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Charlaine Harris blog

January 12, 2015

Books of the Week:

  • The Professionals, Owen Laukkanen
  • Bless Her Dead Little Heart, Miranda James

Let me make a confession. When I began The Professionals, I knew nothing about Owen Laukkanen, and I vaguely assumed he was one of the Scandinavian writers making a big splash in the mystery community these days. This debut novel is definitely hard-boiled and American, so don’t start it with false assumptions as I did. The basic premise is that four recent college graduates can’t find jobs, so they begin kidnapping people for very modest sums of money, which they feel will keep them under the law enforcement radar. The combination of kidnapping the wrong victim and the possession of a gun suddenly blows their scheme apart. This book hits a lot of American issues: the bad economy, gun control, corruption in law enforcement and dedication in law enforcement, and the bond between working comrades.

Miranda James’s Bless Her Dead Little Heart couldn’t be more different. Many of you have enjoyed James’s Cat in the Stacks books, and you’ll enjoy this one, too. Diesel the Maine coon cat is visiting the Ducote sisters, elderly spinsters in Athena, Mississippi, which his owner, Charlie Harris, is away. The Ducote sisters are old-style ladies, which means they’re tough as nails when they feel they’re doing the right thing. In this entertaining traditional mystery, they’re rather reluctantly trying to help a former sorority sister of theirs, who feels someone is “out to get her.” She’s absolutely right! But Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce are a match for a murderer.


I used to be the person who could debate for ten minutes over which pair of hose to wear. Of course, that was back when women still wore hose, which I understand is no longer the case. I could also fall into a fog of uncertainty over which dress to wear to what event . . . back when I wore dresses.

A lot has changed since my late teens and early twenties, when I went through those agonies of indecision. I’ve learned to make quick decisions. What taught me this skill? Writing.

Yes, writing, ladies and gentlemen. Because writing is all about making a thousand decisions – let’s call them choices — a day. Think about it. Will your protagonist be brunette or auburn-haired? Will you protagonist be a tax accountant or a nurse? Will the motive for the murders be an inheritance or a long-buried secret? What kind of gun will your villain use to shoot the first victim?

So over thirty-six years of writing, I’ve learned to make choices . . . you bet!

After you look at the writing trade as a series of choices to be made, you have to ask yourself, “How do I make the right one?” Ah, there’s the issue. Because each choice you make must be based on several factors: (1) What’s the most entertaining option? (2) What choices are consistent with the characters as I’ve established them? (3) What choices will lead to the furtherance of the plot?

See? Simple, yet complicated. Should Mandy go to bed, or go down to the kitchen to make herself a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich? If she goes to bed, that clears the way for Ralph to use his old key to enter the house. But if she goes to the kitchen, she can have a long talk with Mack, during which she’ll discover that the old will might be in the barn!

Or maybe we’ll discover that she’s allergic to peanuts.

If you’re a writer, the choice is all yours.

Charlaine Harris

January 4, 2015

Books of the Week:

  • A Madness of Angels, Kate Griffin
  • The Naturals, Jennifer Barnes
  • Dead Heading, Catherine Aird
  • Jinn and Juice, Nicole Peeler
  • Prince Lestat, Anne Rice
  • The Likeness, Tana French

Matthew Swift returns to life lying on the floor in his London bedroom . . . but it’s not his bedroom any more. He’s been dead for two years, and his house has been sold in that time. This is the opening for Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels. It sets the tone of the book: grim, intriguing, and tense. Swift sets out to find out who caused his death. It’s a wonderful book, a virtual tour of the magical underside of London, and it’s a winner.

The Naturals is an unusual YA novel. The “naturals” in question are all teenagers who have some extra sense about crime. They’re either instinctive profilers, proficient in discerning lies, or great at probabilities. The FBI recruits young Cassie, daughter of a “psychic” who has disappeared, to join this small group. To learn more about her mother’s fate, Cassie agrees. She finally is among people who understand her, and her otherness is valued, but she also faces a great danger. I really liked The Naturals.

Catherine Aird has been one of my favorite traditional mystery writers for years. Her low-key, humorous novels featuring D.C.I. Sloan and Constable Crosby are always entertaining, some laugh-out-loud funny. Crosby is stupid but enthusiastic. Sloan is clever, alert, and always watchful of the oddities of his superior, the irascible Superintendent Leeyes. In this entry of the long-running series, Dead Heading, Sloan and Crosby must investigate a break-in at an odd place – a plant nursery.

Jinn and Juice marks the beginning of a new series by the popular Nicole Peeler. It’s a must-read for fans of her Jane True books, and new readers will enjoy this outing in the realm of the paranormal. Belly-dancing jinn Lyla hopes to gain her freedom; it’s been almost a thousand years since she was claimed by a Magi, and she may finally become human. But of course, she doesn’t. A most unusual Magi comes into the club where Lyla works, and before you know it, she’s up to her wiggly hips in intrigue. This book will be published in APRIL.

