Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Edgars 2014: My First Trip to the Mystery Writers of America Awards Banquet

For mystery writers, the Edgars are the equivalent of the Oscars. The Mystery Writers of America give out the awards at a black-tie banquet each year in New York City, and I'd never previously attended. Why not? I couldn't think of a good reason! It's true it's on the other side of the country for me, but I was planning to attend Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland, the day after the Edgars, so I could do what a lot of other mystery writers do: take the train from NYC to DC the morning after the awards. So I booked my tickets and headed to New York for my first Edgars--and I'm so glad I did!

After arriving in New York, I met up with talented historical mystery writer Gigi Vernon (she's "the other Gigi," in spite of what she might tell you!). Gigi V. has a short story in the new Mystery Writers of America short story collection, Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War

The two Gigis of mystery fiction: Gigi Vernon and Gigi Pandian.
The 2014 MWA anthology.

The awards were hosted by thriller writer Brad Meltzer, the current president of MWA. I've been reading Brad's books since his first thriller, The Tenth Justice, which came out the year I graduated from college. It was the year I was bumming around and trying to figure out what to do with my life, so I had time to discover a lot of great books that year, like Brad's debut. He was a charming and funny host, and the remarks and awards went by quickly because the program was broken up with video montages and entertaining guest speakers. The nominees and winners are listed here. And this year there were two authors from two sides of the mystery fiction spectrum named Grand Master: Robert Crais and Caroyn Hart. 

Brad Meltzer hosting the 2014 Edgar Awards.

Program book for the 2014 Edgars.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the festivities, which is one of the reasons I wanted to attend. Now that I'm published and taking my writing more seriously, I wanted to experience the broader mystery world. As a traditional mystery writer, my "home" in the mystery community is Malice Domestic, but I wanted to get to know friendly neighbors who I hadn't yet met. I didn't know many people, but I had a lovely time meeting new people at the cocktail party and at my banquet table. In some ways it was similar to the Agatha Awards (the traditional mystery awards given out at Malice Domestic), but the Edgars were bigger and fancier--including men in black-tie and women in fabulous Fluevog shoes!

Laura Curtis, Hilary Davidson, and Gigi Pandian:
all wearing Fluevog shoes to the Edgar Awards banquet.

A close-up of our Fluevogs. 

Very cute dessert plate at the Edgars.

While in New York, I had a chance to stop by The Mysterious Bookshop, with floor to ceiling mysteries--and those were some high ceilings! 
New York's famous mystery bookshop.

I didn't have much time to look for gargoyles, but I couldn't resist stopping to look at a few. 

Gargoyles on the Chrysler Building in New York.

The following morning, I caught the train to DC with a friend. With a three-hour train ride, I gave myself my own mini Amtrak writers residency. Between chatting and watching the scenery, I wrote four pages of plotting notes. Not too bad! Whenever I bemoan that life is too busy these days, I take a deep breath and remind myself it's busy because it's so damn fun. I take a moment to enjoy it--and then I get back to work. 

Writing on the train from NYC to DC,
heading from the Edgars to Malice Domestic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Malice Domestic 2014: Photos & Highlights from the Traditional Mystery Convention

I often joke that I was born in the wrong era, because I grew up devouring the traditional mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction that ended long before I was born. But there are so many wonderful mystery writers carrying on the tradition, many of whom I've learned about through Malice Domestic, so by living in the present time I get to enjoy reading it all!

Therefore, the true reason I was born in the wrong era is because I'm awful at posting on social media in real time — I much prefer living in the moment and posting photos later. I arrived home last night, and I've been smiling all morning as I look through my photos. Here are some of my highlights from this year's Malice Domestic.

The fabulous volunteer board that runs Malice Domestic.

The mysterious display above the hotel bar.
I arrived on Friday afternoon this year, after attending the Edgar Awards banquet the night before in New York City. (My first Edgars! I'll post pictures from the Edgars later this week.) The first event I attended was the Opening Ceremonies, which was especially exciting this year because I was up for an Agatha Award.

Agatha nominees LynDee Walker, Kendel Lynn, and Gigi Pandian
at the Malice Domestic Opening Ceremonies.

At the Henery Press dinner on Friday night.

