Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Malice Domestic Convention

I'm excited about being the Guest of Honor at Malice Domestic 2012!  This convention is so much fun, and the people are so warm and welcoming there.  I hope to see you there!  Held in Bethesda, MD, it's a short Metro ride from all the sights in Washington, DC and close to shopping, restaurants, and more.

Registration price increases after 12/31/11, so now is the time to sign up.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy holidays!

Whichever holidays you may be celebrating this season, I wish you all the best, and thank you for your kind support!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anarchy Cobbler Recipe

My Facebook friends asked for a recipe, so I thought I'd write it out almost exactly the way I made it.  For those of you who are about to tell me that cobblers don't have two crusts, see the title of this post.

Anarchy Cobbler

*Parts of the process you need not repeat.

*1)While in a doctor's waiting room, spare the batteries on your electronic devices and do it old school — a saying which is probably old school — and pick up a magazine.  Look for one that has a lot of delicious-looking food on the cover, and as you flip through it, become enamored with a pear pie recipe.  As you are called to the front desk and must set the magazine aside (because doctors may not always know what's wrong with you, but they do always know when you have reached a critical point in an article), tell yourself that since it is this month's issue, you can find this magazine at the grocery store.

*2) That afternoon, realize, after looking in at every check stand in a way that makes the store employees nervous, that the November issue of said magazine was only available in October.

*3) Search online.  Nothing about this will be intuitive.  That makes it a quest, so you will be happier when you finally find the recipe.  Print it out. 

*4) Don't take the recipe with you when you shop.  Trying not to attract the same kind of attention you received the day before, buy lovely Bartlett pears (or whatever type you prefer), but not enough of them.  (I bought three or four.  What was I thinking?) Fail to buy at least one other key ingredient.  

*5) Some days later, see the pears and say to yourself, "I better make something out of those." Envision the unspoken and unpleasant "or else."

6) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

7) Remove premade refrigerated crusts, such as these, from refrigerator and packaging.  They will need to be out for at least 20 minutes, so if you are normally able to make any recipe in the time it says it will take you to do it, move very slowly over the next few steps.

8) Wash and peel the pears, which should be ripe but still firm.  If they are soft, we'll have to think of something else to do with them. Pearsauce, anyone?

*9) This is the point where you realize that you don't have enough pears.  In my case, about 1.1 lbs for a recipe that called for 3 lbs.

10) Core the pears and cut into chunks of a size that can fit in your mouth without choking you or making you look like a hamster who discovered where the sunflower seeds are kept.  About 1/2 inch to 1 inch chunks will do.  While doing this, think about what the hell you are going to do to make up the rest of the volume of the pie.  Let the anarchy begin.

11) Notice that there four apples in your refrigerator that are still good, but nothing, least of all goodness, lasts forever, so they should become part of this pie. In my case, I found a Cameo and three Honeycrisps.  Give them the same treatment you gave the pears in steps 8 and 10. 

12) When you had the refrigerator open, you noticed some great apple cider.  I saw cider made from Honeycrisp apples, but you may see something different.  I poured about a cup of this into a small saucepan.

13) To this cider, I added the rest of the raisins I had in a container, and part of a bag of dried cranberries.  Total was maybe a cup and a half of dried up bits of fruit.  Here's the deal:  want it to have a little tartness and zest?  More dried cranberries.  Can't get enough sweetness?  More raisins.  Simmer over low heat until they plump up a bit, then remove from heat.

14) Still a little short of filling, you say, "Hey, don't I have pie filling around here somewhere?"  Get up on a step stool and let the games begin.  Find a can of Oregon Blueberry in Light Syrup.  Drain off the syrup and be sure to rinse the sink or you know you'll have a bluish-purple sink, which is always a lure for uninvited persnickety houseguests.  No one wants this to happen to you.  Rinse.  (I'm sure fresh blueberries would work wonderfully if you don't like fruit from a can.  Well, I'm not sure.  We'll hope someone who knows what they're talking about may be able to chime in here.)

15) Put the fruit chunks into a large bowl if you haven't done so already.  Add the blueberries.  Drain any remaining cider from the cranberry/raisin pan and add those little fellows into the bowl. 

16) Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Gently stir to coat the fruit.

