Report From the Writing Trenches – September 2016

The blog is back! Sorry for the long summer hiatus, but it’s paid off for me—I finished the first draft of FBI K-9s book #2, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, this past weekend. *throws confetti* *collapses*

So what are Ann and I up to, writing-wise? Let’s go down the list:

  1. LONE WOLF: FBI K-9s book #1 will release in eBook on November 29th and hardcopies will be in bookstores and beyond on that date or very shortly thereafter. I’ll be holding a launch right around that time, most likely at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, but possibly an early release the preceding weekend. More details on that hopefully in the next few weeks. At this point, LONE WOLF hard copy ARCs are out and are being sent to our early readers, bloggers, and reviewers. For the first time, as a part of Kensington, copies of the books will be available on NetGalley, so some of our readers have arranged to get their copies digitally. And last week, we were pleased to see the blurb for the book from Leo J. Maloney, author of the Dan Morgan series, including ARCH ENEMY—“Tense and exciting, Sara Driscoll has created a new power couple, Meg and her FBI K-9, Hawk.”
  2. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: As I stated before, the first draft of this book is now complete, coming in at just under 80,000 words. This is a great length for a thriller—it gives us room to still add a little more as we edit, and it also leave us room for chapter titles and definitions. What’s the theme this time? We’re 99% sure we know what it is, but that will get solidified within the next two weeks. We’ll edit from now until the end of the September. October 1st sees the manuscript going out to our amazing critique team (thank you Jenny, Lisa, Sharon, and Rick!). They’ll have the book for 2 weeks and then that leaves us about 4 weeks to put the final touches on it. The book is officially due on December 1st, but with LONE WOLF coming out on November 29th, it realistically needs to be done about 2 weeks early so we can keep all the balls in the air.
  3. FBI K-9s (Welcome to the real world of publishing, part one): Ann and I were very sad to find out recently that our Kensington Editor, the wonderful Peter Senftleben, was leaving the company to become a mysteries, suspense and thriller editor at Crooked Lane. We’re so very grateful to Peter for buying the three-book series, and very much enjoyed working with him and will definitely miss him. Peter, of course, has left us in very capable hands for the remainder of the series, so onwards and upwards.
  4. Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries (Welcome to the real world of publishing, part two): I’ve had many questions about the next book in the Abbott and Lowell series, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES. Readers knew we were writing it last year but there has yet to be an announcement about its release date. Well, we’ve got some bad news there. Our editor at Five Star definitely wanted the book, but before it was officially purchased, Five Star closed out their mystery line and is going strictly with westerns from now on. So the book has been orphaned. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen with it. It’s extremely difficult to sell the fifth book in a series, but our agent is working on it. But never fear, dear readers, the worst case scenario is that we’ll self-publish, definitely in eBook format and most likely in print as well. The book will get out one way or another—it’s the end of the big arc that started in A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH and continued through TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, so we’d be doing a huge disservice to our readers if we didn’t release it. So stay tuned for more news to come here.

To celebrate the upcoming launch of LONE WOLF, Kensington is holding our first Goodreads giveaway starting today! You can find it below. Be sure to enter for your chance to win an early copy months before it actually releases!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll

Lone Wolf

by Sara Driscoll

Giveaway ends October 02, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

We’ll be back next week with the first of our K-9 posts, so please join us!

LONE WOLF Now Available for Pre-Order!

Just a short blog post today as Ann and I are both insanely busy right now (among other things, planning FBI K-9 #2, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, so time well spent). But we recently discovered that FBI K-9s #1 is now up for pre-sale on,,, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and Chapters/Indigo. The hardcover and e-book from Kensington are available on all sites, and the Brilliance Audio audiobook is available for the North American market. So for those of you who are looking forward to meeting Meg Jennings and her amazing black lab, Hawk, this is your first opportunity to get your order in early. LONE WOLF releases on November 29, 2016 so act now to avoid the crazy Christmas rush!


TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the third full-length novel in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, originally came out in hardcover in February, 2015. Last June, we announced our deal with Harlequin’s Worldwide Mysteries to publish the book as a mass-market paperback. This edition will publish on August 1st of this year, but we recently received the brand new cover for it, which we’re happy to show you now!

I love the feel of this cover—I’ve been to Boston many times, and it totally has that Boston brownstone/Beacon Hill feel, with decidedly darker overtones and yet just a touch of the light at the end of the tunnel.

The book will be available for sale from Harlequin here soon, so stayed tuned, TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER will join Worldwide Mysteries editions of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH this summer.

It’s Cover Reveal Time!!

Having a new book release is fun, but it’s fun in stages: The satisfaction of typing ‘The End’ on the first draft. The joy of signing a contract (after all the uncertainly of drafting and convincing yourself that the whole story is garbage, it’s like that moment when Sally Field won the Oscar for Places in the Heart.)

Holding an advance copy in your hands for the first time, and likewise the final copy. Seeing your book on bookstore shelves. All that hard work, finally realized.

Part of this process is getting the cover. It lands in your inbox and you have a brief moment of ‘what if I don’t love it?’. You open the image peeking through your fingers. And then you realize that people more talented than you, people who really know what they are doing, are on your side and they’ve made something fantastic for you.

That’s how we felt we received the cover for LONE WOLF, the first book in the new FBI K-9 thriller series we're writing as Sara Driscoll. And we’re thrilled that we can finally show it off. We can’t wait to see this on shelves in December!

When a madman goes on a bombing spree, an FBI K-9 team of one woman and her dog is the key to stopping him before more innocents die and panic sweeps the Eastern seaboard.

Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk, are one of the FBI’s top K-9 teams certified for tracking and search and rescue. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it will take all the team’s skill to locate and save the workers and children buried beneath the rubble.

More victims die and fear rises as the unseen bomber continues his reign of terror, striking additional targets, ruthlessly bent on pursuing a personal agenda of retribution. Meg and Hawk join the task force dedicated to following the trail of death and destruction to stop the killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and no single location seems safe any longer, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Hawk, and the bomber they’re tracking. Can they stop him before he brings the nation to the brink of chaos?


