11 April 2017

The Curse of 2013

Like poor Rose at the end of Titanic, clinging to a piece of wood in the frozen Atlantic Ocean, using the last of her strength to blow a whistle to attract rescuers who've missed her, then weakly, hoarsely yelling, "Come back! Come back," I find myself wishing some people would come back too.
Well, my wishes are about fictional characters, but they feel like real people to me. And they've all been missing since 2013.

With less than two weeks until Malice Domestic (a wonderful fan convention held every spring in Bethesda, Maryland, honoring the traditional mystery), I find myself thinking about mystery characters I wish would come back. I'm not talking about characters created by authors who have died--there's no way they're coming back, not in their original author's form, anyway. And I'm not talking about characters whose authors regularly put out a new book every year or so. This column is devoted to characters whose authors seem to have moved on or are taking too long of a break (in this devoted reader's perspective).

With respect and love, I wish the following authors would get a move on:

Stephanie Jaye Evans

I'm starting with you, Stephanie, because you're scheduled to attend Malice Domestic, and I want you to be prepared. I am going to hound you at the convention, begging and pleading for more stories in the Sugar Land Mystery Series about family man and Texas minister Bear Wells, who becomes a sleuth. Here's what one reviewer said of Stephanie's wonderful first book, Faithful Unto Death:

“Praise be! A new series with a soul, a heart, and a down-home Texas twang. Preacher Bear Wells is an entirely original sleuth and author Stephanie Jaye Evans is that real rarity: a debut writer with dead-on dialogue, winning characters, and—mirabile dictu! —nimble plotting.”   — Susan Wittig Albert, national bestselling author of the China Bayles mysteries

Faithful Unto Death, was a finalist for the 2012 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Stephanie has a great second book in the series, Safe From Harm, which came out in 2013. For four long years I've been waiting oh so patiently, hoping for more. Please, Stephanie, may I have some more?

Chris Grabenstein

Chris, I know your heart--and your time--belong to middle-grade readers. Between writing books with James Patterson (how can I get in on that gig?) and writing your own extremely successful books for kids, you don't have time anymore for your mysteries for grown-ups. (I was going to write that you didn't have time for your adult mysteries, but that has a completely different connotation.) But I wish we could add more hours to the day because I miss your John Ceepak mysteries. Oh, heck. Let's be honest, I long for them. Yes, I admit it: I have a crush on your character John Ceepak, and given how long it's been going on, I feel comfortable saying it's not going away.

Ahhh. Ceepak. A cop with a moral code. A decent, generous, wonderful man. If I can't have this romance in real life, come on, Chris, let me have it on paper. Please! I long to return to Sea Haven, New Jersey, and investigate more cases with John and his partner, Danny Boyle. Sure, I could re-read the eight books in your Anthony Award-winning series, starting with 2005's Tilt-A-Whirl and ending in 2013's Free Fall. But it's been four years since the last book. I need more. Please, Chris. Just give me a little more.

Sara J. Henry

Sara, Your first novel, 2011's Learning to Swim, was nominated for a gazillion awards (and won the Anthony and Agatha awards for best first novel as well as the Mary Higgins Clark Award). It deserved every bit of praise. I loved Learning to Swim so much that I told practically everyone I knew in 2011 about it. I gushed, Sara. Gushed. It was disgusting. So you can imagine how happy I was to read the 2013 follow-up, A Cold and Lonely Place. I love watching your main character, reporter Troy Chance, as she struggles to right (and write) wrongs. Your books have been described as "compulsively readable," and I agree wholeheartedly. I long to be compulsive again. On behalf of your fans, give us more Troy books, Sara. Please please please.

Julia Spencer-Fleming

Unlike a lot of authors, you usually have a new book come out every two years instead of annually. And that's okay. When someone writes books as good as yours, you can take any reasonable amount of time you need between books. But come on, Julia. We're both nonpracticing lawyers here, so we know there are limitations to how far you can stretch the meaning of the word reasonable, and I think we've hit the limit. It's been four agonizing years. I need more Clare. I need more Russ. I need more murder in the Adirondacks.

I remember how taken I was with the small town of Millers Kill, New York, when I came upon your first book, In the Bleak Midwinter. It has one of the best opening lines ever and a hell of an engaging plot. My love for the town grew over the series' eight books. Despite all the murders, it seems like a lovely place to live. I know others agree with me. Your books have won practically every award out there. Your latest book, 2013's Through the Evil Days, can't be the end of the series. I need to know what happens with Clare and Russ and ... Well, I'm not going to ruin it for people who haven't read the book yet. But you know what I'm talking about, Julia. Come on. Please don't leave me hanging. I need more.


And that leaves me with wondering what the heck was going on in 2013 that made all these wonderful authors hit the brakes. Could it be a coincidence that all of them haven't had a new book out since then (or, for Chris, an adult book)? We mystery writers don't believe in coincidence. So there must be a reason. Are you all working on a big book together?! No. That would be too much to hope for. Is there a curse going on? No, I don't believe in curses either. ... Well, I'm out of ideas. So I'll just have to end this blog with my plea one more time. Get plotting, get typing, and get publishing, people. In the immortal words of Oliver Twist: Please, sir (and ma'ams), I want some more.