17) Add these spices either to your taste or using this as a rough guide, sprinkling them over the fruit mixture
            1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
            1 teaspoon ground cloves
            1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
            pinch of salt

18) Add 3 tablespoons of corn starch and 3/4 cup of sugar or Splenda to the fruit mixture.  Gently mix all this together.

*19)  Realize that those pie crusts are ready to rock and roll.  Look for pie plates or tins.  They are not in the usual place.  Then again, some of us don't bake enough pies to really be allowed to say "usual place."  Continue searching until it dawns on you that you would not have stored them outside the kitchen.  Forget about looking in the attic and wash up.

20) Find a square glass cake pan, something in the neighborhood of a 9x9x2, or whatever pleases you.  This is anarchy, after all.

21) Place one crust on the bottom of the pan.  It may not fit perfectly up the sides.  This is okay.  You are trying to put a round pie crust into a square pan.  If this distresses you, read last sentence of step #20 to remind yourself of our theme.

22) Spoon the fruit mix into the pan.  Take a stick of butter and a knife and carve off little dots of butter, 2 tablespoons worth or so, dropping them on to the top of the filling as you go.

23) Take out your super-duper lattice-maker, otherwise known as a pizza cutter, and cut the second crust into strips.  Begin a lattice pattern, screw it up, fake your way to freedom.

24) Put the Anarchy Cobbler into the oven.  After twenty minutes, lower heat to 350.  Bake for about an hour or until it looks good to you.

25) Don't burn your mouth, but after it cools a bit, enjoy!  It has been found to be especially good with ice cream.

That's it!  I'm thinking of making it with barberries next time out.  Hmmm....

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Thank you, San Francisco!

The event for A Study in Sherlock went well this evening. Thank you to all who attended and to the San Francisco Public Library for hosting the panel.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

To Continue...the Journey to Cedron

Of course I intended that many weeks ago, I would publish more about my Missouri adventures, and tell you what I saw over that rise.

Sigh.  real life intervenes.

Anyway, here's what was just over that rise, viewed though a rain-splattered windsheild:

This is Assumption Catholic Church, in Cedron, Missouri.  This lovely little church, built in 1838, is no longer an active parish.  But the church and its cemetery are being maintained through the efforts of a devoted local group.

Thanks to their efforts, I was able to visit the grave of Lorenz Weingartner, my great-great grandfather.  Part of the excitement of this discovery was the ability to confirm bits and pieces of information about him gathered from my family, and to correct some of our errors.

But most of all, I was grateful to see a place where my ancestors had gathered and sought the comforts of their faith together, a place where some of them probably met their future spouses, where they were wed, where their children were baptized, and where, as with Lorenz Weingartner, they were laid to rest.  I had the chance to think of their courage in leaving their own families Germany, crossing the Atlantic, and then half the U.S..  They settled in western Missouri and started farms there.

The area where my family lived is beautiful.  It's not far from the Missouri River, near the Lewis and Clark Trail.  My thanks again to the Cedron Church preservationists — without them, it is unlikely I would have ever had those peaceful moments in Cedron.

First, about Ian in Disturbance.

I posted something about this on Spoilerville, but since some of you are asking about it here -- Yes!  There is a typo in the hardcover edition of Disturbance.  The confusing Ian is Kai.

What happened?

I had named the character Ian in an earlier draft.  Changed the name.  (If you want to know why, please read about it on Spoilerville.)  Apparently, one slipped through despite several people reading through several other drafts.

In other words, I made a mistake.  I know, I know... but really, happens all the time.

Sorry for any confusion, and especially for yanking some of you out of the story and irritating you more than I would have believed possible.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another adventure begins: part 1

First, a few notes re St. Louis.  Bouchercon was loads of fun. I want to thank the fans and volunteers who made this a great convention. Special thanks to those of you who took the time to come to see me on panels or in the book room signings! It was so good to see so many of my friends and colleagues. These conventions always make me feel deeply grateful for the friendships I've formed with my fellow writers.

Today, after leaving Bouchercon, I began a different kind of adventure.

I decided to set out on a journey that I've been wanting to take for many years now, a journey in search of family history.  

 Over 160 years ago, some of my ancestors left Germany and settled in western Missouri, and I have long wanted to see the area where they lived in the early 19th century, and to try to discover more about them.

