Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thriller Giveaway

This week's contest is for thriller readers.

Lisa Gardner's latest thriller is a D.D. Warren book, Love You More. The police detective  is called in when it appears that an officer when a state police officer is accused of killing her abusive husband. But, Tessa Leoni isn't talking about her dead husband, nor about the disappearance of her six-year-old daughter. This one will keep you guessing.

Chelsea Cain brings back Archie Sheridan in The Night Season. A relentless storm hits Portland, flooding the Willamette River, washing up a decades' old body, setting Archie on the trail of a killer unlike anything he's seen.

So, which book would you like to win, Love You More or The Night Season? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at  The subject lines should read, either "Win Love You More" or "Win The Night Season ."  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Thursday, April 7 at 6 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator.  The books will go out in the mail on Friday.  Good luck!

R.J. Harlick & Vicki Delany for Authors @ The Teague

Left to Right - Vicki Delany, R.J. Harlick
It was a pleasure to welcome Vicki Delany back to Velma Teague, and to introduce author R.J. Harlick to the audience. Both authors are Canadian residents who are on book tour.

R. J. kicked off the program by saying she actually goes by Robin, and doesn't know why she picked R.J. Maybe she wanted to give the impression she was a man. She writes the Meg Harris mystery series, books with a wilderness setting. It's an area in Canada where lakes outnumber people 1,000 to 1, and trees outnumber people 1 million to one. This part of West Quebec is a two hour drive from Ottawa. Meg Harris lives there on 1500 acres called Three Deer Point. She inherited a turn of the 19th century cottage from her aunt, a cottage with turrets. She lives there by herself, except for a black standard poodle, the only character based on a real character since the poodle was based on one that Harlick owned.

Harlick's character, Meg Harris, is from Toronto. Her family is based there, but Meg tired of the city, and left an abusive marriage to move to the peace of Three Deer Point. It's a peaceful paradise. There are four books in the series. In the first one, Death's Golden Whisper, Meg joins forces with a leader from the Algonquin First Nations Preserve. Red Ice for a Shroud, the second book, deals with police prejudice when an Algonquin becomes the suspect in a murder. Harlick did not originally intend to deal with the First Nations in all of her books, but once she started researching, she decided to tell some of their stories. All of her books have been about the Algonquins. This second mystery has an ice storm in it, similar to the dramatic one that hit Ottawa in 1998, when trees broke because they couldn't bear the weight of the ice. Robin said we should read that book if we want a feeling of cold.

When she said The River Runs Orange was her third book, she said we may have noticed a theme of colors in her titles. But, she said she wasn't the first to do it. She admired John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books, all of which had colors in the titles. The River Runs Orange begins with a mad paddle down a white water river, based on a trip Harlick took. Meg dumps over, and while she's waiting to be rescued she uncovers bones and a skull. When investigated, they prove to be 12,000 year old ancient remains. That starts a controversy since archaeologists want to investigate the remains, while the Algonquins want to leave them undisturbed. Meg is in the middle, because she understands both sides.

Harlick decided Meg needed to travel in the fourth book,  Arctic Blue Death. It's difficult to have so many murders in a land with just lakes and trees. Robin wanted to send her to the Arctic, a desolate, fascinating place. When Harlick went there to do research, she spent time with a woman, an Inuit constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are the police there. She talked to her about her cold case files, and Harlick had been trying to decide what would take Meg Harris to the Arctic. She knew it would have something to do with her father's death. In talking to the constable, she learned about planes that went missing there. Often crash sites are never found. And, Harlick liked Inuit art. So, she combined that background into a story in which Inuit art suggests that Meg's father survived a plane crash in the Arctic. It's a book in which she could also discuss Inuit fine art and counterfeiting.

The fifth book in the series, A Green Place for Dying, will be out in February 2012. Instead of going out of business, fortunately, Harlick's publisher was purchased,  Meg is back home in this book, where she learns a neighbor's daughter is missing. When she investigates, she learns there are sixteen Aboriginal women missing. Robin said she took this idea from a major issue in Canada right now. There are over 560 missing Native women in Canada. Harlick uses the issue to focus on police prejudice again.

The latest book in Vicki Delany's series set in British Columbia, Among the Departed, wasn't due out until May 3. But, she just appeared at Poisoned Pen Bookstore for a book signing, and Poisoned Pen Press pushed out copies of the book so they could be signed at the bookstore. Delany saw it that night for the first time.

Delany said she writes in three different styles. Orca Publishing is a Canadian publisher that specializes in juvenile and children's books. But, they've come out with books that are designed for adults with high interest/love vocabulary. Many adults lack literacy skills, so the books are at a second or third grade level with adult themes. Vicki has written some books for them.

