What scares you?

My husband and son and I recently invited another couple and their daughter over to watch the Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) movie. We discussed with them all of the scariest moments of the film—when the ghosts pop out unexpectedly, some serious treatments of death, even the more vulgar gestures that might be too adult. We thought we’d done a great job of preparing them.

And then we got to the mannequin scene.

“Oh no,” our friend groaned. “Ainsley is terrified of mannequins.”

None of us had any particular fear of mannequins. It didn’t even occur to us to warn them about that. We got through the scene unharmed, and enjoyed the rest of the movie, but it got me thinking about how personal and ingrained our terrors are. Like our fingerprints, our fears are truly unique. And they can define us.

Because fear, like humor, is a very distinct and unique emotion, I wanted to discover more about the different ways it affects us. I guess I just find it really interesting to know what scares people.

For that reason, I’ve decided to start a blog series exploring this very thing. Horror. Anxiety. Night terrors. Monsters. You get the idea.

Twice a month—on the 13th (because…well, you know) and on the last day of the month—I’ll interview someone about their greatest fears. Most of the time, these will be writers (because I have a lot of writer friends), but you don’t have to be a writer to participate. If you’re really into exploring what’s spooky, then shoot me an email on my contact form for consideration.

Look for the first in the series — featuring Paul Tremblay!—starting October 13, 2019!

Win a debut mystery/thriller book bundle!

Friends of mine who love a good book bundle giveaway: I’m partnering with several kick-ass 2019 debut authors to give away copies of our new books to one lucky entrant.

The books included are:

SOPHIE LAST SEEN by Marlene Adelstein

PAST PRESENCE by Nicole Bross

LITTLE LOVELY THINGS by Maureen Joyce Connolly

ONE NIGHT GONE by Tara Laskowski (That’s me!)

COME AND GET ME: A Caitlin Bergman Novel by August Norman

HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER by Daniela Petrova

The contest runs from May 25 through June 15, 2019. To enter, just fill out the form here at this link. Entering gives you a chance to win all six titles, plus you’ll be subscribed to our author mailing lists*, which will give you more scoop on our books and other giveaways and news.

Enter to win all these lovely books!

*You can unsubscribe at any time. Please see the full contest rules for more details.

My first Malice—A recap.

This past weekend I attended my first Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland. I’d been to the Agatha Award banquet dinners in the past — cheering on my husband Art Taylor as a nominee (and four-time winner!) of the Agatha, but this was my first time attending the full conference.

I’ve heard often from regular attendees that Malice is a family, but I never truly understood what they meant by that until this weekend. So many wonderful people have been so kind to me in small and big ways, and that generosity is so amazing. Like all families, there are, of course, some moments of disagreements or bickering, but overall, Malice has always felt very warm and welcoming, and as a debut writer, I’ve never appreciated that more.

Art and I brought our son Dash with us, and while he wasn’t the only child there, he was certainly in the minority, and yet everyone eagerly accepted him into the fold. We had a babysitter (THANK YOU, AVERY!) watching over him, but at times it felt as though we had hundreds of people watching over him. And us, too! During one panel, Art got a text message from someone saying, “I have your name badge!” Turns out Art had lost the name tag in his badge without even realizing it, but he had it back, safe and sound, before the panel was even over.

That’s family.

This year was also my first Agatha nomination — for Best Short Story — so both that was both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking, I’ll admit. And yet, once I got into the swing of things and started to feel that warmth, I realized that no matter what, everything was going to be just fine.

The weekend was a whirlwind, as all good conferences are, but here are some highlights:

  • My first Malice panel on short stories, with fellow nominees Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, Barb Goffman and my husband Art Taylor, moderated by the wonderful Michael Bracken. I got to talk a bit about Dash entering his first writing contest (which embarrassed and excited him, apparently).
Short story panel!
  • Lunch with my Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine editor Linda Landrigan. It was so great to catch up with her. Later in the weekend, I also got to record an audio reading of my very first AHMM publication, “The Monitor,” which I’ll link to here when it goes live!
  • Talking with new friends and old. I’m sure I’ll forget someone, so I don’t want to even attempt to name names, but I love love love you all!
  • Author signing on Saturday morning, where I got to sign the very first copies of the advance readers of One Night Gone!!
So happy to be signing my first novel!
  • The Agatha banquet! Although I spent the majority of it super nervous, it was truly an honor and a delight to find out I was tied with Leslie Budewitz as a winner of the Agatha for Best Short Story! What an amazing experience! I have my own teapot now! Also, massive congratulations to all the winners this year: Ellen Byron, Sujata Massey, Dianne Freeman, Shari Randall, Cindy Callaghan, and Jane Cleland!