I learned the name of what I thought was the town where my great grandfather was born.  I also learned the name of the church where he was probably baptized, and alas, that it was no longer an active parish. Still it was clearly being cared for.  I also found out that there was a cemetery on the church grounds.

I fired up the browser and looked for the church and town, but the town didn't show up on maps.  Turns out it is what is known as an "unincorporated populated place."  The GPS didn't recognize it.  Fortunately, iPhone did.

So I drove from St. Louis to this area, not far from Jefferson City, the state capital.   I turned off the interstate and on to a two-lane highway.   The countryside was beautiful, with rolling hills of farmland, many creeks, and the Missouri River nearby.  

After some time, the directions indicated that I should turn left at a certain lane.  The lane was in fact an unpaved road, with more than its share of loose, fist-size rocks.  I went slowly, but I have the kind of imagination that allowed me to envision getting a flat tire and not being able to call AAA.  Or anyone else.  And worse, of course.  (Were the nearest humans really a family of cannibals? No.)

The lane dipped and curved and dipped and curved again and again.  Soon I was past farms and houses and passing through a forest.  This matched none of the photos I had seen of my destination.   As you can see from the photo above, there was no promise of seeing a church and cemetery near open fields.

I took this photo planning to email my siblings with a message based on one of my favorite Vonnegut quotes, (or, should I say, Bokonon quotes?) "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."  

It was a lovely day, I was in a beautiful place, and had no fixed schedule.  If it turned out I had come up with a miss when I picked a place that only seemed likely, that was the nature of likely.  I wasn't exactly lost, I just hadn't found what I was looking for.  I would eventually reach another road, and it would take me back to the highway.

But one should always wait to see what's over the next rise before assuming you've missed your opportunity...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bouchercon Bound

I'm on my way to Bouchercon in St. Louis, and hope to see some of you there!

Here are the panels I'm on:

Thursday, September 15   11:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.
But is it?  Forensics panel
Leslie Budewitz (M), Jan Burke, Marcia Clark, Jonathan Hayes, Stefanie Pintoff, Doug Starr

Thursday, September 15  4:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.
SISTERS-Landmark 5,6,7
These gals and doing it for themselves.
Robin Agnew (M), Jan Burke, Deborah Crombie, Erin Hart, Hank Phillippi Ryan 

Friday, September 16  2:30 P.M. – 3:30 P.M.
Twist Phelan, four authors-need we say more?
Twist Phelan (M), Jan Burke, Harley Jane Kozak, Bob Ward, Gary Phillips 

I'm leaving Saturday morning for an adventure I'll write more about from the road.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Helen McCloy Scholarships for Mystery Writing

Many years ago, I was on the board of Mystery Writers of America, and had the pleasure of serving with Elizabeth Foxwell.  Her contributions to our field are innumerable, and as in all her endeavors, she  served the organization with excellence.  One of her many innovations on behalf of MWA was to conceive of and work to establish the Helen McCloy Scholarships.

Helen McCloy (1904-1994) was an author, editor, publisher, and agent.  Over the course of her writing career, she was an Edgar winner, Grandmaster,  MWA President (its first woman president, in 1950), and helped to establish the New England Chapter of the organization.

I have just seen an announcement in the MWA newsletter by Chris Roerden, the current chair of these scholarships.   For 2012, there are two $500 scholarships available to help a promising mystery writer pay the registration fees for live writing programs, classes, courses, or workshops.  The scholarships are open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents only.

The deadline for application submissions is February 29, 2012, which sounds as if it is a long way off, but two letters of recommendation are needed, and those can take a while to gather, so if you are interested, please start the process now!

Please visit this site for more information:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Look for the Boy

A revolutionary man,
Who wears no black cape
Throws no bomb
Burns no building and
Kills no dignitary,
Is hard to find 
In a cast of thousands.

But look for the boy
Who has a fire in his eyes
That says he's been 
Alone too long,
And watch his world self-destruct.

If you had asked me just yesterday give you a short list of things I'd never put on this blog, poetry from my freshman year of college would not have made the list.  That's because the idea would have been so unthinkable, it wouldn't have occurred to me as being even a remote possibility.

But here we are.

Today my sister Sandy gave me a copy of a publication she had found among some items she's sorting through from the attic of the house where my family lived during my high school and early college years.  "I think you have a poem in this," she said.

