Friday, August 17, 2012

Cupcake Cozies at the Poisoned Pen

Jenn McKinlay, moderator
Don't blame me for Cupcake Cozies at the Poisoned Pen. That's what they titled the event. And, the authors brought cupcakes, breads, and even cupcake wine. And, then Jenn McKinlay told me to blame Kate Carlisle for Jenn's pictures because Kate brought the wine. It would have been a fun evening even without food. Jenn moderated while Kate and Annette Mahon fielded her questions. The store was packed to hear the three authors. It was an event that even brought out other authors. I sat with Darrell James, author of the award-winning Nazareth Child, and talked to Donis Casey afterward. Donis will be appearing at Velma Teague in October, promoting her new book, The Wrong Hill to Die On.

McKinlay asked each author to talk about their latest book. Annette Mahon kicked it off by saying her latest book in her quilters' mystery series is St. Rose Goes Hawaiian. That was her working title because she was a teenager when the movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian came out. She takes her St. Rose Quilting ladies to Hawaii. The book includes some family recipes from Mahon's family, and it's one of Annette's own original quilt designs on the cover. She wanted to point out that black isn't traditional, though, in Hawaiian quilts.

Mahon's mysteries are set in a church in Scottsdale, Arizona. The basic group is made up of five retired women. She had to make her characters older because younger women don't have time to meet and quilt every morning. All five of the women are mystery fans, and they have solved a few mysteries.

This book is set in Mahon's hometown of Hilo, Hawaii. Annette has pictures on her Pinterest site that relate to St. Rose Goes Hawaiian.  The women are attending a quilt show there, and they stay at a bed-and-breakfast. Unfortunately, their hostess' husband is murdered while they are all attending a luau.

After Mahon had shown off the two beautiful quilts that related to her book, Kate Carlisle said she had made a book, and she showed that. Peril in Paperback is her latest Bibliophile mystery. Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder and an expert in book restoration. She lives in San Francisco, but was raised by hippi parents in a commune in Sonoma, property that they have since used for growing grapes for wine. Carlisle said she set the books in areas she wanted to go to, and added wineries and books.

Peril in Paperback is Carlisle's homage to Agatha Christie, the Christie mysteries that were set in English house parties, and had strange people in them. That seemed like fun. Brooklyn goes to Lake Tahoe, to a hosue owned by her neighbor Susie's aunt. Brooklyn is thirty-two, and expected a grey-haired old woman. That was because Grace was supposed to be seventy when Kate first wrote the book. But, she wanted her to have made her money in video games, and realized that wouldn't work. So, she made Grace fifty instead. (Thanks for mentioning it, Kate. Sounds as if that paragraph just didn't get removed. I'll accept that - smile.) Nasty people die in the book, and Brooklyn works out some things with her boyfriend, who was getting too complacent.

Jenn McKinlay said she had to follow people who made quilts and books. She made cupcakes! Jenn was funny. She's written a couple books since Red Velvet Revenge, and had to be reminded which book that was. Kate told her it was the rodeo one. She said she takes Mel and Angie out of town during July. She even mentions the Poisoned Pen Bookstore's "Firecracker Sale" in the book. There's a murder at the Juniper Pass Rodeo, and Angie and Mel have to solve it. Juniper Pass is a combination of two places Jenn likes, Prescott and Greer. By making it up, though, she didn't have to do research. She did research rodeos. McKinlay said she enjoyed having the cupcake van in the book. There are cupcake vans all over the country. And, the book includes cake pops, which is why Jenn brought cake pops to the event.

When McKinlay asked the others about upcoming books, Mahon said she has nothing else scheduled, but she's working on another St. Rose book. There have been a couple exploding flashlights in the Valley, and Mahon kind of likes that idea for inclusion in a mystery. She also writes romances, but her romance publisher, Avalon, was sold to Amazon. She's waiting and watching to see what happens there.

Kate Carlisle
Kate Carlisle also writes romances. She writes for Harlequin. Her next one, called Surrender in Paradise, is the second book to feature one of twin brothers who own an island in the Caribbean. This brother falls for the executive VP on their island. She wants to have a baby, and is thinking of the in vitro route. He thinks she should do it the old-fashioned way.

Carlisle's next book in the Bibliophile mystery series will be A Cookbook Conspiracy. It features Brooklyn's sister, Savannah, who is a chef. When she attended Le Cordon Bleu, a boyfriend gave her an old cookbook from the Revolutionary War, a cookbook that could contain codes and secrets. So, this mystery includes recipes. And, Brooklyn, who can't cook, is trying those old recipes on her boyfriend, who really doesn't want her to try making British food.

The fourth book in Jenn McKinlay's Library Lover's series, Book, Line and Sinker., is due out in December. This one deals with Captain Kidd's treasure, which is rumored to have been buried in the Thumb Islands. There are booby traps in this one.

Jenn McKinlay
The Good Buy Girls mysteries are written under Jenn's pseudonym, Josie Belle. A Deal to Die For is due out in January. McKinlay writes so many books, all she could remember is that Maggie buys a thrift shop, and someone dies. The next Cupcake Bakery mystery, Going, Going, Ganache will be out in April.

