Friday, September 11, 2020

Have You Pre-Ordered Yet?

Hey, did you know? And Now She's Gone will be out on September 22!
Rachel Howzell Hall’s 2020 #PitchWars Wishlist
Hi! I’m Rachel Howzell Hall, and this is my first time serving as a mentor in the Adult category for Pitch Wars! WoOt!
For those of you who are new to Pitch Wars, it is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents. 

So, what do I want to read as a mentor? Crime fiction and mystery—love, love, love this genre. No rapists, though. No porn. No pedophilia. I like dark, but I don’t get down like that. Other than that, what else? Hmmm… 

Right now, it’s hot and muggy in Los Angeles, and so I’ve been hydrating a lot. With nothing but drinks on my mind, here is my wish list as beverages: 

WATER. The essence of everything. Flexible and revitalizing. I want writing with refreshing ideas. Sure, you can have a tropey detective who drinks whisky and listens to jazz but have the whisky come from Costco and the jazz be sung by Celia Cruz. Hells yeah, I like the unexpected, but I have to say, ‘Aaahh’ after putting down those pages. Think: Pete Fernandez, Lou Norton, Juniper Song, Dayna Anderson, Mas Arai, Bug Montage, Grayson Sykes, Gethsemane Brown, Roxane Weary, Isaiah Quintabe 

BEER. Don’t like it. Never drank it (unless you count Zima, which… no one should count Zima). But it’s the WHY people like beer. There’s a feel-good dopamine released in our brains with beer. It’s also accessible—anybody can afford it. So, I’m looking for writers who are EXCITED about writing and revising and editing and writing some more. The thought of this entire process makes you BOOZY.

WINE. I love Bordeauxs and Cabs. They help me to relax. Talking on the phone? That keeps me from relaxing. I’m the one who bankrolled research and development for Caller ID. Facts. So, if you don’t mind texts, Messenger, Gmail Chat and revising over Google Docs, then get to submitting. We may actually talk-talk once or twice, but that every week thing? Nah, I’m not about that. 

SANGRIA. Takes planning and steeping. A… recipe. I’m all out that planning life. Outlining is how I’ve been able to writing so much. Yes: I know stories fluctuate as your write but outlines keep your safe—there’s a roadmap even as you wander off the trail. Besides, you’re gonna need an outline anyway—from submitting on proposal to writing your synopsis. And we don’t have a lot of time, so seeing what you’re planning will help me to WINE and BEER so that we can create a WATER. 

COFFEE. Keeps you awake. You’ll need that shot of caffeinated adrenalin because we’re gonna be revising. An overall read of the outline first, then you’ll go off to write. You’ll send me sections that correspond to the writer’s journey so that we sure the structure is sound. While I’m editing that section, you’ll start on the next. Then, in the end, we’ll do another look-see. 

Who am I? And why do I have the nerve to ask so much from you? 

I’m the author of the bestseller and Anthony Award-, Lefty Award- and ITW-award nominated They All Fall Down (Forge). I write the acclaimed Lou Norton series, including Land of Shadows, Skies of Ash, Trail of Echoes, and City of Saviors. I am also the co-author of The Good Sister with James Patterson, which was included in the New York Times bestseller The Family Lawyer. I’m currently on the board of directors for the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and I live in Los Angeles. My next novel And Now She’s Gone will be published in September 2020. I’ve been on NPR twice and I work full-time as a fundraising writing for Cedars-Sinai. My first novel A Quiet Storm (Scribner) was published in 2002. 

I’ve been around and seen a LOT of change in the publishing industry. I’ve also self-published two novels—A View from Here and No One Knows You’re Here because no traditional publisher wanted them. So! If you have any questions, please tweet me @RachelHowzell. 

I may not be your jam, but another mentor could be. Here's the gateway to other mentors:

Pitch Wars 2020 Adult Mentors' Wish Lists

  1. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  2. Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
  3. Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe
  5. Rachel Lynn Solomon
  6. Anna Kaling
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  9. Rachel Howzell Hall
  10. Lyn Liao Butler
  11. Michael Mammay and AR Lucas
  12. Paris Wynters (Accepts NA)
  13. K A Black (Accepts NA)
  14. Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
  15. Hudson Lin (Accepts NA)
  16. Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie (Accepts NA)
  17. Taj McCoy (Accepts NA)
  18. Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
  19. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  20. N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
  21. Elizabeth Little
  22. Anne Raven and Janet Walden-West (Accepts NA)
  23. Charish Reid and Denise Williams
  24. Kalyn Josephson and Kat Enright (Accepts NA)
  25. Gladys Qin (Accepts NA)
  26. Tanen Jones (Accepts NA)
  27. Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
  28. Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
  29. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  30. Denny S. Bryce and L. Penelope
  31. Roselle Lim and Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Morgan Rogers (Accepts NA)
  33. Samantha Rajaram
  34. Rob Hart
  35. Damyanti Biswas (Accepts NA)
  36. Maria Heater
  37. Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)
  38. Gia de Cadenet
  39. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  40. Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
  41. Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
  42. Carly Bloom and Sam Tschida
  43. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  44. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  45. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)
  46. Alex Segura and M. J. Soni
  47. Roma Panganiban (Accepts NA)
  48. Tricia Lynne (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2020 Mentors' Wish Lists

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Skies of Ash - Release Day

It's here!