The long, thin, illustrated booklet, a bit yellowed with age but otherwise in good shape, was the free poetry writers workshop anthology (all lowercase in the original) from the Experimental College at CSULB.  I don't see the Experimental College anywhere on the university's Website these days, so there are probably a diminishing number of us who remember its freewheeling opportunities for non-credit study of topics outside (sometimes way outside) the usual curricula.

I confess that I have corrected a couple of typos in the copy above.  But otherwise, it is as I wrote it.  I brought it home, where photographs from Norway stared back at me from a newspaper on the dining room table.

I couldn't (now, and perhaps not then) name the events that led me to write this poem.  I was eighteen. Now, almost four decades after it was published, I've seen far too much of the handiwork of those lonely boys in the time that has passed since I wrote it.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jungle Red and other adventures

Safari (or Mozilla, or whatever browser works) over to Jungle Red, where Rhys Bowen interviewed me.  I talk about Disturbance, whether or not Irene is my alter ego, writing about "dark subjects," the Book Passage Conference, and Spoilerville.  Please stop by and leave a comment -- if nothing else, help me to reinforce the idea that the actual title of my new book is Disturbance.

I'm back from St. Louis and signed books today at Apostrophe Books.  Next week, I'm traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area.   Here's the schedule through the end of July:

July 21-July 23
Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
(Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco)

Saturday, July 23, 2 PM
M is for Mystery
86 East 3rd Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 401-8077

Tuesday, July 26, 7-8 PM
Redondo Beach Main Library
303 N. Pacific Coast Hwy
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Free event.

Books will be available from Mysterious Galaxy, which will soon open a new store in Redondo Beach!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Apostrophe Books this Saturday!

As you know, I'm heading to St. Louis for an event on Thursday.  But I'll be back in So Cal on Saturday,  July 16th for signing at a lovely bookstore in Long Beach, California — Apostrophe Books!  This store is in Belmont Shore between Park and Roycroft, next door to Starbucks.  (See map below -- click on the address to go to Google Map.)

I'll be there from 2-4 PM, and hope I'll see some of you who recognize parts of Las Piernas as belonging to your home town!

Apostrophe Books
4712 E. 2nd St
Long Beach CA 90803

View Larger Map

Monday, July 11, 2011

St. Louis, here I come!

Hope to see those of you in the St. Louis area at this event -- just a few days away!

Thursday, July 14 at 7 PM
 (Doors open at 6 PM)
St. Louis County Library
Headquarters - Auditorium

1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

St. Louis, Missouri

It's a free event.

Books will be available from Barnes & Noble.   See you there!

Image above by  spiroll on

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Announcements: Spoilerville is open! And more signings!

Some of you have wanted to post comments about Disturbance on this blog, but fearing that those who haven't read it yet will have parts of the plot spoiled for them if I let those comments go through here, I've decided instead to start an experiment -- I've created a new place for readers called Spoilerville.

You can reach it at any time by going to

The idea is that you now have a place where you can ask a question or make a comment that gives away the ending of the book, and where you can also feel free to talk to other readers about it.

I will be putting up pages for other books, and I'm open to your suggestions about this site.

Here are the next few places where I'll be signing Disturbance:

Saturday, July 2, 1-3 PM
Mystery Ink
7176 Edinger Avenue
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Saturday, July 9, Noon
Mysteries to Die For
2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

Saturday, July 9, 4 PM
Book'em Mysteries
1118 Mission St.
South Pasadena CA 91030

Friday, June 24, 2011

Notes from the road

I'm in Phoenix, AZ tonight, here for the Poisoned Pen's Conference Call at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. I know, you're looking at one of your weather apps and saying, "Triple-digit heat!" Well it is the desert, and it is summer. But they are prepared for that here. And in addition to beautiful grounds, the buildings were designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and one can clearly see the influence of Wright throughout the hotel.

Add to that the fun of a well-organized conference featuring Laurie R King, Dana Stabenow, Peter Lovesey, Alafair Burke, Jacqueline Winspear, April Smith and many others. (Seriously, take a look at the conference website!)

Tonight I had the pleasure of spending time with a new author whose name may be known to you, Marcia Clark. Her first book, Guilt by Association, is already a national bestseller, and getting all kinds of great buzz, including this blurb from James Ellroy: "You must read this book."

