Tag Archive for: Malice Domestic 2009

Musings on Malice and Mystery

Well, the Northern half of Evelyn David and I are back and I’m happy to report that we had a fabulous weekend. Even the food at the banquet was good…not rubber chicken! (It actually might have been, but I was so hungry at that point that I was ready to gnaw off my own arm.)

Since this was my first Malice, I didn’t know what to expect and as you know, faithful readers of the Stiletto Gang, I was expecting the worst. I had convinced myself that it would be a cross between high school and the prison rec yard in terms of the welcome that I would receive as a first-time conventioneer. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The writers and the fans were warm, encouraging, and delightful to talk to. I made several new friends and promise to keep in touch. But the best thing of all about attending was that I got re-energized about writing and about getting further into my fifth book about Alison Bergeron, something I was hoping would happen while I was away.

Mystery fans are a devoted lot, I must say. They know their books, their authors, the characters, and the plot lines. I am awe of how much these people know about series—where they began, where they are going, where they might have ended—and how loyal they are as readers. Evelyn David and I had a long conversation about what authors owe their readers and decided that we didn’t really know. What happens when you kill off a major character? What does that do to your readership? Does it matter? Maybe. I write my books attempting to stay true to the characters and their lives. But, I do give a lot of thought—if not to what the fans might say—but to just how real-life a certain plot point might be or what a certain action will do to the arc of the series. I guess part of that thought process, maybe subconsciously, takes into account what the fans might think. I know that there are successful authors who have killed off a fan favorite and heard about it from their readership. I don’t know if that has affected the writing they do now, but I do know that it probably affected them in terms of the criticism they had to endure.

But I digress. I also had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with Parnell Hall, Rhys Bowen, and Carole Nelson Douglas; we were charge with appearing as our main character, in costume. Well, if you have read the Alison Bergeron series and know anything about me, it is that Alison and I are pretty similar when it comes to what we wear. Evelyn suggested that I appear in a hockey jersey, an homage to Alison’s love of the game. When I got to the panel, I could see that clearly I was out of my league. Parnell was dressed as Cora Felton, aka the Puzzle Lady; Rhys was in a ball gown, blonde wig, and tiara, dressed as Georgie, cousin of King George V of England; and Carole was in black feathers from head to toe, impersonating her feline protagonist, Midnight Louie. I was clearly out of my league. (Evelyn knew it, too. I could tell by the look on her face.) I decided to play the straight man. There was no way I could compete with this crowd. It worked out pretty well, and although I didn’t get the guffaws that my panel-mates did, I think I held my own.

Future promotional activities include a speaking engagement at my alma mater; two bookstore signings with Evelyn; and perhaps a trip to Bouchercon (I’m still deciding on that one). But I’ve left the attic, dear friends. And in the immortal words of Nina Simone, “I am feeling good.”

Maggie Barbieri

From Malice Domestic 2009

The Agatha Banquet was funny and inspiring. many of the speakers acknowledged that Malice Domestic 2009 was almost cancelled due to the dire economic situation, but that everyone renewed their efforts to make it a success.

There was a sense of camaraderie to the whole weekend – like brothers (& sisters) in arms, committed to preserving and celebrating the traditional mystery. Elaine Viets was the toastmaster for the evening. She spoke movingly of the support and encouragement she received from the community when she suffered a series of strokes two years ago. That had been my first Malice and I remember being so impressed by the concern and efforts to help an author in a difficult time.

Nancy Pickard was the guest of honor. She has a quiet, effective sense of humor and is very inspiring. I still quote from her Agatha acceptance speech of two years ago when she talked about studying her craft of writing. She was an accomplished author who had 20+ books to her credit, but she wanted a challenge and pushed herself to write outside her usual genre. The Virgin of Small Plains was the result. Saturday night she described her visits to 49 libraries throughout Kansas, since January. Even in the tiniest, most economically depressed towns, she found a civic pride in having a library, in the celebration of the written word. She got a standing ovation – much deserved.

The Agatha winners were all excited and humbled by their awards – and all seem genuinely touched that they had been selected by fans for this recognition. I’ve never been to Love is Murder or Mayhem in the Midlands – the Southern Half goes to those conferences – but this is my third year at Malice and I’d sign up again in a heartbeat.

Malice is a small, super-friendly, well-organized convention with all the cozy/traditional writers that we all adore and it’s easy to fit right in. I also couldn’t help but laugh when I walked through the lobby area of the event hotel – at what other national convention do you find so many attendees sitting around reading? How fun it is to be with others who love the written word!
And for a group who loves to read about murder and mayhem, it’s also a group who is constantly cracking jokes and laughing out loud.

I’m on a panel tomorrow at 12:30 pm – then will head back home — with dreams of Malice XXII already in my head

Congratulations to all the Agatha award winners!

Best Children’s/Young Adult, The Crossroads, by Chris Grabenstein for Random House.

Best Short Story, The Night Things Changed, by Dana Cameron for Penguin Group.

Best Non-Fiction, How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries, by Kathy Lynn Emerson for Perseverance Press.

Best First Novel, Death of a Cozy Writer, by G.M. Malliet for Midnight Ink.

Best Novel, The Cruelest Month, by Louise Penny for St. Martin’s Press.

Evelyn David