She also writes standalones. Scare the Night Away is set north of Ontario.  A woman returns to her hometown after thirty years. While she's there for her mother's funeral, she finds a diary that reveals family secrets, including facts about her brother. When he's arrested for a crime, she doesn't know if she can believe him. In Burden of Memory, a Canadian woman who had been an army nurse in World War II hires a writer to write her biography. Then the biographer learns there was a previous biographer who died. Someone in the family might want to keep that biography from being written. Vicki said Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen had discussed the fact that the traditional British Gothic is new again. Those are books in which most of the story takes place in one house, sometimes with a suspected malevolent presence. Delany's book is Ontario Gothic.

Vicki's contemporary series is set in Trafalgar, British Columbia. Trafalgar is based on Nelson, the town two hours from Spokane where one of Vicki's daughters lives. Nelson is deep in the mountains. There are a number of transients there, along with neo-hippies, and people that were Vietnam draft dodgers. Then, there are the well-to-do retirees and developers wanting to build ski resorts. Constable Molly Smith is the main character in this series. She's a new police officer in the first book. Her mother is the local troublemaker, and her father was a draft dodger, so it causes some conflict with her job.

The first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier, is based on a real incident. It was controversial when someone wanted to donate a statue in memory of the Vietnam draft dodgers. The town turned it down. But, in the book, the town did consider a Memorial Garden. It made for passionate feelings, and Molly's mother was involved in the issue. Delany said this is a unique series because it's a fairly traditional British mystery, but Molly's a new police officer. Sergeant John Winters is Chief of Detectives, and he actually doesn't like Molly in the beginning of the series. Vicki is hoping to make this a long running series that will show the growth and changes in Molly.

Usually Delany outlines her books. But, the third book, Winter of Secrets was a surprise to her. She didn't know what was happening. She was in Nelson, and the snow was different than it was elsewhere because it just fell straight down without blowing. So, she set this book at Christmas Eve during the snowstorm of the decade in Trafalgar. Vicki had to sift through the clues herself to find out what happened.

Negative Image, the fourth book, is set in springtime. It features John Winters and his wife, Eliza. A high-profile photographer is shot, and evidence points to Eliza. This is a story of trust and betrayal. What would you do if you suspected the person you trusted most in the world had betrayed you? What would you do if someone you trusted thought you had betrayed them?

The new book, Among the Departed, goes back to Molly's childhood, when she was known as Moonlight Smith. (The daughter of hippies is named Moonlight, but it's hard to be a cop called by that name.) When Molly was thirteen, her best friend's father disappeared, and Molly was the last one to see him. Fifteen years later a boy is lost in the wilderness. The Royal Canadian Police work with the local police, and Norman, a police dog handled by Molly's boyfriend, is called out. The boy is found, but Norman digs out something else. And, since he doesn't want to say it's a dead boy, her boyfriend says he's "Among the departed."

Vicki Delany also had the Klondike series. These books are comedies, madcap romps. They're historically accurate, set around 1898. The first two books are Gold Digger and Gold Fever. They feature a woman who owns a dance hall, and has pretensions, but she has a murky past. Vicki said she has a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman with a big white dog. She hit all the stereotypes to make the stories fun.

After both authors read from their books, they took questions from the audience. Vicki said police contacts helped her a lot, including with police dog techniques. Asked if they had both always lived in Canada, Harlick said she had, while Delany said she lived in South Africa for eleven years as an adult before moving back to Canada.

When she was asked about the women who disappeared in A Green Place for Dying, Harlick said Native women have disappeared all over Canada. Some were alcoholics or prostitutes, so their disappearances were based on their lifestyles. But, two girls disappeared from the reserve in Ottawa, and they were only eighteen or nineteen. Delany mentioned the Pig Farm murders in British Columbia, saying the victims were predominantly Native women. Ending the program on a somber note, the authors admitted there was police prejudice against the Natives, which doesn't help the investigation into the disappearances.

Vicki Delany and R.J. Harlick are welcome back anytime to appear for Authors @ The Teague.

Vicki Delany's website is

R.J. Harlick's website is

Left to right - Vicki Delany, Lesa Holstine and R.J. Harlick

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Uninvited Ghost by E.J. Copperman

I probably read 75-100 mysteries a year, at least half of my yearly total of books. But, E.J. Copperman got me good in his latest Haunted Guesthouse mystery, An Uninvited Ghost. The killer made perfect sense, but I never saw it coming.