I just started it and find myself in agreement with Mr. Ellroy. I'll add that she's funny and smart as a whip, so if you can, come out to see her in person here at Conference Call or in July at the Book Passage Mystery Conference.

Tomorrow I'll be on the program in conversation with Laurie King. I'll be signing books here. If you want a signed first edition of Disturbance, it's easy to order one from the Poisoned Pen by clicking here:

You can also order signed first editions from the other stores on my schedule page — including stores where I've been this past week.

After the conference I fly back to California — hope to see some of you at Mysterious Galaxy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

An Interview with Scott Butki

The new interview is up on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's pages! I talked to Scott Butki about Disturbance, the return to the Irene Kelly series, serial killers, journalism, forensic science, and why statistics on homicides are probably unreliable.

A couple of interviews

Marlyn Beebe reviewed Disturbance — which is officially published tomorrow! — for the Crime Fiction Collective. She also did a two-part interview with me on her blog, Stuff and Nonsense.

For part one, in which we mostly talk about Disturbance, Irene, search dogs, and research:

And for part two, in which I discuss writing about violence, and reveal how an optimist came to write books in which dark and disturbing things sometimes happen to her protagonist:

I'll have another interview link to share with you a little later in the week, with further discussion of Disturbance, so stay tuned.

And I'll be saying more here about Disturbance and some of the issues raised in these interviews in the near future!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Disturbance Launches 6/21!

Here's where I'll be over the next few days! Please come by and say hello.

Tuesday, June 21, 7 PM

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101

Wednesday, June 22, 7 PM
Book Carnival
348 S. Tustin Avenue
Orange, CA 92866

Thursday, June 23, 6:30 PM
Murder by the Book
2342 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Saturday, June 25
Conference Call—Poisoned Pen Conference
Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
2400 E Thunderbird Trail
Phoenix, AZ
Fee is $50, limited to 125 registrants
To register, call 888-560-9919
or send an email to
The Biltmore offers a special conference room rate of $89/night plus applicable taxes. To reserve your room (don't delay, the conference bloc could quickly be snapped up): go to and use the code "ppen11" in the group/convention box.
Guests can also call 800.950.0086 to book their reservations anytime (days, nights and weekends) using the same code.

Sunday, June 26, 2 PM
Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111-1040

Other dates can be found on my Website at

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Redesigned site is live!

The updated site (as you can probably tell from the new look of this blog!) is now live. So please visit

and take a gander.

Thanks to Maddee James and her staff at for all the hard work. Nothing like having someone send you a set of images and 24 pages of notes and a "how soon?" plea -- she did a beautiful job, IMHO!

Those of you who are aspiring writers, be sure to look at the FAQ page, third question down -- you can download a pdf of my (ahem) wisdom, just for you.

And my schedule for signings of the upcoming release of Disturbance can be found here:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Almost here!

I'm excited because:

The new Irene Kelly book, Disturbance, will be out on June 21! You can preorder it now from your favorite bookseller. Click here to see where I'll be signing. Add to that an appearance at Book'em in South Pasadena, where I'll be on the afternoon of July 9.

I've been named the Guest of Honor for Malice Domestic XXIV! I love this convention and I'm so flattered to be the GOH. I'll be joined by other honorees Dana Cameron (Toastmistress), Simon Brett (Lifetime Achievement), Lee Goldberg (Poirot Award), and Fan Guest of Honor Ruth Sickafus. I'll hope you'll join us April 24-29 at the Hyatt in Bethesda, MD!

I'll be speaking at some great writing conferences this year, the first of them this coming Sunday -- So Cal MWA and Sisters in Crime's LA Chapter are teaming up for the California Crime Writers Conference.

My Website will soon have a new look! Stay tuned!

The Crime Lab Project Website has been updated and combined with our blog to make it easier to keep current with forensic science news.

