Monday, June 04, 2018

CozyCon 2018, Part Three

Thank you for joining Denis, Daisy, and me for the third (and final) segment of my coverage of The Poisoned Pen's CozyCon, an annual event that showcases some of the best cozy mystery writers in the business. I'm posting the segments in the order in which host Barbara Peters originally wanted them before an author's late flight meant some last minute changes. In this installment, we're going to be enjoying the company of Kate Carlisle, Jenn McKinlay, and Paige Shelton. There's no time to waste, so let's get this show on the road!

First off, I'm going to mention that these three are sharp and don't miss a trick... or me checking that a little black gadget on top of my book bag was turned on. "What's that?" Jenn whispered. "A recorder," I whispered back. To the raised eyebrows of the three, I clarified, "No more sitting here scribbling notes!" to which I received thumbs up and smiles. (I don't remember what else they did, but Daisy certainly chuckled on the recording. Memo: Get video recorder!) I've found that using the recorder means that I'm free to comment and/or ask questions, something I seldom ever did because I was too busy catching up on my note-taking. But I digress.

L to R: Paige Shelton, Kate Carlisle
Poisoned Pen staff member John Charles led the second panel and began it by saying, "I know it's hard to believe Jenn and Paige and Kate, but there may be some people who don't know who you are, so could you tell us a little about yourselves?"

Paige was first. "I moved here about three years ago to Gilbert, Arizona from Salt Lake City, Utah where I lived for twenty-seven years-- a long time. My son's in college in Missouri, in fact, I get to go there next week to see him graduate. I've had friends tell me that when their kids were out of college it felt as though they'd been let out of jail, so I'm looking forward to that.

"I started writing when I was seven and started taking it seriously in 1997. I thought I'd be published by the year 2000, but I wasn't published until 2010. Thirteen years of trying to get published! I have stacks of rejections. When we moved here, my husband was in the basement of our house in Salt Lake City and found all my rejections. He yelled up to me, 'Do you want to keep these?' and I said, 'Yes!' He said, 'But these are brutal!' and I said, 'Yes, but I'm published now, so there!'

"I have seventeen books now which makes me look like a slacker compared to these two, but I'm enjoying it a lot."

Kate Carlisle
"I'm Kate Carlisle. I write the Bibliophile mysteries and also the Fixer-Upper mysteries. And I wrote six Harlequin Desires." (She then said something sotto voce, but it doesn't matter how many times I listen to that bit of the recording or how many times I monkey with the sound, I can't decipher it because there was too much laughter. Memo: Get software that can remove extraneous noise from recordings.)

"My first book was published in 2009; it took me many years... oh! I have a rejection that says 'I'm sure you mean well, but you will never publish.'" Universal gasps were heard throughout the bookstore. "I just stuck it in an envelope and put it somewhere and kept writing.

"Book twelve in the Bibliophile mysteries comes out next month. Brooklyn and Derek, who have been together for a few years now, get married... or so we think! Along the way there's a librarian convention-- Jenn and I went to San Francisco to a meeting of the National Librarians Association to do research. That was a really fun book to write.

"The Fixer-Upper mysteries have Shannon Hammer who's a building contractor specializing in Victorian-style architecture. They're also on the Hallmark Channel, and that's so much fun!"

L to R: John Charles, Jenn McKinlay
"Hi, I'm Jenn McKinlay. I'm a former librarian; I worked for Phoenix Public Library...." Jenn was stumbling badly here. "Okay. I'd just like to ask-- does anybody else react badly to allergy medicine?" Nods of agreement from the audience. "My family seems to think I turn-- to put it nicely-- psychotic-- anybody? Just me?"

"How would anyone be able to tell the difference?" John Charles asked innocently. The bookstore erupted with laughter, and I caught the Kodak Moment with my phone. "You will burn! Burn!" Jenn exclaimed before she got back on track. "The whole thing starts with the coughing, sneezing, itchy throat, watery eyes, and I start drinking lots of water, thinking I'll wash it away. Then I crack. I take half a Benedryl-- I am unconscious in twenty minutes! That doesn't work because of deadline. Ten pages a day. I have to make this happen. So my doctor tells me to take Zyrtec. So I tried Zyrtec. Half a pill. I get amazing amounts of work done; I'm focused. It's like Adderall. And then about six hours in, I want to punch somebody so bad! My own family thinks I'm insane! So I can't take Zyrtec."

