Learning to Crow About My Book
Join me at bookbrowsing with blogger PJ Nunn today as I guest post about my experiences at Malice Domestic. I offer advice on how authors can sell themselves to a captive audience at conferences. Can you succeed as a one book wonder? What social media should you attempt? And more.....
Malice Domestic and Being a Fan
Day One of the Malice Domestic traditional mystery convention continued with a crime lab talk and author interviews. I especially enjoyed the fan mail panel, where authors shared their most touching, funny, and irksome letters from fans.
In the evening, several authors published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine gathered in the hotel lounge to meet with editor Linda Landrigan. Selling a short story to AHMM is a Very Big Deal in the mystery fiction world. For some, publication in the magazine launched writing careers.
When Linda purchased my short story The Jolly Fat Man for the AHMM April 2013 issue, I responded to the email by running in circles around my living room and screaming. I exercised more restraint in the hotel lounge as I finally met Linda in person.
Meeting Carole Nelson Douglas, author of the Midnight Louie series, was Fan Moment Number One. I may have squealed. http://carolenelsondouglas.com/
While waiting for the dessert reception, I chatted with author Maggie Sefton http://www.maggiesefton.com/ . We are both Colorado residents, with a history of attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Maggie shared how she took risks to start her career, enduring a diet of peanut butter sandwiches on her path to becoming a multi-published author.
Delectable squares in a variety of flavors rewarded those able to stay up for the Welcome Reception. Or is nine o’clock not late? I stood beside a tall table and nibbled my plate of goodies while I chatted with authors Cathy Ace http://cathyace.com/ and Carolyn Mulford http://carolynmulford.com/ .
Cathy munched on a chocolate-dipped strawberry, declaring she had met her fruit requirement for the weekend. Her Welsh accent was delightful, and her enthusiasm contagious, as she spoke about her Cait Morgan mystery series, the titles of which all contain the word “Corpse.”
Carolyn is the author of the “Show Me” series, as in Show Me the Murder. She is Missouri native, and sets her series in a small Missouri town (in case you haven’t made the “show me” connection). I was schmoozing, and quite proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone by being sociable, when one of the ladies asked if I was attending the SinC breakfast in the morning.
“Thanks for the reminder,” I said. “I signed up for it. What time is it?”
Holy Cow. I was still coping with the time change. Seven am in Maryland is five am in Colorado. Which meant I would be setting my alarm for four am. Ugh.
I managed to arrive at the breakfast in time to nab a seat next to author Catriona McPherson http://catrionamcpherson.com/ , also vice president of SinC. This was Fan Moment Number Two as I told Catriona how much I love her Dandy Gilver series.
SinC is Sisters in Crime, a professional writers’ group geared toward women. I am strictly an on-line member of SinC, with no local chapter to attend. The buffet breakfast was great, and getting to see other members in person was an even better treat.
Our president and Colorado resident Laura DiSilverio kept the meeting lively. Dozens of attendees wore feather boas designating the wearers as Guppies – the great unpublished. Some Guppies never leave the pond, even after being published. I highly recommend Guppies to any aspiring mystery novelist.
After the meeting, I attended more panels, interviews, and book signings. One highlight was the Midlist Writers Anonymous presentation by Parnell Hall, Dorothy Cannell, Susan Rogers Cooper, and Joan Hess. There was even a song.
Fan Moment Number Three was attending a panel on unusual settings with Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job series. The most recent book in the series is set at a cat show.
Day Two of Malice Domestic was winding down. One more day to go, and it would be a momentous one for me. Now if I could just get adjusted to the time change…
My guest today is Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author of a mystery series inspired by her career in real-estate.
Do you remember what happened to the real estate market in 2008? I’d been a Realtor for twenty years when the crash happened and I’d never seen anything like it before. I knew it was time to take a timeout and try something new; it was my chance to make my very own type of lemonade out of a lemon market.
Like anyone who has been a Realtor for more than two weeks, I had stories to tell. Those amassed tales became the backdrop for writing mysteries set in the real estate community using a protagonist named Regan McHenry who, in addition to finding her clients the perfect home, sometimes finds bodies in those homes.