I've just finished going over the proofs for "The Imitator," my short story in A Study in Sherlock. I am so looking forward to reading the other stories in this anthology. Laurie King, Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, and many others participated.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Schedule for Disturbance Signings as of 5/15/11

June 11-12
California Crime Writers Conference
Los Angeles, CA
Sunday, 9-10:15 AM:
"Bad Guys & Sidekicks—How to write a great supporting cast"
The Hilton Pasadena
168 S. Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, CA

Tuesday, June 21, 7 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101

Wednesday, June 22, 7 PM
Book Carnival
348 S. Tustin Avenue
Orange, CA 92866

Thursday, June 23, 6:30 PM
Murder by the Book
2342 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Saturday, June 25
Conference Call
Poisoned Pen Conference
Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
2400 E Thunderbird Trail
Phoenix, AZ
Fee is $50, limited to 125 registrants
To register, call 888-560-9919
or send an email to
The Biltmore offers a special conference room rate of $89/night plus applicable taxes. To reserve your room (don't delay, the conference bloc could quickly be snapped up): go to and use the code "ppen11" in the group/convention box.
Guests can also call 800.950.0086 to book their reservations anytime (days, nights and weekends) using the same code.

Sunday, June 26, 2 PM
Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111-1040

Saturday, July 2, 1-3 PM
Mystery Ink
7176 Edinger Avenue
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Saturday, July 9, Noon
Mysteries to Die For
2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

Thursday, July 14
St. Louis County Library
1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63131
More details soon!

Saturday, July 16
Apostrophe Books
4712 E. 2nd St.
Long Beach, CA 90803

July 21-24
Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
(Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco)
More details will be posted soon about Jan's schedule at the conference, but you should register now if you want to attend this great event!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Site update

I'm working with my Web site manager, Madeira James, on a new look for the Web site. I'm really excited about the design she's come up with, and right now I'm buried in updating the content. The schedule has some additions, so be sure to check that page if you look at the current version of the site.

I have lots to tell you, but the Web site revision must come first...

Thanks for your patience!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Disturbance: the basics

I've written two long posts this week, so this one will be a little shorter. It won't be all I'll have to say about Disturbance, but I hope it will answer a few of your questions.

When will Disturbance be published?
It will be available on June 21. Some copies will probably be available for the California Crime Writers Conference.

Is it an Irene Kelly book?

In what formats will Simon & Schuster make it available?
Hardcover and e-book.

Is it true that this is a sequel to Bones? Do I have to read Bones to understand what's going on in Disturbance?
Some time has passed since the end of Bones when Disturbance begins, but serial killer Nick Parrish is back. Don't worry, you can read Disturbance even if you haven't read Bones yet the plots stand by themselves, and if you read Disturbance first you won't be lost, etc. That said, I think you'll probably enjoy Disturbance more if you remind yourself of the events in Bones, and you'll probably enjoy Bones more if you read it first. It is currently available in paperback and as an e-book.

Is Bones based on the TV show?
No. It was published before the show first aired.

What's Disturbance about?

[Okay -- read no further if you don't want to know anything about the plot! Potential spoilers of some events in the story.]

Disturbance finds Irene facing an old enemy: serial killer Nick Parrish, last seen in Bones, has recovered from his injuries, and has vowed to have revenge. Others dismiss her fears by reminding her he's in prison, but Irene finds little reassurance in that. He's connected to the outside world through an online group of misguided fans that calls itself The Moths.

They seem intent on disturbing her peace of mind, playing unnerving tricks. But matters take a darker turn when the frozen body of a young woman is found in the trunk of a car parked near Irene's home. The corpse is has been painted — decorated with moths. She won't be the only calling card Parrish's helpers leave for Irene.

Irene has other upheaval to contend with. The newspaper where she has worked most of her adult life is shutting down. Being a reporter has been more than a job — it has been a bone-deep part of her identity. Reporting for the Express was the work she dreamed of doing from childhood, a career in which she excelled, and telling the stories of her community has brought her satisfaction and a sense of purpose.

She's tough and resilient, but this is a blow that leaves more than a bruise. Can she reinvent herself, or even find the will to do so?

Nick Parrish may not give her time to answer that question. He's back. And he's not alone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Messenger: Shade

As many of you know, I love dogs. (Cats, too, but alas, I'm allergic to them). Perhaps that's why I'm especially attached to a dog who appears in The Messenger — Shade, who is a cemetery dog.

Although not all readers will stop to figure this out, Shade is actually the oldest of the characters in the book, although there is nothing decrepit about him. He's a large, long-haired black dog. Shade is Tyler's benevolent and protective companion. Although Tyler's existence has been one that has denied him long-lasting human relationships, he has had the comfort of Shade's loyalty.

Mysterious, large black dogs are a staple of fiction and folklore, whether as ghosts or fierce inhabitants of the moors near Baskerville. They guard the gates of Hades, or come upon unsuspecting riders at midnight.