Isn’t that eye-catching and atmospheric? We love that Hawk is right out front because we have no story without him.

Hit the comments and let us know what you think!

The Word on the Street Toronto 2015

This past Sunday, I once again attended The Word on the Street Toronto, the free annual festival celebrating the best of Canadian writing and reading. This year, for the first time, WOTS took place at Harbourfront Centre, right on the shore of Lake Ontario. A beautiful venue, a stunning day and books for any and all tastes - it was guaranteed to be a good time!

The ride in the on the train proved to be quite rowdy as it was full of Blue Jays fans headed to the Rogers Centre for the final game in a weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Jays are currently in first place in the American League East Division and have their sights set on the League title and then the World Series. It's been 22 years since they made the playoffs (when they last won the World Series) and Toronto has been in a sports drought for a very long time (the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967) so fans are extremely excited to have an successful home town team. Did I mention the trip in was rowdy?

A beautiful day at Harbourfront Centre, more reminiscent of summer than fall:

The festival at a glance - so much bookish awesomeness all squeezed together in one park:

All aspects of publishing and reading were represented at WOTS. There were publishers and presses, both large and small in attendance.

The Harlequin tent was always hopping:


Penguin Random House with Ben McNally Books:

Dundurn Press, the largest Canadian owned publisher:

Montreal comic publisher, Drawn and Quarterly:

And many more...

Both the Toronto Public Library and the TPL workers had booths:

Several bookstores were in attendance, including Mabel's Fables, a well-known local children's bookstore:

Many writing associations and organizations attended, showcasing their authors and their books, as well as their services. I helped man the Crime Writers of Canada booth for part of the day.

The Writer's Community of York Region:

The Writer's Community of Durham Region:

 The Ontario Writers' Conference and The Writers' Union of Canada:

Toronto Sisters In Crime and the Toronto Romance Writers:

Canadian Authors Association and the Science Ficton Writers:

There were even some other tents that made for a nice eclectic mix.

The theater crowd with Mirvish Productions, the biggest theater production company in town:

The Royal Ontario Museum was on hand with several centurions, promoting their terrific Pompeii exhibit:

And Amnesty International had a tent showcasing some of the many ways they work to expose and prevent human rights abuses:

There were a number of tents with presentations ranging from live readings to discussions of current events to awards:

We had a very good crowd pretty much the whole time, but I took advantage of a quick break at one point to grab a picture of the Crime Writers of Canada booth. Lovely authors Sharon Crawford and Caro Soles were signing with me.


Thanks to the Crime Writers of Canada for organizing our part in WOTS and thanks to the many readers who came out to meet new and favourite authors and purchase their work. We all had a great time and are looking forward to next year!

A New Publishing Contract and Format For TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER

We’re very happy to announce today that TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER will be joining the ranks of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH as part of Harlequin’s Worldwide Mysteries in mass market paperback format. We’ve been very pleased with our sales through Worldwide and are looking forward to our continuing partnership with them. Currently the projected publication date is spring 2016, but I’ll post the exact date on the website when we know it.

The deal was announced two days ago on Publisher’s Marketplace:

June 21, 2015 - TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER by Jen J. Danna with Ann Vanderlaan

Jen Danna with Ann Vanderlaan's TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the third novel in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, where a body discovered in a long-forgotten speakeasy proves to be ground zero for a cascade of murders through the decades, to Laura Barth at HQN Worldwide Mystery, for publication in spring 2016, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency.

One of the fun aspects of working with Harlequin is that they always do their own back cover blurbs and cover art, so it’s always interesting to see their take on our series. As you can see above, they do an excellent job with series branding, so we can’t wait to see where they take TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER. So we’ll be back with more on this release in the future as we have more information to share.

Authors for Indies Day!

This past Saturday, May 2nd, was Authors for Indies Day in Canada and Independent Bookstore Day in the U.S―a day when authors spent time visiting local independent bookstores, not to talk up their own books, but to talk up everyone’s books and to support local bookstore owners. I took part in Author Day at my favourite local bookstore, A Different Drummer Books. Joining me was an impressive roster of local authors: Linwood Barclay, Rebecca Bender, Melodie Campbell, Gillian Chan, Jill Downie, Bonnie Lendrum, Sylvia McNicoll, Janet Turpin Myers, John Lawrence Reynolds, Gisela Tobien Sherman, and Joyce Wayne.

The crowd of authors and readers milling around as we were starting:

Fellow Crime Writers of Canada writers Jill Downie (left) and Melodie Campbell (right) with Jill’s husband, actor Ian Downie. Yes, that is TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER that Melodie is holding:

Brilliant Canadian thriller writer (and hometown boy), Linwood Barclay:

Our host, the wonderful Ian Eliott, welcoming us to the store and the event:


The crowd listening to Ian. It was only when I lowered my phone and looked at my picture that I realized who’d snuck in when I didn’t even know she was coming:

A lovely display of visiting authors’ books. If you look hard, you’ll see I didn’t do a good job of capturing all three of our novels on the far end of the table (we’d sold a bunch so the piles were low, always a good thing…):

Hopefully some of you heard about it and got out to support your wonderful local independent booksellers. Thanks to the national organizers of Authors for Indies Day! It was a roaring success and we’ll all be back to do it again next year!

Our Biggest Publishing News Yet! And a Cover Reveal…

During late summer and into the fall of 2014, Ann and I were furiously busy working on a proposal for a new series. As much as we love the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, we wanted to try our hand at something different to keep our writing fresh. And today we’re thrilled to be able to share the news of our brand new publishing deal with Kensington Books! LONE WOLF will be the first in a three book, hardcover series, edited by Kensington’s Peter Senftleben. In it, we meet Meg Jennings, an agent in the FBI’s K-9 unit, and the handler of Kane, one of the unit’s multi-talented search and rescue dogs. This is a real unit, specializing in search and rescue, drug and explosives detection, and tracking in federal crimes. In this series, we’ll follow Meg and her black lab along with her fellow FBI agents and their dogs as they track down bombers, murderers and hijackers, rescuing the lost and injured along the way. It’s a new publishing house for us and a new series, so we’re going to be trying out a new single pen name this time around—Sara Driscoll. But never fear, nothing will actually change when it comes to the writing; it’s still Ann and I behind the prose.

