Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Sneaking of Shorts

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  What could be cooler than a sneak preview? And that's exactly what we have here today—courtesy of the fab Malice Domestic.  As they say in TV news: Shawn Reilly Simmons has the story. Er, stories. Er, short stories.

SHAWN: This just in! (Couldn’t resist.) After a fifteen year hiatus, Malice Domestic is pleased to announce the return of their annual short story anthologies. Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional, published by Wildside Press, will be released during Malice 28 (April 29 – May 1, 2016). The anthology includes twenty-two original stories and one modern classic reprint, each representing their own take on the “cozy” style of mystery, those in the tradition of Agatha Christie.

HANK: And the amazing Barb Goffman and Verena Rose and Rita Owens edited, (Barb really made my story shine--what a  terrific line and developmental editor. And they all worked so hard--putting together an anthology is a huge job) and  Katherine Hall Page wrote the thoughtful introduction. What a treat. The stories are hilarious. Clever—and very specific.

SHAWN: Yes, definitely!. The stories all have to do with some type of gathering or convention. But turns out, like any good anthology there’s a wide range of stories, from historical pieces to modern takes on fun gatherings.

HANK: Psst. Sneak preview!  Here are just a few samples. And you can tell, even from this, how amazingly different they are!


 Marie HannanMandel

Before you begin to feel sorry for me, don’t. I’m here for an
inventors’ convention with my lint-collecting dryer sheet
prototype, the Lint-Locker—the guaranteed way to ensure your
laundry doesn’t get covered in lint—so I can meet James Maguire
O’Reilly, megastar inventor. As soon as I’d found out he was going
to be running workshops and hearing inventor pitches—something
he never does—I’d registered, even though it meant coming to
Maine in January. I signed up for every one of his morning
workshops, and I’m going to make sure he notices me. He’s going
to love my product and help me get financial backing for it. All he
needs is to hear my pitch.

Soon enough I’ve found my destination, a chain hotel on the
edge of town. It has cookies in the lobby, racks of brochures, and a
fake fire.

“I’m here for the inventors’ convention,” I say when I catch the
front desk clerk’s eye.


The Vanishing Wife
Victoria Thompson

January 1899
“My wife has vanished.”
This was the last thing Frank Malloy had expected his welldressed
client to say. When rich men came to his Confidential
Inquiries office in Greenwich Village, they were usually concerned
with marital infidelities or dishonest employees.

“What do you mean, she vanished?”

Delwood Hooper rubbed a well-manicured hand over his pale
face. “I came home last evening, as usual, but my wife wasn’t there
to greet me. I asked our butler where she was, and he informed me
that she had left town.”

“Then she didn’t exactly vanish,” Frank said, settling back in
his chair. He was still breaking it in since it, like everything else in
his office, was brand new. “Didn’t he tell you where she went?”

“That’s the problem, you see. Marjorie occasionally does go
out of town to visit friends or relations, but she always leaves me a
note telling me exactly where she went and when she will return.
This time, she didn’t.”

Two Birds with One Stone
Rhys Bowen

“The pipes are playing to celebrate the Gathering of the Clans,”
I said. “Binky felt we should do the right thing with visitors from
all over Scotland coming together here. It’s a great honor, you
know, to be chosen to host the annual Gathering of the Clans. It
only comes to us about every twenty years. I was a toddler last time
it happened in 1913, but I vaguely remember all the fuss and that I
was terrified of those huge men in kilts and ran back to Nanny.”

“Huge men in kilts?” Queenie perked up at this.

“They’ll all be wearing traditional Highland dress for the

“What sort of games?” She was looking quite interested now.

“The Highland Games are the main part of the gathering,”I
explained. “You know, they toss the caber and throw the hammer.
All sorts of feats of strength.”

“They have strong feet?” she asked, puzzled.

I tried not to laugh. “No, I meant contests to demonstrate how
strong they are. You can go down and watch them practicing later,
if you like. My brother has set aside the meadow beyond the
stables as a practice field. Oh, and speaking of my brother, I have
to go and inspect the facilities after breakfast to make sure all is in
order. You know how—” I broke off. I had been going to say “You
know how hopeless he is about organizing things,” but one does
not criticize

A Dark and Stormy Light
Gigi Pandian

A few years ago, while I was still a graduate student, I began
attending Asian History conferences. At the fateful gathering I will
always think of as The Conference, we didn’t fill up the entire
hotel. Instead, we found ourselves sharing the space with a mystery
writers’ convention.

