Welcome Agatha Award Best First Novel Nominees — Superstitions

Agatha Award Nominees for Best First Novel talk about Superstition

Welcome to the Agatha Award Nominees for Best First Novel. Julie, Liz, and I were all nominated in that category and know what an exciting and nerve racking time this is. The Agatha Awards are voted on by the attendees of the fabulous Malice Domestic conference for fans of traditional mysteries. I love that since it is Friday the 13th you decided to talk about superstitions!

Micki Browning, author of Adrift: A Mer Cavallo Mystery

Superstition and I parted ways the day I discovered that stepping on a crack would not, in fact, break my mother’s back. Yet, I find superstitions fascinating. Mer, my protagonist in Adrift, is a woman of science. To her, superstition is nonsense, yet her grandmother had given her a pendant when she was a child, and before every rescue she touches it. To an observer, it appears she does it for luck. She would argue she touches it for comfort. But isn’t that what superstitious responses are designed to do? They impart a sense of comfort when events are otherwise out of our control. Maybe we should all knock on wood that it works.

V.M. Burns, author of The Plot is Murder: Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series     

I don’t consider myself superstitious. I don’t avoid black cats and I don’t walk under ladders because…well, dangerous. However, superstitions also involve rituals, like wearing lucky socks to sporting event. In that regard, I have a writing ritual. Similar to my protagonist in THE PLOT IS MURDER, Samantha Washington, for many years, I wrote in secret. Only a handful of trusted friends and family knew my heart’s desire was to be a published writer. Even after two manuscripts, I didn’t announce to the world that I was a writer. A stack of rejections and a huge pile of self-doubt convinced me I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer. However, after learning one of my favorite writers was an adjunct professor at Seton Hill University. I enrolled and got my MFA. That helped to boost my confidence enough to declare to the world (and the IRS) that I am a writer. To maintain the feeling whenever I sit down to write, I almost always wear my Seton Hill T-shirt, Sweatshirt or baseball cap to remind myself that I am, indeed a writer.

Kellye Garrett, author of Hollywood Homicide, a Detective by Day Mystery

For me, superstition is a Stevie Wonder song. I don’t have them! I am not afraid of black cats. (I am allergic though.) I don’t freak out on Friday the 13th. (Mainly because I usually forget what day it is.) If I see a penny, I’m not picking it up. (Now if it was a twenty dollar bill…) Like I said, I don’t have superstitions. I do, however, have preferences. For instance, I prefer to not open an umbrella inside. Not because I’m superstitious but because it usually doesn’t rain indoors. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) I also prefer to knock on wood. I don’t encounter a lot of ladders but if I did, I definitely won’t be walking under them. Mainly because I can’t fit.

Laura Oles, author of Daughters of Bad Men

Superstitious? Me? I might be a little skittish, but I come by it honestly.

My father, who passed away a few years ago, was a huge baseball fan. Like– reschedule chemotherapy because it conflicts with spring training– huge. As is the case with many passionate fans, he had his own rituals, and if he went to the kitchen to get something and his team scored, guess who was going to the kitchen every inning for the remainder of the game?

I like to err on the side of luck and don’t see any reason to stack the deck, so I won’t walk under a ladder without a REALLY GOOD REASON. Black cats don’t scare me, although a broken mirror might give me pause. Maybe I’m selective with my superstitions, and I realize that it’s all in my head, but why take the chance?

The Indians are down by two, so I’m going to the kitchen. Need anything while I’m there?

Kathleen Valenti, author of Protocol: A Maggie O’Malley Mystery

I’ve never been one for superstitions. Spill some salt? Clean it up. Open an umbrella inside? Why not? Walk under a ladder? Don’t mind if I do. Ritual, on the other hand, is another story.

In the early days of writing Protocol, I created a rite for writing: wearing headphones. Not headphones to listen to music or tune into podcasts. Just…headphones. Donning those glorified earmuffs helped me shut out the outside world and concentrate on the universe of my characters. It also helped me listen to my own voice, something I tend to lose since I write in my clients’ voices on the daily as an advertising copywriter.

Strange? Uh huh. Alarming? Definitely for anyone who witnessed me wearing headphones with the cord plugged into nothing. But it seemed to work when I needed it.

