Livin’ the Author Dream, Baby: Uncle Joey’s Big Night

April brings Spring-ier weather (usually), holidays, the Malice Domestic conference for mystery lovers, and…the Agatha Awards! This year the Chicks will be well-represented in Bethesda—can’t wait to see many of you there. Here Lisa takes us behind the scenes as she tries to reason with unsinkable Sinatra impersonator Joey Romano from her nominated short story, “Fly Me to the Morgue”…

Yesterday was Easter, and of course Uncle Joey showed up. He breezed into my kitchen without knocking, wearing a too-tight tuxedo, and plunked a bottle of Jack Daniels on the counter, where I worked at my laptop.

“Ham,” he said, sniffing the air. “Nice. No pasta?”

“Sorry.” I hated to disappoint him, but I needed to keep the menu simple. I’d been a whirling worker bee this past week: editing, writing, taxes. And he was supposed to be performing on a cruise ship somewhere.

Technically, Uncle Joey isn’t a blood relative. He’s the self-designated star of my short story “Fly Me to the Morgue,” about a NYC lounge singer who opens a Rat Pack-inspired restaurant and entertainment venue in a small NH town. And no, things hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped. But Uncle Joey isn’t someone who dwells on disappointments.

He peered over my shoulder. “Whatcha writin’ now? I’m in this story, too, right?”

“Um, not exactly. Another one, maybe.”

He settled himself on the high stool next to me, looking more like Norm from Cheers than Frankie. “That’s okay. I thought maybe we could talk about the Agatha Awards banquet. It’s just a coupla weeks away. The Malice Domestic conference. Bethesda, right?”

Before I could even nod, Uncle Joey offered to share his limo. “Thanks, but I have train tickets,” I said. He waved my protest away. “So you get off in Jersey, and I’ll drive us from there.”

Photo by Spora Weddings on

I cleared my throat. “Uncle Joey, I’m really sorry, but I don’t think fictional characters are invited.”

He looked dumbfounded—and slightly crestfallen. But just for a second. “Aw, come on. We’re nominees for Best Short story, you and me. We’re a great team.”

It was true. I owed Uncle Joey a lot. He never, ever gave up—on anything, not even me—and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Plus, he was a master promoter. I needed to be more like Uncle Joey.

“I wrote a speech already.” He reached inside his tux jacket. “Got it right here.”

Oh no no NO. “Uncle Joey, wait,” I said, very gently. “You do know who the other nominees are? Barb Goffman, Richie Narvaez, Art Taylor, and my very good friend and fellow Chick, Cynthia Kuhn. The links to their amazing stories are on the Agatha Award Nominees page of the Malice Domestic site, so you can read them for yourself. Cynthia’s and my—I mean, our—stories are in the same Malice Domestic anthology from Wildside Press: Mystery Most Diabolical.”

“Okay, okay.” Uncle Joey held up his hands. “Forgettaboutit. Maybe I can sit with some of the other Chicks. Ellen Byron and Jennifer Chow are up for Best Contemporary Novel, and then there’s Becky Clark who just launched her Sugar Mill Marketplace Mysteries, and Leslie Karst who’s getting rave reviews with her memoir of cooking for that famous judge.”

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

“Yeah, that’s the one.” Uncle Joey seemed lost in thought. “Maybe the MC will need a little help up there at the podium,” he said. “Or…” A huge smile grew across his face, like the Grinch when he got a wonderful, awful idea. “I could provide some extra entertainment, maybe. You know, a few Frankie numbers.”

“I think the ham is burning.” I rushed for the potholders across the kitchen.

“And somethin’ else,” Uncle Joey called. “Whatcha gonna wear? Not one of those author outfits of yours, right? Maybe something kinda sparkly, like Marilyn. That’s what my Angela wore the night she died, may she rest in peace.”

Photo by Lance Reis on

I opened the oven door to a cloud of dark steam. My reply may have gotten muffled. “No Marilyn,” I said firmly. “I am trying to decide between silver or red shoes, though.”

“Sure, those could work.” He snagged a stray piece of ham from the roasting pan. “It’s like wine, ya know? Always go with red.”

Readers, will you be attending or following this year’s Malice Domestic conference? What books are on your nightstand this spring?