Anne Rice has been a huge influence on me in ways too complicated to tell you. I’m so delighted that in Prince Lestat Rice has returned to the characters who made her famous, and she’s in top form to resume Lestat’s story. When the vampires are being killed all over the world by a force none of them can detect or fight, who are they gonna call? Lestat! This is a wonderful continuation of a great series.

Tana French is just so good that when I read her, I waver between utter envy and inspiration. Her stories about murder in modern-day Dublin are amazing textured and layered. It sounds like I’m describing a sweater, but truly, French is really a fabulous novelist. Do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books. In The Likeness, police detective Cassie Maddox (another Cassie!) is asked to step in when the body of an unknown woman is found stabbed to death. There are no clues. But Maddox is an exact duplicate of the dead woman, and the dead woman has been living under the name Cassie created for a previous undercover stint. Who was the dead woman, really, and why was she killed? Cassie assumes the dead woman’s identity to find out.


I don’t make New Year’s Eve resolutions. I know it’s traditional, and it may be a good exercise in evaluating what you think would improve your life – many people plan to lose weight or quit smoking, for example. Or to be kinder to their mothers, or to work harder, or to stop complaining. These are all great things to resolve. In my experience, I never lived up to my own expectations after I’d made all these promises to myself, so I ended up feeling worse. I gave up the practice of resolutions.

I’m generally pretty “Bah, humbug,” about New Year’s Eve, too. Because of the time differences all over the world, you can celebrate the New Year for many, many hours, so it just seems silly to me. Plus, the fireworks upset my dogs. Plus, I’ve never enjoyed staying up late. I realize this makes me sound to the right of Ebenezer Scrooge, and sometimes I feel that I must be the all-time Party Pooper. In the past decade, I’ve certainly made my peace with that. So be it.

I do hope that I become a better writer in 2015. I hope that I will not fail my children, or my husband, or my friends, or my readers. I also hope that I will eat healthily and go for the occasional walk. “Hope” is a less loaded word than “resolve,” and one that I can stick with . . . I hope.

Maybe this leads to lower expectations for myself? Maybe I’m dooming myself to failure? Or maybe (and experience leads me to believe this is true) I’m just being realistic. It takes something more than the calendar rolling over to make me get worked up enough to make life-changing decisions.

What about you? Are you good at making those resolutions stick?

Charlaine Harris

November 2, 2014

Books of the Week:

  • Hidden, Benedict Jacka
  • The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire
  • Undead and Unwary, MaryJanice Davidson
  • Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little

A jackpot of good reading this past couple of weeks, with only a couple of discards. I am always excited to get a new Benedict Jacka, because his protagonist Alex Varus is such a complex character, and thus seems all the more real. Alex wants to survive, and he wants to be a better wizard and man; but those sometimes seem mutually exclusive goals, and there in lies the struggle that keeps Alex moving. Hidden, in which Alex helps a former apprentice who is engaged in the same struggle, is just as exciting as the first book in the series, a hard act to maintain.

Since I’m also a huge fan of Seanan McGuire, it was great to be able to read The Winter Long back to back with Hidden. McGuire just keeps inventing fresh and credible perils for her hero, October Daye. A character we though long dead makes a reappearance in The Winter Long, and Toby’s romance with the King of the Cats, Tybalt, grows deeper and more serious . . . if only Toby can survive. When you’re a designated Hero, as Toby is, action is the order of the Daye. Sorry, I couldn’t resist . . . .

Just when you think MJD has done everything she can do with her Betsy, she thinks of something new. Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, is begged by her half-sister Laura, Satan’s daughter, to help in the running of Hell. Everyone but Betsy sees the problems with this arrangement. But Betsy finally answers the call of duty, and finds that things really aren’t what they seem, even in hell. Between the dead mice and pricey vodka in the freezer, Mark’s need to keep his brain occupied, Sinclair’s new ability to play in the daylight, and best friend Jessica’s vanishing baby twins, Betsy has her hands (and head) full.

Elizabeth Little’s debut crime novel, Dear Daughter, has some scathing things to say about the nature of celebrity, but mostly it’s a great crime story. Janie Jenkins, young and just out of jail due to a mishandling of evidence in her case, was convicted at 16 of killing her mother. Painted black than black by the media, misunderstood or misinterpreted by almost everyone, Janie is certainly no saint; but she also didn’t kill her mother. Probably. Her quest is to find out who did. But that leads Janie back into her mother’s past, and she comes to know her mother far better in death than she did in life. At first (I confess) I found Janie repellent, but I was also compelled to keep on reading, and I was very glad I did.


“Reality” television, of course, isn’t “real.” If it’s not scripted, it’s at least manipulated a bit. Common sense and observation will tell you that. I used to be quite the snob about reality television, and I’m still a little proud that I’ve never watched an episode of “Survivor” or “Naked and Afraid.” I tell myself that with so much real privation and lack of basic resources in the world, it’s stupid to watch created situations in which people have placed themselves voluntarily.

