Enter the Goodreads early copy giveaway!

My second novel, DEATH MAKES THE CUT, will be here on July 17th! My publisher is giving away 5 advance reader copies (ARCs) of DEATH MAKES THE CUT on Goodreads.com, and the contest ends on Monday, June 18th.

If you’ve never seen one, these ARCs are special paperback versions of a book. The text hasn’t gone through the final editing process, so you’ll find a few typos, which will give you the chance to make fun of me and watch me deny that I made those errors and they must have been made by the typesetting gremlins.  On the plus side, ARCs are printed in a very limited edition, so you’ll be one of the few and fabulous who can say they own one.  Click the link below to go to the Goodreads page where you can read about the book and enter.  Good luck!!


The first bell of the new school year hasn’t even rung, and Texas high school teacher Jocelyn Shore is already at the scene of a murder… You can read more about the book on www.janicehamrick.com.

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Naked Bicyclists, Drippy Showers, and the Perils of Planless Peregrination

I describe what happens when taking a trip “on the fly” on the Criminal Element blog…

The author as Godzilla PlannerWhen it comes to travel, I’ve always been a bit of a planner. Okay, I’ve always been a giant, monster-size devour-the-world sort of planner. Picture Godzilla with a day organizer, and you’ve pretty much got it. I’m not proud of it, but I really know how to put the “anal” in “analysis.”  Read more and see an awesome guest drawing at Criminal Element

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Malice Domestic – Not just the feeling you get when your kids won’t take out the trash

I describe attending the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention in my guest post on the Book People/ Mystery People blog …

Contrary to what its name might suggest, Malice Domestic is an annual fan convention “saluting the traditional mystery”. Think Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, or Elizabeth Peters, and you’ve got it. Held every year in Bethesda, Maryland, Malice Domestic is a chance for fans and writers to get together, find out what’s new, compare experiences, and talk about the books we love. Read more at Mystery People

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An award to remember

I describe attending the Mary Higgins Clark Award presentation in my guest post on the Book People/ Mystery People blog

The MWA Agents and Editor’s Cocktail Party is one of the many events making up the Edgar Awards festivities in New York City each April, and this year I got to go. I could lie and be all blasé about it, but it was pretty much as fascinating as it sounds – a room full of writers, editors, agents, and publishers at every level of experience and success sipping wine and sampling an impressive variety of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres carried by wait staff who were a great deal better dressed than I. I’m pretty sure I sampled them all – the hors d’oeuvres that is, not the wait staff. (Anything that fits in your mouth without the need to unhinge your jaw is too small to be counted as calories, right?)  Read more on the Mystery People blog…

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Beam me up…

transporterFor someone who loves to travel, I don’t really love to travel if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, I love being strip searched at the airport as much as the next person, but if an instant transporter were invented I’d be the first in line. Just think…no more security lines, no more public transportation, no more nights in noisy hotels.

Of course, I’d miss out on some unexpected special moments if I could just pop in anywhere anytime I wanted. For example, I wouldn’t have been awakened at 6:00 a.m. by a loud rapping on my hotel ghost engineerdoor and a deep voice shouting “Engineer!”, which is what happened yesterday. (I had no idea engineers were on the room service menu, and I certainly hadn’t ordered one for that hour.) Startled and groggy, I staggered over to the peephole and saw…nothing. Now, did I think that this evil engineer of darkness had, upon hearing my startled whimper of protest, cleverly realized he got the wrong room and scampered off before I could catch him? No, I immediately thought he must be the ghost of said engineer, doomed to wander the hotel halls after being strangled by the last guest he’d woken from a sound slumber. He was very likely embittered that the jury refused to convict said guest and decided to take out his revenge for all eternity.

I also wouldn’t have been riding the bus from Grand Central station to La Guardia when it pulled beside a very large moving van. The moving van’s side door was open, and because the street was narrow and both vehicles very large, the gap between was less than eighteen inches. One of the young movers inside the van looked out, then leaned across, stuck his face into the small open sliding window directly across from me and shouted, “Good morning, New York!” I was delighted. However the true New Yorker next to me barely skipped a beat and just continued his story about training dogs for the military and how the AKC had absolutely ruined working dogs in this country by breeding for looks instead of stamina and intelligence. Considering that the combined brains of my three dogs would fit comfortably into a walnut shell with room to spare, I thought he might have a point.

Which is more than I have.  Although if I have to make one up, I’d just have to say that travel brings with it a million stories that even the most creative author could never make up. And I will continue to travel until I can no longer lift my overstuffed carry-on into the overhead bin by myself. Just put my name on the waiting list for that first i-Transporter.


