Mystery Fan Conferences: Attend at Your Own Risk — Welcome Guest Grace Topping

The winner of Staging is Murder is Autumn Trapani! Watch for an email from Grace!

It’s always exciting when a friend has a new book coming out and it’s even more exciting when it’s the first in a new series. I’m so happy for Grace Topping and Staging is Murder will delight fans of cozy mysteries! Grace is going to giveaway a print or ebook copy of Staging is Murder (US and Canada only) to someone who leaves a comment.

Grace: Several years ago, a friend invited me to go with her to Malice Domestic. She didn’t want to go alone. I was sympathetic, but I had never heard of Malice Domestic. When she explained it was three-day conference for fans of traditional mysteries being held in nearby Arlington, Virginia, it piqued my interest. When she said there would be famous authors there and named some of them, I couldn’t sign up fast enough.

The weekend was enjoyable, and I encourage mystery fans to go. But be warned: if you attend, it could change your life—it changed mine.

For fans of traditional mysteries, going to Malice Domestic is like being a movie fan who gets to attend the Academy Awards. There I was, simple Grace Topping, writer of very exciting computer user manuals, rubbing elbows with famous, and some not so famous, mystery writers. How could it get any better than that?

But it kept getting better. One afternoon, Katherine Neville, holding a hotel map, stopped and asked me for directions to a meeting room. As we walked there together, and I gushed about how much I’d enjoyed “The Eight,” she confided in me that she hadn’t told many people, but she was writing a sequel to her best-selling book. Later, when I got to tell Edward Marston, who had come in from England, how much pleasure his books had given me, I felt like I’d died and gone to mystery lovers’ heaven.

Throughout the weekend, I got to hear authors talk about how they got started, the challenges they faced, what inspired them, what kept them going, what books they had coming out. What surprised me was how they looked and acted like ordinary people. People like me. Never in my life had I thought about writing a mystery, but it made me think that if they could do it, perhaps so could I. The seed was planted.

It took a few years, but those seeds germinated and began to grow. I faced periods of drought and miserable growing conditions and often wondered whether I would make it. But this May 3rd, I’ll emerge at Malice Domestic—a fully grown published author.

Readers: What inspired you to write? Or have you met a favorite author?


Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19th century mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, removing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties. To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure. Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.

Bio: Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. The first book in her series, Staging is Murder, is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. Grace is the current vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.


65 Thoughts

  1. Grace, so happy to have you here as an author! I had no idea that was your origin story (I’m also a recovering tech writer – we should swap stories sometime). I’m delighted you have a debut mystery and am off to order my copy right now.

    In a similar story, I met a woman on a cross-country Greyhound bus ride decades ago. She looked just like me and said she was in a PhD program. She just seemed so…ordinary. Normal. I thought, well, if she can do it, I can too. And I did! So funny how one small thing can make us view ourselves differently.

    1. Thank you, Edith, for you good wishes. When I look back on my life at the number of times a chance meeting changed my life, I’m amazed.

      There are quite a few former technical writers who are writing mysteries. The job can be very challenging with computer systems continually changing–with no one giving any thought to the technical writers at the end of the line whose time allotted for the change is miniscule. It’s no wonder our thoughts frequently turned to murder.

      1. Thanks, Barb. So you know how easily one’s thoughts can turn to murder–especially when you spend a weekend working overtime to complete a project only to find someone made a change. Grrr.

        It was your review of my first 30 pages at Crime Bake that helped a lot. Thank you.

  2. I would absolutely love to receive a free copy of your new book Staging is Murder!! It sounds exciting.

  3. Not only is Grace an amazing writer with a way of looking at life that makes me laugh, but she is also a generous supporter of other writers–me, included! She and I did a manuscript swap, so I had the privilege of reading Staging is Murder in advance. I can’t wait for the pub date (I preordered, of course)!

    1. Thank you, Connie. The mystery writing community is amazingly supportive, and I wouldn’t have made it this far if it hadn’t been for the help and guidance from other writers like you. I’m absolutely delighted to have my book launch the same month as your book.

      P. S. Connie Berry’s book, A DREAM OF DEATH, came out April 9. It’s wonderful.

  4. Love cozy mysteries and am always looking for new authors. I love the cover and the book sounds like a lot of fun! I am looking forward to reading it.

    1. Thank you, Jane. Isn’t that cover great? I love it, too. Kendel Lynn, head of Henery Press, designed it herself.

  5. Thank you, Sherry, and all of the Wickeds, for having me here today. I’ve followed your careers for a number of years and your journeys helped inspire me to keep rewriting.

