Monday, May 11, 2015

The Death on Demand Party at The Poisoned Pen!

 The second I walked into The Poisoned Pen I knew it was a special day. Well, I knew that before I walked in, but the decor really brought it home. Palm trees are not normal for my favorite bookstore, but they are in Carolyn Hart's series which takes place in the Death on Demand Mystery Bookstore on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Today was all about Carolyn Hart and her twenty-fifth book in the Death on Demand series, and bookstore owner Barbara Peters and her staff had not only made the place welcoming for Carolyn and her fans,  they'd also gone all out for the group of authors helping us celebrate. Which authors, you ask? Well... besides Carolyn Hart there were Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle, Hannah Dennison, Laura DiSilverio, and Judith Janeway. This event had morphed into Cozy Con 2015.

For a while I was distracted by all the books on display that were written by the attending authors, as well as the artwork and quizzes that all the fans were encouraged to take part in. Before I go any further, I just want you to know that you can click on any of these photos, and a new window will open so you can see each one in more detail.

The art quiz-- Guess the author and protagonist!

A close-up, if you want to try your hand at part of this quiz!

Suspended from the ceiling were artists' renditions of eight different cozy covers, and fans were asked to guess each book's author and the protagonist of the series. In addition there were two more quizzes; one to see how much we knew about Carolyn Hart's books, and the other to check our knowledge of Agatha Christie-- Hart's favorite writer.

Once I'd gotten over being distracted (and taking photos), I found a seat and sat down to people watch, and boy, was that fun! I recognized several people from attending previous events, and I also spoke to some of the authors who were making appearances as fans: Betty Webb, Annette Mahon, Donis Casey, Eileen Brady, Paige Shelton, and Frederick Ramsay. This event hadn't even begun, and it was already turning into a mystery lover's dream! The cash registers were ringing, people were busy taking the quizzes, the coffee and tea bar was open, and the air was filled with excited book chatter.

Before the event's official start, host Barbara Peters chatted with us for a few minutes. I liked her telling us that the staff of various cruise ships call her "the book woman." Peters has been known to ship cartons of books ahead when she's on her travels, and when she's on board a cruise ship, she leaves behind the books she's read for the enjoyment of the ships' staffs.

Peters then asked us if we wanted another Cozy Con next year. I think people across the street could hear our resounding "YES!"

"Carolyn-- that rat-- told me this was her last Death on Demand book, which was why this event was originally billed as a farewell tour," Peters told us. "Later she said she'd gone into such a deep depression that she's writing another!" (More cheering.)

Hart talking with Katherine Hall Page via Skype.
First off was a brief visit with author Katherine Hall Page in Boston via Skype-- made all the briefer due to technical difficulties on both ends of the connection. When all the connections finally stabilized, we were left with very low volume on the sound, which meant that Barbara had to repeat everything Page said so that the crowd could hear.

Page was a bit envious of the setting of this event, mentioning that she'd just endured 136 inches of snow during the winter. 

Carolyn asked, "And how many books did you write during this time?"

"I was too depressed to tie myself to the computer," Page replied, "but I did do a lot of reading!"

"What can you tell us about your latest book?" Hart asked.

"Go slow!" exclaimed Peters who was tasked with repeating everything Page said.

Page then proceeded to tell us a bit about The Body in the Birches, which will be released Tuesday, May 12. The book demanded a lot of research, and a lot of invasive questions being asked of people. Page believes that the book proves "that it's often really small things that can tear a family apart." Peters agreed. "I know of a family that fell apart over a teapot."

After a few more questions, the Skype call came to a reluctant end.  Poisoned Pen staffer John Charles then began an interview with authors Dennison, McKinlay, Carlisle, DiSilverio, and Janeway.

L to R: Donis Casey (standing), Hannah Dennison, Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle

L to R: Laura DiSilverio, Judith Janeway, John Charles

Charles asked the panel of authors a series of questions, beginning with introductions. Beware! I'm only giving the highlights of this event (the length of this post is going to be gargantuan anyway), so please don't be annoyed if I skip some of the introductions, etc. That's one of the major reasons why I've provided links to each author's website.

Here's what I gleaned from John Charles' interview:

Laura DiSilverio
Laura DiSilverio was in Air Force intelligence and retired in 2004 after having served for twenty years.

When talking about cozy mysteries, Kate Carlisle said, "I've always considered 'cozy mystery' a marketing term," while Hannah Dennison remarked, "There are no real cozies in England [she's British]. English writers tend to write dark stuff. Because of the weather!"

Jenn McKinlay's first mystery featured a hooker, fish, and a strip club owner. Somehow-- after her agent told her that those characters really weren't going to work-- the manuscript turned into the first Cupcake Bakery mystery. "Go figure!"

Another question was how the authors dealt with having an ordinary person finding one dead body after another.

