent booksellers when we can and, yes, pay full price for those books, even though it would be cheaper to buy them on Amazon, then even more bookstores will go out of business. Trust me, no one wants that!
Now, however, I am faced with a dilemma. Which one of the fifteen hardcover and paperback books I schlepped home from Malice do I read first?