  6. I got to attend Bouchercon for the first time last year, so I know just how you feel! So many wonderful authors that I had only admired from afar until then. And in person they are the nicest, most supportive group. Congrats on your new book!

    1. Thanks, Marla. The support I received from other writers has been amazing.

  7. I look forward to reading your book. Thanks too, for sharing your story. For those of us who aspiring writers, it’s an inspiration. Thank you for the giveaway as well.

    1. I could be the poster child for not giving up. Every time I learned something new, I renumbered my version and made changes. I stopped counting at version 38. I was too stubborn to give up. Keep writing.

  8. Congratulations on the upcoming release of Staging is Murder — I cannot wait to read it! I would love to go to Malice or Boucheron or LCC and meet many of my favorite authors and learn from them. I would love to meet Louise Penny ~

    1. Thank you, Celia. I’ve been going to Malice for years. It kept inspiring me to keep going. This fall I will be attending my first Bouchercon. I’ve heard Louise Penny speak several times at Malice. She is one of the most gracious and lovely individuals you will ever meet. Come to Malice one year and meet her.

  9. Hello, Grace! What a wonderful story about how Malice domestic changed your life. I will be attending with a friend for the first time this year, so I expect to meet a lot of favorite authors. After reading your post, I’m even more excited to attend. Congratulations on your new booK!

    1. Thank you, Autumn. You will love Malice! If you aren’t already a mystery writer, you may leave wanting to be one. If so, go with it. It worked for me.

  10. You know how happy I am for you, Grace! I have met many of my favorite authors. At Bouchercon last fall I went all fan girl on Julia Spencer-Fleming.

  11. I am anxious to read you book. We had our house staged last year and by the end I was ready to commit murder. The house sold and everyone was safe in the long run.

    1. Glad to hear that your house sold, Julie, even if the effort nearly drove you to murder. It is hard having the home you worked so hard to make yours changed by a home stager to appeal to others.

  12. Love the cover and can’t wait to read it! As someone who has always thought that writing a book would be wonderful, you still have to have talent to go along with the hard work, and that’s something that I don’t have! I admire you taking the chance and fulfilling a dream.

    1. Thank you, Kitty. As a technical writer, I had the ability to write clearly, but writing fiction is something else entirely. I had a lot to learn. I started by taking an online course through my local community college on mystery writing, read every book I could find in my library, attended conferences, joined writing groups like Sisters in Crime. So talent plays a small part in it. With a little assistance, you might discover that you have more talent than you realize.

  13. I met two of my all time favorite mystery writers at Malice Domestic, Mary Higgins Clark and Carolyn Hart. It is so much fun! I love the cover of your book and can’t wait to read it Grace!

    1. Thanks, Kelly. I was at that same conference. Mary Higgins Clark and Carolyn Hart are terrific writers and even nicer individuals. I had the good fortune to be at the same table as Carolyn Hart at the Agatha Awards dinner.

  14. Grace, congratulations on Staging with Murder. I first heard of staging years ago when my daughter bought a house in LA. Since everything is staged out there that didn’t surprise me. Now I understand staging is common everywhere. I think it’s a perfect occupation for an amateur sleuth and opens up a lot of possibilities for a series. I’ve been on the New England Crime Bake committee for 14 years but never had a chance to go to Malice. Since I have a story in the Mystery Most Edible anthology I decide this had to be the year to make it happen. I’ve heard great things about the conference and I’m really looking forward to it.

    1. Thanks, Ang. Home staging is definitely a growing field and a perfect one for women and men who want to have their own business. I would be tempted to become one if I wasn’t so busy writing. Congratulations on your story in the anthology. That’s great. And you are going to love Malice. You will arrive and find that you have found your tribe.

  15. I went to a conference of Sherlock Holmes fans in Toronto and found myself sitting next to Maureen Jennings. She was the speaker for the banquet. A very gracious lady who, with all her fame, asked me to help her keep calm because she always got so nervous before speaking. Yes, a very real person. That was years ago and is still a precious memory.

    Looking forward to reading your debut.

    1. Isn’t it exciting, Ginny, getting to meet people whose work we so admire? And to discover that they are just as nice as can be. Nice memories to have.

    1. Thank you, Julie. I remember when you were an aspiring author and how exciting it was when your first book came out. And now you have several. You have inspired lots of yet-to-be published writers–and performers.

  16. Mystery conventions are so much fun! I always enjoy getting to chat with authors.

    I’m about 1/3 of the way into Grace’s book and enjoying it so far.

    1. Thank you, Mark, for reading my book. I’m glad (and relieved) that you are enjoying it. Come to Malice someday and chat with authors here on the East Coast.

