Five things I thought about during my morning run:

  1. Up and at it early. Pounding the pavement before it gets too hot.
  2. I was working on Macrame Murder at 3:30 a.m. I woke up and just had to.
  3. Neighborhood is so quiet…
  4. Death Among the Doilies is out soon. It’s hard to believe!
  5. Emma, my oldest daughter, and I are going to New York City next week to visit Marymount Manhattan College. Now THAT is even more hard to believe. She’s going into her senior year in high school. College visits. Senior pictures. And so on. Oh my.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

DSC_01761. These mornings have just been perfect for a run. Just cool enough, just warm enough. Sunny. Blue skies.

2. Well, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I started working on Book #5 again.

3. Speaking of work. SCRAPPY SUMMER is published this week and I’m having a giveaway on my FB page. Click here–if you’re interested.

4. I have no idea where that dog came from. A different dog than I saw the other day. Hmm.

5. Excited about my NY trip. Very. It will be brief–but I can’t wait.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. Getting this run in the wedge of time between “Oh it’s a beautiful morning” and “It’s just to effing hot to move.”
2. Today is the last day of school. Half day.
3. Summer of reading in the Bryan house. Both girls have huge lists–for school.
4. I’ve been reading–but not as much as I used to because of my writing. Weird how that works.
5. I miss all things New York City. Funny how that works.

Living the Dream: New York, Kensington, and BEA

Just back from a trip to New York City. I met with my agent, my editor, and attended Kensington’s BEA party, which was fabulous.  These moments are fleeting for us writers, we who sit in front of the computer day after day in isolation. But it inspired me so much so meet the wonderful folks at Kensington who work hard to make the magic happen. And they were all so incredibly enthusiastic about my books! Amazing! (I kept pinching myself–really!) I won’t mention them all by name in this post for fear of forgetting someone, but let’s just say that Kensington rocks, most especially my editor, Martin Biro.

I also met with my agent, Sharon Bowers on Thursday and we discussed how things are going and what is next on the horizon. I picked up an advanced copy of Dawn Eastman’s “Pall in the Family,” which I can hardly wait to read. I met Dawn at Malice Domestic and am so excited about her debut mystery.

On Friday, I attended Book Expo America and wandered around looking for books and stories. I found the Mystery Writer’s of America’s booth and caught up with some friends there. Maybe next year, I will sign books with my friends at BEA. For those of you who don’t know what BEA is— it stands for Book Expo America and it’s the largest book industry gathering in the U. S. and I do mean large, as in OVERWHELMING. Because it’s industry-related, there are countless free books and advance books, with the idea, of course, of creating some buzz among readers, editors, the press, and so on. I picked up a few books—not as many as I could have. But I was careful because books are heavy. I could not take all the books I wanted. I just could not.

I checked out Soho Press’s books—a publisher I admire for many reasons. And I picked up a book that I think both my daughters and myself will like:  “Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy,” by Elizabeth Kiem. Like many young adult books, I think adults might like this one, too.

I also found a British publisher—Accent Press— churning out cozies that look very good, though I’ve not had a chance to read them yet. I picked up “Something in the Blood: A Honey Driver Mystery,” by Jean G. Goodhind and the first book in a highly successful series. I also picked up “Murder by Magic,” by Lesley Cookman, who is lauded as the “Queen” of British “cosies.”

I also grabbed “Forever Chic, Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance” by Tish Jett, published by Rizzoli Ex Libris.

Also, I had a lovely conversation with Brad Brown, author of “Term Limits, an Evolutionary Fix for Marriage.” This books sounds fascinating and Brad is all too happy to chat about it. Once again, keep your eyes open. He may be visiting the blog soon.. All is all the trip was fruitful in terms of mining a few potential stories and making some great connections. But it took on a dreamlike feel when I was spending time with my agent and all of the Kensington folks who are so enthusiastic about my books. Sigh. Now, back to work!