The real client who dropped off the face of the earth in the middle of an escrow was the basis for The Death Contingency. Kids who couldn’t wait to start digging for a dog the seller said was buried in their new backyard was a natural start for Backyard Bones. One reader complained that the premise for Buying Murder, that human remains were discovered in a wall anomaly, was unbelievable didn’t realize that the idea came from the building inspector who joked that he found Jimmie Hoffa in a hollow where several walls converged. And the Widow’s Walk League in which newly created widows ask Regan to list their homes…well it’s just good word of mouth run amok.
Realtors walking in on naked people, falling into abandoned septic tanks, discovering a long lost urn containing a family relative, agreeing to meet a new client at an empty house and not having it turn out well are all real experiences that make good background details for real estate mysteries. And “feeling something” in an empty house where someone had been murdered got me started on The Murder House.
Clients and tenants like the woman who wore a tin foil hat so aliens hovering over her house couldn’t read her mind, and the inspectors and escrow officers I’ve worked with became book characters, and please don’t get me started on office mates and associates.
Being a Realtor has also inspired a new writing venture. With so much experience coordinating people and transactions, why not use that experience to get a group of a hundred-and- twenty-eight cozy mystery writers together and compile a cookbook of recipes from their books? Easy, right? Well maybe not, but Cozy Food is fabulous.
Nancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.
To keep her writing fresh after four mysteries, she took a time out to write Mags and the AARP Gang, a comedy about a group of renegade octogenarian bank robbers. But she missed her husband and wife team of Regan and Tom and their friend Dave, a former police officer who has been forced into a semi-retired position as Santa Cruz Police Ombudsman after losing an eye in a shoot-out, so much that she came back to mystery writing with The Murder House and is working on the sixth book in the series.
To find Nancy’s books: http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1399987738&sr=1-2-ent
Nancy’s website: http://www.goodreadmysteries.com
Malice Domestic Begins
I arrived at the Malice Domestic convention Thursday evening. I wandered around for an hour, attempting to learn the layout of the hotel. One set of elevators takes you up to the guest rooms. Across the hallway, another set takes you down to two underground floors.
What is it about conferences and elevators? The typical complaint is that they’re slow. At Malice, the challenge was getting on the correct one. Going up, or going down? I searched for the room where the first session was scheduled, and found myself on the lowest floor. You don’t take the stairs to the Lower Level because it is more than just two stories down.
“We’re under the subway right now,” a woman told me. “But try not to think about that.”
For the entire three days of the conference, people marveled or cringed at the idea that we were often well below ground level, with the Metro running over our heads.
My adventuring done, I went to the lounge with the plan to schmooze, something at which I am unpracticed. The greeting protocol was quickly established.
“Are you a writer or a reader?”
When asked that question, I identified myself as both author and fan. Unlike many writers’ conventions, Malice Domestic attracts hundreds of readers. Fans of mystery fiction seek autographs from their favorite authors, and hope to discover new authors. Perhaps I could become some reader’s new find.
I met Patricia in the lounge area when she invited me to sit at her table. With a PhD in education, the Canadian professor had an additional purpose in attending the conference – study. Patricia’s academic career focuses on writing and writers. In her spare time, she is working on a mystery novel. I was delighted to have a conversation about the weightier aspects of the writing life.
I wish I could say I awoke refreshed the next morning, but due to the two-hour time change, it was a struggle to crawl out of bed. In the hotel lobby, I asked a group of friendly women where one could find breakfast.
This became encounter number two with Canadians. They took me under their collective wing to their discovery – a local deli. We had a great, inexpensive breakfast while chatting about the conference, what we liked to read, and writing.
Nourished and refreshed with coffee, I was ready for my first session. Being a Malice newbie, I thought it wise to attend the conference orientation. Judy Cater, Anne Murphy, and Barb Goffman gave insider tips on how to have a good Malice experience.
Next up, Malice-Go-Round. Also known as speed dating for authors.