Now I find myself leaning less on ritual and instead trusting that I’ll find my voice and remember that the path to The End is paved with hard work, relentless reading, copious amounts of caffeine and the friendship of other authors, like my fellow Agatha nominees. But I’m keeping the headphones handy, just in case.


A retired police captain, Micki Browning writes the Mer Cavallo Mystery series set in the Florida Keys. In addition to the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel, Adrift, has won both the Daphne du Maurier and the Royal Palm Literary Awards. Beached, her second novel, launched January 2018. Micki’s work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines, and textbooks. She lives in South Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.” Learn more about Micki at MickiBrowning.com.

V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Receiving the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel has been a dream come true. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com.

Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life; Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, was recently nominated for Agatha, Lefty and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, will be released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the TV drama Cold Case. The New Jersey native now works for a leading media company in New York City and serves on the national Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime. You can learn more about her at KellyeGarrett.com and ChicksontheCase.com.

Laura Oles is a photo industry journalist who spent twenty years covering tech and trends before turning to crime fiction. She served as a columnist for numerous photography magazines and publications. Laura’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including MURDER ON WHEELS, which won the Silver Falchion Award in 2016. Her debut mystery, DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN, is a Claymore Award Finalist and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is also a Writers’ League of Texas Award Finalist. Laura is a member of Austin Mystery Writers, Sisters in Crime and Writers’ League of Texas. Laura lives on the edge of the Texas Hill Country with her husband, daughter and twin sons. Visit her online at lauraoles.com.

Kathleen Valenti is the author of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. The series’ first book, Agatha- and Lefty-nominated Protocol, introduces us to Maggie, a pharmaceutical researcher with a new job, a used phone and a deadly problem. The series’ second book, 39 Winks, releases May 22. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running. Learn more at www.kathleenvalenti.com.

Readers: Are you superstitious? Do you have a superstition that you can’t get over?


52 Thoughts

  1. Welcome, talented ladies! Goodness, I have a lot of books to catch up on. I still avoid cracks in the sidewalk even though my mother passed away six years ago yesterday, and I knock on wood if I ever predict something positive coming to pass. As what Laura said, “Maybe I’m selective with my superstitions, and I realize that it’s all in my head, but why take the chance?” Best of luck to you all, and I look forward to meeting you in North Bethesda!

    1. Thank you so much for hosting us on Wicked Cozy Authors! I think Laura nailed it. I suspect we are all selective in our choices, and even if it doesn’t help, it can’t hurt!

      1. V.M. I look forward to meeting you at Malice. I will be at Edith’s table for the awards banquet. Bring your earplugs because when your name is announced as the winner, I will jump and cheer so loud, everyone will hear me. Good luck. I have my fingers and toes crossed.

    1. I’m not sure that’s a superstition, but if the laundry doesn’t work, try washing your car. It never seems to fail! (And I’m convinced there is no better scent in the world than line-dried sheets!)

    2. I don’t know if it counts as a superstition, or making Murphy’s Law work on your behalf. Regardless of what you call it, the results are usually the same.

    3. It’s like the law of attraction in reverse! (And I agree with Micki; if all else fails, wash your car. 🙂 )

      Kathleen (aka Kathy)

  2. While I try not to be superstitious, like Edith, I avoid doing all those things — walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, etc. — that are superstitions. My daughter brought home the saying, “knock on air it’s always there.” So if no wood is available I say that.

  3. Enjoyed this post so much. Congrats to all of you worthy nominees! As a kid, I unexpectedly won a big skating competition on Friday the 13th (another skater’s bad luck?) so I embrace most garden-variety superstitions. I adopted a black cat when the rescue people said they were harder to place. And I don’t spend those lucky pennies I pick up.

    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! Curious to see what this day holds. (And I’ll keep an eye out for those lucky pennies.)

      Kathleen (aka Kathy)

  4. I pick up pennies, but my story is that I don’t want it littering the ground. That sounds plausible…right?? 🙂

  5. I’m not scared of Friday the 13th or the number 13th in general. However, I did break my hand on my 13th birthday and my Mom did have a ruptured brain aneurysm on a Friday the 13th. So guess you could say I’m a bit cautious on Friday the 13th. Although it may be a superstition to pick up a penny, I pick them up because I’m cheap. Hey pennies add up to quarters and quarters add up to dollars. 🙂 Had a friend that had so many rules on superstitions and how to block their bad voodoo and to me it’s just too much work to keep up with all that on a regular basis.