Huge thanks to our wonderful agent Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agencyfor working so hard to put together this deal, literally from its inception. Her Publishers Marketplace announcement went up today:

March 2, 2015 - LONE WOLF by Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan

Fiction: Thriller

Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan writing as Sara Driscoll’s new suspense series, beginning with LONE WOLF, in which an FBI K-9 handler and her search-and-rescue dog fight to stop a mad bomber targeting sites around Washington D.C., to Peter Senftleben at Kensington, in a three-book deal for publication in Spring 2016, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency.

Want to know a little more about LONE WOLF? Here’s the blurb for the FBI K-9s, book 1:

When a madman goes on a bombing spree, an FBI K-9 team of one woman and her dog is the key to stopping him before more innocents die and panic sweeps the Eastern seaboard.

Meg Jennings and her Labrador Kane are one of the FBI’s top K-9 teams certified for tracking and search and rescue. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it will take all the team’s skill to locate and save the workers and children buried beneath the rubble.

More victims die and fear rises as the unseen bomber continues his reign of terror, striking additional targets, ruthlessly bent on pursuing a personal agenda of retribution. Meg and Kane join the task force dedicated to following the trail of death and destruction to stop the killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and no single location seems safe any longer, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Kane, and the bomber they’re tracking. Can they stop him before he brings the nation to the brink of chaos?

We’re looking forward to introducing our readers to Meg and Kane next year!

With all this talk of a new series, we know one of the questions we’re going to get is what is going to happen to Matt and Leigh and the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries? Never fear, a lot is going on there too. The third full length novel in the series, TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, comes out on February 18th. And we’ve nearly completed the next full length novel which follows it, with a planned 2016 release date. We have no plans to end the series. There may be a bit of a delay between our recently completed fourth novel and the one to follow as we’ll be writing two series (all while I juggle the day job at the lab), but we fully intend to come back and continue the adventures of Matt, Leigh and the team around our contracted installments of the FBI K-9s.


Last November we were pleased to show off the new cover for the mass market version of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, which Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries released in January 2015.


The next full length novel in the series, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, will release in mass market paperback from Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries in April 2015. We recently got our first peek at the new cover, which continues the strong series branding:

As before, Worldwide Mysteries likes to write its own material, so we’ve got a brand new and exciting version of the back cover copy for this book as well:

State Trooper Leigh Abbott and forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell are happy in their new relationship. But their latest investigation is tough to take on, even together: the charred body of ex-Wiccan Moira Simpson was stabbed through the heart with a ritual dagger. Leigh is certain one of the many former friends and lovers Moira alienated with her ruthless egotism is responsible.

Then a local priest is hacked to death with a ceremonial sickle and his body is found burned beyond recognition. Now amid growing panic and community backlash, Leigh and Matt will pursue dark rumors and obscure clues, looking to the past to reveal a killer. But the truth could burn more than their future to ashes.

And that should do for our publishing news this time around. :)



Whoo hoo! *throws confetti* TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER is now out! The fourth installment of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries throws Matt and Leigh into a case with strong ties to the past. The story brings not only students Kiko, Paul and Juka into the investigation, but also one of our most popular minor characters, Medical Examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, who turns out to be the perfect guide to the world of Prohibition and the Mob wars of the 1930s:


Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess—short skirts, drinking, dancing . . . and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.

It’s a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives—their deaths separated by over eighty years—the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades. When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realizes that an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.

Available in hardcover and eBook, you can find TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER on line at,,, and Barnes and Noble, and in stores at Chapters/Indigo and at your local independent sellers!

For those wanting some supplemental content to accompany the book, I’ve posted a new picture gallery from my trip to Lynn in November 2013 when we were doing final finishing touches on the manuscript. Many of the real locations from the novel can be found here: /picture-gallery/lynn-massachusetts/.

And for anyone in the Southern Ontario area, we’re celebrating the book’s release on March 8, 2015 at 2pm at A Different Drummer Books at 513 Locust Street in Burlington, Ontario. Hope to see some of you there!

Photo credit: Pixietart


This is our last week before we’re going to take a break here at Skeleton Keys to enjoy the holidays (and write like crazy). But before we go, we wanted to share a holiday gift with our readers. We’ve got a little teaser for you today—the first three chapters of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, out on February 18, 2015 in hardcover and ebook formats.

If you want to read it in published format like in the book itself, you can find it here as a pdf: TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER  Chapters 1 - 3

For those that prefer to read it on the website, the entire excerpt is below. Enjoy!

And before you go today, be sure to enter the two giveaways at the bottom on this blog post. We're giving away a copy of the brand new paperback edition of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and an advanced reading copy of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER. Enter both for your chance to win!

See you back on the blog on January 13th as we begin our run up to the release of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER. From both Ann and I, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Read More

Paperback Cover Reveal – DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT

More than a year ago, our debut novel and the first in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, released in hardcover and eBook formats. Last spring Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries purchased the mass market rights to the novel and will be releasing this version in January. Recently we were treated to some details of their version of the book, from a brand new cover to a different version of the back cover copy.

Here is the all new version of the mass market cover:


We always write out own back cover copy for our Five Star releases, so it was interesting to see someone else’s take on the book in the HQN version of that same copy:

Dark Tide… Her past is as troubled as the storm-battered marshes near her Massachusetts town. Still, for State Trooper Leigh Abbott, those brutalized by crime will always matter more than her reputation or career. So when a single human bone turns up in a beaver dam, she has no problem skirting the rules to consult forensic anthropologist Dr. Matthew Lowell. His skills and her persistence lead them to the grimmest of discoveries—a mass grave of the tortured and murdered going back years…

But a near-fatal attack on the desolate shoreline tips Leigh that the serial killer they’ve interrupted is anything but scared off. As she and Matt carefully excavate the nameless victims’ lives and secrets, their quarry is using their deepest vulnerabilities against them. Now it will only take one insidious misdirection, one lethal chance to bait a trap that could sweep them both away without a trace.