If I’m being true to the story, I need to say that it began on a
dark and stormy night. If it hadn’t been for that storm, the whole
fiasco would have been avoided.

The Clue in the Blue Booth
Hank Phillippi Ryan

I touched the flowered silk scarf tied around my neck, and the
strand of pearls underneath. It’s not usually necessary for me to go
undercover to blend into a crowd, because my whole life is
undercover. But coming here in costume had seemed prudent, and
now, surveying the lobby, the line of registration desks, and the
vast convention floor, it turned out my costume was not only
prudent, but hilarious. It was like being in a massive hall of
Blond wigs—or, on some, I supposed, real blond hair—scarves
and pearls and twin-set cashmere sweaters, stockings, and sensible
shoes. Plaid skirts. Some women carried magnifying glasses, and
some, like me, wore little vintage hats tilted rakishly over one eye.

A fluttering canvas banner suspended from the erector-set
ceiling announced why we were all dressed that way, and why we
were here—not exactly why I’m here, of course, but why the rest of
them were here. NANCY DREW CONVENTION, it trumpeted.
They’d included a huge graphic portrayal of the iconic silhouette of
the 1930s girl sleuth, all waved hair and cloche hat and pearls and
cardigan. Just like me.

Just like all the attendees, because all were requested to dress as
Nancy Drew. Clearly, these women followed directions. The
organizers had promised a big-time surprise guest speaker, and as
of now, word hadn’t leaked about who that would be. Not even to
me, which was somewhat unnerving. I don’t like surprises.

A Gathering of Great Detectives
      by Shawn Reilly Simmons

“What’s going on here today?” Detective Murphy asked,
making eye contact with his partner briefly before turning his gaze
back to the couple. “Are you having some kind of event or
something?” He glanced at their vintage clothes and Mrs. Adams’s
hair, which was curled and sprayed into place. They looked like
they’d stepped out of one of those old black-and-white movies his
mother was always watching. Mr. Adams wore a tux with a white
bow tie and Mrs. Adams was in a shimmery black evening gown
with a string of pearls around her neck. They were pretty decked
out, especially for noon on a Saturday.

Mrs. Adams placed a hand lightly on her chest and said, “It’s
our annual convention, A Gathering of Great Detectives.” She
waved at a wooden table along the far wall of the foyer near the
reception desk. A few leather badge holders with names written on
yellowing paper tucked inside were lined up on the table. “We
gather every year, about sixty of us, and solve a mystery.”

“Murder,” Mr. Adams boomed from behind her, causing his
wife to jump slightly.

“Yes, murder, that’s right, dear,” she said. “We’re different
from the average murder mystery weekend though. Attendees must
appear as their favorite detective and stay in character all weekend,
or until the mystery is solved.”

HANK and SHAWN: We bet you cannot wait to get your hands on one of hese! Friday night during Malice, right after the live charity auction, there will be a special signing event for the contributing authors, over twenty in total. We hope to see you there!  

 However,  Murder Most Conventional is also available for pre-order (  For more info about Malice visit us at

HANK: And we’ll give a copy, of course, as a prize to one lucky commenter! This’ll be easy, since you don’t actually have to write the story—where would you sent a short story that had to be about a convention? I first contemplated a convention of convention planners.

Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of the Red Carpet Catering mystery series published by Henery Press. The third book in the series, Murder on a Designer Diet will be released June 7th. Shawn is a member of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors and a contributing author to the Murder Most Conventional anthology.



  1. Goodness, what great selections. Now I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories! Thanks for the wonderful sneak preview . . . .

    After giving due thought to the perfect setting for a short story about a convention, I would definitely choose a booksellers convention.

  2. Love sneak previews, but hungry for more! Looking forward to the release so I can read the rest.

  3. Ooh, ooh, cannot wait! I didn't have time last year to submit a story and am delighted for all those whose stories were selected. And SUCH a great premise.

  4. I would set it at the annual Society for American Archaeology, preferably being held in New Orleans. In the poster session room. And on one of those posters would be photos from an excavation, including skeletal remains. And among those remains.... well, you'll have to wait to read the rest of the story.

    Can't wait to read Malice Domestice's newest anthology!!

  5. Yes, the stories are terrific. It's such fun to see how everyone's imaginations work.

    Barb Goffman's story features a truly beloved author named Eloise Nickel at a convention very much like Malice. How funny is that?

