Cover Reveal: A Study in Death

I am thrilled to participate today in the Cover Reveal for Anna Lee Huber’s next release in the Lady Darby mystery series. There are three books currently available in the series – check out the covers so far:

anatomist mortal art grave


And today, I can officially share the cover for Book IV, A Study in Death. Et voilà:

Study in Death

Spooky, no?

A Study in Death is the latest installment in the award-winning Lady Darby mystery series by national bestselling author Anna Lee Huber. It will release on July 7th, 2015 from Berkley Publishing, but is available for preorder now.  Here is what Berkley has to say about Lady Darby IV:

Scotland, 1831. After a tumultuous courtship complicated by three deadly inquiries, Lady Kiera Darby is thrilled to have found both an investigative partner and a fiancé in Sebastian Gage. But with her well-meaning—and very pregnant—sister planning on making their wedding the event of the season, Kiera could use a respite from the impending madness.

Commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, Kiera is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness’s eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband.

Kiera isn’t sure how to help, but when she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, things take a fatal turn. The physician called to the house and Lord Drummond appear satisfied to rule her death natural, but Kiera is convinced that poison is the real culprit.

Now, armed only with her knowledge of the macabre and her convictions, Kiera intends to discover the truth behind the baroness’s death—no matter what, or who, stands in her way…

To celebrate the unveiling of the cover of A STUDY IN DEATH, Lady Darby Book 4, Anna Lee Huber is running a giveaway on her Facebook page. Entrants must comment under her post displaying the cover of A Study in Death for a chance to win a copy of the audiobooks of Lady Darby Books 1-3 (The Anatomist’s Wife, Mortal Arts, and A Grave Matter). Please see the Facebook post for Giveaway Terms and Conditions.

“The Long Way Home” Book Tour

Thanks to my sweet mother-in-law, I had a ticket to see Louise Penny speak at Fearrington Village last night. What a turn-out they had! 500 people with tickets, and a standing crowd in the back. Chatting with the people around us before the event began, we learned that people had come from Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and even Alabama to see Penny.

The format for the event was really enjoyable. Rather than doing a reading or giving a prepared talk, Louise and her publisher (Andy Martin, from St. Martin’s imprint Minotaur), sat in big armchairs on a stage and engaged in a funny, informal Q&A about Penny’s work. It was clear from their interaction that they are good friends as well as colleagues, and so the whole event had a conversational, relaxed tone.

It was great to hear Penny talk about how she got into writing. Martin asked her when she first knew she wanted to be an author, and Penny recalled her experience reading Charlotte’s Web. Penny said that her worldview when she was a child was fairly bleak – the world was a scary place, people were inherently bad, and the safest place she could be was in her room reading books. She said she was scared of so many things, but one of her greatest fears was spiders. Penny recalled vividly being about halfway through Charlotte’s Web when she had two major revelations:

  1. Charlotte was a spider.
  2. Penny loved her anyway.

She said that, from that moment on, she understood that stories must be very powerful if they could so completely wipe away one of her fears. She knew then that she wanted to be a writer.

Having said all that, Penny freely admits that when she was writing Still Life, she never thought her books would be published. When Martin asked her to explain how she formed the character of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, she said that her original intent was for Gamache to be a very dark, deeply flawed man who struggled from some sort of addiction or mental illness. But then she realized that she would be living in this man’s head for the foreseeable future, and so instead she created a man whose company she imagined she would love to spend time in. Penny said she was so pleased with herself for writing such a cultured, intuitive, fine character, and then she looked across the breakfast table one morning and realized she hadn’t created him at all – she’d simply written her husband, Michael.

If you like Louise Penny, and you’ve read all her books and are looking for something to try, she did mention that three of her favorite authors are Deborah Crombie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Rhys Bowen.  Listening to Penny speak and watching her interact with her readers has definitely convinced me that I’ve got to get back into her series. I’ve got eight books to catch up on before I can start The Long Way Home.

Serpent of Venice Book Tour


On Monday night, I headed over to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh with Brad and Beth to hear “The Author Guy” Christopher Moore speak about his new book, The Serpent of Venice. I’ve not read any of Moore’s books, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I looked him up beforehand on GoodReads – he’s got at least fifteen novels under his belt, and one graphic novel.

We showed up to Quail Ridge about half an hour before Moore was scheduled to start speaking, but the parking lot was already packed. When we got inside, it was immediately clear that we’d be standing in the back to hear Moore speak, if we could find a place to squeeze in at all. The store was packed, and the table that QRB usually stacks with books by the visiting author was already looking thoroughly picked over. We took one look at the crowd, did some mental math about how long the line might be to have Moore sign our book after his talk, and opted to buy one of the few remaining pre-signed copies of The Serpent of Venice.

Moore opened his speech with a few jokes about the “author tour” experience (referencing a challenge from a book store employee to sign more books than Amy Tan in an hour – evidently, her record is 800) and a funny (if random) story about his beloved San Francisco. I wasn’t quite sure where he was going with any of his stories, but he made me laugh, and also convinced me that I should be following him on Twitter (@TheAuthorGuy, if you are interested).