  17. I’ve attended several RT Booklovers Conventions and RWA Annual Conferences where I have met my fave authors. Domestic Malice is practically in my backyard, but I haven’t attended yet due to volunteer commitments in the school. Alas, my youngest is graduating this year … so my calendar is empty for next year! I will be in heaven! Looking forward to your debut!

    1. You will love Malice, Kim. I’m glad your calendar is empty for next year. Mark your calendar for April 30 to May 3, 2020. I hope to see you there.

  18. When I attended Bouchercon in 2014 in addition to meeting some of the authors I had exchanged email or Facebook notes with, I saw (and met) Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and J. A. Jance all on one stage. I was in heaven. They were the writers who caused my mystery addiction, and the entire conference was wonderful.

    1. What an exciting time you must have had, Sally. It’s also interesting attending author panels and hearing about their work and what they have coming out. Every writer who attends Malice goes both as a writer and a fan because we all have writers that we want to meet there. After going for so many years, it has almost become a family reunion with the writers and fans that come year after year. I look forward to seeing you at Malice in 2020.

  19. This will be my first Malice Domestic and I am looking forward to meeting The Wickeds. From posts and newsletters I have been surprised that authors are just people who have a gift they share.

    1. Malice is a fantastic conference, Candy. I hope you have a great time.

  20. It would be a dream come true to attend a conference but unfortunately it never pans out. Although I have met some writers who are from Ohio, it would be exciting to meet others that I know only through facebook or their blog. Thanks for the intro into Grace Topping and her book.

    1. Fingers crossed that you can make a conference someday. One that may be somewhat closer to you is Magna cum Murder Crime Writing Festival—Oct 19-21 in Indianapolis, IN. It brings together crime readers and writers for a weekend of panels, book signings, and camaraderie. Connie Berry from Ohio just came out with her first book, “A Dream of Death.”

  21. Conferences are fabulous places to follow fave authors around without being considered a stalker. If you don’t get tooo very close, that is. 😉 Can’t wait to read “Staging is Murder,” Grace!

    1. Thanks, Patti. I really hope you enjoy it. Authors enjoy talking about their books and books by others, so people attending conferences shouldn’t hesitate approaching someone they want to talk to.

  22. What a great post! Thanks for sharing with us. I can’t wait to read this book.

  23. I believe I may have read your manuscript at some point, particularly if you submitted it to the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Contest, for which I was a judge for about a quarter of a century. In any case, I will see you at Malice this year, as I am the Fan Guest of Honor (and you think YOU are totally chuffed!!). Would it be possible to get an ARC for review purposes?

    1. Hi, P. J. You may have read it–I’ve submit it all over the place. Please PM me and I’ll arrange for the ARC.

    2. Hi, P. J. You may have read it–I submitted to that competition. I’ve sent you FB PM about an ARC copy.

  24. Your book sounds awesome – can’t wait to read it so I would love to win a print copy – thanks for the chance.

  25. Congrats on your new release! I’ve been to a number of author conventions/events & have had a lot of fun. I’ve never been to one specific for mysteries tho.

    1. If you enjoy mysteries, Jana, you might really enjoy Malice. It’s a conference for fans of mysteries in the tradition of Agatha Christie.

  26. I’ve never met any mystery authors but feel connected through blogs like these and author’s Facebook pages. I did meet Liberace’s sister-in-law at his Las Vegas museum and saw Pat Boone’s collie dog during a Beverly Hills tour. I already read Karen Rose Smith’s home stager books but could add another. It’s not like I don’t read tons of food and crafty mysteries.

    1. Sally, it’s amazing how you can connect with authors through blogs like this and through Facebook. Staging is fun. Add it to your list.

  27. This sounds so good—I’d love to read it! Legallyblonde1961 at yahoo dot com

  28. Congratulations on your first book! It’s always nice discovering new authors. “Staging is Murder” sounds like a great start to a new series. Adding your book to my TBR list.

  29. Thank you, Dianne. If your TBR list is like mine–when you get to STAGING IS MURDER in three years, I hope you enjoy it.

  30. I’ve never been to a book convention, but I do attend signings and have known several authors in real life.

  31. Hopefully, I’m not too late to leave this! But then, I’m late for everything! I’ve always wanted to go to an author convention (and wanted to be a writer as a kid). Hopefully, some day I will make it to one. Congratulations on the book – it sounds fun – I’d love a copy! I’m on the book selection committee at the library where I worked (until we closed due to mold!) – hopefully, after lots of fundraising and possible state funding (still waiting after 2 years for the money to be available) we will open again relatively soon. So congratulations again – sorry to be so long winded!

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