    Bookseller convention--good one, Joan. Lots of possibilities for mayhem!

  6. Flora, you've got it! Perfect.

    It's such a great concept, a gathering of anythings.

  7. This collection looks like so much fun! Such a great idea, a Nancy Drew convention. And Rhys's clans gathering - talk about built-in conflict.

    I once stayed at a hotel in Phoenix that was hosting a St. Bernard owners convention. People had trailers parked in the lot and set up with dog grooming stations. It was so sweet, and I really wanted to go. You know how dogs resemble their owners? Well...

    It's been hanging around in the back of my mind ever since, but it would take too much research to get it right.

  8. AND THE WINNER of Prime Time (from Monday) is Ann in Rochester!

    Ann, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and send your address!

  9. Can't wait to pick up this book at Malice Domestic.

    As for conventions, Comic Con seems like a natural choice, with all those folks dressed in costumes. Should be easy to hide after committing a crime.

  10. Jungle Reds today is such a tease! I must read these now.

  11. I'd love to read a mystery set at a political convention. The detectives would have quite a challenge with many politicians as potential suspects!

    Deb Romano

  12. Since I was just there --- crossword puzzle tournament! It is beyond fun! People wear crossword fabric clothing -- ties, jackets, hats -- and all the conversation is full of references to gnus and emirs and novas.

  13. This is such fun--you're right, can't wait to read the whole thing. I had a good idea for one of these stories but couldn't find the time to write it:(. Love Deb's idea of the political convention--we may see murderous acts in real time this year!

    Was anyone else at Malice the year we shared the hotel with all those enormous African-American bodyguards? It was quite a hilarious combination!!

  14. What a great selection of stories!

    Yes, a political convention would be good. Any sort of writers' convention, but especially mystery. Can you imagine a story taking place at something akin to Bouchercon in New Orleans? Love the Nancy Drew convention. What about a convention of Sherlock look-a-likes? Or Poirot?

  15. Great short stories - at least great openings. Looking forward to this book. As to where to set a convention - a church, a gym, a private estate, Death Valley???

  16. Oh, great ideas, everyone! Yes, Mary, I toyed with the Sherlock look-alikes--but Nancy seemed more appropriate for this collection, right?l

    And don't even get us started on the political convention. The real ones are going to be nefarious enough. I mean--"you have the right to remain silent." NO politician would do that!

  17. Hallie, I am still picturing the St. Bernards. SO funny.

    I don't remember that, Roberta. But there was some convention I went to--anyone remember?--where the Mary Kays were also meeting.

    And another one where I swore there was also a hooker convention, forgive me--we were all forced to leave the building at 2am because of the fire alarm. I looked at the outfits surrounding me--I was in a jersey nightgown, Uggs and a jean jacket--and thought, WOW, I did not know such conventions existed.

    Turned out it was a prom.

  18. It was Malice Domestic in 2006 or so where we shared the hotel with Louis Farrakhan's people. And it was also Malice (perhaps a year or two later) where the fire alarm went off in one wing of the hotel in the middle of the night. Thank goodness I wasn't in that wing.

    As to conventions, this book has stories set at so many unusual conventions. (Eleanor Cawood Jones, this means you!) Before I started editing, I was expecting most of the stories to be set at mystery-type conventions, but in the end, there were only four (if I'm remembering correctly), including mine. And thanks for the shout-out about my story, Hank. I had a lot of fun with it.

    And there are two stories set at (or partly at) political conventions in the book. How timely were those authors?! I hope everyone enjoys the anthology. The authors have really done nice work.

  19. Loved the openings to the stories. They sucked me right in. We stayed at a hotel in Columbus, Ohio once when they were hosting a convention for people who have parties and sell Longaberger baskets. Every woman I saw was carrying a basket as a purse. Imagine all the nefarious weapons one could haul around in a closed basket. That same trip also saw Civil War reenactors set up downtown. They included a period undertaker with arsenic to prepare bodies for the final trip home.

  20. I remember the Farrakhan year--how could we forget? I also remember a gathering of leather enthusiasts finishing up their convention one year just as we were coming in to set up. I always thought that would have been an interesting mix of folks if we'd shared the same weekend...

    I can't wait to read the rest of the stories too!

  21. These stories are such fun! Cannot wait to read the anthology.

    And Hallie, I think you should write a story set at a St. Bernards' convention. Someone smothered in dog hair? Oh, the possibilities are endless...

