|Me, on the left with my panelists|
This was my tenth year attending Malice Domestic. I’ve been to other conferences, too, but Malice is by far the friendliest one so I always look forward to going to it. I enjoy meeting other authors and/or fans who I’ve met over the years as well as new people. When I’m at Malice I feel I’m with my people; people who love mysteries as much as I do.
This year as well as last year I was the moderator for Small Town Murder, and three of my panelists were ones I had last year. I’d been busy for weeks before Malice reading their books so when I got there, I felt like I personally knew each author even those I was meeting for the first time. Two of the authors wrote two series, so that meant more reading. Fortunately, I enjoyed all their books and plan on keeping up with their series. My panelists were Barbara Early/Beverly Allen, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett, Liz Mugavero, Wendy Tyson, and Susan Van Kirk. The panel went well with the only glitch being that in the next room was a panel with Dorothy Cannell as moderator, and two of her six panelists were Parnell Hall and Margaret Maron. With authors like that, the laughter that came through the closed door between us was quite loud. Also, that panel attracted more people, of course.
I sat in on other panels off and on, and I went to Malice Go Round. This year I emailed the person in charge to take my name off the list because I’d been an author who participated the past two years and felt that other authors should have a chance. The only problem with it this year, and I heard it from numerous people, was that it was so loud it was hard hearing each author give their two minute talk about their books before moving on. One author didn’t feel that way, and it was her third or fourth time doing it.
On Friday, I went to the Boogey Monger for lunch with some of the Guppies. I always enjoy eating with fellow Guppies and catching up with what’s been going on in their lives.
At 5:00 on Saturday, I had a book signing in the atrium filled with table after table with 70 authors, names. Not everyone showed up, but most of them did. What was strange to me is this was the first year I didn’t see lines and lines of fans wanting their books signed even though some of these authors are popular authors. I sat next to Frankie Y. Bailey, and author I loved, and I don’t recall seeing anyone come up to have their book signed, but then I don’t think she has a recent book signed. As for me, the woman who won my Silent Auction basket with six of my books, garden gloves, a trowel and claw as well as seeds came to my table for me to sign all the books. She couldn’t wait to get home and start reading them. Someone else came up to have me sign my first book and another with my middle-grade book, The Sherlock Holmes Detective Club. The signings were supposed to last an hour, but everyone started to go long before then.
The Agatha Banquet is always filled with hundreds of people wanting to know who would win the Agatha Award for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel (Penny Warner for The Secret of the Puzzle Box). Best Nonfiction, (Jane K. Cleland for Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories That Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats)) Best First Novel (Cynthia Kuhn) Best Historical Novel, (Catriona McPherson for The Reck of Red Herrings) Best Contemporary Novel (Louise Penny for A Great Reckoning)
|Paula, me, Irma and Shari at La Madeleine|
Almost all of the days were enjoyable, but I have to say what I enjoyed more than anything was going to La Madeleine, a French restaurant, Friday evening with fellow bloggers, Paula Benson, Shari Randall, my friend Irma Baker, who goes with us every year, and Sasscer Hill, a writer who was looking for someone to go to supper with. The food was excellent and reasonable, the ambience so soothing, and no loud music or loud talking. Although Sasscer left as soon as she was done eating, the other four of us spent three hours visiting and catching up on our lives. I was only sorry K.M. and Grace had other plans for that evening.
One of the speakers at Malice said it best when she said that attending Malice is like going to a family reunion. It truly is. The family of mystery writers and fans is friendly, supportive, and a lot of fun, even if we commit murder on paper. I went from knowing no one at the first Malice I attended to being warmly greeted by dozens of writers and fans that I have come to know over the years. But one of the greatest pleasures of attending Malice is getting to talk to the authors of books that I have loved. Imagine my thrill at getting to discuss the character of Bess Armstrong with Caroline Todd, half of the Charles Todd writing team. Or at my first Malice when author Katherine Neville told me that she was writing a sequel to one of my favorite books, The Eight. I couldn’t believe it when I actually had a long chat years ago with Edward Marston, who had come in from England for the conference.
Okay, I confess. Although I’m a mystery writer (hopefully one who will be published someday soon), I go to Malice with my “fan” hat on. So whether you are a mystery writer or a fan of traditional mysteries, add attendance at a Malice Domestic Conference to your bucket list. You will be folded into the family.
Malice, Exhausting , Wonderful Malice. This was my fourth (!) Malice and I still haven’t figured out how to see every panel I want to see, or talk with everyone I want to talk to. We surge by each other in the hallways and the elevator, stopping for a quick word or hug, and then surge on again. The key to Malice is planning, but even thought I highlight my program and plan to have
get- togethers, there is always more I want to do.
For example, I planned to take lots of pictures but only managed to get one, this one of me with Barb Ross, the author of the Maine Clambake mysteries. Since I’m doing a lobster shack series, we joke that we’ll be on panels together for the foreseeable future, the All Crustacean panel with Maya Corrigan who did “Scam Chowder” in her Five Ingredients series.
|Kathleen at the far right with her panelists.|
I enjoy each Malice Domestic more than the last. I see old friends, get to meet new ones and love to connect actual living people with names on e-mail accounts. This year’s Malice was no exception. I didn’t have time to fit in all the activities and meet-ups I would have liked, but tried to make good use of my time.
The highlight for me this year was a short story panel. I have been concentrating on writing short stories lately, and was thrilled to be included on the panel with several talented writers who are very active in the field. I found the panel, like short stories themselves, to be fun! In response to a question from the moderator,
I told a story on myself. We were asked about our first published short story. Mine was a longish short story named The Automatic Therapist which was published by the unfortunately now-defunct Nautilus Engine, which specialized in speculative fiction. I’d submitted it to several more prestigious venues (ones that paid more!) and kept the submission log saved at the end of the story. Hint to anyone who does that: remove the submission log before resubmitting. I didn’t. In the e-mail accepting the story for publication, the editor suggested I might consider doing that in future submissions to him or anyone else.
I was thrilled to see the story appear in the next edition of Nautilus Engine. When I got the rights back, I self-published it as an e-book on Amazon, and there it sits today, a reminder of the kindness of an editor to a newbie and for me to be much more careful with my submissions.
Paula Gail Benson
|Shari, Me, Paula and Jim Jackson from a previous Malice|
This year more than any other, I felt I had too little time at Malice. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with blogging partners Gloria Alden, Shari Randall and Grace Topping at meals. I didn’t get to dine with the Guppies, but saw the group gathering in the lobby and had my picture taken with them at the SinC breakfast. What a pleasure to talk with fellow short story writers Kaye George, Debra Goldstein, and Terrie Moran, and to celebrate Kaye’s new series, Debra’s publication in AHMM, and Terrie’s Derringer. The panel of best short story nominees was expertly moderated by Linda Landrigan, editor of AHMM.
I laughed at the wonderfully inventive stories created by Charlaine Harris, Parnell Hall, Joan Hess, and Margaret Maron for the “Chopped” panel. I had the privilege of moderating the “Oh to be in Britain!” panel featuring G.M. Malliet, Molly MacRae, Leslie Meier, and Melinda Mullet, who follow in the footsteps of Agatha Christie by writing contemporary mysteries in British settings.
At the banquet, I reconnected with dear friends Dorothy St. James and B.K. Stevens, and B.K.’s wonderful husband and daughter. Thank you, Art Taylor, for letting me be a guest at your table (with your lovely wife Tara Laskowski – it was great to see Dash earlier at your panel, and to celebrate your Agatha win for “Parallel Play.”
Is it really all over until next year? It seems as if it’s only begun!
Have you ever attended Malice? If so what did you think of it?