But I’ve discovered there’s a niche of viewing that appeals to me: watching people with ability doing something that I could never do. I love “Chopped,” though I might literally throw up my hands and scream if I had to open one of the famous baskets and prepare a dish from its contents. I LOVE “Project Runway,” though I’m not fashionable, could not wear any of the clothes, and can barely sew on a button. That’s why it seems miraculous to me when designers can produce a wearable garment in 24 hours.  I can’t miss an episode of “Life Below Zero,” in which Alaskans live on what they can glean from the land, often at great peril. (Though I suddenly realized last season that the cameramen would save them, right?) I like “Househunters” and “Househunters International” because I just like to look at houses, and seeing how people live in other countries is interesting.

The only reality show with which I’ve had personal experience was “Halloween Wars” in 2014. I was delighted to be invited to be a guest judge on one episode. I’d never seen the show, but I watched an episode before I left for Los Angeles, so I knew what to expect, more or less. Here’s where the common sense comes in: the contestants are rehearsed on where to line up, prompted to shout encouraging things to each other, and sometimes are told the same “new” information several times to get a good shot of their reactions. This is not a shocking revelation. Their skills are still called into play in a very tense situation, since the result can have quite an impact on their livelihoods.

Since I have a bad habit of leaving on the television while I cook (I do know all the ingredients in advance and have more than twenty minutes, let me point out), I’ve seen some reality shows I’d never planned on watching. “Botched,” about plastic surgery gone wrong, which was stomach wrenching and fascinating at the same time, but not something I’d want to watch again. I admit I’ve watched episodes of “Toddlers and Tiaras” with much the same reaction. So those are off my radar.

What about you? Do you have a guilty pleasure in the thundering herd of “unscripted” television? Or do you deny that there’s any guilt involved?

Charlaine Harris

October 20, 2014

Books of the Week:

  • A Demon Summer,  G.M. Malliet
  • Personal, Lee Child
  • Murder at Honeychurch Hall,  Hannah Dennison
  • The Beautiful Ashes, Jeaniene Frost

On my recent vacation, I read a lot of old Miss Marple and Poirot novels by the late, great, Agatha Christie. These books are all very familiar to me, but I felt the need to reconnect with my mystery roots . . . especially since my short story, “Small Kingdoms,” was recently selected to appear in The Best American Mystery Stories 2014, edited by the respected and talented Laura Lippman. I am so thrilled at this honor. Short stories have been very much an uphill battle for me. I feel like I’m getting somewhere, finally!

You know I’m a fan of G.M. Malliet, and A Demon Summer is more of a return to the roots of the series. Father Max Tudor, former MI5 operative turned Anglican priest, must visit Monkbury Abbey at the order of his bishop. A peer has been poisoned, though not fatally, by a fruitcake prepared by the Handmaids of St. Lucy, a contemplative order. Just when Max is concluding the poisoning was accidental, one of the visitors to the Abbey is done to death. Once again, Max must find the killer . . . this time so he can home to his handfasting to the pregnant Awena.

This latest Lee Child novel is a somewhat atypical adventure for Jack Reacher. It has eerie echoes of The Day of the Jackal, and that should give the reader a big clue about the crime Reacher is investigating. I won’t spoil any surprises, but I will say that the crime we most fear will happen doesn’t, and a crime we don’t imagine does occur. Of course, you can’t miss one episode of this outstanding series.

Hannah Dennison’s Murder at Honeychuch Hall was highly recommended to me, and there were some things I really enjoyed about this traditional mystery novel. My issue arose from the fact that the protagonist, Kat Stanford, doesn’t seem to know her mother at all, and she doesn’t even seem to know herself very well. But she does learn a lot in the course of this pleasant book, and the mystery itself is well-constructed. I think there are going to be more in this series, and I’ll look forward to the next one.

Who hasn’t been waiting to see what Jeaniene Frost would do after the conclusion of the Cat and Bones series? The Beautiful Ashes is a surprise, nonetheless. But it has the great Frost elements: a brave and determined heroine who has a past she is only just discovering, a handsome hero who seems determined to thwart her, at least initially, and a family member in danger. Twenty year old Ivy is searching for her missing sister, Jasmine, when she finally becomes convinced that the “hallucinations” she’s been seeing her whole life are the real deal. There’s another world, and her sister’s been abducted to pull Ivy into it. Ivy doesn’t have to go alone, though. Adrian, who belongs to this mysterious world, will help her . . . but then, he might betray her instead. Ivy literally goes through hell in this first adventure, and you’ll love every minute of it.



I think the positive side of meeting a writer – what TO do – is very simple. Please smile, tell the writer you enjoy her work (or you are looking forward to reading her work). That will make any writer perfectly happy. Buying a copy of said work on the spot is a very pleasant touch. Even presenting your Kindle cover to be signed is perfectly acceptable.