And, McKinlay is starting a new series, the London Hat Shop series. Cloche and Dagger will be out in August. The series was inspired by the Royal wedding. Millinery shops are huge in London. Jenn's character is an American girl whose life goes viral in London. Her cousin insists that she has to come to London to work in the family business, but she knows nothing about it. McKinlay said she's received a lot of support in the mystery community for this book set in Notting Hill. Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, and Hannah Dennison all helped her.

Asked about the books she wrote under the name Lucy Lawrence, Jenn replied that "Lucy Lawrence is dead." Jenn said she started writing romance, and romance is hard. She published three books with Harlequin, and then she was booted. Deservedly so, because she wasn't very good. She couldn't kill people off in her romances. Annette said try writing 250 pages in a romance, with no sex.

The authors were asked how they function as writers? What is their schedule? How do they get it done?

Annette Mahon
Annette Mahon answered that she mostly procrastinates, then writes well under a deadline. Fortunately, she got an extension on her last book. Her mother died, and then she herself got sick. She was glad she got an extension. The book wasn't in the best shape. She writes for publishers who buy after the book is written. That doesn't work well for her because she is a procrastinator. She writes three to four hours in the morning. Mahon said she finds mysteries harder to write than romances. She doesn't do outlines. She's a seat of the pants writer. She loses interest if she outlines.

Kate Carlisle said she has a process, and she writes to deadline. In fact, she has a deadline in two weeks for her romance. She just turned in a mystery. That deadline was August 1 . She always works with an outline. She knows the turning points. But, relationships grow and change. She has to fill in the synopsis. Kate works all day. She stops about 6 PM. She writes five days a week, part-time on weekends. Everything else, blogging, answering email, is NOT writing.

Jenn McKinlay works part-time at the library. Her boys are ten and eleven. She admits she lives in a frat house. She has a schedule. First, she boots everyone out of the house, or, really, drives the kids to school. Then, she comes home and plays with the dogs, or they'll drive her nuts while she writes. Then, she writes. She also procrastinates. McKinlay writes in crazy spurts, and then everyone leaves her alone. Suddenly, she'll remember she has to pick up the kids. Jenn said her books are a complete rip-off of everyone she meets, so warned the audience to be afraid. She outlines, and sticks to it. She tries to get ten pages done a day.

Why write under different names? McKinlay said her first mystery was written as a writer-for-hire. She had been submitting ideas, and she thinks she finally wore the publisher down. Her agent told her they were looking for a decoupage series. Jenn said, "I can do it." They bought it, and they own the writer's name. The Cupcake Bakery series was McKinlay's idea, so she owns it. The library series, and the hat shop series were hers, so they're all under Jenn McKinlay. They own the bargain series, so that's under Josie Belle. Finally, Jenn admitted she had taken on too much. Kate's response was "Finally!" McKinlay thinks Kate Carlisle and Avery Aames had a bet as to when Jenn would say "enough".

The cupcake series is going to go to eight books. The library series is scheduled for six. She hasn't heard on the bargain hunters series. Lots of authors start as writers-for-hire.

The authors all told the audience that the mystery community is a tight-knit one. McKinlay said they'll always send the elevator down. Deborah Crombie agreed to read her book. Authors work up the ladder together, but they remember where they came from.

Mahon said Carolyn Hart and Earlene Fowler blurbed her first book. Fowler has the Benni Harper mysteries with quilts on the cover, and Mahon's characters are quilters. She said mystery writers are supportive. But, romance writers want to unseat you. In discussing conferences, they all said romance conferences are mostly business conferences, other than RT, which is a party. So, those conferences are usually just writers. But, mystery conferences are made up of writers and fans, readers. There's more sharing in the mystery field. Mystery authors are generous with information about agents, publishers, and the field.

McKinlay said she has tight deadlines. She submits a ten-page outline. Then her editor sits on it. Her books are due within six months. Basically, she has a book due every three months, then revisions, copy edits, and galleys. She had three days for revisions the last time.

Carlislie tries to do twenty pages a day. She has a critique partner, and she tries to send her a chapter a day if she can. Her chapters run about twenty pages. Annette writes 5,000-10,000 words a day.

Kate and Jenn both said they had series arcs, but when the series is extended it causes problems. Kate had an arc for six books, and she's now on the seventh. It's tough on the relationships in the books when you've planned for a shorter series. McKinlay agreed, saying when the series becomes longer you have to mess with the relationships. She likes growth in her characters.

The last question came from a woman who asked if they ever wrote a character that they intended to have die and the readers latched onto him. Jenn McKinlay admitted she intended to kill off Marty. He's in his eighties. But, readers loved him. And, then Oz appeared. She has characters come and stay at the bakery and never leave.

And, that's exactly how the audience felt at the Poisoned Pen the other night. Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle and Annette Mahon made the evening so much fun that no one wanted to leave.

Kate Carlisle's website is

Annette Mahon's website is

Jenn McKinlay's website is


Karen C said...

Wonderful recap and it sounds like it was a great time.

Lesa said...

It was so much fun, Karen. I wish you could have heard all the laughter.

Jenn McKinlay said...

Thanks for the fabulous write up, Lesa! It's always a pleasure to see you!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Jenn. You have to come to Velma Teague when the hat shop mystery comes out, and we'll all wear hats!