It's queer!

It's not going away!

SKIES OF ASH is alive in book stores near you!

What's it about?

Los Angeles homicide detective Elouise "Lou" Norton and her partner, Colin Taggert, arrive at the scene of a tragic house fire. Juliet Chatman perished in the blaze, along with her two children. Left behind is grieving husband and father Christopher Chatman, hospitalized after trying to rescue his family. Chatman is devastated that he couldn't save them.

Unless, of course, he's the one who killed them.

Neighbors and family friends insist the Chatmans were living the dream. But Lou quickly discovers the reality was very different. The flames of adultery, jealousy, scandal, fraud, and disease had all but consumed the Chatmans' marriage before it went up in smoke.

Lou's own marriage hangs by a thread. Soured by the men in her life, Lou is convinced that Chatman started the fire. Her colleagues worry that her personal issues are obscuring her judgment. With very little evidence regarding the fire—and rising doubts about her husband's commitment to monogamy—Lou feels played by all sides.

Was the fire sparked by a serial arsonist known as The Burning Man? Or by the Chatmans' son, who regularly burned his father's property?

Searching for justice through the ashes of a picture-perfect family, Lou doesn't know if she will catch an arsonist or be burned in the process.

Here's an excerpt:

I trudged toward the wreck, its death scent assaulting my nostrils. Colin met me halfway with the coffee cup extended.

I took the drink and glanced at his crisp blue jeans. The creases were as sharp as thousand- year- old cheddar. “You just take the dry cleaner’s plastic off?” I asked.

He held up a leg. “Can you tell?”

“Not at all.”

“Bodies are still in the house,” he said, “and the firefighters need to get some debris out of the way so we can see ’em. They’re thinkin’ we can go in, in about an hour.”

I checked my watch— that would take us to eleven.

“So the next- door neighbor,” Colin said, “an old lady named Virginia Oliver.” He pivoted and pointed at the house with the animal- shaped hedges. “She lives right there. She called it in around three- forty this mornin’. Mrs. Oliver says she started not to call cuz the smoke detectors in that house were always goin’ off. Seemed like the Chatmans—”

“That the family name?” I asked.

He nodded. “The son was always settin’ shit on fi re. So the old lady thought nothin’ of it ’til she heard the fi re. She said, and I quote, ‘Sounded like God was frying bacon.’ According to another neighbor, Eli Moss”— he pointed to the green bungalow with the baby grand piano—“a patrol unit got here before the fi re trucks. I’m guessin’ because of the ‘kill me’ part of Mrs. Chatman’s 911 call.”

“You talk to the R/O?”

Colin nodded. “His name is Bridges. He says when he got here, the fire was mostly in the center of the house, second story. He tried to get in, but that”— he pointed to the wrought- iron security door propped against the house’s side—“kept him out. The fire trucks got here a few minutes later. The neighbor says that once the trucks got here, it took them some time to find the hydrant, which is at the end of the block and too far for the one- hundred- foot hose.”

I shook my head. “Ticktock.”

“Almost an hour into the fire— that would be close to five o’clock— the man of the house, Christopher Chatman, pulled up in his car.” He pointed to the dark blue Jaguar sedan now covered in LA snow and abandoned near a sawhorse.

I frowned. “It’s five in the morning and Christopher Chatman ain’t home?”

Colin smirked. “Yep.”

“Why the wonky hours? He a doctor or an astronaut or something?” “He’s a commodities broker. Don’t know what the hell that is, but there you go. Anyway, he pulls up, runs to the house, makes it a few feet away from the front porch, where he’s tackled by a few of the heroes. Seems he was tryin’ to save his wife and kids. Her name is Juliet and the kids are Chloe and Cody.”

“Are all three dead?”


Lieutenant Rodriguez had warned me that there would be blood, but I still wanted to make him a liar.

“And where the hell was Mr. Chatman?” I asked.

Colin peered at me. “Pissed already?”

“No time like the present. Where was he?”

“At work.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Let's Meet and Talk Books!

The hills are alive...

With the sound of fire...

Skies of Ash
A Detective Elouise Norton Novel
Readings & Signing

Please Join me!

Tuesday, May 19, 7:00 p.m., Launch Party at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin St., Orange, CA

Wednesday, May 20, 7:00 p.m., The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles

Thursday, May 21, 7:00 p.m., Eso Won Books, 4327 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles

Wednesday, May 27, 7:30 p.m., Mysterious Galaxy San Diego, 5943 Balboa Ave #100, San Diego with M.P. Cooley, author of FLAME OUT

Saturday, May 30, 2:00 p.m., Poisoned Pen, 4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101, Scottsdale, AZ

Sunday, May 31, 6:30 p.m., A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 La Salle Ave, Oakland

Available in bookstores and on-line on May 19.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Colored and Invisible

Last week, Sara Paretsky wrote a great article about the lack of diversity in mystery. I shared my thoughts on this issue (surprise, surprise) with The Life Sentence. In the essay, I say so many things, including:

"If you’re a writer of color and you attend Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, or any of the writing conferences, you already know that there are more robots on Mars than there are colored folks in the banquet room."