Judith Janeway
"I don't deal with it," Jenn McKinlay said, which provoked another big laugh from the audience. "Most of my stuff is fueled by comedy."

Hannah Dennison added that she "rel[ies] heavily on suspending disbelief."

Another question brought groans from the panel. "What is one of your favorite cozy mysteries of all time... or one that you feel everyone should read?" (Groans and gasps of disbelief from the authors)

Judith Janeway: "Go read some Agatha Christie!"

Laura DiSilverio, whose Readaholics series involves a book club that reads a lot of classic crime fiction said, "Start with Agatha Christie and Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe."

Kate Carlisle
Kate Carlisle: "Carolyn Hart. All of them. In order."

Carolyn Hart (from the back of the room): "May I kiss you?"

Kate Carlisle: "I'd also add Victoria Thompson. Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery series, and Barbara Ross's Maine Clambake mysteries." 

Hannah Dennison: "I love M.C. Beaton."

Jenn McKinlay warmed the cockles of the hearts of the authors seated in the audience by naming them all. (They're all listed in the fourth paragraph....)

Question: What do you hate about writing? What do you love about writing?

Jenn McKinlay: "Working in my pajamas. Being ten feet from the pantry. What I hate are writing the middles of books, and I miss interacting with people... water cooler chat."

Hannah Dennison: "I hate writing the beginning, and I love it when it all comes together."

Kate Carlisle: "My favorites are finishing and writing dialogue."

Laura DiSilverio: "I love working at something that I'm passionate about. I don't like proofreading typeset copy!"

Judith Janeway: "The worst day writing is better than the best day not writing!"

Question: What is your current book? What is your next book?

Janeway: "My current book is The Magician's Daughter, and my next book is The Magician's Duel."

DiSilverio: "My current is The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco, and my next book is more in the line of women's fiction, The Reckoning Stones. I'm also doing research for another book, so if you've ever attended an event in which something has gone wildly wrong, please get in touch with me!"

Carlisle: "Current? The Book Stops Here. Next is another Bibliophile mystery, Ripped From the Pages, which features a tasting cave. [Wineries] Tasting caves are the latest thing. I know this because I've done a lot of research! I'd also like to mention my third Fixer-Upper mystery being released in November, Crowned and Moldering."    

Dennison: "My current book is Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall. The mother in the Honeychurch Hall books is based on my own wonderful mother, and each book will feature some sort of threat similar to those facing British stately homes today."

Jenn knows how to make us laugh!
Right at this point, the loud, insistent tones of a cell phone could be heard. We all know that cell phones are to be turned off or set to vibrate during events, so many of us were craning our heads in an attempt to locate the culprit. To Jenn McKinlay's deep embarrassment, it was her phone. Grabbing her purse and making a mad dash for the outdoors, she apologized profusely.

Upon her return, she explained that her two young sons were preparing lunch for themselves and had had a moment of "male refrigerator blindness."

Once we'd stopped laughing, Jenn went on to tell us that her current book is Dark Chocolate Demise, a Cupcake Bakery book. Her next book is from the Library Lovers series and is titled A Likely Story. It will be out in November, and is her first book in hardcover. (Congratulations, Jenn!) A Likely Story was inspired by her efforts at reorganizing, when she discovered that hoarders are living in her house. When a fan wanted to know what her next Hat Shop mystery was, Jenn said, "It's coming out in January and is called Copy Cap Murder." 

Another fan asked about male cozy writers. Barbara Peters quipped, "If you're English, cozy is P.D. James," and once again we broke out laughing, but names like Aaron Elkins, Tim Myers, and Dean James were mentioned. One of the authors also mentioned that several men wrote cozies using female pen names.

L to R: good friends Barbara Peters and Carolyn Hart

After a short break to restore circulation, to get more food and drink, and to chat, the event resumed with Barbara Peters interviewing her good friend, Carolyn Hart, who loves Agatha Christie's writing. After talking a few minutes about the British Library Crime Classics that are being published in the US by Poisoned Pen Press, we all got to learn a bit more about Carolyn. 

"I was a failed writer who'd resorted to teaching," Carolyn said, "when I went to a writers conference in 1985 and talked with Bill Crider. He asked me if I'd ever been to Murder By the Book, and I told him that I'd never heard of it. When he told me that it was a mystery bookstore there in Houston, I was mystified. I'd never heard of such a thing. I went, and I fell in love with the place the second I walked in the door. I used it as the inspiration for my fictional bookstore, Death on Demand

"Although dysfunctional characters were all the rage then, I wanted to write about a non-dysfunctional couple who lived on a fictional island [based on Hilton Head, South Carolina, where she spent summers as a child] off the South Carolina coast. My manuscript sold the first week my agent sent it out. When the agent called me and said, 'This is a series, isn't it?' I thought that it was news to me, but I said, 'Of course!'"

