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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Signing in St. Louis

I had the best time in St. Louis. I did a signing at my friend Mary Pillsbury's store in LaChateau across from Frontenac Plaza. Her store is totally elegant, and her jewelry is just divine.

Mary's store is mentioned on page 335 of Make, Take, Murder
Isn't Mary's store beautiful? So elegant.

That same night I went to Pudd'nhead Books in Webster Groves, where I met with my friends and longtime fans: Stephanie, Christine, Candy and Linda. They have been coming to see me at Pudd'nhead for the past three years. How phenomenal is that? I really appreciate them taking the time to visit with me. Stephanie has already read Make, Take, Murder twice!

Left to right: Stephanie Koenig, Christine Schuetz, me, Candy Brown, and Linda Burmeister.

And the surprise of the evening was two new fans, Jeannie and Mary. It was fun to meet them, and I enjoyed getting to know them. Later, I went out for dinner with my good friend Karen DG. She's been a great help with my books, as she's a super editor. Very precise. We got caught up despite the fact that the restaurant we chose had a REALLY, REALLY loud band.

Okay, I look weird, but it was the end of a long day! I'm with Jeannie Boettcher and Mary Shasserre

The next day, I signed at Dream House and Tea Room. We had sold so many books at Mary's and at Pudd'nhead that we had to take orders from the women who came to hear me. Judy Macher owns the Dream House and Tea Room along with her partner Tracy. I have many fond memories of the place as my mother and I used to go there for lunch.

After my signing, I met with my dear friend Dana C. We walked around the Chesterfield Mall to get our exercise. Dana used to be my Jazzercise instructor, so we always try to include a bit of sweat in our meetings. Okay, I was sweaty and she glowed! Then she helped me plot Book #6 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. I value Dana's opinion. She's a friend and a fan, so she told me what she wanted to have happen--and that matters. Sometimes we authors get too cute for our own good.

Tomorrow I go to O'Fallon, Illinois, to visit my friend Ann Farnen at Scrapbook Factory.

Does it count as a book tour if you mainly visit with old friends? I hope so. Because to me, that's the best part!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Answers? I've Got a Few

QUESTION: When will Make, Take, Murder be available on Kindle or Nook?

ANSWER: I have no idea. See, my publisher converts the files to a format that e-publisher can use. Then it's up to the e-publishers (Amazon or Barnes & Noble) to post the books. (Feel free to bug Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And tell me what you find out, okay?)


QUESTION: Will Make, Take, Murder be available in large print?

ANSWER: I have no idea. So far, Wheeler Publishing has purchased large print rights to the other books in the series. You can contact them at Thorndike Press.


QUESTION: What's the next book in the series and when will it be out?

ANSWER: I don't know. I used a working title of Ink, Red, Dead, but that's been changed. The publication date will be April, 2012. I have turned the book in.


QUESTION: Will there be more books in the series after the book formerly known as Ink, Red, Dead?

ANSWER: I don't know. My editor has said she wants another book. My agent is planning on talking to my editor. I've written three chapters of a 6th book.


QUESTION: Is it true you are writing another series? What's it about?

ANSWER: I've been blessed to sell a new series featuring Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth. The first in that series will be out Spring or Summer 2012. The publisher is Berkley, and part of the title will be The Jane Eyre Chronicles.


QUESTION: Joanna, how can you know so little?

ANSWER: I'm a mom. We work on a need to know basis. Seriously, authors have control over the universe they create, not over the details of the publishing world. I really do adore both my publishers. Obviously they have superlative taste! So when I get more concrete info, I'll pass it along. One nice tidbit of news...while I was at Malice Domestic my agent was contacted about foreign rights to The Jane Eyre Chronicles. That's a very good sign indeed!


QUESTION: Where do you live these days?

ANSWER: I divide my time between Washington, DC, and Jupiter Island, Florida. If you become my friend on Facebook, you'll see that I often post photos from both places.


QUESTION: How can I get an autographed copy of Make, Take, Murder?

ANSWER: There are lots of ways. 1.) Call Mystery Lovers Bookshop at (412) 828-4877. They have copies. 2.) Call ScrapbooksPlus! at
(703) 263-9503 3.) Email me at and put BOOKPLATE in your subject line. Then tell me how you want me to personalize a bookplate, share your postal address with me, and I'll pop a bookplate in the mail to you. (A bookplate is a fancy sticker.) 4.) Come to one of my signings. I try to post them at

He Beat Her Regularly--and No One Said a Word

Some stories stick with you a long, long time. Twenty years ago, a friend named Rob recounted a horrifying scene that he had witnessed at a local country club. Rob was seated where he could observe a group of members who had been drinking heavily. One of them, a prominent local man, grabbed his wife by the crotch and announced to everyone, “See this? I bought and paid for it. None of you can afford it!”

Rob later learned that this man regularly beat his wife, but the local doctors “owed” him, so they patched her up and sent her home. All the best local attorneys were in his debt as well, so there was nowhere for this woman to turn.

I knew of this man and his wife. After all, they were regulars on the society pages. I’d seen the woman around town and I often admired her beautiful clothes and jewelry. Now I winced to think of the shame and pain that she lived with daily.

In Make, Take, Murder, I called this abused woman Cindy Gambrowski. In the first scene of the book, my protagonist Kiki Lowenstein is Dumpster-diving for her lost paycheck when she reaches into a pile of trash and pulls up Cindy’s severed leg. (And yes, Gambrowski is a bit of a pun, since “gam” is slang for an especially attractive female leg.)

To write accurately about Cindy’s life, I consulted with an expert on domestic violence. I also talked to a judge and an attorney to get the legalities right.

I tried to put myself in Cindy’s place. To the outside world, she has everything. But she’s living in a cruel cage, and her jailer is her husband. Knowing that abusers don’t stop, I wondered, “What might a woman risk to be free?”

Readers will quickly learn that Cindy isn’t the only abused woman in the book. Again, my domestic violence expert filled me in on what happens when a woman with kids tries to escape her persecutor. My expert also explained to me one of the common ways that an abuser often tracks down his family. I also learned about some of the psychological baggage that later marks the psyche of an abused woman.

Even though I outline, there are often surprises along the way. In this book, I decided to create WAR, the Women’s Above-ground Railroad, a fictitious organization that would assist women who needed to escape from abusers. My imagination conjured up a dedicated and secretive group of women who would help their frightened sisters adopt new identities in new towns.

Wow, was I ever shocked when my domestic abuse expert told me that such an organization really does exist!

When I finished the book, I felt so passionate about the cause that I donated a portion of my advance to Lydia’s House, which provides transitional housing for abused women and their children in the St. Louis area. I also included information about abuse in my acknowledgement section. It’s my hope that one of my readers might recognize the signs of an abusive relationship early enough that she can escape the sort of torture that Cindy Gambrowski endured.

Note: The "official" release date for Make, Take, Murder is May 8, but most bookstores already have their copies in stock. But before you visit, call and ask if they have their copies of Make, Take, Murder. Also...whenever possible, please put your money where your house is and buy locally.