Before I sold my first novel, I dreamed of the day I would receive “The Call.” Authors spoke reverently of answering their telephones, and learning they had acquired an agent or sold a manuscript. The reactions ranged from disbelief to spontaneous dancing. One author reported that she was so elated, she accidentally hung up on her agent.
Times have changed. The majority of queries, manuscripts, rejections, and even contracts are delivered electronically. I sold my novel Stone Cold Dead to Five Star Publishing without benefit of direct human contact. For an introvert like me, that wasn’t a negative.
However, when I saw my editor Deni Dietz listed among the attendees at Left Coast Crime 2013, I knew I had to step out of my shell and meet the woman who gave my story a chance.
She participated in the panel Ask the Editors, with Midnight Ink editor Terri Bischoff and professional editors Diane O’Connell and Jodie Renner. I sat in the audience with my new friend and fellow Five Star newbie Liesa Malik.
Deni opened the panel discussion by telling us, “If you drop a dream, it breaks.” I may have gasped, I was so taken by her powerful words. As Liesa said, “What an honor to know this editor had read and worked on my novel.”
Later, when asked what she is looking for in an author, Deni said, “A good voice, because I can edit a book, but I cannot edit a voice.”
When the panel concluded, Liesa and I rushed forward to introduce ourselves. Deni remembered our books, which was a thrill for a new author. We did not have the opportunity to have a conversation, with so many others jumping in for a quick word or two, so this first meeting was a bit anticlimactic.
Friday evening, a group of Five Star authors met in the hotel bar. We chatted with Mike Befeler, author of the Paul Jacobson Geezer Lit series, while waiting for Deni to arrive. Mike is President of the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and generously shares his time and expertise with new authors.
I was grateful I knew a few people at the gathering. I have to confess that schmoozing with a roomful of strangers makes me feel as comfortable as a coyote with a muzzle full of porcupine quills. I was relieved when Deni walked into the bar, because it meant I could meet her and go, as swiftly as politely possible. That didn’t happen.
Deni made an entrance, her red hair tossed by the wind that would soon bring a snowstorm, a huge bag hanging from her shoulder. As she settled into a comfy chair, I was captivated by her stories, and delighted to hear about her first novel sale. Deni never gave up on her own dreams, despite fierce odds. She told about seeing her first novel on a shelf in the library, then running around to gather library patrons to see her book and share her joy.
Now she is in the position to help others achieve their dreams. Later during the conference, Liesa and I ran into Deni in a hallway. We exchanged pleasantries, and then Deni introduced us to another person as her “shining stars.” We glowed with the compliment. After all the long distance negotiating and editing, I was relieved to have a human face to put on my Five Star experience, and pleased to learn that the door to my publishing journey had been opened by a woman who understood the struggle and honored the dream.
How do writers handle the serious topic of murder in their laugh-out-loud mystery novels? Five authors gave their insight during the panel discussion A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to LCC. The panelists were all nominees for the Lefty Award, honoring the best humorous mystery novel of the year, as voted on by attendees at the Left Coast Crime convention.
Nancy Glass West, author of Fit To Be Dead, said that the murder itself isn’t funny. The main character in a humorous mystery may have a wry outlook, but he or she must sympathize with the victim. http://www.nancygwest.com/
Mike Befeler, author of Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, saw the benefit of combining the murder with humor. “You have to have something to balance the dead bodies.” He believes humor happens when the main character has a sense of humor about himself. http://www.mikebefeler.com/
Brad Parks, author of the Lefty winning The Girl Next Door, explained how readers balance the laughs with the tragedy. “Humans can code switch. They can go from suspense to humor in a novel.” http://www.bradparksbooks.com/
Jess Lourey, author of December Dread, observed that people with the darkest jobs, such as coroners and undertakers, are often the funniest. They find a natural balance through humor. http://www.jesslourey.com/
Laura DiSilverio, author of Swift Run, said “We all can confront horrible things in our lives, yet still have a sense of humor.” This is true in fiction as well. http://lauradisilverio.com/
The panelists agreed that humor must be handled skillfully when the subject of a novel is murder. While murder may not be a laughing matter, humor can balance a well-written story.
I am attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs April 18-21.
When people talk about a Perfect Storm, they typically mean it is perfectly awful. I have had moments over the past three weeks that have felt like I am caught in a whirlwind of activity threatening to blow out of my control. I shouldn't be whining, though. It's all good - just all happening at once.
In mid-March, for some insane reason, I decided to paint my kitchen. My husband tore out the old ceramic chipped-up sink, and replaced it with a shiny new stainless steel sink. Painting seemed the next logical step - until it took three times as long as I had calculated to finish the job. Thankfully I had help from my oldest granddaughter.
Next on my agenda was attending Left Coast Crime. The photo shows me with Liesa Malik and Mike Befeler, both Five Star-Cengage authors, as I will soon be, also. I met Deni Deitz, the editor who gave me the opportunity to be published. I was on the Read My Shorts short story panel (I'll blog about that later). I roomed for two of the nights with my friend Pat Coleman (posing with me and the bear). The four day conference was an intense combination of learning, job-interview, slumber party, and endless networking sessions.
When the conference concluded, I had a few days to prepare for Passover. We hosted several families, as well as our two daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren. There was much happy cleaning, cooking, and visiting involved. Then it was time to paint my in-laws' kitchen. I had been promising to help them for over a year. My schedule was already blown to shreds. So between me, my husband, and our younger daughter, we made short work of the job. The in-laws were so happy to see their "new" kitchen, I have no regrets. The full-time day job was begining to feel like an imposition on my life, until my dear friend Joyce lost hers. I'm happy to be employed, I'm happy to be employed, I'm happy to be employed......
In the midst of all this, I received the copy edit of my manuscript Stone Cold Dead. I have a few more days to return it to Five Star. This is the perfect conclusion to my Perfect Storm of happy activity.
Oh, wait - I have the Pikes Peak Writers Conference on the calendar the weekend of the 19-21th. Here we go again....
Subscribe to this blog: