My wonderful webmistress (and conscience) Jane Akshar has been telling me I need to update my letter to you all – and I do. It’s been too long. My bad. However, I do have reasons – first of all, I have two books coming out in March. That’s always a reason for rejoicing. I also have a book due in March. While it’s great fun (more later) I’m behind on my schedule, so not so much rejoicing.
The first is a story that is very special to me. A KILLING AT EL KAB (written under my Janis Patterson persona) is the book I went to Egypt to research in March of last year. (And it doesn’t seem possible that it’s a full year since I was there!) This is a straight mystery with all kinds of conflicts, an archaeological dig (which actually exists) two murders, mummies, a ghost and the search for a lost treasure. It was great fun to write. It is also archaeologically accurate, thanks to the marvelous Dr. Dirk Huyge (Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab) who so generously read the manuscript and made sure I got everything right.
My second March release is a cozy mystery – again by Janis Patterson – called MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM. It features Flora Melkiot, the snoopy, elderly widow of a wealthy jeweler who has been called the dark side of Miss Marple. After a minor traffic accident in which she breaks her wrist, Flora is swept from her home in Dallas to a nursing home in San Antonio by her daughter, who longs to make Flora into the perfect grandmotherly icon. Flora values her independence; her daughter is embarrassed by her mother’s flamboyant lifestyle. Their conflict is nothing, however, compared to the problems which erupt when two of the nursing home residents are murdered and another brutally attacked. No matter how badly she wanted to leave, now Flora is determined to stay until she has solved the murders – with or without the help of the police.
The new book I’m working on is a long novella for inclusion in a ‘monthly release anthology’ (different, I know, but a great concept) of Gothic romances from around the world. Mine is set in East Texas – yes, a Gothic romance in East Texas. It’s still fighting me, but I will prevail!
Another great piece of news is that EXQUISITE CHRISTMAS, a short story and recipe anthology I participated in came in Number Eight in the prestigious Preditors and Editors poll! That is indeed an honor. My lovely webmistress is going to put an excerpt from THE CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT in my excerpt pages, and below is one of the recipes – my favorite! – that I contributed to the book.
(chocolate mousse cake)
Brush 8in round cake pan with melted butter; line bottom with parchment or wax paper
Preheat oven to 325F
On top of stove bring to boil :
½ cup sugar
½ cup water –
1 stick butter cut in pieces
12 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate bits
Whisk all around in pan; it will melt on its own
Take off heat
Fairly quickly whisk in
6 large eggs until absorbed
Do not overbeat!
¼ cup dark rum or liqueur (raspberry or orange)
or even orange juice if you want it non-alcoholic.
Put pan in roasting pan; put water in roasting pan (a la bain marie) – bake 45 min at 325F. For a totally different texture, you can overbake it by an hour or so, but watch it. You don’t want it to burn.
Let cool and unmold on serving plate
For presentation, you can sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkling over a lacy doily and then removing the doily carefully will leave a lovely pattern. Or, frost with whipped cream or sweetened Crème Fraiche and top with fresh raspberries or other suitable fresh fruit. Whatever suits your fancy.
Hello from the vaccuum – I haven’t disappeared, it’s just that we are entering the beginning of our second month of having no internet at home, which means that any internet usage (except for some rudimentary email on my phone) means I must go out to an internet cafe. Sigh. Haven’t forgotten any of you, and miss interacting with you, but there’s so much to do and work unfortunately must come first. I’m already spending so much time at the cafe there are people who think I work here… Anyway, must run – just wanted to touch base while I could.
…always a good story!
…committing crime with style!
It’s been much too long since I wrote here, but believe me, life has been busy!
We spent almost all of September away. The first weekend we went up to Boston – and although the leaf color hadn’t started yet, it was still beautiful. New England is lovely, but it always makes me feel somewhat claustrophobic, as does most of the East Coast. I’m a Texican – I like space! Anyway, we drove up to Lexington and stayed in a pretty hotel that was so modern and trendy it was almost surreal. The purpose for this trip was to attend the wedding of The Husband’s battle buddy from his first Iraqui deployment. It was a beautiful ceremony in a 200+ year old white wooden church – the kind where the pews are in enclosed stalls with doors. Fascinating! The ceremony was beautiful and very touching. Second marriage for both bride and groom, both of whom are nearing retirement age. Their grown children were their attendants and the whole thing was just fairy-tale pretty. Then to nearby Hanscomb Air Force Base for the reception – a gourmet wonderland with incredibly delicious food and drink. Believe me, whoever invented elastic waistbands should be canonized immediately!
Both before and after the wedding we did the tourist thing, exploring all the Revolutionary War sites, etc and taking tons of pictures. Another thing we did was take the tour of the Orchard House, the rather eccentric home where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women among other things. I’ve always been ambivalent about Alcott, but it was fascinating to see where she lived and worked. Her father had a huge (comparatively) study with all the luxuries of the day, while Louisa had a tiny surface about the size of a large tea tray attached to the wall to write on. Little Women has never been out of print, and yet her father Bronson Alcott, even with his big desk and elegantly appointed office, is almost totally unread today. Somewhere there should be a lesson in that…
One interesting thing – The Husband and I are connoisseurs of Mexican food and in some little town (maybe Lexington, but up there who can tell, as the towns all run into each other) we found this Mexican restaurant called Ixtapa. Being in an adventurous frame of mind we stopped, but weren’t expecting much. The food was actually quite good! Not spicy enough for our Texas tastebuds, but otherwise surprisingly good. We even recommended it to some people at the wedding.
Back home, only to leave for Enterprise Alabama two days later to attend the wedding of one of The Husband’s staff from his second Iraqui deployment. The wedding was entirely different in style, but just as wonderful and full of love. The couple were much younger, and the groom insisted that the bride’s two children (early elementary school age) be part of the ceremony because, as he is reputed to have said, he was marrying the whole family. Such a lovely man! At the reception in the church hall they served the most wonderful Mocha punch – made with ice cream and coffee and just about the best stuff I ever put in my mouth. The lady in charge of catering graciously gave me the recipe, and I’m trying to contact her to see if I can share it with you. Suffice it to say, only the good manners instilled in me by my mother years ago kept me from grabbing the punch bowl, locking myself in a closet and slurping it all down! That and the fact that the outfit I was wearing did not have an elastic waistband.
Enterprise is a smallish town famous mainly because it is the only town in the US with a monument honoring a bug – the boll weevil. There’s an 1890s style classical goddess holding aloft this enormous (and greatly enlarged but proportionately correct) boll weevil. From the pictures I had seen I thought the monument would be enormous, but it isn’t – the goddess is about ¾ size of a human. Beautiful though, if you don’t look at the bug. I don’t like bugs.
The third weekend we were closer to home – just a jaunt to East Texas for a family sort-of reunion. Great fun, but by now we were getting tired.
The last weekend (and the beginning of October) we drove to St. Pete Beach in Florida for the NINC (Novelists, Inc) conference. This is by far and away the best writers conference I know of, and perhaps the most intense. It’s held at the luxurious TradeWinds resort and is right on the beach, which sounds lovely but the conference is so intense and we were so busy that The Husband and I only managed one walk on the beach. There are several pools and hot tubs, and half a dozen restaurants and twice that of bars, and all kinds of amusements from a 2, perhaps 3 story water slide and water jet rocket rides and… Sigh. Aside from a restaurant or two (one must eat) we didn’t get to try any of them. However – the conference was worth it. NINC is an organization of multi-published writers with strict requirements for joining. The conference reflects this professionalism. No bookstore, no signings, no fans, no unpublished writers – just workshops on what working professional writers need to know. Absolutely wonderful, and absolutely exhausting. Workshops started at 8:30 in the morning and the more informal Night Owl sessions usually wrapped up around 10:30 at night. As much as I love the conference I do wish they could add an extra day and ‘decompress’ it a bit so we could enjoy the wonderful resort without having to miss workshops to do so.
Drove home – takes two days each way. I loved the drive and watching the scenery; The Husband did not. He insists that next year we’re flying. That is a going to be a point of contention, for as far as I’m concerned, we’re not flying anywhere again unless it’s overseas. I love the act of flying, of being far above the ground and the clouds, especially in a small plane, but absolutely loathe what flying commercial has become. Even buses are more comfortable. I hate being jammed into seats made for an anorexic ten year old, almost getting heat stroke in an overheated cabin because we are deprived of individual air vents, given terrible food and treated like not-very-welcome cargo. (Yes, Lufthansa, I am talking primarily about you.)
Anyway, once we got home we spent an entire day doing nothing, but the next day The Husband had to return to his job and so did I. I had to finish A KILLING AT EL KAB (It’s done! Yea!) and start working on notes for the next couple of books. Yes, I got great story ideas from each one of our trips and wanted to get them down while they were still relatively fresh. I don’t know which ones will actually get written, but it’s lovely to have a choice of things waiting when I want them. (And hopefully in the near future I’ll have an exciting announcement.) Of course, there was also the laundry, and the herculean task of reassuring our three furbabies that we had not abandoned them permanently. (As I write there is a little dog lying on my feet, a cat in my lap and another cat on the desk with her paws on my arm as if to keep me from vanishing. Even going to the kitchen for a drink of water is currently something of a production!