Cemetery dogs are part of the legends of many societies, and their roles vary from tale to tale and place to place. Seen racing next to a carriage at night in England, they would presage death, as they would if they walked into a church during services. In present day, they might cause a car crash on a lonely road at night. These large black dogs are often said to have glowing eyes. They would most likely be encountered near bridges or at a crossroads (the latter are often described as places of mystical power, perhaps because they are places of transition). In some places they work for demons, snatching souls and taking them to the devil.

Yet other tales portray them as wholly benevolent. They may guide lost travelers. They may loyally guard the grave of a person they were close to in life.

Cemetery dogs, in particular, often have the task of guarding graveyards. We could probably use a few more cemetery dogs now. Although perhaps more of a problem in the 19th century, grave-robbing is not entirely a thing of the past. I imagine that people who believe a large black (perhaps supernatural) dog is fiercely protective of a cemetery might think twice about disturbing those who rest there.

By the way there are real-life dogs known as cemetery dogs at the Historic Congressional Cemetery and a few other places. They aren't Shade, but like him, they do play a role in protecting and caring for cemeteries.

One of my own real-life dogs, Britches, had an influence on Shade's appearance. You can see him above (we were out visiting that day) and can probably tell that he's a wonderful old fellow. You may also notice that when he was younger, he posed for the photo used by my sister, Sandra Cvar, to create the print that eventually ended up, full circle, among the images at the top of my site and this blog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some catching up

As usual, I'm behind on posting here. And answering questions, and...well, you should see what the house looks like. Or not.

So here's a little catching up. I'll post more about The Messenger tomorrow, and more about Disturbance starting this weekend, including information about a few of the places I'll be appearing when it comes out in late June.

Disturbance is now available for preorder from any bookseller. For a link to the Simon & Schuster page about it: Click here. If your bookseller needs an ISBN to order it, the number is ISBN-10: 1439152845 or ISBN-13: 9781439152845

It will be available as an e-book and will also be available as an audio book from Recorded Books, although I don't have a release date for the audio book yet. Stay tuned.

The Messenger is currently available in paperback and as an e-book.

If you haven't yet signed up for the California Crime Writers Conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime's Los Angeles Chapter and Mystery Writers of America's So Cal Chapter, take a look at this site. T Jefferson Parker and SJ Rozan are keynote speakers. I'll be teaching a session on Sunday morning.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference

One of the best conferences in the U.S. for those who want to write crime fiction is held at one of its best bookstores — the Book Passage, in Corte Madera, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I'm pleased to announce I'll be part of the conference faculty this year.

The conference will be held July 21-24. The faculty also includes John Lescroart, Cara Black, Daniel Silva, Martin Cruz Smith and many other notable writers, as well as editors, agents, and experts.

You can learn more about the conference here, and I'll be posting about it again as we get closer to the time of the event -- but sign up soon, this event has limited space.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Sign up now for Conference Call

I'm pleased to say that I'll be part of the Poisoned Pen's Conference Call on Saturday, June 25, 2011. This will be a great event. Other participants include Laurie R. King, Michael Koryta, Peter Lovesey, April Smith, Dana Stabenow, Juliet Blackwell, Alafair Burke, Marcia Clark, Robert Dugoni, CS Harris, Sophie Littlefield, Lauren Willig, and Patricia Wynn.


Conference Call
Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
2400 E Thunderbird Trail
Phoenix, AZ
Fee is $50, limited to 125 registrants.
To register, call 888-560-9919
or send an email to

The Biltmore offers a special conference room rate of $89/night plus applicable taxes.
To reserve your room (don't delay, the conference bloc could quickly
be snapped up):
go to and use the code "ppen11" in the
group/convention box.
Guests can also call 800.950.0086 to book their reservations anytime
(days, nights and weekends) using the same code.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quick Notes

I'm hoping I'll see some of you at the RT Booklovers Convention at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, April 6-10, next week! My panel is on Friday, but I'll be around this great convention at other times, too! The panel is "Striking the Balance: Adding Heart-Pounding Thrills That Work" and it starts at 1:30 pm.

I just posted something on the CLP Blog, "What can I do to improve public forensic science?"

I have a short story in A Study in Sherlock, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, which will be published in October.