"Try ____." (Sorry, Daisy, my niece who works in the emergency room of her local hospital. I just couldn't decipher that.)

"What is that? Is it British?" Jenn asked. (She'd already been introduced to Daisy.)

"It's terazosin hydrochloride; you can get it here," Daisy replied.

"We have someone here from England who's going to hook me up!" Jenn said, then whispered (into her microphone) to Daisy, "Write that down!" Daisy whispered back, "I'll give you it on a piece of paper later!"

Available June 26, 2018!
John Charles then wanted to talk about their newest books. Kate Carlisle led the way since she'd already talked about hers during her introduction.

"It doesn't come out until late June-- and I'll be coming back to talk about it then. It's called Buried in Books. The title has a couple of different meanings. One is that it takes place during a librarian convention, so there are tons of books, and that may be a hint of how the murder occurs. Also 'buried' rhymes with 'married' and I thought that was [now it was Kate's turn to struggle for words]... that's about it!"

"You took an allergy pill, didn't you?" Jenn said.

"I take one every day, and it makes me very... normal," Kate replied.

Available Now!
 "Lost Books and Old Bones is the third book in my Scottish Book Shop mystery series," Paige said. "It takes place in Edinburgh like the other ones do. My aim in this series was to make it an escape, but to weave Scottish history in the story, too. In Lost Books and Old Bones, the history I weave in is Burke and Hare, the graverobbers who turned to killing because they could make more money giving the doctor fresher corpses.

"There's also a modern-day murder. Delaney finds some scalpels in the secret storeroom in the bookshop that may or may not be tied to the doctor who was taking the bodies from Burke and Hare."

"Follow that, Jenn," John Charles requested.

Available Now!
"What was the question?" Jenn quipped. "Wedding Cake Crumble just came out... right? I'm on deadline, so I'm putting in sixteen-hour days. I  have this Twitter problem, and when I'm tired of writing... well, I'm telling myself that I'm going to leave social media..." Cue sounds of disbelief in the audience. "Did you read the book? Well, here! You tell them what it's about because I can't remember!" Jenn said, handing her microphone to my friend Jenn from Tucson who was sitting with Daisy and me in the front row.

"You're so mean!" Tucson Jenn cried. "That was five books ago! Well, it's Angie's and Tate's wedding, and all these people keep dying who are connected peripherally to the wedding. So who is the target?"

Nice, concise job, Jenn!

"Is this the one where you got to invite a lot of your characters from the other series?" John Charles asked.

"No, that was the latest Library Lovers book, Death in the Stacks," the Jenns replied.

"This is my tenth Cupcake Bakery mystery. It's set here in Scottsdale, and it was the first book written under my own name," Jenn McKinlay said. "I broke into writing by writing as somebody else..."

Jenn McKinlay
"James Patterson?" said John Charles with yet another innocent look on his face.

"Yeah. I should!" Jenn said. "I was at a book signing at the Tucson Festival of Books, and... I don't know why I'm here. I like gossip. Let's just gossip! Anyway, they put me in this tent, me and my cupcake book. I think I was in the second or the third group in the sweltering heat-- has anyone been to the Tucson Festival of Books?-- it's freakin' awesome, everyone should go!

"Anyway, I'm sitting there and I see I'm with Andy Gross-- super psychological thriller guy. I love him-- Gregg Hurwitz, and Thomas Perry. One of these is not like the others...! So I've got these three manly thriller writers talkin' shootin' and guns and suspense, and I'm like... I have cupcakes! To make a long story short, what was great about it was that Andy Gross is the nicest person ever because I have no sense of personal boundaries-- which anyone who knows me knows. I went right in there and said, 'You're the first guy who wrote with James Patterson! How was that?' He said, 'Well, I wouldn't have a career without him, but I wouldn't necessarily write with anyone again.' I thought that was a really great answer. 

"This is the tenth book in the series, but it seems like I wrote it a long time ago, and this was a good story," Jenn concluded.