So, what do you think? How do you like the brand new version of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT? And there’s more to come in this series from Worldwide Mysteries as A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH is set to release in mass market format in April….

It’s giveaway time! TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER will release in February of 2015 and we’ve got ARCs to give away months beforehand. Want a signed advanced reading copy of Matt and Leigh’s next exciting adventure? Sign up here: The giveaway is open until 11:59pm on November 20th, so don’t miss out!

Word on the Street Toronto 2014

This past Sunday I took part in Word on the StreetToronto, Canada's largest book and magazine festival. Celebrating its 25th year, Word on the Street has everything for the book lover—one-on-one interviews, panel discussions, publishers, booksellers, libraries, literacy groups and much, much more.

This was my first Word on the Street, but what a fabulous festival! Every genre and taste was represented for every age. Despite the doom-and-gloom weather forecast for severe thunderstorms, the sky cleared during the festival and Toronto residents responded, coming out in droves.

I was part of the crew coming out from the Crime Writers of Canada and helped man booth 147. Along the way I met some of our existing readers, some new readers, and had great discussions with readers and authors alike. It was a really wonderful experience being immersed in a crowd of people who were all there for one reason—a universal love of reading.

Here are a few pictures from the afternoon...

Queen's Park Circle shut down for the festival:

Rick Blechta and Terry Carroll selling books and signing at the Crime Writers of Canada booth:

Jonathan Bennett, Jeramy Dodds, and Michael Lista in the ‘New Narratives’ tent:

Gail Gallant, Lucy Leiderman, and Lesley Livingston specializing in spoken word poetry in the ‘This Is Not the Shakespeare Theater Stage’ tent:

The Toronto Public Library booth was hopping with both kids and adults:

Penguin Random House's Author Solutions was out with several of its authors doing signings:

The Kobo Writing Life booth:

Toronto Book Award finalist Anthony De Sa, talking about his novel Kicking the Sky:

The ‘ Bestsellers Stage’ tent, introducing Andrew Pypers' The Demonologist:

Ottawa firefighter John Kenny with his debut novel The Spark:

And what's a festival without a beer tent?

Joan O'Callaghan and I manning the Crime Writers of Canada booth, meeting new readers, talking up the CWC and signing books:

Thanks Word on the Street for a great time. Looking forward to seeing you again next year!


Last Friday, May 9th, I held the launch party for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, a bookshop near Toronto that has been a local landmark for over forty years.

As a thank you to our friends, family and readers who came out to the event, I’d prepared a book lovers’ gift basket to raffle off with everything you might want for an evening with your favourite new book—a bottle of wine, chocolate, gourmet cookies, tea, hot chocolate, scented candles, and chocolate covered coffee beans for those nights you absolutely have to stay up to finish! Also, Ian Elliot, the very kind owner of A Different Drummer Books and an all-around great sport, donated a gift certificate to the book store so the lucky winner could pick up more literary goodies.

It was a nice kick to walk into the bookstore to see a stack of our titles:

With the help of family and some very generous friends, there were some lovely refreshments:

I read an except from the beginning of the novel as the team discovers the body that starts this case. Because the main floor of the bookstore was crowded, I got to read from the landing. I felt like Juliet…

After that, we did the signing and mingling. For a while, the bookstore was at full capacity, but later in the evening, the crowd thinned out a bit so you could move around.

(That’s my youngest with her phone glued to her hand…)

Can I just say how surreal it is to have your kindergarten teacher come out to your book launch? She was thrilled to reconnect with one of her students and it was lovely to see her (in black, in the foreground of this photo):

Thanks to Ian at A Different Drummer Books for being such a great host for us that evening, and thanks to everyone who took the time out of their busy evenings to come out and share in the launch. We all had a great time!

How Readers Can Support Their Favourite Authors

Before we start into this week’s blog post, for friends and readers in the Southern Ontario area, you are cordially invited to the launch party for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. Please join me at A Different Drummer Books (513 Locust Street in Burlington) on Friday May 9th at 7pm. Hope to see you there!

And to celebrate the launch of A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, the preceding novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL, will be available for FREE on Amazon starting tomorrow. So if you missed it and want to catch up, don’t wait—this offer ends on May 11th!

It’s a question we’ve heard a lot lately from friends and readers—how can I help with your new book? As authors, we’re very grateful for help when we’re promoting a new release. Many of us are already neck deep in our next manuscript (or the next one after that, if you’re us) and time is a precious commodity. Many hands make for light work, so we’re very appreciative for any and all assistance. Especially right now when A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH is newly available everywhere!

How can readers support the authors they love (and not only at release time)?

  • Buy their books: On behalf of authors everywhere, thank you for buying our books! If you pre-order an author’s book, that confirms with bookstores that they should stock it. And once you’ve found an author you like, buying from their back catalogue is another great way to support them.
  • Donate a book to your local library: Maybe it’s an author you love, but their latest release isn’t a genre you enjoy. Donate your copy of their book to a library where other readers will enjoy it.
  • Request your local library to purchase the book to add to their catalogue: If you’ve already blown your book budget for the month, request new books from your library. Especially for authors who are just starting out, this is a great way to be discovered by new readers. Authors love libraries and this is a great, free way to lend your support. The more requests a library gets, the more copies they might buy.
  • Give their books as gifts: This not only supports authors, but also booksellers as well.
  • Review the book: Word of mouth is one of the strongest ways to promote a book these days, so write a review for Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Chapters/Indigo.
  • Join the author’s street team: I had a kick ass street team for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. This team of fantastic readers got access to the book four or five months early and have been instrumental in talking up our books early and through the opening weeks.
  • Use social media: If you’re looking forward to a book, or you’ve just read a book you love, tweet or Facebook or blog about that book. Social media sites are a great way to promote both the author and their books.
  • Let the author know you enjoyed the book: Either with a tweet, a FB message or an email, a quick word from a happy reader can give an author the kick they need to pound out another 1,000 words on their latest manuscript, or even just put a spring in their step for the day.