Now it’s back to (boring) reality again. But, can’t wait for next year!

A mysterious kind of week

This week has and continues to be a whirlwind! Last Thursday, we traveled up to New York City for the Edgar Awards. We spent some time at the Dell Magazines cocktail party, where my friend Stacy Woodson was honored with the Readers Choice Award for her story “Duty, Honor, Hammett” in the Nov./Dec. 2018 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, along with other friends Josh Pachter and David Dean rounding out second and third place.

2018 Readers Choice Award winners for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
From left, David Dean, Janet Hutchings, Stacy Woodson, and Josh Pachter.

Later that night, I got to see my fabulous husband take home an Edgar for Best Short Story!

Art Taylor! And Mr. Poe!

If that wasn’t enough mingling for this introvert, I’m now looking ahead to this coming weekend and the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, MD. I’ll be on a panel at 2 p.m. on Friday, 5/3, with the other Agatha Award nominees for Best Short Story–Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. You can read all our stories here if you want to check them out!

I’ll also be doing an author signing from 10-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, 5/4, and I’m told there will be galleys of One Night Gone out in the wilds of the conference (or stuffed into registration bags), so if you happen to snag one, come see me so I can practice signing my novel. AHHHHHH!!!!

Cover RE-REVEAL: One Night Gone

Surprise! Just when you thought I had a cover….I have a new cover.

The smart, lovely team at Graydon House/Harlequin decided that my original cover didn’t quite speak enough to the suspense/thriller genre that my book really fits in. So they gave it a facelift! And a beautiful one at that.

For those of you who were fans of the creepy house in the original–good news! It’s still there. But we’ve shifted focus slightly to the stormy night sky instead of the sandy beach, giving the overall look one with more menace and intrigue. Check it out!

Same house, added creepiness!

Story Sprint—Writing a Story in 20 Minutes

Everyone has a reality show these days—housewives, house hunters, doctors, singers, sword-swallowers. I’ve always thought it would be the most boring show in the world to watch writers write.

And yet, about 60 people showed up last week in Old Fairfax Town Hall to do just that—watch writers write. Well, to be fair, we went into a different room to do the actual writing, but the purpose of the evening was to see what three writers could do with the same first line and same last line and twenty minutes in between to craft a story.

I was pleased to be one of the three writers, along with Zach Powers and Colleen Kearney Rich. I will admit—I was terrified leading up to this event. I’m generally a fast writer, but writing under pressure? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with something—anything—coherent.

Luckily, the audience was great, and the lines they chose were just interesting enough to be interesting, but not so crazy weird that we couldn’t come up with anything. Here were our first and last lines:

Grandma’s cookbook is worn and torn, a living record of splotches, comments and comfort.

When the plane lands eight hours later in Rome, the airport is completely deserted.

My first thought—zombies. So I went with it. I am actually proud of the story I came up with, though I’m not going to share it here since I want to work with it some more and maybe, at some point, submit it. But we’ll say that it was not so bad that I was embarrassed to read it aloud, so I consider that a win.

In fact, I was impressed with all three of the stories—all different in tone and plot despite having the same starting and ending point. It was fascinating to hear them all and see the audience response.

A really great event overall. Thanks so much to Fall for the Book, George Mason University, and the City of Fairfax for hosting us. I had a blast!

Photos by George Bradshaw

“The Case of the Vanishing Professor” named an Agatha Award finalist!


It’s been a wonderful writing week. I turned in my final book edits for ONE NIGHT GONE on Sunday…and then found out that my story “The Case of the Vanishing Professor,” which was published last year in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, was named a finalist in the Best Short Story Award for the Agathas!

I first started writing the story about 12 years ago, when I got the idea of writing about a woman named Nancy Drew who really hated being named Nancy Drew. For a long time, though, I couldn’t decide what her story would be beyond that—so I kept writing a bit, then putting it away for a long time, then bringing it back out again. Finally, it came together when I put Nancy at a cheesy murder mystery dinner. It soon becomes clear that other suspicious things are going on besides the story on stage—and Nancy, like it or not, gets sucked into solving the mystery.

