Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, about to depart on my annual pilgrimage to Bethesda, Maryland, where hundreds of mystery lovers gather every spring to celebrate “Malice Domestic.” This is Malice 31. The first one I attended was Malice 3, way back in 1991. I’ve missed a few in between, but not many.
What keeps me coming back? The people, of course. We all start out with something in common—we read traditional mysteries. Those are the ones with no gratuitous sex or violence and it is usually, but not always, an amateur detective who solves the crime. Think Agatha Christie, which is why the awards given out at Malice Domestic are called the Agathas. The so-called cozy mystery is a sub-genre of the traditional mystery.
Reconnecting with Malice friends actually begins at the airport in Portland, Maine, where several of the Maine Crime Writers catch a plane to the D.C. area. For the last couple of of years, Lea Wait, Bruce Coffin, and I have taken the same American Airlines flight, which also made the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel more enjoyable. This year Bruce is one of the finalists for the Agatha for best novel.
I guess I should mention that I have one of the Agatha teapots given out to the winners. Mine is for the best mystery nonfiction of 2008 and was given out in 2009. I won it for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries. In 2015, I was a finalist in the short story category. Bruce and I are in good company. There have been a lot of finalists (and winners) among the past and present bloggers at Maine Crime Writers, including Dorothy Cannell, Jessie Crockett, Kate Flora, Barb Ross, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Lea Wait. Apologies if I’ve left anyone out. We’re a prolific and talented bunch.
One of my favorite parts of Malice is arriving at the hotel, looking around the lobby (especially when the hotel has a lobby bar right next to registration) and immediately spotting people I know. There will be a lot of hugging involved before I ever get to the elevators to go up to my room and unpack. I make it a point to arrive on Thursday, even though nothing officially begins until the next day, to have more time to visit with old friends. That’s also the reason I stay over until Monday, although Malice ends with the Agatha Tea at mid-afternoon on Sunday.
In between, there’s always plenty to keep me busy, and that’s not even counting the great variety of panels I could attend. More than once, I’ve gone to Malice and never managed to get to a single panel except the one I was on because I was fully occupied hanging out in the a) bar, even though I don’t drink, b) hospitality suite, and c) dealer room. In the latter, booksellers offer both new and backlist mysteries while other vendors, who vary from year to year, may sell everything from jewelry and vintage clothing to t-shirts with mystery-related slogans printed on them. This is not a good place to spend time if you’re on a budget! Temptation is great at the charity auction, too, where items range from the chance to name a character in a famous author’s next book to a basket full of goodies, including books and chocolate, related to the theme of someone’s cozy series.
Even for those with a limit on how much they can spend don’t come away empty handed. At registration, each attendee is given a bag full of books and promotional material. Both this year and last year, I shipped boxes of my backlist titles to the bag-stuffing room. Other authors do the same, and publishers contribute new titles. There are also giveaways at the group signing sponsored by Kensington Books, who publish me, Barb Ross, and Lea Wait, among many others. We each get a carton of our newest title to sign and hand out, first come, first served.
Other events at Malice that I’ll attend this year include the Agatha Awards Banquet, interviews with the guests of honor (Donna Andrews and Parnell Hall among others), a special viewing of an episode of Murdock Mysteries with a Q&A afterward with Maureen Jennings, who wrote the books on which the series is based, and the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
This year my panel is on Sunday morning and since it’s called “Book ‘Em: Book-Loving Sleuths” it will give me the chance to talk about my Deadly Edits series featuring retired teacher turned book doctor, Mikki Lincoln. Did I mention authors claim they go to Malice to promote new books? They do, of course, and sometimes we meet with our editors and/or agents, too, but it’s mostly just a big once-a-year reunion with friends in the mystery community. After months of solitude, we spend three or four days in non-stop socializing with like-minded souls and return home rejuvenated and ready to buckle down and write that next mystery novel.
With the June 2019 publication of Clause & Effect, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.