The Sisters in Crime breakfast was quite early for those of us on West Coast time, but so worth it!
Sitting with Verena Rose and Tonya Spratt-Williams
at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
Frankie Bailey and Gigi Pandian at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
At the breakfast, members of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime wore boas as a fun way to find each other and see how many Guppies were in attendance. What a huge group we were this year!
The Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime, wearing boas to the SinC breakfast,
getting ready for a group photo.
The Guppies began as the "Great Un-Published" chapter, where new authors could learn from each other at the beginning of their writing careers. It's still the chapter for newer writers, but published authors are welcome to stay on and share their knowledge. I learned about the Guppies at my first Malice Domestic, before I was published, and I love the camaraderie so I've stayed on.
Kendel Lynn, Diane Vallere, and Gigi Pandian in our Guppy boas
at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
Hank Phillippi Ryan and Elaine Will Sparber announcing the new
Sisters in Crime book "Writes of Passage." Everyone attending
the breakfast got an Advance Reader Copy, hot off the press!

Hmm... I've realized this recap is going to be far too long if I keep posting individual photos, so I made a few collages!

Everyone was having a great time putting faces to names at a Guppy lunch. 

The four of us nominated for the Best Short Story Agatha Award were on the panel Short and Snappy, where we had such an interesting discussion that we didn't get to everything that we wanted to talk about! It was such an honor to be nominated with Barb Goffman, Barbara Ross, and especially the nominee who won, Art Taylor. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine says: "Art Taylor is quickly becoming one of the most distinguished short-story writers of his generation. Since his EQMM debut in 1995, he's sold nearly three dozen short stories, several of which have received critical recognition." Good company, indeed!

The Best Short Story Agatha Nominee panel, Short and Snappy:
Gigi Pandian (nominated for locked-room mystery "The Hindi Houdini"),
Barb Goffman (nominated for "Nightmare" and "Evil Little Girl"),
our moderator B.K. Stevens (a distinguished short story writer herself)
Art Taylor (whose story "The Care and Feeding of House Plants" won the Agatha),
and Barbara Ross (nominated for "Bread Baby").

For the Agatha banquet that night, I hosted a table. In honor of my latest book, Pirate Vishnu, I brought pirate treasure to share.
Filling paper treasure chests with goodies for my banquet table.
Henery Press donated cute mugs, and after Scooby Doo pirate characters
were a hit at my book launch party, I brought some to Malice. 
Pirate treasure and good fun at the banquet table.
Lifetime Achievement Award honorees
Dorothy Cannell, Joan Hess, and Margaret Maron.
Daniel Stashower (who won the Agatha for his nonfiction book
The Hour of Peril) and Gigi Pandian.
Leslie Budewitz, Gigi Pandian, Daryl Wood Gerber.
Gigi Pandian, LynDee Walker, Larissa Reinhart. 

The morning after the banquet, I was so glad I decided to stay an extra day and relax. Hanging out in the lobby, I got to catch up with online friends, some of whom I'd never met in person before. I met the generous Jenny Milchman online years ago, but only met her in person two years ago, and I'd never had the pleasure of meeting Kaye Barley in person until this weekend. 

Jenny Milchman and Kaye Barley. 
Harriette Sackler was the first person at Malice Domestic I ever spoke to. The Chair of the Grants Committee, she called me on the phone to let me know I'd won a grant for my work-in-progress (which became Artifact). After being speechless for quite some time, I recovered, attended Malice that year, and have looked forward to catching up with Harriette each year I'm able to make it to Malice.
Harriette Sackler and Gigi Pandian.
In between running into readers and writers in the hallway, I made it to fun panels, such as Witches and Werewolves and Ghosts, Oh My!, Mixed Genre Mysteries, and Authors Reveal Their Fictional Crushes, and insightful interviews. 
Authors dressing as their characters!
Dana Cameron, Jim Lavene, Juliet Blackwell, Leigh Perry (aka Toni Kelner).
Poirot Award Honoree Tom Schantz (of Rue Morgue Press)
interviewed by Jim Huang. 
As usual, I couldn't resist buying more books than would fit in my suitcase, including some that I already owned! 
A few of the books I had to get back to California.
Daniel Stashower's award-winning nonfiction is good, but his Harry Houdini mysteries are just brilliant. I already own them all, but not with these beautiful reissued covers, and besides, I needed something to read on the plane ride home! I already have Sujata Massey's The Sleeping Dictonary on my eReader, but I got her to sign a print copy for my dad. I also already read Steven Rigolosi's new book, The Outsmarting of Criminals, but it's so good I had to get a copy for my mom. And I picked up the new Mystery Writers of America anthology at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York the day of the Edgars. The sad thing for my pocketbook? This is only a few of the books I went home with. 

Now that I'm home, I'm exhausted but so inspired. I already can't wait until next year. I had a great meeting with my editor to go over her feedback on a draft of the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, so now it's time to get back to work on the book! It'll be out shortly before next year's Malice.