 On behalf of Ann and myself (and, really, authors everywhere), a huge thank you to all our readers for all they do for us. We really, really couldn’t do it without you!

Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar

How to Survive a Public Reading

This past Thursday, I took part in an event sponsored by the Crime Writers of Canada. Twelve local crime writers read from their novels at a large Indigo bookstore in Toronto as part of the Arthur Ellis Shortlist Events, celebrating the best in Canadian crime writing.

For many authors, the thought of doing a public reading makes them weak in the knees. Confession—I’m definitely one of these authors. I prefer to hide behind my keyboard rather than actually come out and talk about my work. But part of modern life as an author is interacting with readers, so we go out and do just that. And, honestly, meeting new readers is really fun. It’s just a matter of getting over the nerves of putting yourself out there.

So what can authors do to have a successful reading?

Don’t take yourself too seriously: If you stumble over a word or two, or flip one page too far, world peace isn’t at risk. Just laugh at yourself and move on.

Practice, practice, practice: Entertaining readers know how to work the text by adding intonation and pacing as they read, so practice what you’ll be reading ahead of time. Author Melodie Campbell, who read from her hilarious new novella, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, is a master at keeping the audience enthralled (and in stiches).


Make eye contact with members of the audience: Audiences prefer interaction with an author who doesn’t bury her nose in her book while she reads. Lisa De Nikolits, reading from The Witchdoctor’s Bones, connected wonderfully with the audience, drawing us into both her story and her love of Africa. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to memorize your material, but it is where the previous point comes in handy, allowing the time to look up occasionally because you already know where your sentence is going. If looking up to a room of strangers gives you the willies, ask someone you know to come along to be the safe person in the room and just read to them.



Try to use humour whenever possible: Following their reading, each author was asked why they write crime fiction. The often irreverent Rick Blechta, author of The Boom Room, replied that he wrote crime because he just wasn’t any good at romance, and whenever he wrote sex scenes, his wife laughed at them.


Use the opportunity to whet the audience’s appetite: A number of different authors used different methods to accomplish this goal. Gina Buonaguro, author of The Wolves of St. Peter’s, started at the very beginning of the story so the audience discovered the body of a drowned girl alongside the protagonist.


Cathy Astolfo used passages from Sweet Karoline to touch specifically on sections illustrating fascinating points of the protagonist’s psyche. From the moment Cathy started with ‘I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline’, the audience was hooked.


I always like to use an early turning point from Dead, Without a Stone to Tell It in my readings—what happens when you go looking for a murder victim and find a different one instead?


Leave the audience wanting more: If you want the audience to be intrigued enough to scoop up your latest release, leave them on a cliff-hanger. Rosemary McCracken wisely left the audience hanging with her excerpt from Black Water.


Thanks to all the immensely talented authors reading with me that night, as well as for the audience members who attended the event. A very good time was had by all!

I’m at Onmimytery News this week, talking about why I write crime fiction. Stop by to see why TV shows like Bones, CSI and NCIS inspired me to write forensics in the real world: Why Write Forensic Crime Fiction

Photo credit: Bradford Dunlop, Rob Brunet, and Tanis Mallow.


Amazon has the hardcover version of A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH listed for May 9th release, but we’re happy to announce that the ebook version is now available! So for those who are looking for instant gratification, you can find the Kindle version of book 3 of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries for a cheap and cheerful $3.19: A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. If you'd like to wait for the hardcover version, Amazon currently has it for pre-order at nearly 40% off here. For Canadian readers, Chapters/Indigo is carrying the book online and in store. And if you’re thinking ‘Book 3? What happened to book 2?’, our series novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL, is available for Kindle here. There's still time to catch up if you've only read DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT so far!

For those who are wondering if they’d like to try the novel Kirkus called ‘A tricky mystery rich in intriguing suspects and forensic detail’, here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter. Enjoy!









Fire Point: the temperature at which a fuel produces enough vapor so it continues to burn after ignition.

Sunday, 1:24 p.m.
Harborview Restaurant
Boston, Massachusetts

Sunlight sparkled in lightning-quick flashes on the open ocean as a lone black-backed gull soared on outstretched wings, motionless on the breeze. In the harbor, sailboats unfurled yards of canvas to the cool fall winds, while high above the water, the historic Customs House Tower stood watch over the busy port below.

Inside the restaurant, wide panels of sunlight fell across linen-draped tables set with china and silver. The air was fragrant with garlic and peppercorn as a low buzz of conversation filled the room, punctuated by bursts of laughter and the clatter of dishes.

“And then he jammed his gun in his pants to make a run for it. But while he was wedging it under his belt, it went off and he shot himself in the foot.” Leigh Abbott paused to sip her mimosa. “After that, the foot chase was pretty much a technicality, what with all the limping and whimpering.”

Matt Lowell chuckled as he set his knife and fork on the edge of his empty plate. “I shouldn’t be laughing, should I?”

“Because he’s a murder suspect?” One corner of her mouth tipped up in an almost reluctant smile. “Welcome to cop humor; it’s how we survive the job. This guy was a mistake waiting to happen from the second it occurred to him he could have the family business all to himself after his father died. He just needed to kill his brother to get it. He left a trail of clues a blindfolded rookie could follow.”

Matt’s smile slowly melted away, his face growing serious. “You deserve an easy case. After the last few weeks . . .”

His voice trailed off, but Leigh understood, even without words.

A Trooper First Class with the Massachusetts State Police, Leigh was a member of the Essex County Detective Unit, headquartered in Salem. When a single human bone was found in a coastal salt marsh the previous month, she’d approached Dr. Matthew Lowell in his capacity as a forensic anthropologist at Boston University to help identify the victim. What began with a single set of remains rapidly spiraled into ten murder victims, all dead at the hands of a man determined to see how far he could twist the human mind. Their teamwork solved the puzzle, but the case nearly cost them their lives. Mere weeks later, they’d joined forces again for their second case together, a chilling tale of trust gone horribly wrong.

“This case couldn’t have been more different,” Leigh stated. “You’re right—it was a welcome change of pace after Bradford. Still, I’m sorry I had to cancel dinner last week. Between court and this case—” She broke off as Matt covered her hand with his.