Not being a huge lover of cell phones, Hart made sure to set one of her Death on Demand books on an island with no cell phone reception, so she wouldn't have to deal with them. Carolyn also told us how Max Darling got his name. "'Max' is in honor of Agatha Christie's second husband, and 'Darling' is for Ron Darling, a pitcher for the New York Mets. What can I say? I love baseball!"

Barbara made sure to mention that the Mystery Writers of America had given Hart the Grand Master Award in 2014. "When they called me, I thought they were going to ask me to be on a panel or something. I was thunderstruck," Carolyn said.

Speaking of awards, we all learned that Barbara Peters and her husband Robert Rosenwald are going to be given the Hercule Poirot Award at the 2016 Malice Domestic conference. (From the Malice Domestic website: "The Poirot Award is presented to honor individuals other than writers who have made outstanding contributions to the Malice Domestic genre. The award is bestowed by the Malice Domestic Board of Directors and presented at the Malice Domestic conference. The Poirot Award is not an annual award.")

Carolyn Hart
"I'm 78," Hart said, "and I've been writing two books a year for at least fifteen years now. When I told my publishers that I wanted to go down to just one book a year, they said it was okay, but that I had to choose which series I wanted to continue.

"I chose Bailey Ruth because I find it so challenging. There are no coincidences. There has to be a reason for Bailey Ruth to see and know things.

"But I found that I was going into a decline. No more Annie and Max? So that's when I decided I would write one more after Don't Go Home.

When asked, Hart told us that the next Bailey Ruth mystery would be Ghost to the Rescue. It will be her 59th book.

Which of her books is she proudest of? "Letter From Home," she replied. "It's about life on the home front during World War II. I'm also very proud of Escape From Paris, which is about two American women trapped in France during 1940 who help British airmen escape the Nazis."

Mentioning Oklahoma and the terrible storms that roll through at this time of year, Hart told us about a program called Let's Talk About It that's run by the state. "The people running the program told me that my Letter From Home and Donis Casey's The Old Buzzard Had It Coming were the two most popular books for the year." Naturally we all had to applaud the news-- especially since Donis was in the audience! 

Barbara Peters mentioned all the many kindnesses Carolyn Hart has been known to show to her fellow writers, and from the corner of my eye, I saw many authors' heads nodding in the audience. Carolyn looked a bit uncomfortable. "Well, when I'm standing at the Pearly Gates, I just want to say that I tried to help writers. I'm paying forward all the many kindnesses I have received over the years."

Brief mention was made of her latest Death on Demand book, Don't Go Home. "A young writer has a runaway bestseller that features many characters based on people in his hometown. They've been disguised, but if you know the situation, you're going to be able to identify these people. It is very ill-advised for that writer to return home. But he does."

At that point, the quiz winners were announced and their prizes distributed, and we all adjourned to have our books signed-- and to have a piece of the yummy chocolate cake that had been waiting for us.

What a marvelous afternoon!

Stay Tuned! More on these goodies (and more) next Monday!


  1. Enjoyed your write up very much. Thanks for sharing the event with us.

    1. You're welcome, Lynn. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  2. What a great time you must have had, Cathy! I love all the festivity, and it sounds like a great presentation too.

    1. The folks at The Poisoned Pen did a wonderful job. My hat's off to all of them-- and I did have a wonderful time!

  3. I'm glad to hear y'all enjoyed the event as much as I did. What fun it was, with the contests, baked goods, and great conversation. Thanks for the wrap-up, Cathy.

    1. You're welcome, Laura. It was so nice to be able to meet you! I'm looking forward to your next Readaholics book!

  4. Oh, how perfectly lovely!!! I wish I had been there, but you did a good job, Cathy. Such a wonderful event. I'm going to link to it tomorrow when my post is about 10 authors that I've met in person. And Carolyn Hart is one of them. I was quite the fangirl. :-)

    1. It can be so much fun to be a fangirl, can't it? :-)

  5. Thanks for the detailed report. I wish I could have been there to see so many of my favorite authors!

    1. You would've loved it, Chris. I wish you could've been there, too.

  6. Oh, it sounds like a wonderful evening. Thanks for doing such a good job in summarizing it, as usual, and giving a real feel to the festivities.

    Am looking forward to next Monday's post.

  7. Imagine me sitting here with a pout on my face.

    Okay, don't. It's not an attractive picture.

    That event sounds like it was so much fun. I always wish I could have been there when I read about these things.

    1. Instead of meeting you for dinner when you were in town, I should've taken you to The Poisoned Pen!

    2. Maybe next time. Dinner was great, though. It was very nice to get to sit down and talk to you and Denis.

    3. Yes! Denis and I had a great time!


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