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Have You Been to Egypt – Part 2

camelMy first novel DEATH ON TOUR would never have happened without the trip I took to Egypt. The second day in Cairo was packed with enough activities to have filled an entire week – a visit to the pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the Step Pyramid, the Alabaster Sphinx, the magnificent Egyptian Museum, and of course the educational trip to the silk rug factory. I could go on for weeks describing the monuments, but once again the unexpected trivia about modern day Egypt caught my eye. For example, the unfinished high-rises, each with rubble and rebar on the roofs, looking like victims of bombings or worse. Our guide Emi, a wonderful young woman with endless patience and a great sense of humor, explained that the Egyptians do not borrow money – they simply build as much as they can afford and then stop, leaving the next floor to be built either sometime in the future or by the next generation.  Camels on TruckTraffic was also unbelievable – and not in a good way. I thought traffic at home was bad, but believe me, you haven’t seen a traffic jam until you’ve been through Cairo in the late afternoon. One of my fellow travelers observed that there appeared to be no traffic rules whatsoever, to which Emi replied that there was only one: Fill The Space.  I also suspected there was a second rule: Honk The Horn, but maybe it just seemed that way.  At one point, our bus was passed by a small flatbed truck with flimsy rails. Four kneeling camels rode in the back, calmly chewing their cud, heads bobbing with the movement of the vehicle.

Hello Kitty UmbrellaAt the Egyptian Museum, Emi spent a good five minutes telling us not to take our cameras inside. She mentioned that our driver would be waiting with the bus the entire time, she told us that if we tried to sneak them in, they would be taken from us, and if we did not want to lose them permanently we’d have to wait out front until the tour was over. She repeated herself so many times that I knew right away that someone had tried it in the past. And sure enough…on the way in, we saw an elderly German lady arguing with the museum guards about her camera. Fortunately, our group believed Emi and passed through the metal detectors with heads held high. But…that lady was the first inspiration for my ditz duo, the ladies who always did the wrong thing. And Emi became the inspiration for my tour guide, Anni. Patient, funny, charming…and yes, carrying a pink Hello Kitty umbrella to keep us all in line. No matter where I stood, no matter what tall man was in front of me, I could always find Hello Kitty. Thank goodness.

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Have You Been To Egypt?

The question I’m asked most frequently is, “Have you been to Egypt?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” because that without that trip, I would never have been able to write DEATH ON TOUR.

In point of fact, the tour I took was exactly like the one in the book, minus the murder (whew!) and the good-looking single guy (sigh). Like my main character Jocelyn Shore, I’d always wanted to see Egypt and in March of 2007, I finally got my wish. By that time, I’d traveled quite a bit and had long since progressed beyond guided tours, but for Egypt I wanted the safety, comfort, and convenience (three of my very favorite things) that only a tour could provide. And, unlike Jocelyn, I was fortunate enough to find my fellow travelers to be interesting, kind, and fun.

Egypt was far beyond my wildest expectations. After a grueling flight with a dicey connection through Frankfurt, I arrived tired and wanting to see nothing more than the inside of my hotel room. On the very modern eight lane highway leading from the airport into Cairo, riding behind a very large driver wearing a brown wool houndstooth coat, I suddenly sat up, completely mesmerized. In the right hand lane, a donkey cart plodded doggedly along, completely unfazed by the speeding vehicles. Driver, donkey, cart and all could have been transported back a hundred years or a thousand and would have looked completely at home. I knew right then that contrary to my expectation I was going to find modern day Egypt just as fascinating as the ancient monuments I had come to see.

Our hotel in Cairo was the famous Mena House, the same hotel in which Agatha Christie stayed during her visit to Egypt. (Oh sure, a few other people stayed as well – Winston Churchill, King Farouk of Egypt, President Roosevelt – but Agatha Christie!) We could see the great pyramid from our balcony, we dined in the magnificent Al Rubayat restaurant, and on my way back to my room through the lush but dark gardens where palm trees gently whispered in the breeze and men armed with machine guns guarded the gates, the first whisper of intrigue and mystery crossed my mind. Jocelyn Shore had not yet been born, but the first wisp of shadow that would later become Mohammad the burly WorldPal representative was born of a combination of nerves and a vision of our sweating taxi driver. Jocelyn would come later.

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Mysterious beginnings…the books that made us fans

Part 2 – Nancy Drew

Every mystery fan worth her salt has heard of Nancy Drew.  Most love her, a few think she’s just a little too perfect. I fall into the former category. Nancy Drew was everything I wanted to be as a teenager – beautiful, wealthy, accomplished, kind, and self-reliant.  You could always count on Nancy to do the right thing. It’s sort of the way I feel about Disney World – it’s the way life ought to be (but usually isn’t).