Imagine sitting in a room packed with dozens of round tables seating ten. Two seats are empty. Suddenly, two authors appear, armed with postcards, bookmarks, and perhaps chocolates. One gives a two-minute pitch of his or her novel or body of work.
A moderator yells “Time!” The second author gives his or her pitch. Then the moderator yells “Switch!”
Those authors vanish, replaced by two new authors. This went on for over an hour. I was amazed at how poised the authors managed to remain, in spite of the frenetic nature of the program.
I noticed people scribbling in their notebooks. A woman sitting next to me suggested I use my program book to jot notes. This was her favorite part of Malice Domestic. The noise and seeming chaos provided readers with a rapid-fire introduction to dozens of authors. Since this took place on the first morning of the conference, they would have time to track down books in the dealers’ room, sit in on panels of authors they were interested in, and/or strike up conversations in the lounge or at mixers.
What a wonderful gathering! People who write books mingling with people who want to learn about their favorite authors’ newest work, as well as find new series and authors.
I snapped a few photos. Below is a mere sample of the authors participating in Malice-Go-Round. Everything was going too fast to allow for proper picture taking, note writing, and conversation. (Click on a photo to get the proper view.)
Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about meeting the editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, being an obnoxious fan of Carole Nelson Douglas, and conversations with authors Maggie Sefton, Cathy Ace, and Carolyn Mulford.
When I traveled to Bethesda, Maryland last week for the Malice Domestic convention, I had no idea I was going to use a world famous method of transportation. Automobile, plane, and trains took me most of the journey, and there were pleasant surprises along the way.
I rarely travel by myself. When I do, I tend to imagine I am on a grand adventure. Maybe that's my coping method for the stresses of navigating strange places.
My husband drove me to DIA - Denver International Airport. Maybe I can't call my first observation unexpected, because I have traveled through the airport many times, and have seen this before. Embedded in the airport floors are dinosaurs. Not real ones. Shiny metal images.
I had to smile. The reason I was making this trip was partially to promote my novel Stone Cold Dead - A Rock Shop Mystery. Dinosaur fossils are part of my story.
I arrived at the Reagan International Airport on time, and now had choices to make about how to get to the hotel. A woman on my flight had assured me that the subway was a safe method of transportation.
For a small town girl like me, taking the subway seemed daring. An adventure. I made my way to the Metro station. I was certain big city, East coast people were all rude and in a hurry. With trepidation, I asked an obviously seasoned local how to operate the ticket dispensing machine. He explained the process to acquire a ticket, and which line to take. Everything is remarkably simple and color-coded.
I had to make a transfer, and managed to find my way to the correct train, going the correct direction. Confident I was not going to get lost, I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
The Metro was humid, warm, and dark. Maryland might consider a mushroom farm in the subway tunnels. I snapped photos like the tourist I was. No one seemed to mind. In the Washington D. C. vicinity, they are used to tourists.
Then I turned a corner, and saw the most remarkable escalator. I snapped a photo, but sadly it did not turn out. Here are links to photos of the longest escalator in the Western hemisphere:
I stepped on with my bags. The escalator rolled up, up, and up some more. I didn't know escalator etiquette. You are supposed to stand to the right so more ambitious people can race up all 230 feet on the left. I shuffled to the side to allow the sprinters to pass.
The ride is so amazingly long, a reporter wrote an article about things to do while you're riding the longest escalator in the Western hemisphere:
I arrived in Bethesda. I had no idea how to get from the Metro station to the hotel, so I approached a couple musicians. The two gentlemen placed an open guitar case on the ground and prepared to perform in the subway.
"Can you tell me how to get to this hotel?" I held out a printout with the address of the Hyatt.
"That's a real nice place," one said.
"See that elevator?" the other said. "It'll take you right there."
I thanked them, tossed a dollar in the guitar case, and wheeled my bag away. I went up the elevator and was deposited nearly at the door of the hotel.
A banner announced the Malice Domestic convention. I made it!
Malice Domestic 2014
I am in Bethesda, Maryland, this weekend for the Malice Domestic traditional mystery convention. More later!
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