Since Alison Kerby's guesthouse on the Jersey Shore already had a reputation as being haunted, she decided to capitalize on it. She booked a tour group that promised guests a "unique" vacation, the chance to stay in a house inhabited by ghosts. Alison even had an agreement with Paul and Maxie, the resident ghosts, so they "appeared" at certain times of day. In return, though, Alison agreed to get her private detective's license, so she and Paul could investigate crimes. It was just a shame that the first case Paul brought her happened at her busiest time. The first tour group was there, and the director of a popular reality show booked the rest of the guest house. But, Paul's case brought nothing but trouble.

It seemed simple.  Another ghost, Scott, was afraid he had killed a woman he was only supposed to scare. It didn't take long for Alison to find her alive and well. First ghostly investigation successful, right? When the woman showed up at Alison's to participate in a séance, she ended up dead. And, it ticked Alison off. "It happened in my house, under my roof, to a guest I invited." Alison teams up with Paul and Maxie, as well as her daughter, Melissa, because Detective Anita McElone won't have anything to do with a case in which ghosts are involved.

The second book in this series, An Uninvited Ghost, is a triumph. Suspend your disbelief even more than usual. You have to accept that Alison Kerby can see and communicate with ghosts. All of the main characters in Copperman's latest mystery are well-developed, even the ghosts. Accept the fact that a protective mother, who didn't want to get involved in a dangerous case, would realize someone had involved her by killing a guest. The humor is delightful, particularly the reference to a guest reading Some Like It Hot-Buttered, a mystery written by Copperman under his actual name, Jeffrey Cohen. If you like ghost stories mixed with your mystery, try this Jersey Shore mystery, An Uninvited Ghost.

E.J. Copperman's website is

An Uninvited Ghost by E.J. Copperman. Berkley Prime Crime. ©2011. ISBN 9780425240588 (paperback), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tucson Festival of Books - Part II - NPR's Scott Simon

Before starting the recap of Scott Simon's program, I have to say that people filled the ballroom to hear Scott Simon, so I was unable to get a picture. However, considering his topic, the picture I've used is perfect. Since Scott Simon does Weekend Edition Saturday for NPR, his program at the Tucson Festival of Books was called "A Weekend with Scott Simon." He was introduced, saying he has covered stories all over the world, including the war in Afghanistan. He has also won a Peabody Award for his weekly essays. 

Scott Simon had recently done an essay about what happened in Tucson. He ended that essay by saying it was a glimpse into what Tucson gave us, the "Resilience of the human soul."  And, he choked up when he thanked everyone in Tucson who had gone out of their way to be nice to him and his family. He is a friend of Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. In fact, Mark asked him to be on the Commission for Civil Discourse, which will be held in Tucson.

But, Simon said he was there to talk about his book, Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption. It's the story of how he and his wife, Caroline, adopted two little girls from China, Elise and Lina. He said he always cries when he talks about his children. His wife was in the room for the program, along with the girls. They were having a wonderful time at the Tucson Festival of Books, where they were enriched by literature, kettle corn, gelato, roasted corn, and chicken barbecue.

Before he talked about his book, Simon said he wanted to talk about a topic that was in the news that day because it struck him that it was worth mentioning. Former Representative Newt Gingrich had been on a news show discussing his marriages. He said he loved his country to much, that his service caused him to do something wrong, against his values and principles. He committed adultery. Scott Simon saw that as very shrewd political judgment. A lot of adulterers are deeply misunderstood. Now, candidates can say they were driven by patriotism to commit adultery. Simon said adultery is a bipartisan issue.

He started by reading from a section of the book. I'm sure it wasn't easy to read the section in which he and his wife were trying to get pregnant, but Simon managed to make it humorous. Then he said, he never thought they'd write the book. Their long-time social worker told them people who adopt, particularly from overseas, are the most literate people in the U.S., and they all want to write books about adopting their child. But, Simon said most books end when the child comes home. He said there's so much to learn afterward.

Then, Scott told us he really doesn't talk about his children on NPR as much as people think he does. He said you can even search the Internet, and find that out. But, one day, he came in the office to find a book on the table, Shut Up About Your Perfect Child. When he told his editor they don't normally do that kind of book, she said she wanted him to read it.

Scott Simon told us he believes in adoption. It's a flesh and blood miracle. He believes we're wired to look at children who are left without family, and take them as our own. He said even ancient accounts show that warriors, upon finding children left alone by war, would pick up the infants, and adopt them. He hopes his  book opens a window and door into adoption.

Simon kept making eye contact with his wife and daughters during the program, admitting he's still in the rapturous stage. He said he does understand that they'll go through demonic possession later.

Some of Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, tells stories of other adoptions. Some stories are by the children who were adopted, and others of parents who adopted children. He said his NPR colleague Steve Inskeep is adopted. He mentioned a Chicago judge who had five adopted children.

Then, Simon told the story of Senator Paul Simon (no relation). He and his wife, Jeanne, adopted a son, Martin, after having a daughter. They were told Martin was an American Indian, and they always treated his heritage with interest and respect. Senator Simon was on the Committee for Indian Affairs, and heard hearings on the reservation. But, when Martin's birth mother contacted him, and he finally met her, he asked her about his Indian heritage. She said, you're not Indian. You're Swedish. When she gave birth, they asked nationality, and she said we're 100% American, so they put down American Indian. And, Scott Simon remarked that it's rare to encounter a politician who is better up close than from a distance, but Paul Simon was.

Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other is actually a book of love stories. Scott said the families feel blessed by adoption. He thinks adoptive families are inspired to tell each other out loud how much they love each other more than conventional families do.

Simon told us that adoptions are down in the U.S. He said there are many good reasons for that, including the fact that there are ways to start or add to families via the lab. But, there are 150 million orphaned and abandoned children in the world, and each child needs the love of parents. Simon was very emotional as he said his book is a window into adoption, and he hopes adoption isn't just considered as a last option. We need more love in the world, and our children do, too. Love has the power to create the kind of global warning we could all use.

When it was time for audience questions, one person asked how we can manifest the love on a daily basis that the country shows after tragic events such as 9/11 or Katrina. Simon said he didn't have the answer, but the events should provide insight that helps us remember those feelings, and continue to show love. He said we have to look at the progress we've made, for instance on gay rights. He said, if you remember, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden had the same positions on gay rights. They favored partnerships, not marriage. But, there's been progress since then, and Simon thinks that will change. There have been great strides in our lifetimes.

Simon said, just look at the diversity of communities. He wife is French. His daughters, adopted from China, speak French and English. When they were in Houston, they had a cab driver from Morocco, and he and Simon's wife, Caroline, spoke French. We have to remind ourselves what progress has been made.

One woman, who lost a stepson to suicide due to mental illness, said we haven't done much for people with mental illness. Simon said we do have to have a civil discourse, and discuss what we should do about the mentally ill.

Simon was asked about the recent problems with NPR, and facing the loss of funding in Congress. He came right out and said he planned to evade that question because that issue was in front of Congress at the time, and he didn't want to say anything. He did say it was more important than ever for NPR to reach out to the American people. And, he told the staff, in the end, we work for the American people.

Scott Simon did criticize NPR for the terrible mistake it made in reporting that Gabby Giffords had died. But, later he relented and told them at work that he wants NPR to announce his death because then his family will know that there is still hope he can be restored.

For all of us who love NPR, it was good to hear Scott Simon say that NPR has 35 million listeners a week, a larger audience than any cable news audience. And, the audience for NPR, and Scott Simon, continues to grow.

Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other by Scott Simon. Random House. ©2011. ISBN 9781400068494 (hardcover), 180p.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Left Coast Crime - Saturday

Saturday was a full day at Left Coast Crime. Again, this is just a short summary, with pictures. I started the day at 6:30 at the French Pastry Shop here at La Fonda. Why skip a good thing? Their chocolate croissants are wonderful. After having that, I didn't need to eat when I went to the Established Writers' Breakfast. That's a difficult room to take pictures in, so Janet Dawson's is actually one of only two that turned out half-way decent. Janet is the author of the Jeri Howard mysteries.
Donna Andrews acted as host, and gave each established author a minute to a minute-and-a-half to introduce themselves and their books. Before I left just before 9, we heard from Kris Neri, Terry Odell, Ann Parker, Lea Wait, Laura DiSilverio, Deborah J. Ledford, Camille Minichino (also known as Margaret Grace, and, for a forthcoming series, Ada Madison), Beth Groundwater, Mike Orenduff, Rosemary Harris, Parnell Hall, Susan Cummins Miller, Rachel Brady, Susan McDuffie, Mike Befeler, Clyde Linsley, Nancy Atherton, Chris Eboch, R.J. Harlick, Vicki Delany, L.J. Sellers, Steve Havill, John Maddox Roberts, Barbara Fradkin, Annette Mahon, L.C. Hayden, Twist Phelan, Charlotte Hinger, Rosemary & Larry Mild, G.M. Maillet, Janet Dawson, Mary Ellen Dennis (or Deni Dietz), John Vorhaus, and Rhys Bowen. Since G.M. Maillet was at the table next to mine, I was able to get her picture.