But here’s what NOT to say:

  1. Don’t say, “Your signing was so crowded last year. Where did everybody go?” (Answer: Hell if I know.)
  2. “How do your children feel about the sex scenes in your books?”  (Answer: Ask them, not me.)
  3. “How do I get a book published?” (Answer: This is way too big a topic for a quick answer. Do your research, the same way I did mine before I got published. Learn something about the industry in the process.)
  4. “Do you remember me? I met you at your signing five years ago.” (I could not remember my own mother under those circumstances. As a matter of fact, I walked right by my own son at a signing and did not recognize him.)
  5. “My Aunt Fanny had an amazing life. Let’s write a book about her and split the money!” (Answer: No.)
  6. “I know the couple involved in that sensational murder triangle! I’ll tell you all about it, you write it up, and we’ll split the money!” (Answer: No.)
  7. “I have a great idea for a book, but I’m too busy to write it. Why don’t I tell it to you, you write the book, and we’ll split the money!” (Answer: Amazingly, I seem to have ideas all on my own. No.)
  8. “I wish you would write faster.” (Answer: Sigh. Me, too.)

I know every writer has her/his own list of least-favorites, but these are mine. I know none of you are guilty of any of these comments. Right? Right! And in answer to the question you DIDN’T ask . . . I’ll be polite even if you ask me these. Because I know not everyone goes to a lot of booksignings, and therefore has no idea of how often we hear those comments.

August 29, 2014

Books of the Week:

  • The Poisoned Chocolates Case, Anthony Berkeley
  • Downfall, Rob Thurman
  • The Skeleton Takes a Bow, Leigh Perry
  • Written in My Own  Heart’s Blood, Diana Gabaldon

Anthony Berkeley’s wonderful mystery was originally written in 1929, and it’s still a great read, very entertaining. In the tradition of mysteries of that time, it’s lighthearted and features a group of people of varying degrees of intelligence and social status who meet to decipher a murder that has affected many of them personally. The poisoned chocolates delivered to that cad, Sir Eustace, instead killed the innocent wife of Graham Bendix. Each of the group is supposed to deliver the solution; after many ingenious theories, with a little more truth exposed each time, the most unlikely person actually solves the mystery and exposes the murderer. It’s a charming exercise in plotting. Any of Anthony Berkeley’s books are worth reading if you can find them in reprint (this one was produced by Felony and Mayhem Press).


I’ve enjoyed Rob Thurman’s books for years. Downfall is a more challenging read because it switches viewpoints from that of Cal Leandros (a half-Auph, perhaps soon to be full Auph) to that of Robin Goodfellow, who has befriended Cal and his brother Niko many, many times in reincarnation after reincarnation, only to loose them to violence. If you’ve read the other Cal and Niko books, don’t skip this one; if you haven’t, don’t start with Downfall. 


My friend Leigh Perry’s new book, The Skeleton Takes a Bow, will be on the shelves Sept. 2. If you want a lighthearted mystery with a very relatable protagonist, this is your book. Perry’s Sid the Skeleton series is becoming very popular, and deservedly so. Dr. Georgia Thackery, adjunct professor, who is just scraping by making a living for herself and her daughter, returns to her family home to teach at the local college and is reunited with her friend Sid. The first book in the series tells the story of their friendship and solves the mystery of Sid’s own death. In this second book, Georgia’s daughter borrows part of Sid (his skull) for her school production of Hamlet, and Sid becomes a witness to a murder.  It’s delightful reading.


Diana Gabaldon has always been one of my favorite writers, and I’m really loving Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. It’s incredibly complicated, moving what feels like a dozen characters around during the American Revolution, but well worth it. Again, it’s not the book to start reading Gabaldon on. Start with Outlander! You’ll be in for a great treat. Claire Beauchamp is one of the best characters in American popular fiction.




I’m flying over the UK later today to do some signings on my way to the ancient city of  York, where I’ll be a guest of honor at  Fantasy Con. I always love to meet my readers in the UK, who are invariably welcoming and polite. The compact size of the UK makes it possible for me to do two signings a day. The noon signings are designed to accommodate people on their lunch hours, so I don’t have a chance to do a talk at those. I walk in, wave, and sit down to start signing. The evening events are more relaxed, since I do get to answer questions and feel that I’ve given the audience a little bit of an experience.


After all my duties are done, I’m going on holiday with my husband. I’m pretty excited about that, since we don’t do vacations that often. I’ll check the board from time to time, I’m sure, so don’t party too hard while I’m away.


I hope some of you regularly visit the Femmes Fatales blog site on Typepad. We’re one of the oldest groups in existence (in Internet terms) since a core group of us did a print newsletter together before the prevalence of computers. We gradually shifted from print to Internet. Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry), Hank Phillipi Ryan, Donna Andrews, Dana Cameron, Dean James (Miranda James), Catriona McPherson, Elaine Viets, Kris Neri, and Marcia Talley – and me – try to put up a new blog each day. Some are about writing issues, some about reading, some about everyday life as a writer. I think they’re all entertaining. Over the years, the personnel roster has changed a bit, but we’re still plugging away. My blog sisters (and brother) are all smart and entertaining, so pay us a visit.