“Don’t worry about it. I understand the job takes priority sometimes. Besides, we traded dinner for Sunday brunch, so it all worked out.”

With a quick flick of his head, he shook his untrimmed dark hair out of his eyes, briefly exposing the thick ridge of scar tissue running into his hair from his temple.

At a sudden shriek, Leigh jerked her hand free, reaching for the weapon that normally rode her hip. But even as her fingers touched soft wool instead of hard metal, her body relaxed as she quickly assessed the harmless scene across the room where a young woman had knocked over a glass of red wine.

Leigh’s gaze drifted back to Matt to find his eyes fixed on her. “What?”

He sat with his elbows braced on the table, watching her over his steepled hands. “You can’t turn it off, can you? You can’t just go out socially and let it all go. Even when a case is closed.”

Embarrassed heat flushed her cheeks at his continued examination. “It’s not like it’s a switch you throw when the clock hits five. Cops are always on duty.” Stubbornness stiffened her spine and she met his gaze head on. “Apparently you can’t turn it off either. You’re studying me like I’m one of your bones.”

“Just trying to figure you out, that’s all.” Reaching out, Matt tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. As his hand pulled away, he ran his fingertips along the curve of her jaw in a subtle caress. “You’re an intriguing puzzle.”

Her eyes locked with his and her stomach gave a slow, sexy roll of anticipation at the heat in his expression. “No one’s ever called me ‘intriguing’ before.”

“I like to think of you as a gift that needs to be unwrapped one layer at a—” Matt frowned as a muffled ring came from the suit jacket draped over the back of his chair. “Sorry, I need to see who’s calling.”

Leigh’s senses instantly went on alert when he froze, his gaze fixed on the name of the caller displayed on-screen. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I think I have to take this.”

The edge in his voice made the back of her neck prickle in alarm. “Is it one of your students?”

“No, it’s the Massachusetts State Police.”

“Calling you?” The words burst out, cutting through the buzz of conversation around them. Leigh purposely lowered her voice when several heads turned in their direction. “Why are they calling you?”

“I’m as baffled as you are.” He answered the call. “Lowell.”

Leigh leaned forward, trying to catch any trace of the other end of the conversation.

Maddeningly, Matt relaxed back in his chair even as he cocked an eyebrow at her. “Sergeant Kepler, what a surprise,” he said into the phone.

Only her white-knuckled stranglehold on the edge of the table kept Leigh from leaping to her feet to listen in on why her superior officer was calling Matt. If it was something to do with the Bradford case, he’d have surely gone through her instead.

Matt was silent for a long time as he listened, his hazel eyes fixed on her. “This request comes straight from Dr. Rowe?”

Rowe? Someone had to be dead for the medical examiner to be involved, but the remains must be in bad shape if Rowe was personally requesting Matt’s expertise.

“Whose case is it?” Matt’s eyes suddenly went arctic-cold as his casual air of relaxation dropped away. “No.” The single word was whiplash sharp. “That’s exactly what I mean. I’m not working with him. If you and Rowe want me on this case, you need to transfer it to Trooper Abbott.”

Leigh recognized that stubborn tone; she’d run headlong into it several times—Matt was digging in his heels and wasn’t about to budge.

“Actually my request is quite logical,” he continued. “Trooper Abbott and I had a rough start, but we learned how to work together. She’s familiar now with how my lab operates, and she knows my students and how we process evidence. It would waste my time to have to train a new officer.” There was a pause, and Matt’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Those are my terms, Sergeant. If you want my help on the case, have Trooper Abbott call me with the details.” He abruptly ended the call, his expression grim.

“What was that about?” Leigh demanded.

“Kepler wants me to consult on another case. There’s been a fire in Salem in one of the historical shopping districts. You probably know it—Wharf Street? The body recovered is so badly burned that Rowe needs a forensic anthropologist. He asked for me specifically.”

“That’s no surprise—you work well together. But why do you need me?”

“It’s Morrison’s case,” Matt said shortly. His open palm slapped down on the table hard enough to rattle silver and crystal. “I’ve got the right guy, don’t I? Isn’t he the Neanderthal who gives you a hard time at the detective unit?”

Leigh let out a resigned sigh. “Yes. That’s him.” She met his eyes to be sure he understood without question. “Don’t interfere, Matt. I can handle him on my own.”

“I’m sure you can. But I’m not working with him. And that’s my call to make.”

“Look, you don’t have to—”

Her phone rang.

Matt crossed his arms over his chest, his eyebrows raised in challenge. “Better get that.”

Leigh pointed an accusing finger at him. “You stay quiet. Kepler doesn’t know we’re seeing each other. He wouldn’t approve of me—”

“Fraternizing with your consultant? Too damned bad.” When her glare threatened frostbite to delicate parts of his anatomy, he mimed locking his lips and tossing the imaginary key over his shoulder.

She rolled her eyes and answered the call. “Abbott. Yes, sir.” She slipped a hand into the breast pocket of her jacket, pulled out a notepad and pen, and scribbled quickly. “Yes, I know where that is. I’ll let him know and meet him there.” She clicked off and gestured to the waitress for the check. “Kepler’s pissed.”

“He’s used to giving orders, but he’s not used to someone refusing them.” Matt pulled his jacket off the chair and shrugged into it. “Look, I understand they need help, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Morrison. You and I, we’ve developed a rhythm. On top of that, you value my students. If I’m going to bring them into another case, I need to know they’ll be treated well. And I know you’ll work as hard as me to keep them safe.”

“You’re still thinking about the salt marsh.”

He bristled, his shoulders pulling tight and his mouth flattening into a thin line. “I took them into the field and they were shot at. They could have been killed.”

She lightly brushed her fingertips over the back of his hand. “We’ll keep them safe. Are you bringing them in now? Or do you want to see the site on your own first?”

“I’ll bring them in now. My students are familiar with the concepts of burned remains from class, but this will take them from theory to practice. To do that properly, they need to see the remains in situ. And the extra eyes will help.” He met her gaze. “Have you ever dealt with remains like this before?”


“Then you need to be prepared. They can be horrific, both by sight and smell.”

She grimaced. “Thanks for the warning. Are your students going to be able to handle it?”

“They’ll be fine. They held up before, didn’t they?”

“They were great.” Leigh looked out over the harbor. Suddenly the day seemed so much darker than ten minutes ago. “I was really looking forward to getting out on the Charles this afternoon,” she said. “It’s the perfect fall day for it—not too cool and not so breezy that the water would be rough and I’d tip us.”

“If I can’t keep the boat upright, then I need to put in a lot more time at the oars. I promise I’ll take you out in the scull first chance we get.” The waitress approached but before Leigh could reach for the bill, Matt slid the young woman his credit card. When Leigh objected, he simply held up a silencing finger. “My treat. You’re not going to insist on splitting everything down the middle, are you?”

“No. But you shouldn’t have to pick up the check every time we go out. You paid the last time.”

“We’ve only been out a few times, so your representative sample is too small to be statistically significant. I chose this place and it’s not cheap, so I should pick up the tab. Also, I suspect a professor’s salary beats a cop’s, so it’s not fair to stick you with the check when I picked the expensive restaurant.”

She glared at him, but remained silent.

“As I thought. You get the next one, okay?” He tucked his card back into his wallet and stood. “Rowe must be using this as another demonstration. Will he still be there when we arrive?”

Leigh rose from her chair. “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out. He may not be able to stick around that long.”

“It’s a good thing we came in two cars. You head back now; I’ll go pick up my students. We’ll be there by two-fifteen or two-thirty at the latest. They’ll hold the scene until then?”

“Yes. When remains are found in a fire, it’s officially designated a crime scene and nothing gets moved until the crime scene techs and the ME get there. The techs are probably on their way right now.”

“Then let’s go.” He circled the table to lay his hand at the small of her back as they headed for the exit. “We’ve got a scene to process.”

For those in the Toronto area, please join me and eleven other authors from the Crime Writers of Canada for a reading at the Manulife Indigo (55 Bloor Street West) at 7pm as part of the Arthur Ellis Awards shortlist event. More details can be found on MC Nate Hendley’s blog: Hope to see you there!

Big Publishing News for Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries!

Ann and I are thrilled to have not one, but two publishing deals to announce today!

First of all, the paperback rights for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT have been contracted by Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries. We’re thrilled that our debut novel will now be available in three formats—hardcover, ebook, and paperback—for accessible reading no matter what your preference. Recent discussions with Harlequin indicate a moved-up release date of December 2014 to the very early part of 2015. More on that when we know more.

But our really big news is that the fourth installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, has been accepted for publication by Five Star Publishing, which has released all the full length novels in our series to date. Described by our editor as our best book so far, we love this book for its blend of mystery and history.


Publishers Marketplace recently published the two official announcements. Big thanks to agent extraordinaire Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency for all her work on these deals:

March 3, 2014 - DEAD WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT by Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan 
Fiction: Mystery/Crime
Jen Danna with Ann Vanderlaan's DEAD WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, when a single human bone is found on a lonely stretch of coastline, a determined homicide detective and a reluctant scientist risk their lives when they join forces to bring a serial killer to justice, to Laura Barth at HQN Worldwide Mystery, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2015, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency (NA).

March 13, 2014 - TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER by Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan
Fiction: Mystery/Crime
Jen Danna with Ann Vanderlaan's TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the fourth book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, where a body discovered in a long-forgotten speakeasy proves to be ground zero for a cascade of murders through the decades, to Deni Dietz at Five Star, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2015, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency (NA).


TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER will be released either in March or April of 2015, so we’re pleased that this will keep the release of each installment in the series to less than a year apart. We can only write so fast because I still work full time in the research lab, but keeping the series rolling with regular release dates is very important to us.

So… what’s coming up next for Matt, Leigh and their team?


Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess—short skirts, drinking, dancing . . . and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.

It’s a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives—their deaths separated by over eighty years—the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades. When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realizes that an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.

A reminder to our readers that A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH will release April 18th and be available shortly thereafter. This is the third installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, following DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, and the e-novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL. To mark this event, next week we’re going to start a series of posts on fire investigation and forensics. Please join us for this fascinating topic.



Lessons Learned From a TV Interview

Last Thursday I had the chance to appear in my first TV interview on a Toronto cable program called Writers and Readers on the Rogers television network. As a writer who definitely prefers to shelter behind her keyboard, this was a pretty stressful adventure for me. As far back as I can remember—all the way back to elementary school presentations—I’ve been terrified of public speaking of any kind (yes, I’m one of those people who would list public speaking above death on the fear scale). But my Canadian distributor extraordinaire, Nelson, was kind enough to set up the opportunity for me, and I was determined to do it.

So what did I learn from my first TV experience?

  • You’d be surprised at how many times a lapel microphone has to be put on or adjusted. Right side or left side? Wireless transmitter attached to your back pocket or belt? Is the transmitter on? Is it muted? I was repeatedly checked for that outside and then again inside the studio.
  • The lights aren’t as hot as you’d think they’d be. I’m familiar with stage lighting from many, many high school concerts and productions, and it’s nothing like that.
  • You aren’t going to be asked anything for which you don’t already know the answer. You’re there to promote your series; no one is going to ask you about your peace plan for the Middle East or for the chemical formula for titin, the protein with the longest formula known to man.
  • When asked a question, don’t answer ‘yes’ and leave it at that or you’ll drive your host to distraction. He’s opening a door for his guests to talk about their work, so expand upon all your answers.
  • Be yourself. I might consider 20 years of studying HIV and dengue virus to be run of mill because I’ve done it for so long, but others will find it an interesting experience compared to what they do in their own day jobs. Tie your own experiences into your writing so viewers will see why what you do is interesting. 

  • A good host goes a long way to make you comfortable. Tom Taylor, an author himself of the War of 1812 Brock series, went out of his way to make his guests feel comfortable. He reviewed some of the questions he’d be asking before we started so there wouldn’t be any surprises. At each break in the taping, he was very encouraging. And when the interview was over, he grinned and said ‘now your nightmare is over’. Oh yes, he knew that this was a new and stressful experience.
  • Everyone is there to support you, so just relax and enjoy the experience.