The schedule for the tour for the next Irene Kelly book, Disturbance, is shaping up. Details soon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why I colored outside the lines

In a week or so I'll start to say more about the new Irene Kelly book, Disturbance, so I don't want those of you who've been waiting and waiting for this next entry in the series to fear that you'll have to wait until June to hear anything about it. But since the new edition of The Messenger is out now, I'm going to talk about it first.

Besides, last year Real Life intervened and I did a lot less blogging than I wanted to do, so this allows me to do a bit of catching up.

Why, some of you wonder, did I step outside of writing crime fiction to write a supernatural thriller? Was I trying to jump on the vampire bandwagon? Did I have a sudden urge to "go woo-woo"? Was I sick of writing about Irene? Ending the series?

The Messenger is not my first foray into writing about the supernatural. My short stories "Ghost of a Chance" and "The Abbey Ghosts" have supernatural elements in them. The Messenger was, however, my first attempt to write a novel in that genre.

As for the popularity of vampire novels, that had no influence at all. Some writers are happy doing a lot of market research and deciding what they'll write based on that. I'm not one of them. I've never taken that approach to choosing what I'll write.

I should mention that there are no vampires in The Messenger. I'm not knocking them — I have favorite books among the vampire fiction — especially Anne Rice's powerful Interview With The Vampire, one of those rare books from which I can recall image after image, phrase after phrase, more than ten years after last reading it. And Charlaine Harris's incredibly fresh take on the world of vampires added to my respect for her writing.

I am admittedly not very "woo-woo." I tend to be skeptical and think the vast majority (if not all) of the so-called "reality" shows on television about "paranormal investigators" are ridiculous. At the same time, I have beliefs that I haven't arrived at through rigorous use of the scientific method. I just prefer to keep most of that to myself, so that we all get along a little better.

I have a belief about writing: if I've done it well, you should be able to engage your imagination with what's on the page without having to know a thing about me. Odd thing for a blogger to say, I know, but there you have it.

I'm hoping that the fact that there will be a new Irene Kelly book out in June will put to rest all the anxieties readers seem to have about my being sick of writing about her or ending the series. This is my third time through this — heard the same kind of thing when I wrote Flight and when I wrote Nine. It's okay. I'm fond of Irene, too. Sometimes, the best thing I can to for the next Irene Kelly novel is to stretch in another direction before coming back to the series.

The reasons I wanted to write The Messenger are many, but most of them have to do with observations, questions, and Tyler Hawthorne.

My ideas for books, when not ordered from the Secret Warehouse of Fabulous Ideas for Novels That Only Published Novelists Know About, And How Unfair Is, often evolve out of observations that spark questions. I saw friends freaking out about aging, and mentioning things along the line of, no matter who that old lady was in the mirror, inside, they were still twenty-four. And I heard, especially through my work with the Crime Lab Project, people who wished they had been able to have one last conversation with someone they loved, now deceased. Or had a loved one fall into a coma before dying, and longed to hear that loved one speak, and wondered if the loved one could hear and understand what was being said to him. And taking this from another perspective — as one person said to me, "If any of us were told we only had five minutes to live and could make one last phone call, very few of us would dial the office."

So what if you appeared to be twenty-four forever? Not because you had a wormy portrait in the attic, but as a result of some other supernatural agency.

And what if you had a gift that allowed you, if you took the hand of someone who was dying, to hear that person's thoughts, allowing them say (through you) what they longed to tell their loved ones?

These are not questions that would fit well into an Irene Kelly novel. Nothing in the Irene books up to now have suggested that she inhabits a world in which such things could happen.

These questions led to other questions, and I longed to explore them. So I decided to color outside the lines, and that was how I met Tyler, whom I'll talk about next time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Messenger is out in paperback!

I'm excited to announce that Pocket Books has just published The Messenger in paperback! Get ready for some posts about this book -- I had lots of fun with the research. Yes -- even supernatural thrillers can require research!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Death investigation gets some long needed attention

Most of you know that I am an advocate for the improvement of public forensic science. I just posted something on the Crime Lab Project blog that I hope you will read.

It's a list of stories published/aired in a joint effort by PBS/NPR/ProPublica on the state of death investigation in the United States.

Death investigation in this country is a mess. And it's too important to be left in a mess. Please take the time to become informed about this issue.

To go to the CLP Blog, click here or copy and paste this link into your browser: