Monday, May 21, 2018

CozyCon 2018, Part One

As our niece Daisy's time with us was drawing to a close, one of the last things we did together was to attend The Poisoned Pen's annual CozyCon which showcases authors who write cozy mysteries.

We arrived early-- as we always do-- and Daisy took the time to go shopping on Scottsdale's famous Main Street. When she got back, she said she wished she'd had more time, so I'm envisioning her next visit to include a longer shopping expedition there.

This year nine authors were attending CozyCon, and they were split into three panels. I'm going to do one panel per post due to time limitations. The authors in the first panel were Jane K. Cleland, Vicki Delany, and Teresa Dovalpage.

L to R: Jane K. Cleland & Barbara Peters
While telling us how things were scheduled, host Barbara Peters told us that her husband Rob had made curd and marmalade from the lemons on their tree. We would be able to have the lemon curd with cake during the breaks, and the lemon marmalade would be one of the prizes handed out during the event. I'll tell you now before I forget: that lemon curd was to die for-- absolutely the best I've ever eaten. (Now that I've reminded myself of it, I'd dearly love to drive over to their house, knock on the door, and say, "Please sir, may I have some more?" But my momma raised me with some manners. One does not go begging at 1 AM!)

In the photo to the right behind Jane Cleland, you can get a glimpse of a Japanese print which figures in Cleland's latest mystery, Antique Blues. We got to see an original print, which was lovely and showed us what Jane was talking about in the different shades of blue.

Jane K. Cleland
"One of the reasons why I like Jane's books so much is that I get to learn stuff," Barbara Peters said. "I have always trusted Jane's research because she's very diligent in that regard.

"One of the things I found interesting in this book is that you're forever striving to expand the lives of your characters and of Prescott Antiques, which started out when she was involved in an auction house scandal in New York and moved to New Hampshire to reboot her life.

"Josie's creating her own little empire. I don't want to spoil anything in the book for you, so I'll just say that Josie makes an interesting decision or two that is going to open up the theater for Prescott Antiques in future books."

Teresa Dovalpage
Barbara turned to the next author. "So, Teresa, here you are from Santa Fe, and your book (Death Comes in Through the Kitchen) is set in Cuba but not recently, just a little further back, right?"

"Yes, because I left in '96, so I did a bit of research to make sure that some of the things I mentioned in the book are still standing and had not been demolished because the book is set in 2003."

"So some of the things involving the transfer of power with the Castros had not occurred."

"That's for the next book," Teresa said.

"Oh, you don't want to move that far ahead!" Barbara replied. "Tell us a bit about the CIA. I loved that!"

"A character is entering Cuba, and one of the ID cards he has says 'CIA'--Culinary Institute of America-- but he is detained for hours because the customs agents at the airport believe he's from the Central Intelligence Agency," Teresa explained. "I've had people tell me that that couldn't have happened, but it really did!"

"This well-intentioned, naive American comes to Cuba to meet a young woman who writes a food blog," Barbara said. "I wouldn't describe this book as a cozy in the traditional sense, but it does have really great food. Did you yourself vet all the recipes?"

L to R: Vicki Delany & Teresa Dovalpage
"Yes. Actually, the book started because of the recipes," Teresa replied. "I didn't want to lose all the recipes my grandmother used to make, but I didn't want to write a cookbook. I don't cook that well anyway. But I could incorporate the recipes into a story. It was a challenge, but a challenge I enjoyed. I tell people that I know I have an accent when I speak, but I assure them that I do not have an accent when I write!"

Then it was Vicki Delany's turn. "Vicki is here from Canada," Barbara told us. "In the past, we've talked about your Constable Molly Smith mysteries and your three standalone books, which are terrific, but you've now embarked on a new path in writing cozies. Tell us about your Lighthouse Library mystery coming in June."

"The Lighthouse Library series was published by Penguin Books under the pen name Eva Gates, and they're set in an actual place-- the Bodie Island Lighthouse outside Nags Head, North Carolina," Vicki said. "As I say in my introduction to the books, there's no way the real building could house a library, offices, a children's library, an apartment, and even a room for a cat, so it's my interpretation of the Tardis or Hermione Granger's handbag-- far far bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside.

"I liked writing that series, and it was my first attempt at writing cozies, but it fell victim to the Great Penguin Massacre..."

"In which they dropped six hundred series," Barbara said. "Six hundred of nine hundred series."

"Well, that was the end of that I thought," Vicki continued, "but the new publisher, Crooked Lane Books picked it up, and I'm absolutely delighted that the newest book in the series, The Spook in the Stacks, will be out in June. My year-round Christmas series survived at Penguin. The third one, Hark the Herald Angels Slay, came out in November, and they have contracted for the fourth."

Vicki Delany
"So you're just basically sitting around making stuff up," said Barbara with a twinkle in her eye.

"Well, that's what we do here, Barbara!" Vicki said.

"Tell us about your Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series," Barbara prompted.

"Actually, it's my favorite of all the things I've written simply because I'm having so much fun with it," Vicki said. [I can attest to this because Vicki showed me the pair of Sherlock Holmes socks she'd just purchased, and she told me they would be making an appearance in the next book she writes.]  "It's set in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. I knew I wanted to write a series set in a bookstore, but I knew I needed a hook. It didn't take long for me to realize that it would be totally feasible to have a store dedicated solely to Sherlock Holmes and all the pastiche as well as all the merchandise.

"I've loved creating this series, and the main character is Sherlockian. She has that Sherlock Holmes mindset. I feel that it's a typical cozy with a bit of an edge. It's set in a nice town on Cape Cod, in a nice bookshop, and Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room is next door. Gemma Doyle has a bit of an edge because she's not that sweet as cozy characters generally are. She can be rude and she can be abrupt."

"And she's probably not a cocaine user which would be really Sherlockian," Barbara added. "Although with medical marijuana...."

"There's a thought!" Vicki exclaimed. "The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, Emporium, and Marijuana Dispensary. Jenn McKinlay, I have the next big thing in cozy mystery series-- the Marijuana Dispensary Mysteries!"

"It's a cash and carry business," Barbara quipped.

"Don't forget about the marijuana brownies for Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room," someone in the audience said, who shall remain nameless (but she must have been channeling a certain episode of Barney Miller).

"I'm making a mental note of that as we speak," Vicki said. "I could even have the recipe in the back of the book."

"And Teresa can write it out for you in Spanish," Barbara added. "You can see how addictive series like these can be when you start making stuff up."

And you can see how addictive attending CozyCon can be, can't you? Stop by next Monday when you'll be able to attend part two of The Poisoned Pen's CozyCon 2018!


  1. Oh, what fun, Cathy!! And I'm really glad Daisy was there to enjoy the event with you. A good lineup of authors, a fun evening, what more to want?

  2. Oh, this was lovely! Enjoyed hearing about this week's episode of CozyCon. Will look forward to next week's. I saw and talked with Vicki at Malice. Jane wasn't there this year, but I've seen her at Lesa's library when Lesa was still in AZ. And Teresa is new to me. Yay!

    1. And I'm sure you realized the identity of the "person who shall remain nameless..."

  3. Utterly delightful posting! I think I'm most interested in Death Comes in Through the Kitchen.

    1. I have to admit that I liked the food aspects of the book. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Delightful, fun. So glad Daisy was there to meet the authors -- and that you got such delicious lemon curd.

    I have never tasted that and the closest I came to the marmalade was lime marmalade. So, I have some treats to try.

    You could ask Rob if he'd sell you a jar!

    1. I'll be heading back shortly when Laurie R. King is there. Chances are very good that he'll make some goodies for that.


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