  22. PAtD, what are Longaberger baskets?

    BArb, you are a terrific editor! I am so grateful.

    "Leather" enthusiasts, Shawn ? Are you being polite? :-)

  23. Longaberger is the brand. They are baskets woven by hand in some little town in Ohio. At least I think by hand. Anyway they make many different kinds, not cheap, and sold only by individuals. It is the Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware type sales plan.
    And, no, I do not own any! I'm sure the convention was a combination sales rally/new products intoduction type event.

  24. Love these story beginnings. How about a convention of pharmaceutical sales reps? A poisoning could happen very easily.

  25. Oh what fun! Inspired by Charlotte Brontë's 200th birthday year (April 21, in fact) I'd set it at a Brontë convention. Imagine the conflict: Rochester vs. Heathcliff, Branwellites claiming he wrote all the books.

    And I like the suggestions above where some other convention is taking place in the same hotel.

  26. Those are great teasers!
    A convention of convention planners sounds brilliant! The competition is intense.

  27. Teri, that's brilliant. And everyone would be a suspect!

    And I can just envision the Bronte battles. Wonderful.

  28. Looks like fabulous fun, and I can't wait to read it! (Congrats to Gigi Pandian for actually working in "It was a dark and stormy night!")

    As for what convention I'd write about--the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, of course! It's a once-every-three-year gathering that convenes an entire mini-Washington, DC of Episcopalians: two houses, legislators, an executive branch, lobbyists, special-interest groups, vendors, NGOs... it definitely has possibilities for foul play. Murder Most Polite, since we're Episcopalians.

  29. Oh, how I wish I were going to Malice, but having this anthology to read will soften the blow. Great theme of conventions and great choices of inventors, Nancy Drew, gathering of the clans, great detectives. Rhys, I can't wait to read what sort of trouble Queenie gets into at the clan gathering. Hank, a Nancy Drew convention sounds like a perfect gathering of fun. Shawn, great detectives would be the best setting for murder ever.

    Denise, the crossword puzzle convention sounds like a hoot. Where was it?

  30. So fun! I'm excited, this is the first year I will be attending the Malice Domestic. Only as a fan for now, but hopefully as a writer eventually!

    I would set it at a Librarian convention....books and libraries...always a good combination for a mystery! (Plus, I'm going to be studying Library Science next year, so it fits).

  31. Hank, the hooker convention punchline made me spit out my tea!

    Google "Longaberger headquarters". The building is closing, but it's in the shape of a big picnic basket. I don't know what in the world they'll do with it now. Retirement home for retired basketmakers?

  32. All the short stories sound great. Can't wait to get my hands on the anthology.

    Two follow up thoughts to others' posts: the problem with a political convention is there would be so many attendees who lie routinely that a polygraph would probably serve no purpose. It only works if one feels emotional tension about lying.

    And yes, Longaberger baskets are hand woven. The company was the hottest thing in the 1990's, but have fallen out of favor now. The company is hanging on by a thread. We used to have "the basket ladies" convention in Columbus each year.

    I think it would be fun to consider some sort of religious convention -- I've been to some, both in the Lutheran church and the Catholic. It would hold the possibility for interesting motivations and secrets.

  33. I have read every one of the previous Malice Domestic series books and was so sad to see them end. I am so glad that there is now a new one and cannot wait to read it.

  34. But the Longaberger convent story could be called "A BasketCase." WHich is kind of irresistible…

    nasselin--hurray! make sure you find me! Come say hi, okay? xoxoo

  35. Karen, yeah. I am NOT kidding. YOu can picture it, right?

  36. Looking forward to this! So glad the anthology Is BACK :)

  37. I am too, Ritter! See you soon… (oh, this is Hank, signed in as JRW..)

  38. There were two small conventions meeting at a hotel in Dublin, Ireland last trip there. One was a support group for some kind of disease. The other was The Irish Widows Society. A lot of widows were hitting the hotel bar that night.

  39. Hank - I'm always polite...they were some hardcore biker guys (I saw some chaps, not going to lie)...

  40. CANNOT WAIT to get my copy and snag a bunch of autographs! :-D

  41. Ooohhh, I LOVE sneak peeks!! All of these stories sound amazing too. As for me, well I've been to a great many sci fi/fantasy conventions (like ComiCon) and the possibilities for stories set in one of them are endless!!

  42. Shawn--just wondering. Chaps seem tame ...

    Oh "Meg" -- see you both soon !

    Bad Wolf --comiCon is perfect !