This week I sent the manuscript for Midnight Crossroad: The Day Shift to my new editor, Diana Gill, and to my agent, Joshua Bilmes at JABberwocky. I’d implemented Toni and Dana’s suggestions, which made it a much stronger book. I feel pretty confident, but nothing stops me from being jittery while I wait to hear from them. No matter how many books I write, or how good my sales figures may be, this is always a tense time for me. Other writers confess they feel the same.


So wish me luck, and I’ll “see” you again when I return.


Charlaine  Harris

August 3, 2014

Books of the Week:


  • Irresistible Force, D. D. Ayres
  • Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger
  • Private Demons, Judy Oppenheimer
  • The Girl Who Had Everything, Rae Foley


Irresistible Force is the first of a three-part series about police dogs and the men and women who train and deploy them. Loyal trained dogs? Hunky (and good-natured) cop handlers? What more could you ask for? If you said, “Character development,” you’ve got that, too. Shay Appleton, has been misunderstood and tormented her whole life, and has managed to build a career for herself anyway. Unfortunately, her last boyfriend was a rotten apple, and he just won’t leave Shay alone. But Shay, a volunteer at a dog shelter, adopts a dog that a very beautiful woman has just brought in. Shay doesn’t know it, but the dog is a trained K-9 corps dog belonging to Officer James Cannon. I enjoyed this book a lot, and you will, too. It’ll be on the shelves in SEPTEMBER.


William Kent Krueger is a long-time friendly acquaintance of mine, I’m proud to say. He’s also a writer who’s grown in stature every year. He’s an award nominee multiple times, and he’s won a lot, or so it seems to me. Ordinary Grace deserves all the praise that’s been heaped on it. Two minister’s sons in small-town America grow up over a summer when a series of deaths rouses prejudice and suspicion in the people. Their beloved sister, older and talented, has her own sad part to play in the unfolding of events. This is a wonderful book, elegiac in tone, about people and events long past that resonate for the rest of the lives of the characters involved.


Private Demons is a biography of one of my favorite American writers, Shirley Jackson, by Judy Oppenheimer. It’s certainly not a dry-facts recitation of the events of Jackson’s life, but a warts-and-all recounting of Jackson’s intense life, her marriage with Stanley Hyman, her four children, and her untimely death when Jackson was only in her forties. I was a little baffled by Oppenheimer’s frequent references to Jackson’s study of magic, since she does not ever spell out how Jackson used her knowledge. Was she a practitioner? Did she think of herself as a witch? It’s hard to figure out. But the conflicts Shirley had with her family are spelled out loud and clear, and also the tremendous love she had for her children.


After a discussion Facebook among a few friends, I decided I’d like to reread Rae Foley, who wrote romantic suspense in the sixties and seventies. I was surprised by The Girl Who Had Everything, because some of its themes and references are decidedly modern. On the other hand, the man with whom the heroine falls in love has no problem letting her know when he thinks she’s stepped over a line between being assertive and being shrewish. On the OTHER other hand, he doesn’t mind her being assertive. If you like slightly dated romantic suspense, a la Mary Stewart, you should get some Rae Foley books from AbeBooks or some similar used-book purveyer. They are good reading.





I’m at that point in the book I’m currently writing; the point where I can see the end approaching. I’m not exactly charging at this glorious moment full steam, because I don’t know the ground I have to cover before I get there. It’s part of the peril of writing. There are so many options open to me, it’s like being in a really fascinating store, one where you have so many garments to try on that it’s only a question of what really suits you best. (Not that I’ve ever discovered a store like that, but I can dream.)


I don’t think of myself as being good with choices, but after all, what is being a writer but making dozens of choices every working day? Is this character a blond or a brunette? Does this woman have good intentions or bad, or both? What background shall I give a character to explain the character’s behavior? How bad a mistake can a protagonist make and still engage the sympathy of the reader? The success or failure of a book can depend on the choices the writer makes.


So how do I decide?


There’s not one clear-cut answer. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could say, “The one on the right”? Sometimes you have to mentally test-drive different answers to find the most rewarding one. And you have to be aware of what tone you’re setting. Do you want the funniest result? The most dramatic? Should another character arrive on the scene to contribute? If so, which one? At the end of the scene, should your protagonist get in the car and go to the post office? Lie bleeding on her living room floor? Make passionate love with the postman?


This difficult process definitely bolsters the case for outlining. That way, at least you get some of your decisions made ahead of time. But you still have to make them. I have tried outlining, but it felt unnatural to me. (At this point, for every book, I think I should have tried it again.)


Every fork in the road, every choice made, every decision chosen. Well, it’s daunting, but that’s the job. To paraphrase the government officials in “The Hunger Games”: May the choices be always in your favor.


