Writers are always working on the next novel. My work in progress is a cozy mystery, set at a writers’ conference near Taos, New Mexico. Melanie thinks she’ll love assisting a big-name agent–until she meets Brandon and he is the Agent from Hell. Brandon antagonizes everyone within a day of his arrival at the conference. But only one person is angry enough to murder him, and Melanie must find out who.
I have attended numerous writing conferences, and always enjoy hanging out with my “people.” Fortunately, I have never met an agent quite like Brandon, but it was fun to create him!
The setting of this story is close to my heart. I have family in New Mexico, and when I was a child, we visited Taos. It’s one of my all-time favorite vacations.
As Melanie tells Will, the pueblo, and its residents, have been in the same place, living the same way, for hundreds of years–since before the United States was a country. You may tour the pueblo at prescribed times unless they are having a religious or otherwise sacred ceremony.
Brandon caught me in the hallway. “Where the hell did you go?”
I stepped back. His breath reeked of alcohol. Clearly the water bottle dangling from his right hand held something besides water.
I’d tell him to stay out of my personal space later. I didn’t want to lie, but telling him the truth was out of the question. At least for now. “I had some urgent business to attend to.”
“Your urgent business here is me.” The pupils in his eyes almost dwarfed the moss-colored irises. There was a fleck of powdered sugar in his goatee.
Tori didn’t really have any worries. If Aidan were smart, he would avoid Brandon like a sinkhole. “What can I do for you?”
“Save me a seat at lunch. I want to speak with an attendee, and I don’t want to miss the meal.”
“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,” I said as sweetly as I could stomach.
He didn’t get the sarcasm. People like him never do.
I went to the class on the future of book publishing, where Vanessa and Sophia had saved me a seat in between them. Vanessa was encouraged about her pitch to Paul Chandler, the editor she’d had her eyes on. Sophia was cautiously optimistic that Elise, who’d responded positively to her pitch, would like her book.
“I chickened out of pitching Brandon,” Sophia admitted. “There didn’t seem to be any point.”
“That’s not chickening out,” I told her. “It’s common sense.”
“Well, the funny thing is, he came to my table this morning at breakfast and was much nicer than he’d been last night. He didn’t apologize for how he acted, but he asked me a few questions about the book.”
Vanessa perked up. “Yeah? Maybe he thinks you’ve got something good and he wants in on it. Like he did with that other guy.”
I avoided looking at either of them. Vanessa had nailed it, of course, but if I agreed with her, I would give too much away. Sophia would know she was one of the contest winners. She had to be or Brandon’s about-face made no sense. As of right now, the only people who knew the winners were the judges and Katrina. And Brandon, who could only have been buttering up Sophia at breakfast because he knew she was a winner.
Good news for her. But not now, Wednesday morning. No one was supposed to know until the awards were given out on Friday night.
I cleared my throat a little. “Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I think the best thing all of you, us, can do is to stay as far away from him as possible for the rest of the conference.”