I did skip the first panel of the morning, so I could have time to talk with Maddie James, otherwise known as No pictures of Maddee, as agreed, but we had a chance to catch up on personal lives.While waiting in the lobby, though, I was able to get a picture of Camille Minichino and Susan C. Shea together.

Camille Minichino & Susan C. Shea
After a half an hour with Maddee, I headed off to the panel, The Old West Anew, a terrific discussion by authors whose books are still set in the West. And, what a panel! Pati Nagle, a fantasy and historical fiction author whose books are set in the West, was the moderator. At the table were Brian Garfield, Craig Johnson, Ann Parker, and David Edgerley Gates. As I said, a terrific discussion. Pati ended the program by giving Craig a chance to tell one more story.

Left to right - Pati Nagle, Brian Garfield, Craig Johnson, Ann Parker, David Edgerley Gates

That was actually a perfect transition to the next program in which Craig Johnson interviewed Guest of Honor Margaret Coel. It was a popular program for "St. Margaret," as Craig called her, the author of the Father John O'Malley/Vicky Holden mysteries, set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Margaret actually started the program by giving Craig his plaque for nomination for the Watson Award since he wasn't able to be at the program the night before.

And, Sandi Ault ended the program by presenting Margaret Coel with her award as Guest of Honor, honoring her body of work.

Margaret Coel and Sandi Ault

Before leaving, I was able to get a picture of Elizabeth Gunn, author of the Jake Hines mysteries, among others. (I love that series.)

Because that program ran a little long, I missed lunch with Kathryn Casey, author of the Sarah Armstrong mysteries, as well as a number of true crime books. At least I was able to catch up with Kathryn in the restaurant, and we had time to talk.

I ran off to catch part of the presentation, "You Can't Run in High Heels," in which Zoë Sharp and J.T. Ellison demonstrated self-defense techniques. I had heard great things about this program, and people were right. Lots of fun!

J.T. Ellison defends herself against Zoe

I ended the afternoon with a panel called "It's Not Just Fiction to Me," featuring moderator Susan Goldstein, and panelists Colleen Casey, Kathryn Casey, Reece Hirsch and Judy Starbuck. The authors all talked about how their actual careers influenced their writing. Goldstein is a divorce lawyer. Colleen Casey has been a judge for fifteen years, handling Workers' Comp Cases in the San Francisco area. Kathryn Casey was a journalist and true crime writer before turning to fiction. Reece Hirsch is an attorney in San Francisco. And, Judy Starbuck has used her background as a teacher, a handwriting analyst, and an adoptee in her short stories.

Reece Hirsch and Judy Starbuck
Susan Goldstein and Kathryn Casey
Kathryn Casey & Colleen Casey

Following the program, I did catch up with a couple people in the hallways and book room. I ran into Terry Odell who writes romantic suspense.

And, I was able to catch Deni Dietz and Parnell Hall in the middle of a duet.

After a short break, it was time for the reception, followed by the Awards Banquet. The reception provided the chance to catch up with Rob Rosenwald, owner of Poisoned Pen Press, and one of his authors, Jeanne Matthews. I finally met L.J. Sellers, and ended up with fellow Desert Sleuths, R.K. Olson, Chantelle Aimée Osman, Deborah J. Ledford, and Kris Neri. We also ended up with Kelli Stanley and Rebecca Cantrell before moving into the ballroom for the Awards Banquet.

Since we had been allowed to sign up for Authors' Tables, I picked Craig Johnson's. Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire series, was a gracious host. He entertained us with stories of the ongoing plans to turn the series into an A&E series, Longmire, with the filming of the pilot in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The line to the buffet was quite long, since they were trying to feed over 400 people, so Mark Coggins introduced me to John Billheimer, and David Edgerley Gates and I had the chance to talk.

The Awards program itself went quickly. Toastmaster Steve Brewer did a short introduciton, with toasts to the Guests of Honor, Martin Cruz Smith, Margaret Coel, Steven Havill and Marv Lachman, as well as a toast to the fans and authors in attendance. He introduced the representative from ReadWest, a literacy organization that benefited from this year's raffle and silent auction. Then, Parnell Hall took the stage for a fun song about supporting your local bookstores. Brewer introduced Barbara Peters, owner of Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, who presented the Dilys Award, given annually to the mystery title that the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association most enjoyed hand-selling. That award went to Louise Penny for Bury Your Dead. Our table was thrilled when Craig Johnson received the Watson Award for Junkyard Dogs, representing the book with the best sidekick. Craig admitted he didn't know which character was the sidekick, but he thought it was Dog. The Lefty Award for most humorous mystery went to J. Michael Orenduff for The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein. Jacqueline Winspear wasn't there to accept The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award for The Mapping of Love and Death. She's touring for the next book in the series. And, Margaret Coel won The Hillerman Sky Award for The Spider's Web. It was voted as the mystery that best captured the landscape of the Southwest.