Charlaine Harris

July 17, 2014

Books of the Week:

  • Shattered,  Kevin Hearne
  • Zoo City, Lauren Beukes
  • Shapeshifted, Cassie Alexander


I had the pleasure of hanging around with Kevin Hearne at Phoenix ComicCon. In fact, he took me and two other writers to Rula Bula, the bar that features largely in the first two or three Iron Druid books. We had a kind of guided tour of the topography of Atticus’s world, and it was fascinating. Shattered is something of a departure for Hearne, since it’s not only his first hardback Iron Druid book, but it’s also told from three points of view now that there are three Druids. Finally, Atticus discovers the identity of his secret enemy, and there’s a pitched battle. The newest Druid, Granuaile, becomes more and more a strong character in her own right. Of course, Shattered is as action-packed as its predecessors.


Lauren Beukes is not the kind of writer who likes to explain what her world is like. She’s an immersion writer; she plunges you into the protagonist’s world and lets you swim to shore on your own. And it’s a strange South Africa. Murderers carry animals with them perpetually, animals that have sought them out. These animals (the protagonist, Zinzi, has a sloth) both mark the carrier as a criminal and yet give a particular gift. Zinzi is a finder of lost things. This is one of her more reputable means of making a living. Zoo City is spellbinding and dazzlingly original.


Shapeshifted is the third Cassie Alexander novel I’ve read, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. Edie Spence, Alexander’s nurse protagonist, has a real talent for getting into trouble and somehow getting out of it, but each time she seems to have sacrificed something, even if it’s only her couch. And she’s so often sleep-deprived, I worry a little about her patients. But Edie is loyal and tough and determined, and these are all characteristics you want in an urban fantasy hero, which she certainly is. In this book, Edie finds her mother has cancer, and Edie wants some vampire blood to cure her. But Edie’s being shunned by the supernatural community. How’s she going to get it? A loose plot point or two get tied up in this book, but other threads are left open. We can all look forward to what happens next.





Last week, I was invited to the Hallmark Channel’s party, held to introduce the press to what the channel’s going to be doing in the new TV year. For one thing, it’s changing its name, to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This signals a change of direction, though I don’t think it’s a huge one; Hallmark viewers have always liked mysteries of the milder sort. There’s a huge viewership – huge – that doesn’t like provocative programming. And that’s where I come in. Aurora Teagarden, the heroine of my first mystery series, is perfect for the Hallmark demographic. If all goes well, there’ll be a series of two-hour movies, each one based on one of the Aurora books.


And, as you perhaps already know, Candace Cameron Bure will be Aurora. I’ve already heard a number of protests about this casting, but I’m delighted. She’s a Hallmark viewer favorite, she’s charming and lovely, and she can act. It was a pleasure meeting her at the party (we talked about our children), and I’m pretty excited about the whole process.


This year, the event (usually held in an auditorium or similar arrangement) was held at a mansion rented for this purpose, in the hills above Hollywood. The view from the terrace was spectacular, and the theme was Christmas in July.


I did not wear the right clothes or jewelry to this shindig, I’m sorry to say, and yet I didn’t suffer unduly. Obviously the right thing to wear is a short form-fitting dress and some killer heels, and I don’t have the shape to wear either the garment or the shoes, so I have to cobble something together. In this case, I wore a black leather jacket, a dark blue tank, and black pants.  And a major necklace. I got my toenails painted dark blue and I wore black sandals with an inch heel. I’m telling you all this so you can appreciate the torturous process I have to go through when I get invited to something like this. I have to say, I was comfortable (except for the shoes; I simply  hate heels) and when the sun went down, I was glad of the jacket. Sometimes you win; sometimes you miss the mark. But now I don’t feel bad about it, so that’s an improvement!


The people who work for Hallmark (Crown Media) were all very friendly. And here’s who I spotted at the party: Morgan Fairchild, Bruce Boxleitner, Andie McDowell, Greg  Harrison, and Jon Voight. (I’m still stumped by his presence, because I missed the explanation.) There were many more actors who are familiar to Hallmark watchers, but they were new to me. I look forward to sampling the Hallmark programming in preparation for this experience.


And here you go — interesting tidbit: When my media escort (a lovely young woman assigned by the studio to match me up with interviewers) took me into the mansion’s dining room, underneath the vast table was a glass floor, through which you could see the swimming pool. Wow.


Charlaine Harris


June 24, 2014

Books of the Week:


  • The Kindred of Darkness,  Barbara Hambly
  • Designated Daughters, Margaret Maron
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher


I’ve always enjoyed Barbara Hambly’s books, from the very excellent mystery series about Benjamin January to her vampire novels. I was delighted to find there was a new book in her James Asher/Don Simon Ysidro series, The Kindred of Darkness. While Oxford don and secret spy James Asher is off on one of his mysterious journeys to the continent, the most horrible thing happens: in his wife Lydia’s absence, their little girl and her nanny are kidnapped by the vampires of London. Lydia and James know exactly what can happen to their child. They discover what they must do to ensure Miranda’s return: destroy an interloping vampire who is somehow able to hide his whereabouts from the English vampires. In such a great crisis they must ask for the help of their ally, the terrifying Don Simon Ysidro, a vampire who loves Lydia. This is another satisfying entry in a series that puts the awfulness back in bloodsuckers.