The show won’t be airing for about another 5 or 6 weeks, but I’ll be interested to see the final result. Many thanks to Tom for hosting me and the wonderful Lloyd Kelly and Pat O’Neill from Nelson for introducing me to the wonderful world of television!

On a more sober note, our regular readers will remember that a few weeks ago we covered the hidden bodies discovered at the Dozier School for Boys in Florida and the allegations of abuse and murder at the reform school. Since then one of the surviving students has contacted us and would like the opportunity to tell what life at the school was like from his perspective. Please join us next week for that very special blog post.

Photo credit: Tom Taylor and Rogers TV

Bouchercon 2013 Debrief

I’m just back from Albany, NY following the close of Bouchercon 2013. It was a great experience and I met some wonderful new readers, booksellers, and fellow authors.

Bouchercon is always a huge conference and this year was no exception. Attendance this year was approximately 1500, so our venue at the Empire State Plaza worked well for meeting rooms, theater seating for evening events, and signing tables, while still having plenty of room for all the booksellers and their loaded tables of books. This year’s noted guests included Sue Grafton, Tess Gerritsen, Louise Penny and Anne Perry.

So what were some of my highlights?

  • The general atmosphere: It’s always fun to be immersed in the writing/publishing milieu. These are people who don’t stare at you oddly when you mention your own characters talking to you, or who nod in understanding when you talk about some of the crazy things you’ve done in the name of research. These are people who “get you” and think in exactly the same terms, be they writers or readers.
  • Meeting readers: One of the great thrills of Bouchercon for me was meeting new readers. Not people I know who read the book because they know me, but readers who found the book in a store, or who discovered it in a library and then loved it so much they went out and bought their own copy (Kathy, I’m looking at you!). It’s very gratifying to develop a personal connection with people who love what you do.
  • Meeting good friends for the first time in person: I’ve made some very good friends through my agency—other writers who either also signed with Nicole or have come into the agency family. It was a true pleasure to be able to spend five days hanging out with the hilarious Marianne Harden, another of Nic’s early clients, as she attended Bouchercon promoting her humorous mystery Malicious Mischief (which debuts Oct. 22nd). There’s always time for a glass of wine in the evening with Marianne!
  • Hearing words of wisdom from the professionals: Evening events included hour-long interviews with Sue Grafton, Tess Gerritsen and Anne Perry. It was fascinating to hear how their careers have developed and an outline of their future plans. All three ladies were very gracious, well-spoken and humorous.
  • Favourite panel: I’ve been a Louise Penny fan for a long time (no, not just because she’s also Canadian!). The Beautiful Mystery is a personal favourite of mine, partly because of the musical aspect of the book. Louise did a panel with long-time friends and authors Rhys Bowen and Deborah Crombie. Instead of the typical panel with authors behind a table, these three friends brought their chairs out front and invited us into their impromptu ‘living room’. They were funny and gracious, and this definitely stands as my favourite panel of the con.

It was a great experience to attend my first Bouchercon, and I look forward to many more. Look out Long Beach, CA in 2014. Here I come!

Meet the Bouchercon Forensics Panel!

Tomorrow I’m heading off on the long drive to Albany, NY (thanks to hubby for lending me his beloved Mustang for the trip) to Bouchercon, the premier North American mystery conference for both readers and writers. I’m honoured to be sitting on the forensics panel—We Didn’t Start the Fire (But We Can Tell You How It Started)—with four wonderful authors, and I thought I’d use this week’s blog entry to highlight my co-panelists and some of their body of work.



Elizabeth Haynes: Elizabeth, our panel moderator, lives in Kent in the U.K. and works as a police intelligence analyst. A writer from her earliest days, Elizabeth produced her first real novel for NaNoWriMo in 2005 and then tried again in 2006 and 2007. Her debut thriller Into the Darkest Corner (a real nail biter, let me tell you…) was written as part of 2008’s NaNoWriMo and was published in 2011. Since then, Elizabeth has released Dark Tide and Human Remains, with Under a Silent Moon scheduled for release in 2014.

Elly Griffiths: Born in London and currently living in Brighton, Elly writes the Ruth Galloway series about a forensic archaeologist who assists the police whenever local human remains are discovered. Drawing from her husband’s profession as an archaeologist, as well as her aunt’s knowledge and experience from living on the Norfolk coast, the Galloway series is full of real archeological details mixed with the mythology and history of the area. The series starts with The Crossing Places and includes The Janus Stone, The House at Sea’s End, A Room Full of Bones, and A Dying Fall. The sixth book in the series, The Outcast Dead, is scheduled for release in 2014.


Kendra Elliot: When Kendra first started out, she wrote contemporary romance. But when her characters ‘kept tripping over dead bodies’, she turned her hand to writing romantic suspense and hasn’t looked back. Kendra has released three novels (Hidden, Chilled, and Buried) and her fourth, Alone, will be released in January of 2014. A dental hygienist with a love of forensics, she turned her own knowledge and talents into her protagonist Lacey Campbell, a forensic odontologist in Hidden. Kendra is also a regular contributor to the wonderful Murder She Writes blog.



Sarah Shaber: Sarah won the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press Best First Traditional Mystery Award for the first novel in her Simon Shaw series, Simon Says. The series follows the adventures of Simon, a professor and forensic historian, through a series of historical murders in Snipe Hunt, The Fugitive King, The Bug Funeral, and Shell Game. Her newest historical suspense series stars Louise Pearlie as a young widow, working during World War II in the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA) in Washington D.C. Louise’s story starts in Louise’s War and continues in Louise’s Gamble. The third book in the series, Louise’s Dilemma, will release in November 2013.

And then there’s me—I’ll be holding down the forensic anthropology and biological sciences end of the discussion.

I’m very much looking forward to meeting these talented ladies in person and sharing some discussion around forensics and writing within the genre of crime fiction. For any readers attending, we’ll be in room 2 at 2:40pm on Thursday and would love to see you there!

Photo credit: Jason Paris