35 thoughts on “Livin’ the Author Dream, Baby: Uncle Joey’s Big Night

  1. I will be following and rooting for you all that were nominated. I’m hoping to add the first 2 books in the Vintage Cookbook Mystery Series to my collection. The Rat Race books sound fun too. They all do.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks, Queen! I’m doing lots of reading, too, so I can be up on so many great books — and hopefully I can tell some of those authors in person how amazing they are!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Me too, Liz! But as Uncle Joey always says, never say never. I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a way in somehow. Can’t wait to see you also!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m so bummed to miss this year’s Malice Domestic, particularly as all of my favorite Chicks will be there and celebrating successes.
    My husband just had surgery and is doing great but won’t be able to drive, etc, so I’ll be with you in spirit and rooting for you all.
    See you on 2024!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for your good wishes, Ruth. So glad to hear that your husband is doing well–that’s the most important thing. We’ll see you both next year. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Lisa,
    What a great post! I love Uncle Joey. Tell him I will save him a spot at the banquet, and we will share my meal. There’s no way a man named Joey doesn’t eat red meat, right?

    I will definitely be there, keeping my fingers crossed for all my chicks.

    Haven’t gotten the banquet assignment yet though. Who will I be sitting with? Will it be a faithful author of mine? A new to me author? A table of chatty Cathy’s? Everyone too afraid to talk because there is a huge star amongst our midst?
    Only the shadow knows at this point.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, wow, Hestia, I just KNEW Uncle Joey would find a kindhearted soul to charm. Don’t let him eat all your steak (I hear he already connected with the bartenders, though). I’m sure he’ll accompany me to your panel Create Your Own Cozy Mystery on Saturday at 3pm–he’s really got the bug now (don’t let him get his hands on the mic!). And thank you for keeping your fingers crossed. With so many wonderful nominees, it’s sure to be a fab time!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m looking forward to every minute of it! Connecting with pals, meeting new peeps, awards, panels, booksignings. Since I had to miss LCC, I’ll be filling up my dance card completely at Malice! Pretty Uncle Joey and I will indulge in some writerly shenanigans!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Best of luck with the nom, but you already HAVE that! It’s yours to keep. Can’t wait to see you on our panel. You are right. This group is well represented! These pages are heavy with talent.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ha, Kaye, well *I* completely agree re: the nom. I think even Uncle Joey understands that in his heart. He just gets…overly enthusiastic sometimes. Looking forward to our Restaurant Sleuths panel (Sun am at 11, folks, and Chick Leslie Karst will be participating also) and to seeing you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Jen, maybe best not to breathe a word about swag to Uncle Joey. We have such a pretty table planned, and he might throw in poker chips with his face on them and little airline bottles. And lead our guests in his unique rendition of A Mi Manera (My Way).

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I can’t tell you how much I love this, Lisa–ha! I so wish Uncle Joey could come to Malice and sing at the bar after the banquet! Sending good wishes to all the Chicks nominated for the Agatha–yippeeeee!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Leslie–and your wish is Uncle Joey’s command, lol. He’s a real gentleman that way. On a serious note, though, a big thank you to all the readers out there as well. It’s truly an honor for us authors to write, and our mystery community is unfailingly supportive through everyone’s our ups and downs (of which there are many!).

      Liked by 2 people

    1. “Very demure” Marilyn, Mary! I think the only similarity may be that it’s (high) halter-style. Can’t believe I actually know what I’m wearing a few weeks ahead, but since the pandemic I haven’t had much luck with dresses.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. We’ll miss you, too, Kathy–but you’ll be with us in Chick spirit. Very soon we’re getting the flock back together (everyone all in one place all at once). And we’ll send way too many pix. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love this! And, Lisa, you can’t possibly post too many pix! Chicks and fab Chicks friends, please snap away as the winners are announced and post them on FB as quickly as you can for those of us cheering from the home front!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You are so imaginative, Lisa! Writing is the perfect career choice. 🙂

    And thank you for the kind nod. So honored to be alongside you and the other folks!

    Can’t wait to see everyone at Malice (BUT will be missing everyone who is not there and hoping our paths cross again soon elsewhere). ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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