Designated Daughters is by Margaret Maron, which is like saying there’s a seal of goodness stamped on the cover. Maron’s consistently excellent writing has secured her one of the great landmarks of the mystery world: she has been voted a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America. Judge Deborah Knott is a great character; she’s part of a huge family, children and grandchildren of the bootlegger Kezzie Knott. Deborah’s married to Deputy Dwight Bryant and a happy stepmother at this stage of her life. Part mystery, part meditation on the role of caregivers, the book is based on the curious circumstance of a dying woman who says too much.


Jim Butcher is one of the biggest names in urban fantasy. This is no surprise to anyone who’s been following his career. Butcher’s Harry Dresden books are amazingly, consistently, outstanding (to my admiration and envy).  Skin Game has flickers of hope for Harry to come; amidst all the double-dealing and mayhem, the disasters and near-brushes with death, Harry and former police officer and ally Karin finally have a conversation about their feelings for each other. There’s so much to enjoy in this full-tilt adventure that I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the plot.






Like all other writers, at every personal appearance I’m asked the same things. But the most common questions, the ones posed at every speaking engagement, are: “Who’s your favorite writer? What’s your favorite book?”


My answer has come to be, “It depends on which week it is.” I have read so many books and found so much to admire that I have no one clear response. Sure, I have writers that I often recommend to people who like my books. But that too can depend on which books of mine they’ve enjoyed the most. If they’ve liked my conventional mysteries, I can safely recommend any of my friends with whom I blog: Donna Andrews, Toni L.P. Kelner (Leigh Perry), Miranda James (Dean James), Catriona McPherson, Mary Saums, Marcia Talley, Dana Cameron, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Elaine Viets. Or I can advise them to read Margaret Maron, or Carolyn Hart, or Eve Sandstrom, or Denise Swanson.


If they’re readers who like something edgier, I can tell them what pleasure I’ve found in Laura Lippman, or Robert Crais, or Lee Child, or Karin Slaughter, or Charlie Huston.


If you tell me you like writers who write both mysteries and science fiction, well, I’ve got a list of those, starting with Barbara Hambly and stretching onward.


Out and out urban fantasy? Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Vaughn, Kevin Hearne, Benedict Jacka, Mike Carey . . .


Much, much edgier fantasy? Oh, gosh, just a few: Richard Kadrey, Lillian Saintcrow, Rob Thurman, Laurell K. Hamilton.


And that’s just living writers. Don’t get me started on dead ones.


So please, if you see me in person, be prepared for a long answer if you ask me who my favorite writer is.


And if you really care who I’m reading, you can find out what books I’ve read for the past two years; at least, the ones I’ve enjoyed. Just click on BOOK & BLOG here on this website. You can find out there.


There are so many great books out there. The only problem, as I see it, is finding the time to read them. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, and I’m probably going to do so again. It’s one of the few things I see no other side to.


Charlaine Harris


June 5, 2014

Books of the Week:


  • A Shiver of Light, Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Bad Angels, Rebecca Chance
  • The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dicker
  • Cop Town, Karin Slaughter

Laurell K. Hamilton’s decision to wrap up the Meredith Gentry series will leave a lot of fans desolate, but other readers will be happy because this means she can concentrate on her Anita Blake books. As always with Hamilton, the world she created for America’s own faerie princess is complex, vital, and dangerous. Though sometimes she seems to get sidetracked by making sure the reader knows all the details of that world, Hamilton’s world building is amazing. If you’ve read all the previous Meredith Gentry books (when last we saw our part-human heroine, she was pregnant with multiples), you really have to read A Shiver of Light. There’s no happily-ever-after for this faerie tale, but there is a glimpse of what could be a less dangerous life for all concerned. Plus, babies!


I knew Rebecca Chance under her previous writing guise, so I bought Bad Angels out of sheer curiosity. It won’t surprise anyone that Rebecca Chance is just as great a romance writer as Lauren Henderson was a mystery writer. There’s not ONE romance in her books, there are SEVERAL . . . it’s like the thriller of the romance world. This plot includes an actress who is having all her plastic surgery undone, a killer who’s recovering from plastic surgery also, the nurse who tends both of them, the Russian zillionaire who owns the penthouse, the concierge, a football player . . . well, you can tell a lot happens, and there’s plenty of love to go around. Sounds like a mess, doesn’t it? But it’s great reading and a ton of fun.