When Moore did get around to speaking about The Serpent of Venice, he gave a bit of background on his inspiration for the story. Evidently, he and his wife were visiting Mantua on a tour for one of his books several years ago, and they decided to do a little exploring in Italy while they were there. Moore said that he loved the entire experience, but that Venice in particular struck him as a great setting for a monster story – buildings buttressed together at the top to prevent them from collapsing into each other, streets so narrow that you have to turn sideways to walk down them, and all that water! So he started thinking about stories that were already set in Venice, and he came up with Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado.” Moore said that Othello and Merchant both struck him as being stories about outsiders. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a story about “a Venetian nobleman who walls up a fool in a basement.” As Moore, pointed out, he already has a fool – Pocket, the title character of his 2009 novel Fool. So in The Serpent of Venice, readers will see Iago, Antonio, and Montressor plotting against Pocket with a loveable sea-monster thrown in. Christopher Moore describes this book as “like Game of Thrones, only with more Jews.” I have no idea what that means, but I own a copy now, so we’ll see.

During the question and answer session, Moore did reveal a few things that were obviously big news to people who have been fans of his for a while. First of all, his current work-in-progress is a sequel to his 2006 novel A Dirty Job. I’ve never read it, but that announcement was met with a burst of applause, so I’m guessing that’s exciting. Also, one reader asked if Moore ever thought about converting any of his novels to plays. Moore revealed that he’s actually written a stage play of Fool, which is going to have its first table reading in a few months. Again, lots of enthusiasm from the crowd for this announcement.

I have a feeling Brad will get around to reading The Serpent of Venice before I do, but I’m looking forward to it after seeing Moore in person. Also, huge thanks to Quail Ridge Books for making events like this possible!

Lost Lake Book Tour

ImageLast night, I drove out to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh to see Sarah Addison Allen on the first stop of her book tour for Lost Lake.  I never know what to expect when I see an author in person, and I can get weirdly anxious waiting for the event to start.  What if I can’t reconcile the person standing in front of me with the book they have written that I love?  I had no cause for alarm with Sarah.   The minute she walked into the room, she radiated happiness.  She was visibly excited that it was time to share Lost Lake with her readers.

Sarah started out by explaining that this book tour is special to her because she didn’t have a chance to tour for her last book, The Peach Keeper.  A few weeks before The Peach Keeper’s release, Sarah was diagnosed with cancer.  In just a few weeks, Sarah learned that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, that the doctors had found nodules in her lungs, and that she would have to undergo treatment for stage four cancer – surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.  She compared this series of revelations to the feeling of being lost in the woods, in the dark, in the snow, and being chased.  But within a year, understandably the most frightening and dark year of her life, Sarah had her first set of clean scans.  She has been in remission for two years now, and in that time, she has gone through several drafts of Lost Lake.

Sarah said that she spent all of her treatment trying to get back to “life before cancer,” because that was a good and safe place for her.  But when her treatment was over, she realized that her life after cancer is actually better because she has made some changes that she would not have considered before.  Then she offered up some thoughts that seem to play a big role in Lost Lake“What would I say to that old Sarah – the Sarah before cancer?  What I would say to her, and what I would say to you is “What are you waiting for?  Life is too short.  Stop making excuses, because you KNOW what it takes to be happy…  Let go of those things you can’t control.  Tell the people you love that you love them.  Let go of the people who don’t love you – it’s okay.  Have more fun.  Ask for help when you need it.  Stop being afraid.  What are you waiting for?  Start now.’”

Sarah said that most people who learned she was writing a book after her treatment all wanted to know the same thing.  “Are you going to write about cancer?”  She considered it, but she found that she couldn’t.  “Cancer is too real and too awful, and I can’t make it good, and I can’t make it magical.  But after I finished writing Lost Lake, I sat back and I pondered, and I realized that, while I didn’t write about cancer, what I did write about was grief.  I wrote about characters who have gone through the worst thing they think they can possibly go through.  And they end up on the other side of it in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar life, and yet it’s LIFE.  It’s life waiting for them to live it.” 

At this point, Sarah read aloud to us the prologue of Lost Lake.  I sat back, closed my eyes and listened, and I was captivated completely.  I’m in the middle of another book right now, but Sarah’s reading made me want to chuck that book out the window and start Lost Lake immediately.  We’ll see how much self-control I can scrape together.

After the reading, there was a quick Q&A, and then Sarah signed books.  I’d say around forty people stayed to have their books autographed, and Sarah took her time with each person.  My friend Beth and I were two of the last people in line, and when our turn came, I was struck by how gracious and modest Sarah was.  She seemed genuinely surprised (and a bit overwhelmed) that anyone would wait an hour and a half just to speak to her.  She had a packet of beautiful postcards for each person in the line, and she took the time to personalize her notes in our books and even draw little pictures.  It was a great experience, and I feel like I need to say a huge THANK YOU to Sarah and to the great staff at Quail Ridge Books.  Sarah is currently working on a sequel to her first novel, Garden Spells, hopefully to be published in 2015.  If it works out that way, I hope her book tour will bring her to QRB again!