While I have your attention, in case you missed earlier posts: the Agatha Award will be given out in six categories during the Malice Domestic convention at the end of this month. I have a short story, "The Best-Laid Plans," short-listed in the short-story category. The competition is pretty fierce. Fellow SleuthSayers B.K. Stevens and Art Taylor are up for the award, as well as authors Gretchen Archer and Edith Maxwell. You can read about all five of the nominated stories by clicking here, and you'll also be able to click through to read the stories themselves. I hope you'll check them all out and read before you vote. (I'm also blogging today at B.K. Stevens's blog, analyzing my thought process behind the first two pages of "The Best-Laid Plans." I hope you'll stop by there too. You can read that post here.)
Once you finish reading, it's time to start packing. I'm looking forward to seeing so many of you at Malice Domestic in two weeks. (Stephanie Jaye Evans, this means you!)


  1. Ceepak told me he misses you, too. The way you curl his pages and crinkle his cover. You are correct, though. All of my time and energy is going into writing for kiddos these days. But, one day, I do hope to find time to head back down the shore with Ceepak and Danny! Hope to see you in Toronto at B'con!

  2. I'm 10,000 words away from finishing the third. It will be finished before I go. I'm 37,000 words into a paranormal standalone. I've completed a 5000 word Noir that I was invited to submit to Houston Noir. And, Barb, thank you.

  3. Thank you for the kind words! I've missed those characters, too. If the winds blow the right way, there will be more. In other news, I've been a mother for 16 months now to a delightful second-grader and have learned an enormous amount about dinosaurs, Minecraft, Legos, and Pinewood Derby cars.

  4. I second your emotion! It does seem unfair that so much time and effort by a authors is devoured so quickly by the readers, a bit like preparing meals, but we need the nourishment of our minds and spirits. I realize authors have lives and priorities and don't OWE us more, but especially when there are tantalizing hints of more to come, it's hard to be patient. Also, I tend to fear the worst when someone is late to the party, so I do hope y'all are okay, maybe just busy, but could you at least call to let us know you're fine. ;-)

  5. Oh, Chris, Ceepak misses me! Swoon. I shall live on this all day. And yes, I am planning on Bouchercon in Toronto. See you then! (Maybe you can write a little Ceepak while we're there. A page or two to keep me satisfied? I'll see you at the bar. Bring your laptop.)

    Stephanie, your book will be done in the next two weeks? Thank YOU! Very happy to hear this. La la la la la. That's me singing. See you at Malice!

    Sara, just point me in the right direction, and I will turn on my big fan to blow that wind the right way. And while we wait, congratulations on the new addition to your family. It's such lovely news.

    Julia Spencer-Fleming, where are you?!!!!

    And Mary, lives? You think they're entitled to have LIVES? Well. Okay. Fine. Maybe so. But we need the books. Have to have the books. So glad to hear that there will be more books. So Happy.

  6. Enjoyed your post, Barb--learned about some books I missed and should definitely read. And I'm looking forward to seeing you at Malice!

  7. An entertaining post, as always, Barb. And I am with you about Sara and Julia! (Afraid I haven't yet delved into the other two authors.) We miss you, ladies. And we miss your writing. Please?

  8. Barb, you are so right! Actually, I think you are the one who recommended Stephanie's and Sara's books to me and got me hooked. Julia I was already hooked on. And I love Joe Ceepak and I'm a wee bit jealous of all that page crinkling ;)
    Thank you for your efforts on our behalf!

  9. Thanks, Bonnie, Edith, and Shari for stopping by. Can't wait until Malice! And I do hope you'll try the authors of these four that you haven't yet. You're in for such a treat.

  10. I was overjoyed to hear Steve Hockensmith is working on his first HOlmes on the Range novel since 2010.

  11. Good things come to those who wait, Rob. And wait and wait and wait.

  12. The only author on your list I've read is Chris Grabenstein, but I am so with you. I need more Ceepak and Danny. NEED.

    Which means maybe I need to check out these other three authors.

  13. While they all write traditional mysteries, Mark, not cozies, (which I believe are your favorite,) they are all worth your time. See you soon!

  14. Thanks for this, Barb! I miss all these authors and their sleuths and am glad to hear there is more on the way from some. And if you get hold of Chris at the bar I want you to share.

  15. Great post! I have a couple of new books on my TBR list now. Hopefully I can catch up before their new books come out. (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)

  16. Barb, you speak for so many of us readers. Once in a while, when I'm in the middle of a book I'm enjoying enormously, I hear that little refrain, "Man, I hope there's another one after this." So, thanks for all the books I can add to my TBR file today.

  17. Sherry in Carrollton12 April, 2017 10:34

    I miss K. J. Ericson'mysteries w "Mars" Barr.

  18. I completely agree on all counts. In any list of authors I miss, these folks would appear.

  19. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by. When I wrote the post, I hoped, but didn't dare really think, that I would hear from all four authors yesterday. (Julia Spencer-Fleming commented on my Facebook page that she's working, but delayed, on the next book. I'm glad to hear it's coming eventually.)

    And I'm so happy to hear some (all?) of you will be checking out whichever of these authors are new to you. I hope you get as much enjoyment from their books as I did.

    Thanks for the tip about K. J. Ericson's books, Sherry. I just put Third Person Singular on hold at the library.

  20. Thanks for the great post checking in with these authors. I'm very jealous of your Ceepak connection, I also miss him terribly! And glad to hear about Julia too - I always like to spend time with her characters. I'll have to check out the other authors you mentioned - if they are similar to Chris and Julia, these might be my next favorites!

    1. The Evans and Henry series aren't police procedurals, but they're very good books, Cathy. I hope you enjoy them. And thanks for stopping by.


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