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. Poetry.
2. New York City and wonderful time I had there. (Well, for the most part…)
3. Honeysuckle and Sarah Vaughn.
4. Today is a Zumba day, but the gorgeous weather beckoned. I needed that run!
5. Focus. Today, must focus. I am almost ready with the second draft of THE MYSTERIOUS RED VELVET PIE. I need to get it to my beta readers.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. Yep. I still love to run, but Zumba is a lot of fun, too, And I’ve been taking as many Zumba classes as I can manage.

2. March is an exciting month for me because of the Virginia Festival of the Book. I’m on a few panels and I love catching up with old friends and meeting readers.

3. Sometimes running is a slog. And most of the time it’s when I’m running at the gym. I can’t wait for some better weather.

4. Going to New York in May. Speaking of better weather. Had to cancel my last trip because of the hurricane. No more hurricanes in NYC, please!

5. Pie. Okay, so far NYC seems to have just about the best in everything. Except pie. Will I ever find good pie in NYC. Brooklyn is not included because I never have the time to head out to Brooklyn, even though I LOVE it. 😉


Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. Our upcoming short trip to see Follies in NYC.

2. Tomorrow, my oldest baby will be thirteen. THIRTEEN!

3. Something about this mug that a friend gave me for Christmas. It really holds the heat of my tea and the tastes really good from it. Is that crazy?

4. Just send out a press kit to the bloggers on my little blog tour. I’ll be posting everywhere in February–so stay tuned.

5. Can’t wait for the Roanoke Regional Writer’s Conference at the end of this month. I love this conference. It’s no frills, down-to-business, and really good people. I’m teaching a class on mystery writing.

Meet the Women of Cumberland Creek

My first novel, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS, will be published four months from now. I’m not counting the days or anything. Grin. But I think it’s about time that I introduced you to the characters that have become like old friends to me. Seriously. Now that I’m working on the third in the series, when I sit down to write, it feels like I’m visiting old friends.

My Cumberland Creek Mystery series revolves around a group of women in a small but growing Southern town. They get together to scrapbook, eat, and as it happens, to solve murders.

The story is told from three main characters points of view. They are surrounded by a secondary group of women and men. There’s also a third tier of characters I like to call my “walk-ons.” I thought I’d introduce you to the main three characters and next week I’ll tell you more about the secondary characters. The third group of characters shifts from book to book—but I’ll get into that later.


Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a posh suburbanish city.  Her family is the only Jewish family in town.  When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben.  After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking.  Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.

A narrative bit about Annie:

The first time Annie was asked the most popular question new residents were asked, which was “What church do you attend?” she grimaced. She felt violated. She was used to moving in an urban community in which such questions were not asked.

My favorite quote from Annie:

“I don’t need my husband’s permission, Detective, just his support. This is the twenty-first century,” she said.


Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So, among other things, she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill Ledford. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in New York City, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.

A narrative bit about Vera:

It wasn’t as if she kept secrets from her dearest friends. Some things were too private to talk about at a crop. After all, crops were primarily for scrapbooking. Oh yes, there was the social aspect that one couldn’t deny. But nothing deep or heavy should be broached.

My favorite quote from Vera:

“I may be a bitch, but I work too hard for my money to go and have some pop psychologist to charge me to tell me about the psychological aspect to a hobby. For godsakes. Some people just sap all the fun out of everything,” Vera said, taking a bite of the cake.

Beatrice Matthews

Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek. At the beginning of the book, Bea is stabbed.

A narrative bit about Bea: Now this knife in the neck business concerned her. Who would do such a thing? And what would have happened if it had not been lodged just exactly where it was? She could have died—or worse, been paralyzed, at the mercy of the likes of Vera and Sheila, two mid-life fools if ever there were.

My favorite Beatrice quote: “Your Daddy bought it for me and taught me how to use it. I feel safe with it here next to me in my nightstand. So over my dead body will I get rid of it.  In fact, you can bury me with my gun in one hand and Leaves of Grass  in the other,” Beatrice said.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon. And if you’d like some recipes from Cumberland Creek, give me a holler and I’ll send you a pdf file. Also, I have a newsletter available, Paper. Story. Recipe. Please sign up for it in my side panel for the latest updates, news, scrapbooking deals, and hopefully, a bit of inspiration

To Go or Not to Go: Writer’s Conferences

This is  another entry the Mystery Writer Blog Tours Ink.