Joel Dicker has become an international phenomenon, and The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair has been published in 32 languages. Dicker is young, Swiss, and now incredibly well known for this book, which is set in America. I’m breaking my habit about talking about books that didn’t appeal to me, because obviously I’m missing something. Here’s the plot: a young writer, Marcus, has been mentored throughout his college career by Harry Quebert, a teacher at the college who has one very, very successful book. The subject of that book is the love affair between a very young woman and an older man. But then the skeleton of a missing girl is found on the property of Harry Quebert, and he’s arrested. Marcus spends months trying to prove his innocence, and regaining his writer’s chops. (His dealings with his increasingly irascible publisher are really funny, and scary, to any writer, I have to say.) I read this book all the way through, but in the end, it simply didn’t resonate with me. I am clearly in the minority over this, and I hope many of you read and enjoy it.


Cop Town, which will be on the shelves in JULY, is simply amazing. Karin Slaughter and I know each other, and I was really interested when she sent me a copy . . . and I found a character was named for me. But that aside, this is an exciting book. It’s set in Atlanta in 1974, and it’s about women police. Newcomer Kate Murphy faces challenges her first day as a cop, challenges which would make most of us run screaming, and she’s a little surprised when she doesn’t. The female cops are ghettoized by the male cops, and the black female cops and the white ones are sharply divided to the point where they have to negotiate territory. The case that is the catalyst for the action in the book is the shooting of a policeman and his partner. What happens after that is incredible. This is some truly great writing and a truly great book. Please read it.





By the time you read this, I’ll be in Phoenix at ComicCon. Most of my professional traveling for the year will be done, and I can actually put my suitcases away until late August, when I leave for the UK for FantasyCon in York. That’ll be really nice. After that I have a speech at Books in the Basin in Midland, Texas, in October, and Bouchercon in California in November. Now I’m weighing the events I want to attend next year, and I already have a few lined up. Planning my travel is a constant balancing act.


I know a lot of people who travel more than I do for work, people who are on the road over half of the year. Some of them try to find something fun to see or do everywhere they go, and some make the process as painless as possible by holing up in a hotel room and staying private. I sympathize with both attitudes. When I first started being on the road a lot, I felt like a failure if I didn’t take advantage of being in a new city. I had to see at least something that made me realize I wasn’t home any longer. But usually signing trips are so quick – you land, go to the hotel, go to the venue, go back to the hotel, go to the airport – that there’s really hardly any time to sightsee.


Now that I’m older, I tend to let the travel roll over me while I look straight ahead at what comes next. It’s like having blinders on, I suppose. This minimizes the wear and tear on me, but it does make tours seem curiously homogenized. I remember cities by their hotels! The Heathman in Portland, the Four Seasons in Seattle, the Adolphus in Dallas . . . and all points in between. There are certainly worse things than having to stay in luxury hotels across America!


I do wonder how many more years of traveling I have in me. I feel a little more reluctant every time I leave, arthritis makes me uncomfortable, and I regret the work slowdown. I am not as productive when I’m on the road. I know plenty of writers who manage to keep to their work schedule, but I’m not one of the happy band. I can see the day coming when I’ll just say, “Naaaah. I don’t think so.”


Until that time . . . did I put in my charger cord? Did I replace the Bandaid in my bathroom bag? Are the batteries in my little flashlight still good?


Charlaine Harris

May 12, 2014

Books of the Week:


Since I’ve been travelling, I’m doing a lot of rereading. I’m going through Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry books in preparation for the publication of the final one. And I have decided to get back to my mystery roots and read a lot of Agatha Christie and a lot of Rex Stout. Short, concise, and to the point: Christie and Stout have more in common than you’d think. When I’ve finished travelling, I’ll start reading new stuff again, and I’ll have more to talk about.



Yesterday was Mother’s Day, a holiday created to sell cards, flowers, and candy. It’s also been a boon to restaurants everywhere in America. But the sentiment at the heart of it is a real one. It’s a day of recognition, a day to stand back and really consider a basic relationship.


Writers don’t create from a vacuum. We are all at the center of our own webs, our ties to family and friends and business associates — our origins and our futures.


When I was a “tween” and a teen, I held the firm belief that writers had to live in New York, had to play poker, and they had to drink . . . a lot. Maybe this was the Hemingway model? I know he lived in Florida in the later part of his life, and I have no idea if he played poker or not, but this was my naïve impression.


I was sure it would embarrass my parents horribly if I carried on in such a fashion. Though carousing in college seemed to be expected, I figured it would be sort of depraved to carry that behavior any farther.


When I finally achieved adulthood – much later than I should have, frankly – I finally understood that writers are all just people, and people come in all sorts and persuasions. Some writers DO live in New York and drink a lot. Lots of writers can play poker. But a vast majority of them live scattered across the world and have more or less moderate-to-negligent alcohol habits. And some of them prefer a vigorous game of Scrabble.


Think of how boring our work would be if we all adhered to my stereotype! I believe it’s our ties that make our work diverse and rich. Our families and friends (and enemies, too) will always be huge influences on our writing.


I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Charlaine Harris