So that’s what’s going on here. Hope you had a lovely September and October…
PS – I have been told to put more pictures with my letters. Sorry – I’m much more inclined to do things than take pictures of what I’m doing. I’ll be better, I promise
The recent ARCE newsletter carries an interview with Janis and a preview of her latest book. “Publishing simultaneously under four pseudonyms, the author shares her deep passion for Egypt and writing and then reveals the genesis of her current project, A Killing at El Kab. Read about her stay in the dig house of 19th century English architect and Egyptologist, Somers Clarke, where the story is set. Says May, “Our trip to the dig house was spectacular, the stuff of dreams. The house itself is a fantastic, romantic, domed dream of a place.”……………….
Oh, what an exciting two weeks we have had! The Husband and I drove to Denver, where we went to the Historical Novel Society international conference. This was the first of these conferences we had attended, and this one was special. On Saturday, June 27 I was privileged to be part of a panel on Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters. This was especially exciting, as Barbara (Mertz, Elizabeth Peters’ real name) had been a friend. Fellow panel members Bill Cherf, Libbie Hawker, Lindsey Davis and I each talked about a different facet – Bill about her early life and schooling, I about her life as a writer, Libbie about how her Amelia Peabody series had affected Egyptian-set fiction, and Lindsey about researching a novel in Egypt. It went smoothly and was very well received.
What did not go well was the booksigning. There were many, many of us and a stuffed-full bookstore, but the only interest among the book-buyers was for Diana Gabaldon. She had been set up quite a ways away from where the rest of us were; people came in, got her to sign their book and then left, most without even glancing toward the other authors. The most books I heard of any of us selling was four; that caused a lot of bad feelings, and some authors were quite outspoken about their feelings regarding a woman who has sold a bazillion books syphoning off all the attention from everyone else. I can’t say I blame them. The whole thing was badly managed.
After the conference ended, The Husband and I stole away from Denver to Colorado Springs, where we had a room waiting at the Air Force Academy, and for the next two days did the tourist thing. On Monday we planned to spend half a day at the Garden of the Gods, a fantastic place of spectacular rock formations that will take your breath away. We were still there at six-thirty in the evening. Yes, that’s me in the pictures – look kind of different from when my hair is fixed and my jewelry on for the seminar and signing, huh?
The next day we drove to Cripple Creek and took the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine tour. You get in this tiny little wire elevator – there were five of us in it and it was as full as it could be – and go down 1,000 feet into the earth. Not my favorite idea of something to do, but not as bad as I feared. The mine tour was fascinating, and we had a lovely guide who has agreed to help me with research and facts on a novel. Yes, I got a simply splendid idea for a 1910 Western Gothic while down in the mine… I can’t go anywhere without getting at least a couple of ideas. Sigh. So many ideas, so little time!
After the mine tour was over we had lunch in a lovely little café, then walked across the street to a charity shop, where I saw the most fantastic Victorian candlesticks and rose bowl in beautiful acid-green vaseline glass. Now we do not need any more stuff, but I had never seen anything like them, not even during the days I owned an antique shop. Of course I couldn’t leave without them, so after some dickering and a quick run to an ATM, I proudly tucked them into the back of the car.
On the way back to Colorado Springs we stopped in a little town named Wood-something (I am terrible on names) at the dinosaur museum. It was fantastic! They actually had ancient bones you could touch, and so many fossil skeletons that some were hanging from the ceiling. There were film presentations and of course a gift shop, but the sheer number and variety of dinosaurs was overwhelming. We could have spent a whole day there, and plan to on our next trip to Colorado.
The next morning we started home, and now real life has taken over. I have books to write. The Husband has to go back to work. But – we’ll never forget our stolen holiday in Colorado. Hope everyone had a spectacular 4th of July!
…always a good story!
Janis Susan May
…committing crime with style!
Catch this great interview
- mysteries as Janis Patterson
- romances and other things as Janis Susan May
- children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson
- scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Why do you use two names for your books, Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson, why not keep to one name?
Sometimes I wonder that, too! Actually, it’s a matter of branding. I started writing many years ago and Janis Susan May was my real name, so I used it. At the time I wrote only romance – and incidentally am one of the original 40 or so women who began Romance Writers of America. As time passed I branched out from writing romances and wrote a couple of short horror novels, also under the Janis Susan May name. It didn’t bother me, because romance and horror are such different genres and the covers alone would indicate to a reader what kind of book they were.
I had always wanted to write mysteries, so after I married (adding Patterson to my name) I decided I would write them as Janis Patterson. This was a conscious decision to create a decidedly different persona. It would help the reader, because if they pick up a Janis Susan May book they know they are getting either a romance or a horror, and the cover should make it obvious which. However, sometimes romance and mystery covers aren’t so sharply delineated as to genre, ergo Janis Patterson. I chose Janis Patterson for three reasons – (1) it is my legal married name, (2) it honors my wonderful husband, and (3) with any luck at all it will get me shelved next to James Patterson. (grin).
Do Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson have different personalities in your mind? Who do you like best?
Interesting question. I never thought of that. To me my writing personas are so totally divorced from the real me that there really isn’t a correlation in my mind. As I think of it though, Janis Susan May was my name for so many years it is loaded with the emotional weight of my childhood and family history and young womanhood, of all the experiences I had when I was single. I married quite late, when most of my contemporaries were becoming grandmothers, so the Janis Patterson name carries a sense of change, of unbelievable happiness, of a wholly new and different life.
As for different personalities, I don’t need different names for that. I have always been reality-challenged, and as a former actress have been known to change my behavior the way most women change a dress – which is sometimes disconcerting to my staid and very grounded husband! As for the differentiation between Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson, though, I don’t see them as being two entities, but just two different facets on a whole.
Your marriage sounds so romantic, have you ever thought of writing a book about it? Would you write as Janis Susan May or Janis Patterson?
Yes, I am indeed blessed with a very romantic marriage. How many women are proposed to in the moonlit gardens of the Mena Hotel across the street from the Egyptian pyramids? It was truly a romance-novel moment. And not the last – he took me to Paris to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Every day has its moments of romance.
As for writing a book about our love story, I don’t think so. First of all, it’s private and special and I don’t want to expose all of it to the big wide world. Secondly, when I write about my life, no one believes it! For example, in the 80s (long before I met my husband) I was working on a film crew making a documentary in Israel. I had some adventures there that curled even my hair! (And I didn’t go searching for them, honest! They just happened!) Anyway, when I got home I wrote a novel about some of it, fictionalizing it only a little and giving the two protagonists a happy ending, which I didn’t have then – and thank goodness I didn’t, or I might not have the sublimely happy life I have now! I sent the book to my then agent and waited for the call that said the book was going to auction and I would soon be rich and famous.
It didn’t come. In those days all we had was regular and very costly long distance, which I couldn’t afford, so I waited. And waited. And waited. I was on the verge of writing a letter when my agent called on a different matter. I asked if she had received the book and what she thought of it, or if she hadn’t should I send another copy. She laughed and said everyone in the office had loved it, that it was the best parody of the then-popular romantic adventure stories they had ever seen.
Parody? Parody?? I promptly told her that it was not a parody, it was almost a documentary, but I had left out some of the more spectacular things, and then proceeded to tell her what they were. She was silent so long I thought we had been disconnected (thank goodness this was on her nickel), but she finally said that she believed me because she had known me for years, but no one else would.
Years later I used a few of the milder incidents in an otherwise totally fictional story called THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, which is selling rather well. And no, I don’t tell anyone which incidents they are!
So you see, I can’t answer your question. I don’t write about my life, so it doesn’t make any difference which of my names would write it. And truthfully, I’d rather live my life than write about it… Remember, fiction has rules – real life doesn’t!
…always a good story!
…committing crime with style!
Looking for a good holiday read, check out my latest Janis Susan May book. Published June 4, a tasty traditional Victorian Scottish Gothic romance.
Curse of the Exile | Books from Janis Susan May Patterson: “CURSE OF THE EXILE is a traditional Gothic mystery reminiscent of the best of Victoria Holt and Virginia Coffman that no lover of Gothics should miss. A courageous heroine, 1860s Scotland, two handsome brothers, a moldering castle, an unknown villain bent on a horrid vengeance… delicious! A perfect book for curling up with for a long enjoyable trip to the past.” Carla Renard, The Literary Lady
A message from Janis Susan May Patterson.
Welcome to my new website! I am so excited about it.
Didn’t the designer do a fabulous job? And it’s set up where I can maintain it, which means it should be updated much more often!
This has been an exciting year so far. In January The Husband and I took the Florida Romance Writers Cruise Conference. Yes, a conference set on a cruise ship. It was fantastic.