John Charles then asked about the advantages and disadvantages of writing a series.

Paige Shelton
"I am so going to steal what Candy [C.S. Harris] once said because I think it's fabulous," Paige replied. "Writing series is great because you get to revisit your characters and you get to watch them grow and give them long lives and lots of things happening to them, but it keeps you from writing that other thing you're thinking about. What if you've got this series commitment... what happens to the new people who are coming into your mind? Do you try to wedge that in, or do you just ignore it?"

"I love reading series," Kate said, "I love writing my series because these people live in my mind and I like most of them even more than I like members of my own family. Even though they're not real. But they feel real, and I love visiting them." At this point, Kate was struggling for words, probably because she was trying to find a new way to answer a question she's been asked countless times. What did she do?

Kate Carlisle
"Um. I don't know... I'm uh... I took one of Jenn's pills...." Kate waited for the laughter to die down. "The thing about series is that you come back to the community. You come back to learn what's going on with the characters..."

"But how do you keep track of all those characters?" John Charles asked. "Do you ever put them in the wrong place, or..."

"Like when I called Brooklyn Shannon?" Kate responded. "I did this with the book that I just got back from my editor for revisions. She had all these cross-outs, and I wondered what in the world? And I had called people by the wrong name. I called the killer the name of her dog for instance."

"It's a good thing there are copy editors," John Charles said.

Jenn McKinlay
"I'm a series reader like Kate," Jenn said. "I'm going to try to answer this one straight...." People in the audience began to laugh. "Why do I even try?" Jenn wailed. "I found Nancy Drew when I was nine, and I blew through the entire series in one summer. So, I always had a real affection for series, and when I started writing, I knew I wanted to write a series.

"The problem with publishing is that when you sign up, you're usually offered a contract for three books. That made me envision my story arc lasting for three books. Then the books start doing well, and the publishers say, 'We want three more!' Then 'We want three more!' The Cupcakes are on ten; I had that wrapped up in three, so when you ask me things like why I broke them up, give me a break here!

"And then sometimes the publishers do a little housecleaning, which is what happened to my Hat Shop series. I had the last book end on a wicked cliffhanger-- it was epic!-- and when they told me there would be no more books, I had to get the book back and rewrite it in a week. Well, thanks Megan and Harry-- everyone's saying, 'That hat shop thing... would you be interested...?' Who knows? I just sent proposals to the publishers, so maybe...." All the Hat Shop fans clapped and cheered.

"It's a crazy business," Jenn said. "I was on the gravy train. The gravy train broke down. Now the train seems to be working again. Writing a series, I think you always know you have one foot on the ground and one in the grave. And you just never know. Be flexible!"

Paige Shelton
John Charles then asked the three women for recent reading recommendations.

Paige: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate!

Kate: Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien.

Jenn: I can't escape the YA librarian thing-- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.  

I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow of the question and answer session that followed because this post is more than long enough already. I love these three women to bits, and their writing has given me hours of enjoyment.

The entire bookstore was filled with smiles and laughter, but what really warmed my heart was seeing Denis and Daisy full of smiles and hearing their laughter and comments on the recording I made. I have just a couple more photos to share, and then I'll pull the curtain on a supremely entertaining CozyCon. I hope you enjoyed it, too!

The signing table

Standing L to R: Vicki Delany, Daisy Carter. Seated L to R: Paige Shelton, Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle.


  1. It's always such a great time at PP, isn't it, Cathy? And there are several authors here whose work I like a lot. Lucky you to have seen them live!

  2. That was fun! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Loved hearing about this last panel and how smart of you to get a recorder. Definitely frees you up, though I've always been in awe at how much you noted down. Going to the mystery conventions I've learned a bit about how to help myself remember, but it's nothing as extensive as you've done. So glad Daisy got to be with you.

    1. It's such a relief not to be juggling pen, notepad, and camera that I can't believe I didn't think of getting a recorder a long time ago. I *really* enjoy myself at these events now! LOL

  4. That was such a fun read, felt like I was right there listening with you! Thank you for sharing!!

    1. You're very welcome. Glad you enjoyed it!


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