Read the full story below. You can use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the story. You can also download the file to print and read offline. Presented with permission of the publisher.

Laskowski_Case_of_the_Vanishing_Professor

And, as if getting the nomination wasn’t enough, I’m also thrilled to be sharing the honor with my husband, Art Taylor, who is also a finalist with his short story, “English 398: Fiction Workshop.” And we are both thrilled to share the slate with the fine writers Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, and Barb Goffman.

Thank you so much to Linda Landrigan and all the wonderful folks at Dell Magazines.

Let the partying begin—we’ll be celebrating this victory up until the Agatha banquet dinner at Malice Domestic in May. Whee!

Check out the full list of nominees here. Congratulations to all!

#365DaysOfCarl — Win a 2019 Wall Calendar!

Sometimes we need a little silly in our lives.

On New Year’s Day 2018, my son Dash and I had an inspiration. Dash had gotten a LEGO minifigure for Christmas that came with a little passport showing a few of the figure’s “travels” and adventures. We decided we were going to give this minifigure an adventure each day of the year. Dash named him Carl—and thus, #365DaysOfCarl began.

I’ve been posting a new image of Carl every day this year on Instagram (Follow me @beanglish or #365DaysofCarl)!

Dash sort of lost interest in this project fairly quickly, I’ll admit, but I found it kind of fascinating and fun. At times, it was more about the challenge of finding something cool or fun or different for Carl to do, about looking at all the stuff in our house in a very different way. At other times, the project was a fun release from the stress and anxiety in life–one creative burst to focus on and share. And when those anxieties and stresses got very overwhelming, sometimes #365DaysOfCarl got to feel like a burden–but I persisted. I’m a completist at heart, so I knew once I got past Month 1, I was going to see this through.

Good question!

Now here we are in December, and I’m on the final stretch. Carl’s become a regular figure in our household at this point. I carry him and his friends and a few props around with me in my purse. He’s gone with me to Texas, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania. He cheered the Philadelphia Eagles on to a Super Bowl victory. He’s nearly died a few times from getting into precarious positions. He’s found love, broken up, and found love again. I think I’ll miss him when this project is over. It’s certainly been an adventurous, ridiculous year.

To celebrate #365DaysOfCarl, I’m giving away a 2019 wall calendar of some of Carl’s adventures to one lucky person who signs up for my author newsletter before December 19, 2018. You can sign up here for the newsletter, which I send out a few times a year to announce fun book news (such as my upcoming thriller One Night Gone!), other giveaways, events, reading recommendations, and more.

If nothing else, Carl is a reminder to not take ourselves—or life—too seriously. Remember that as we plunge headfirst into the wilds of 2019. And happy holidays, everyone.

Carl, navigating the great Puddles of My Driveway.

 

My debut novel ONE NIGHT GONE to be released in Fall 2019!

I’m thrilled to announce that my debut novel, a suspense/thriller titled One Night Gone, will be published in Fall 2019 by Graydon House Books.

Here’s a little bit about it:

One sultry summer in the 1980s, a teenage girl arrived in the wealthy vacation town of Opal Beach to start her life anewto achieve her destiny. But before the summer was up, she vanished.

Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach, it seems like the perfect chance to regroup and start fresh after a messy divorce. It’s the off-season, after all, which means peace and quiet, and more importantly for Allison, safety.

But when Allison becomes drawn into the story of a girl who disappeared from town thirty years before, she begins to realize that Opal Beach isn’t as idyllic as it seems. Beyond the walls of the gorgeous homes hide dark secrets. And as Allison digs deeper into the mystery, she uncovers not only the shocking truth, but finds herself caught in the middle of a twisted plot.

Part electric coming-of-age story and part breathtaking mystery, One Night Gone is an atmospheric, suspenseful novel about power, privilege, and ultimately, sisterhood.

I’m excited to be working with the editorial team at Harlequin/HarperCollins on this book, especially my excellent editor Melanie Fried. Thanks most of all to my wonderful agent Michelle Richter and the team at FUSE Literary for believing in this book and finding what I believe is the best home for it!

Stay tuned for more details as the year progresses, and consider signing up for my (very, very occasional) newsletter for any giveaways, readings and other events, as well as random ramblings.

Ok, now for the freak-out: EEEEEEEEEEKKKKK!!!

(Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash)