Guest Blogger-Author Penny Warner


Guest Blog for the Andrea Hurst Literary Agency

By Penny Warner

I remember exactly when and where I was when I got the call from Andrea Hurst and Amberly Finarelli. It was Tuesday, December 16, 2008 and I was shopping in a toy store. I can recall nearly verbatim what they initially said.

“We’ve got an early Christmas present for you!”

I responded with something stupid like “No way! You’re kidding!”

After that I caught bits and pieces of our three-way conversation—“three-book deal,” “Obsidian/NAL/Penguin,” “congratulations”—but I was so busy stumbling around the store in a daze, I could barely focus. I rushed home to check the email waiting for me that confirmed the news: Yes, it was true. Andrea and Amberly had sold the first three books in my new mystery series, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY!

No way!

I had practically just signed on with them and here was the incredible news. Santa could keep the pony I asked for—I had a book deal!

How had this all happened—and so fast! It began at the San Francisco Writers’ Conference where I heard Andrea talk about being an agent. Impressed by what she had to say, I saved her contact information, and when I felt the manuscript was ready, I queried her via email.

Within days she and her associate Amberly asked to see the first few chapters, followed by the complete manuscript. They made a few suggestions for improving the book and offered to represent me. About a month later I got The Call. They had sold my proposal to a large New York publishing house.

No way.

It’s finally starting to sink in. On February 2, a little over a year later, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY will be published—a dream come true. This first mystery in the series features thirty-something Presley Parker, recently downsized from her job teaching abnormal psychological at San Francisco State University. Her mother, once a well-known party hostess in her day but now suffering from early-stage Alzheimer’s, suggests Presley mix fun and fundraising for charities by becoming an event planner.

Reluctantly she sets up shop on low-rent Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, and takes on her first big gig—hosting a “surprise” wedding for the mayor at notorious Alcatraz prison. Unfortunately, the party’s over when his bride-to-be bolts faster than an escaping prisoner, and is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates—which Presley served at her party. When Pres becomes the prime suspect, she looks to her quirky Treasure Island co-workers for help, but it’s the attractive, mysterious, crime scene cleaner, Brad Matthews, who helps tidy up her tarnished reputation. She knows if she doesn’t solve this mystery, she’ll be exchanging her party dress for prison stripes.

After writing seven books in the Connor Westphal series that featured a deaf reporter in the California Gold Country, I figured a party-planning sleuth would be right up my alley. I’ve had over a dozen how-to party books published and hosted hundreds of interactive murder mystery parties, for everyone from the local librarian to Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

Presley and I share many traits besides partying. I’ve taught at the local college (child psychology), I have a touch of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and I think the shoes you wear are a window to your personality (watch out for guys in Birkenstocks).  And while I don’t live or work on Treasure Island like Presley, but I love the historic man-made plot of land, once home to the 1939 Golden Gate Expo, the United States Navy, and the Pan American Clipper Flying Ships. And like Presley, I visit all kinds of cool places around the Bay Area, like Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island, and the San Francisco Hall of Justice. My next book, HOW TO CRASH AND KILLER BASH, features a Murder Mystery Party held at the de Young Museum and HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE is set at the Winchester Mystery House and features a Séance Party.

Each book provides party planning tips throughout, such as “Party Tip #2: Like MacGyver, a good event planner can fix just about any party mishap with a toothpick, duct tape, or some crepe paper” and Party Tip # 16: A sign of a successful party is directly related to the amount of mess you have to clean up. Unless it’s blood…” Plus there are complete plans for a theme party at the end of each mystery. It’s like having three books in one!

I feel lucky to have found Andrea and Amberly. They’ve given me so much support and encouragement over the past year, everything from suggestions for improving my manuscript to helping me with my synopses for the two next books in the KILLER PARTY series. And now I get to do the fun part—promote the book! That means I’ll be doing a “blog tour” (appearing on mystery blog sites), speaking at bookstores and libraries (with cupcakes!), appearing at conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic (free bookmarks!)—and of course, throwing parties!

In fact, I’ll be hosting a KILLER PARTY to celebrate the debut of the book and you’re all invited. It’s will be a gala event at the Peasant and the Pear restaurant in Danville, CA, with chocolates (poison-free), favors (killer wine charms), prizes (Alcatraz mugs, party planning mini-books), and lots of copies of my debut mystery, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY (only $6.99!).

Who knows? Maybe Presley’s cute crime-scene cleaner sidekick will show up. We may need him, after we’re done partying! It’s going to be killer!

For a list of Penny’s upcoming appearances, a visit to her blog, or more information about her books, visit her at


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