Nancy began her career in 1930, ghostwritten by a number of authors under the pen name Carolyn Keene. The series was revised beginning in 1959 to tone down racist stereotypes. I’m pretty sure I read the revised versions as a kid – for one thing some people think Nancy’s character was softened and made less outspoken in the revisions and I really can’t imagine that she could have been much sweeter than in the books I read. I’d like to get my hands on the originals – I bet they’d be fun.  Since then, a new series featuring an older Nancy was produced, and there have even been a few movies which received mixed reviews. However the coolest incarnation is the Nancy Drew computer game.

In 1998, Her Interactive introduced the first Nancy Drew game Secrets Can Kill and has produced over thirty adventures since then. I bought the first one for my kids the year it came out and quickly found that I loved them just as much as they did.  The games are full of humor, making it so much fun to play Nancy, asking questions, searching for clues, risking it all. Some of the games let you drive a car, some let you explore mansions or castles. All of them let you call your friends for help, which we had to do embarrassingly often. I heartily recommend these fabulous games as a truly fun way to spend time with a child – if you don’t have one, channel your inner youthful self. Nancy is in peril a few times, but there’s no real violence and plenty of puzzles and brain teasers.  And remember, when you get stuck, you can cheat by surfing the many forums…or so I’ve heard.

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Mysterious beginnings…the books that made us fans

Part 1 – Trixie Belden

Trixie Beldon

Trixie Belden

Mystery writers are first and foremost mystery readers. We all owe so much to those who have gone before us – in my case, Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Sue Grafton, and so many more have both inspired and influenced my writing.  But how did we first fall in love with the magnificent mystery? What books (mystery or otherwise) did you love as a kid or a teenager? Lots of fans will cite Nancy Drew, that spunky Titian-haired heroine who always cracked the case and never failed to take the high road.  But for me, even before Nancy, there was Trixie Belden.

For those of you who haven’t been introduced to Trixie, I discovered this 13-year-old amateur sleuth at the library right after my family and I moved to the town of Stanley, Kansas at the end of my sixth grade year. Always a book worm, I became even more so during that first summer away from my old friends. I still remember lying on my stomach on my absolutely fantastic orange shag carpet (which was the height of fashion and the envy of all, I assure you) devouring Trixie Belden books like popcorn.  To my pre-teen mind, barely teen Trixie was the height of everything I wanted to be. She was a tomboy, she was smart, and she wasn’t “girlie.” She also wasn’t perfect. For one thing, she worried about her weight – in one episode her mom even coaxed her into a girdle. (This was obviously one of the books written in the early 1950s – I didn’t even know what a girdle was and once I figured it out, I was a little appalled. I mean, just how chunky was Trixie?) But that didn’t matter – it was just so great to read about someone who wasn’t a beauty queen and who didn’t always do the right thing.

You can tell what I most loved about these books were the characters. Don’t get me wrong, the mysteries were great too –  I mean, who wouldn’t want to search for a fortune in an old mansion or find out why the staff of an Arizona ranch has vanished? But even more important, who wouldn’t want to belong to a secret club with awesome friends and have adventures while still dealing with the problems of daily life? Trixie and the Bob-Whites were exactly what my 11 year old self needed to get through a lonely summer. I eventually bought my own copies of all those books, and how I wish I still had them!  The last one (The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost), was published in 1986 and by that time I had moved onto Nancy Drew and then out of YA books altogether.

These days, the Trixie Belden books are back in print, but I have to admit I haven’t had the nerve to buy one. I’m so afraid that my now adult mind will not be able to relive the magic found by my much younger self. I’m afraid that my brilliant shiny memories will be a little tarnished.

So here’s a question – has anyone here ever gone back and re-read a book they absolutely adored as a kid? What did you think? Is it worth the risk?

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What’s in a name?

Naming a character is always a matter of intense interest for an author. Sometimes it’s a lot of work – I find myself flipping through the phone book or baby name book looking for that perfect first name/last name combination. Sometimes however, a name just appears from nowhere – the perfect name for a perfect (or perfectly bad) character.

When DEATH ON TOUR was almost complete, it occurred to me that I should search the internet to make sure that my characters had unique names. Well, I found out there are no unique names, but at least I could take comfort in knowing that my characters didn’t share a name with a famous person…except one.  The intriguing and mysterious Alan Stratton started out as Alan Stanford.  And imagine my horror when the quick internet search revealed that a certain Allen Stanford was facing charges for massive fraud and running a Ponzi scheme.  NO!!!  The difference in spelling wasn’t enough to save my Alan, and I quickly changed the Stanford to Stratton.  The funny thing is that he’ll always be Alan Stanford to a small part of my brain, and even now I’ll find myself occasionally uncertain about which name is correct.

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