This article is the second stop in a rolling blog tour on the topic of writer’s conferences. Your next stop is Ryder Islington’s blog. The details on all the participants in today’s tour are at the bottom of this post, as well as a link to their websites.

Whether you’re a new writer or an experienced one, much can be gained by attending a conference. The trouble is that much can be lost, as well.

A great deal can be said for meeting other writers and enjoying camaraderie in an environment full of like-minded individuals. The ideas and inspiration fly. In the best of conferences, writers come away with a refreshed, eager to try new things, and a pocket full of new resources. But those same pockets are now shy of usually several hundred dollars that might have been used for other things–like, oh, I dunno–food, bills, and so on.

I’m often blown away by the fact that my colleagues attend several expensive conferences throughout the year. As for me, when I scrounge together the money, I need to make it count. Which is why there is one conference I try to go to every year—the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), which is held in New York City, a place that is the publishing capital of the world. When I attend an ASJA meeting, I can meet with my agent and editor, as well as touch base with my colleagues, brush up on issues and technological advances, learn more about my craft, and  find about about new markets. I have an old friend that I stay with in the city, so my expenses are travel, food, and the conference—which is usually around $200–that’s two or three days of jam-packed panels, meeting with editors (which is part of the conference), and being being surrounded by other professional writers. Not bad.

So when I see a local one-day writer’s conference that goes from about 9 to 4 and they want $95, I pause. You can see why, can’t you?

(But there are really good local writer’s conferences–The Roanoke Regional Writer’s Conference in Virginia is a gem!)

Dear writer-friends, you can spend a great deal of money flitting from conference to conference. And what’s more you can waste a lot of time, as well. Choose well. Your time is valuable. And while conferences will give you the tools to become more successful, just because you attend one, doesn’t mean (necessarily) your life will change.

Still, getting out is important for a group of people who mostly sit at a desk every day in front of a computer and can be somewhat out of touch. Learning about the profession, staying current, is a really good reason to attend a writer’s conference.

Here’s my advice for attending a conference:

1. Choose wisely. If it’s expensive, make sure it’s worth it. How much access will you have to editors and agents? To the panelists and presenters?

2. Bring your business cards. Leave your writing samples at home. You will be loaded down with the “stuff” from the conference and editors and agents don’t want to carry around your samples, either.

3. Have your pitch, practiced, at the ready in case you get into a conversation with an editor or agent. By all means, if you are in a “social” situation, in the bar or hallway, be engaging and social and let them ask you about your work.

4. Be engaged with the writers around you, as well. Not only can you use another writer friend, but you never know who is sitting next to you. They could be as valuable contact as panelist.

It’s been my privilege over the past few years to actually help out with conferences and sit on panels–which I enjoy immensely. I’ve been in the business a long time and am always thrilled to help out other writers. I also been on panels where I  was glad I wasn’t an attendee–because many panelists were there just to promote their books. Ya have to feel for them, right? They have an audience and need to make it count, need to sell those books. BUT it serves to really turn people off. Panelists are there to entertain and educate. Or they should be.

What has your conference experience been? Any other good ones out there?

Please take some time and visit the other writers on this blog tour.

KT Wagner
Mollie Bryan
Ryder Islington
Sarah Wisseman
Kathleen Kaska

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. My guys at the gym. They are all in their 70s. They come in every Monday morning. We meet at the weight machines.

2. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. Don’t get ahead of myself. Stay present.

3. I found both the Picasso exhibit and the Faberge exhibit so inspiring. The Faberge surprises me because I usually like simple things. Simple designs.

4. Everybody back to school and work today. Except for me–getting ready for NY, which is more complicated than it sounds, especially when you have children.

5. I won’t be writing my five things the rest of the week. I may get a run in early tomorrow morning, but I won’t have time to write.