    1. Oh Kay! You have every right to be leery on the 13th. I’m so sorry. As for the pennies, I’m with you. Those little copper disks add up!

  6. Welcome, ladies!

    I relate to those of you with sports “rituals.” I was a sportswriter in college and have watched sports for years. Turn on the TV and the opposing team scores? Turn it off, quick!

    1. My boss is a sports fanatic and would wear the same socks during his team’s winning streak in order to keep a good thing going. He’d agree with you!

      Kathleen (aka Kathy)

    2. Yep. I can make that sacrifice of not watching, if it will help my team win. Being able to record the game makes life easier. At least I’ve done my part.

  7. I don’t know that I’m exactly superstitious, but Mom was teasing me one time about “step on a crack.” That was the first time I even heard it, and I didn’t step on another crack for years just so she wouldn’t say anything to me about it. I’m allergic to cats, so all cats are bad luck for me, not just black ones. 🙂

    1. I’m with you on the cats! I love them, but within minutes I’m ready to tear my eyes out.

      Very sweet about not stepping on a crack. I have to admit, I do think about that when I see one. 🙂

      Kathleen (aka Kathy)

    2. I remember hearing that “step on a crack” rhyme when I was young. I remember thinking it seemed a bit far fetched at the time. Nevertheless, better safe than sorry. I too avoided them.

  8. I think my superstitions are all inherited New England ones. For instance I never put shoes on the table. Bad luck. (means a hangin’ in the family! I guess becaus the shoes are up off the ground). If you give someone a gift of a sharp pointed object (scissors, knives, etc) they have to give you a penny to “buy” it because the sharp thing as a gift can cut the friendship. Then theres the toss a pinch of salt over your shoulder and I don’t even remember what that one was for. I have no fear of the 13th or black cats or ladders or any of the usual ones.

    1. Thanks for sharing those, Carol! They’re new to me. (I’m an Oregonian.) I think Shoes on the Table could make for a great mystery title!

      Kathleen (aka Kathy)

    2. I didn’t know superstitions were regional. I’m from the Midwest but now live in Eastern Tennessee, and I’d never heard about not putting shoes on a table. Very interesting.

  9. It’s been fun “following” you ladies around the Internet in recent weeks! Looks like my tax refund will be spent on books!

    I’m not the least bit superstitious, probably because my mom laughed at all superstitions when we were kids. Like my mom, I find them to be amusing. If there’s room, I’ll walk under ladders. It’s a better alternative than walking out into the street! I’m allergic to cats so I try to avoid them. I know someone who knocks on wood so often that I’m surprised her knuckles aren’t permanently bruised!

    1. Thanks so much, Deb! It’s been such a pleasure to do this tour and hang out with you all. 🙂

      LOL at the bruised knuckles!

      Kathleen (aka Kathy)

    2. It’s great that you never got started with superstitions. It’s so easy to ignore them when they haven’t been ingrained over time. Thanks for following us through our Blog Hop. It’s been fun.

  10. I don’t think of myself as superstitious, although I try to avoid ladders at all costs simply because they never look sturdy enough for my tastes. I go out of my way to pet cats though, black or otherwise!

    1. Marla, I understand how you feel about ladders. I have a healthy respect for them, but I’m not so sure they can hold up under weight. I go out of my way to pet dogs, but I don’t avoid cats.

  11. Thank you so much for having us! On the picking up pennies– I was once told that a penny is a sign of prosperity and good things to follow, so I pick them up whenever I see them. And I’m cheap, too, so there’s that. I do knock wood, and I can always make it rain by washing my car!

  12. When I was little I don’t remember anything about shoes on the table but later my mom said it. The only thing I can figure is that we didn’t carry the shoes when we were little so never put them on the table.

    I knock on wood but don’t pay too much attention to the other superstitions. I pick up pennies because they are still money.

  13. What a fun post and a wonderful way to meet more of our favorite authors. I am not superstitious, but I do use the word “writer” in each of my varied passwords. SHHH! I won’t tell, even though I am a sharing Guppy and proud of that fact! See you all at Malice with a great list of authors!

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