The program ended with thanks to, and by, Left Coast Crime 2011 chair Pari Noskin Taichert, who did a magnificent job. She then introduced Cindy Sample, co-chair of Left Coast Crime 2012 in Sacramento.

Craig Johnson was gracious, posing for pictures with those at the table. After congratulating him on his Watson Award, we both admitted Jen Forbus should have been there.

Then, I moved on to end the evening in the bar with friends, the Desert Sleuths, Rebecca Cantrell, and Avery Aames.

I'm ending my time at the conference with breakfast with Zoë Sharp and her husband, Andy Butler. I have a full notebook of program notes to summarize for you in the next week or two. I had a wonderful time at my first Left Coast Crime. Thank you to all my Desert Sleuths sisters, along with Kelli Stanley, Zoë and Andy, Kathryn Casey, Craig Johnson, all the authors and blog readers I had the chance to meet, along with Rob Rosenwald, Avery Aames, and Vicki Delany, who must have felt as if I was stalking her since we met in every hallway.  Love to the two goddesses I finally met, Maddee James and Janet Rudolph. You all made this conference wonderful for me.

And, a final thanks to the La Fonda. It's a beautiful, gracious hotel, and the accommodations, food and staff couldn't have been better. Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Interview with Heather Graham

The press release said, "This spring, New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham takes her readers on a ghostly romp in one of her favorite locales:  New Orleans, in her latest hardcover, Phantom Evil." I couldn't resist. I jumped at the chance to ask Heather some questions about the book, and her background with the paranormal. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Lesa - Heather, thank you for taking time to do this interview. Would you introduce yourself for the sake of readers who may not be familiar with you and your books?

HeatherI'm Heather Graham, and I'm happy (and terrified!) to say that I've been writing for almost thirty years; I've done category books, horror, suspense, romance, Christmas fiction, time travel, historical novels and . . . well, I've been around! I love what I do; I came from a theater background, and books are creating theater in the minds of others, or so I believe!

Lesa - Would you tell us about your latest book, Phantom Evil?

HeatherPhantom Evil came from a longing running character, Adam Harrison (First introduced in Haunted.) It's actually part of what we've called the Harrison Investigation series. For years, Adam Harrison, who lost his son, a young man with special insight, at a young age. Not particularly equipped with extra powers himself, he sought out those who were--and sent them to help other people, nice folks just existing in the world who suddenly discovered that something beyond the realm of the usual was contacting them--or making their lives hell.  In Phantom Evil, Adam finally accepts a government assignment and puts together a special unit for the FBI. Because their first assignment is New Orleans, they become known as the Krewe of Hunters. In Phantom Evil, the team meets for the first time in a nineteenth century home in the French Quarter--a house with an evil reputation dating back to the end of the Civil War. A senator's wife, mourning the death of her son, is found dead in the courtyard; the senator swears that she didn't commit suicide, and rumors are running rampant that she was killed by ghosts. And so, the Krewe of Hunters arrives to find out the truth; suicide, accidental death, ghostly intervention--or murder. 

Lesa - That's an intriguing plot, Heather. I can't wait to read it.  New Orleans is one of your favorite cities. What draws you to that city as a setting for your novels? And, I know you encourage other writers to go to New Orleans. Do you want to discuss that as well?

Heather - There's just something special about New Orleans. My parents brought me when I was young--no, not walking down Bourbon Street! The cemeteries fascinated me, the architecture was amazing, and the power of the river there is mesmerizing. I have very close friends in Louisiana, too, which I'm sure, contributes to my feelings. I was in the city filming a trailer for Ghost Walk the weekend before Katrina hit Miami, and then devastated the Gulf. Now, every year, I put on a conference there that's strictly at cost and to bring people into the city. It's a national treasure, certainly--the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of our nation, and there's so much wonderful history preserved.

Lesa - Why do you think paranormal fiction is so popular?

Heather - I believe paranormal fiction is popular because we've all allowed ourselves to admit we love it--and most people I meet do believe in the paranormal in one way or another, be it strange feelings they've had certain places, because of dreams, or because of events with loved ones. We all want to believe that we'll see those we love again--I know I do.

Lesa - What is your connection to ghostly exploration?

Heather - I was a young woman with little children when I went on my first ghost walk. It was in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and if you've ever been there, you know how incredibly spooky or maybe even hallowed the area can feel; the rivers meet there, fog rises, the town was the site of John Brown's raid, and it feels as if it's seeped in history. Our guide that night was Shirley, and she was fantastic. The tour was called Harpers Ferry Myth and Legends. She told the history, and what's happened since. She set a high bar for me as far as tour guides go! I want facts--not just, oh, we see a creepy shadow, and we think . . 

Lesa -  Do you have suggestions for those interested in ghost walks or exploration?

Heather - I'm friends with a group called The Peace River Ghost Trackers. I've been on a few expeditions with them, and I love the way they work; they're out to dispel rumor as well as try to discover if there is something happening out of the ordinary. We recently had them with us when we filmed a trailer for Phantom Evil at the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana. 
Some explorations will be good; some will be so-so. I say, you never know until you try. I never mind if they're just fun and theatrical but not really as filled with stories as you like--I just mind when they're inaccurate. I was on a tour in St. Augustine once when the guide told everyone that Osceola was beheaded because there is a true bizarre story about his head. But that's such a false piece of information to give to people! Osceola died of natural causes--then his physician decided to take his head! But, you never know until you go. Wherever I am, I go on a ghost tour. Some, naturally, are more rewarding than others.

Lesa - You’ve written more than 100 books. Can you tell us anything about your next book?

Heather - After the Krewe of Hunter series, I have a Christmas book out called An Angel for Christmas--different, for me! There are no bodies floating around. It's a true Christmas book, though it does a few other-worldly characters. And then, the third in a historical vampire series--Bride of the Night. Those books revolve around the Fox family and the Civil War; each family member inherited something of a blood disease, and must learn to use it for good, a difficult feat in the midst of the raging war that tore apart out country. After that, new team members will be joining the Krewe of Hunters, and they'll begin in Texas.

Lesa - What other authors do you like to read?

Heather - What don't I read is really the best question! I'm still voracious. I read so many authors I wouldn't begin to know where to start! A long time favorite is F. Paul Wilson. Years ago, I read a book of his called The Keep. A favorite book of all time is Killer Angels, by Shaara. Brilliantly written, and a lesson in creating incredible characters. 

Lesa - Heather, here’s the question I always use to end an interview. I’m a librarian. Do you have a story to share about libraries or librarians?

HeatherLibrarians! They are my favorite people in the world. I'm about to attend the Jambalaya Jubilee at the library in Houma, La, and I just came from a fantastic conference put on by the library in Ft. Myers. There's no where an author can go and feel more loved and appreciated. I believe that one day we'll discover that librarians are really angels! They are the true patron saints of all authors!
Lesa - I like that idea, Heather, that librarians are angels! Thank you. And, it's great to hear you enjoyed the conference in Ft. Myers, since I worked with that conference for five years. It's always great to hear the authors are still enjoying it.  Thank you, and thank you for taking the time to answer questions. Good luck with Phantom Evil.
Heather Graham's website is

Phantom Evil by Heather Graham. MIRA. ©2011. ISBN 9780778329534 (hardcover), 368p.

Winners at Left Coast Crime

Congratulations to all of the award winners and nominees at Left Coast Crime.

Barbara Peters from Poisoned Pen announced the winner of the Dilys Award for the book that independent booksellers loved selling the most. Louise Penny won for Bury Your Dead.

Attendees at this year's Left Coast Conference in Santa Fe voted for the following winners.

The Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery Novel went to J. Michael Orenduff for The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein.

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award for best historical mystery novel, events pre-1950, went to Jacqueline Winspear for The Mapping of Love and Death.

The Hillerman Sky Award for the mystery that best captures the landscape of the Southwest went to Margaret Coel for The Spider's Web.

And, since I was sitting next to him at dinner, it's a pleasure to say that the Watson for mystery novel with best sidekick went to Craig Johnson for Junkyard Dogs.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Left Coast Crime - Friday

As promised, I did a little bit better job with pictures today from Left Coast Crime. The full report will have to come later, but I do have some pictures to share from today.

Mike Befeler hosted the New Writers' Breakfast, introducing sixteen authors who have debut crime novels. Congratulations to Avery Aames (The Long Quiche Goodbye), Wayne Arthurson (Fall From Grace), Joel Fox (Lincoln's Hand), Susan Goldstein (Hollywood Forever), Patricia Gulley (Downsized to Death), Reece Hirsch (The Insiders), Darynda Jones (First Grave on the Right), Andrew E. Kaufman (While the Savage Sleeps), Rob Kresge (Murder for Greenhorns), Jeanne Matthews (Bones of Contention), Patricia Morin (Mystery Montage), Colin T. Nelson (Reprisal), Kath Russell (A Pointed Death), Cindy Sample (Dying for a Date), Susan Shea (Murder in the Abstract), and Valerie Stocking (A Touch of Murder). A few photos follow.

Authors Kaye George and Avery Aames
Wayne Arthurson

Then, I headed off to the panel, Crafts, Hobbies and Murders. Before the panel even started, I was able to get a couple pictures. Donna Andrews' picture didn't turn out good yesterday, but it turned out she was sick. So, it wasn't just lighting. She agreed to be in a second picture.

Donna Andrews

And, Ann Parker, author of the Silver Rush mysteries, was in the audience behind me.
Ann Parker
Author Beth Groundwater was also in the audience to hear this panel.
Me and Beth Groundwater

I was lucky enough to get a picture of Camille Minichino, author of the Periodic Tables mysteries under that name, and the Miniature mysteries, written as Margaret Grace.

Camille Minichino

When the entire panel came together, it turned out they all wrote mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.

Camille Minichino, Maggie Sefton, Avery Aames & Christine Goff

The next panel of the day was actually one of the liveliest. I didn't take pictures at the panel called Industry Professionals on Publishing, but the recap will make for interesting reading when it gets posted. Barbara Peters, founder of Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and co-founder and editor of Poisoned Pen Press was the moderator. Panelists were Kimberley Cameron, literary agent at Kimberley Cameron & Associates; Keith Kahla, an Executive Editor at St. Martin's Press/Minotaur; Larry Light, Executive V-P of Mystery Writers of America; Janet Reid, literary agent; and Jodie Renner, a freelance editor. Needless to say, it was a full house to hear these authors.

I did get a picture of friends after this panel. Two members of Desert Sleuths, along with Avery Aames. Avery's The Long Quiche Goodbye has been nominated for an Agatha award.

R.K. Olson, Avery Aames and Chantelle Aimee Osman

Before the last panel of the morning, I ran into author Deb Baker.

Deb Baker and Me

The panel was called Breaking Barricades & Opening Doors, with moderator David Morrell, and panelists Johnny D. Boggs, Michael McGarrity and Zoë Sharp.

Zoe Sharp & David Morrell
 During the lunch break, I was finally able to meet two women I think are goddesses. First, I met Maddee James, web designer to the stars at Maddee designs web sites for authors, and this blog wouldn't exist without her help six years ago. Thank you, Maddee! And, I hope to see her again at the conference.

I have Vicki Delany to thank for finally getting me together with Janet Rudolph. Janet is the editor of Mystery Readers Journal. And, then there's her blog, Dying for Chocolate. Janet's fabulous.

Janet Rudolph
Since I ran into Steve Brewer, author of seventeen crime novels, including the Bubba Mabry private eye stories, I asked for a photo. We actually ran into each other in the elevator.

Steve Brewer
The last panel of the day was Living Diversity: Mysteries with a Difference. R.J. Harlick was the moderator. Panelists were Gar Anthony Haywood, Deborah J. Ledford, Neil Plakcy and Darryl Wimberley. I was able to get pictures of three of them in the book signing room.

Neil Plakcy and Darryl Wimberley
And, I had the chance to thank Gar Anthony Haywood who told me I had to read Ed McBain. He was right.

Gar Anthony Haywood
 It was a full afternoon. From there, I went to hear Toastmaster Steve Brewer interview Guest of Honor Steven Havill.

Steven Havill, interviewed by Steve Brewer
And, I ended the day at the Welcoming Reception. Pari Noskin Taichert, chair of this Left Coast Crime Conference, did a wonderful job. The reception started with a stunning performance by the Ice Mountain Dance Group from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, who included a blessing for the conference. Paprri then thanked all the volunteers, and read an official proclamation from New Mexico's first female governor, who said she was a mystery reader, and proclaimed March 25, 2011 as Left Coast Crime Day in New Mexico. But, the focus on tonight's program was on the award nominees at the conference. Congratulations to all of them.

Some of the Award Nominees - Kris Neri, Kelli Stanley, Deborah J. Ledford and Rebecca Cantrell
The Rocky Mountain Writers' Group fed us well at the reception, and I ended the evening with just a few casual shots.

R.K. Olson, Lifetime Achievement Honoree Martin Cruz Smith, and Zoe Sharp
Rebecca Cantrell and Gabriella Herkert
 Terrific day. Tomorrow will be just as busy, culminating with the Awards Banquet tomorrow night. That includes a special song by Parnell Hall. Can't wait!