What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 20, 2015

If You Were Eavesdropping..,

Back in May at Perch, high above Los Angeles, you would've heard Attica Locke and I talking about books and writing books in Los Angeles and writing books in Los Angeles as moms. It was fun! Wanna read about it?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Date with Destinee - A Lou Norton Short

Originally posted on Dru's Book Musings June 2014

The walls of Interview Room 1 closed in on us, the gray soundproofing foam torn and gouged by the nails and fists of angry men. I shifted in my seat, then winced—my bra strap and leather holster were both biting into the fleshy part of my shoulder. Glanced at my wristwatch—almost an hour had passed—then gazed at the mountain of an eighteen-year old hunched in the chair across from me.

Brown splotches and splatters had dried on Kobe McAvoy’s gray sweatshirt and tan Dickies. Blood, now the color of chocolate pudding, had stained the toes of his used-to-be white Air Jordans. Aggravated assault, burglary, concealed weapon… So ambitious, this kid.

Kobe folded his arms and chewed the inside of his cheek. Just… sat there as though he was waiting for the rinse cycle to start. Definitely not acting as though he was seated across from a homicide detective liking him for the murders of Destinee and Cayman Andrews, his girlfriend’s parents.

I looked at my watch again: seven minutes until six. “It’s getting’ late, Kobe.”

“Where Dee at?” he uttered, his voice a mix of molasses and hardening lava.

“Down the hall.”

The last time I’d seen Destinee Junior, she was collapsed on the carpet in the conference room. A mess of tears, wails and calls to Jesus. The sixteen-year old had refused to shed the filthy pink tank top and jeans she wore, stiffened now from her parents’ blood.

My gaze landed on Kobe’s fingernails.



Destinee and Cayman Andrews had been discovered dead in their bedroom, stabbed sometime between six in the morning and noon. A knife with the six-inch, serrated blade had been found in the kitchen sink. I had stood over the thirty-year old woman, murdered in her bed, and had stopped counting her stab wounds after reaching ’21.’

And now, hours later, I sat with Kobe McAvoy, the boyfriend. Blood everywhere… except for his nails. With all that stabbing, no blood.

“So what happened?” I asked him for the eighth time.

He glared at the tabletop and said nothing.

“Why did you kill them?”

At eighteen, I didn’t need his parents’ permission to question him. And he hadn’t lawyered up… yet.

Kobe sighed, then sank in his seat.

The aromas of fried turkey, sweet potatoes and mac ‘n cheese wafted from the detective’s bureau to this room where Kobe and I sat. Thanksgiving Day. While the city feasted on cranberry sauce and watched the Cowboys lose to the Raiders, here I was, interviewing a felon who wouldn’t deny, wouldn’t confirm, wouldn’t do jack.

But Kobe’s stomach growled.

In response, my stomach growled louder. “Hungry?”

He gave a one-shouldered shrug.

“I am, too.” I offered the maybe-murderer a smile. “I’ll get us something to eat.”

Five minutes later, I returned to Interview Room 1 holding two plates filled with food, plastic forks and cans of orange soda. I slipped a plate in front of him.

Kobe’s eyes shone, and his shoulders drooped as the smells of a hot, holiday meal enveloped him. He stuck his fork into the mound of collard greens, and quickly shoveled the wilted veggies into his mouth.

I also took a bite of greens, but kept one eye on the big boy seated across from me. “Good, huh?”

“Ummhmmm.” He stuffed his mouth with more greens. “She don’t use pork, huh?”

I shook my head. “Diabetes.”

“Smoked turkey?”


“Good, but it don’t taste the same.”

“Try the macaroni,” I said. “She uses, like, 603 kinds of cheese.”

He dug his fork into the cheesy noodles, then shoved a clump into his mouth. “That’s the bomb-diggity.”

I smiled. “Told you.”

He wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Destinee hated her moms and pops.”

I paused, then said, “Yeah?”

“What she say to y’all?”

With my fork I made crosshatches in the sweet potatoes. “She’s not talking much. She keeps saying, ‘They’re gone, they’re gone.’”

He sucked his teeth, then used them to tear through the turkey leg. He grunted and shook his head.

I squinted at him. “Is that headshake cuz it’s the best turkey leg you’ve ever had, or…?”

He met my eyes. “She’s the one who did it.”

I canted my head. “Can you prove that?”

A small smile. “Detective Norton, I got all the proof in the world.” He pointed to his plate. “Can I finish this, though? Cuz what I got to tell you… We gon’ be here for a while.”

Check out Dru's Book Musings for other 'Day in the Life' of your favorite characters!