This is the second time we’ve done it, and it was better than the last – both conference and cruise! It went from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel, Mexico, with two sea days and one shore day. As he does some work as my assistant, The Husband went as a conference participant and I think he enjoyed it. I know I did. The entire cost was justified when he was the only man in a late-night conference on writing erotic romance – he handled the whole thing with good humor and aplomb, including the audience participation questions. I am so proud of him.
Then magic happened. My dear friend Dr. Dirk Huyge – Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab (Egypt) and Curator Prehistoric and Early Dynastic Egypt, Royal Museums of Art and History (Brussels) who was such a wonderful help when I was writing THE EGYPTIAN FILE) and I had been chatting about doing a mystery set in the dig house at El Kab, which is long reputed to be haunted by its builder, the English Egyptologist Somers Clarke. (He is also buried in the courtyard…) .
Well, Dirk asked The Husband and me to come stay for a few days. Trust me, civilians never get invited to stay at dig houses! Of course we accepted! Dirk had to get permissions for us to stay and go on the site from two branches of the Egyptian government – the Ministry of Antiquities in Cairo and the Aswan Governorate, but he did get them and within just a few months of the invitation we were off to Egypt. Which totally wrecked our budget, but it was worth it!
Deciding that it was silly to go halfway around the world for just a few days, The Husband and I decided to make a real holiday of it. I contacted my beloved friend Jane Akshar, who through www.flatsinluxor.co.uk rents wonderful holiday flats on the West Bank, and we had a wonderful two weeks in a luxury flat with a view of the Gurneh Hills (where the Valley of the Kings and Deir el Bahri are) for less per day than we would pay for a standard hotel room on the East Bank.
Anyway, the book I went to research is now titled A KILLING AT EL KAB and is progressing quite well. I hope to have it finished by late summer and on sale in late fall, if I can get my editor, formatter and cover artist scheduled!
After coming home we went to Houston to attend the international conference of the American Research Center in Egypt, with which we have been associated for years, and had a lovely time – four whole days of nothing but talking Egyptology with professional Egyptologists. Heaven!
In June we’re off to Denver and the Historical Novels Association, where I am presenting a paper on (what else?) Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters. As most everyone knows, she was really Dr. Barbara Mertz and also wrote under the name of Barbara Michaels. I have loved her books for decades, and actually meeting her for the first time was one of the stellar moments of my life. When we became friends…heaven. We didn’t see each other that often, for which I am now sad, and we maintained a sporadic correspondence until her death. I miss her terribly.
I do promise (hand on my heart) that I am going to keep this site current, and I do hope you will drop by regularly. Now I have to go write!
Oooh, Oooh, and I almost forgot to tell you! Right around the first of June my new gothic mystery comes out. It’s called CURSE OF THE EXILE and is written by my Janis Susan May persona. It’s set mainly in Scotland during the early 1860s and is about a female librarian and the tribulations of her life when she falls in love with a Scottish laird, gets mixed up with a family ghost and an-all-too-real murderer. Reviewers have compared it to Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney! In late June (perhaps early July) I’m releasing a cozy murder mystery by my Janis Patterson persona entitled MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT.
Which means I really have to get busy…
Janis Susan May Patterson
Just come back from a wonderful holiday in Egypt which is going to be the setting for my new mystery novel.
Okay, it’s long past time, but I admit the old website needs a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be done now!
I’m swamped in both writing and publishing and so very happy to be so! I sold CURSE OF THE EXILE, a traditional Gothic romance set in Victorian-era Scotland, to Entangled, one of my dream publishers. It’s scheduled for release in the middle of 2015.
Even more excitingly, I have begun my own publishing imprint for the re-release of my backlist as well as brand new self-publishing projects. I chose the name Sefkhat-Awbi Books, which – as both The Husband and I are enthusiastic amateur Egyptologists – resonates with us. For those who are curious, Sefkhat-Awbi is an obscure New Kingdom variant on the name of Sheshat, the Ancient Egyptian goddess of writing.
While a few of my backlist romances have been in limited distribution in ebook format, I am in the process of re-releasing all of them with new covers and – drum roll, please! – in paperback!
My first paper and re-vamped ebook release is a traditional Gothic romance set in Victorian-era Scotland (and it wasn’t planned to coincide with the Entangled sale, believe me) called FAMILY OF STRANGERS. It’s now available at most retailers. Here’s a peek at the new cover –
Stay tuned – I’ve scheduled an Ancient Egyptian time-travel romance, a few more Gothic mysteries (not necessarily set in Scotland, though), a clutch of traditional Regencies, a couple of international romantic adventures and a mystery or two to come.