I invite readers and writers to submit your 2015 goals and/or resolutions for next week's blog - see details below.
I believe there is a difference between a goal and a resolution. Goals are concrete. "I will walk thirty minutes a day three times a week." You can't lie to yourself on that one, whereas a resolution is made on a philosophical level. Making a resolution to get in better shape can be hard to pin down.
In that spirit, I have set writing goals for 2015, not resolutions. I set dates for completion of the rough draft of book three in my rock shop mystery series, and for the completion of a polished final draft. My short story goal is to complete and submit one story in 2015. I plan to attend one in state and one out of state writers conference. More in the realm of a resolution is to keep my writing life in perspective, and the business and promotional aspects manageable.
Mind you, these are just writing goals and resolutions. I won't go into the resolutions to be a better person, adhere more strongly to my faith, have more balance in my life and all that high level stuff. Those are important, but from past experience, success in writing fiction comes from setting quantifiable goals that I can measure by year's end.
How about you, readers and writers? Do you have any 2015 goals or resolutions you'd like to share? Maybe finishing that novel that's been sitting in your desk drawer? Reading a book a month, or a book a week? Attending a conference, as a fan or as an author?
Send your goal and/or resolution to me at catdiltsauthor at gmail.com by January 4th, and I will try to include it in my blog post next Tuesday. Please keep it 25 words or less. Authors may include your website address and title of one recent published work. As always, please no politics, and keep it family friendly.
Today's post is a little bit of this and that.
First, I received a mention, and my photo was posted, in Robert Lopresti's blog December 17 on SleuthSayers. Robert, winner of a Derringer award for short fiction, talks about Bouchercon, free books, and his criteria for purchasing a hardcover.
Next up, I participated in the Mystery & Mistletoe Writer's Showcase and Book Sale put on by the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America December 11 at the Denver Press Club. My teenage granddaughter rode shotgun with me, and had a blast listening to authors reading from their novels.
The decor might seem a bit unusual, but it's what you can expect from an imaginative group of mystery authors - Edgar Allen Poe on the cake, and a skeleton in a Santa hat with a raven on its bony shoulder (notice the raven's flashing red eyes).
Each author had two minutes to read a section from his or her most recent work. The snippets went from funny to scary to suspenseful to steamy. I was nervous reading from Stone Cold Dead in front of a room full of people, but they laughed at the right places. The crowd responded well to each reading, and bought lots of books. I may have purchased a few myself.
Booksellers Ron and Nina from Who Else! Books did a wonderful job handling book sales, so authors could focus on their readings, and having fun. Support independent bookstores!
Broadway Book Mall
My last bit of news is that I finished the copy edits for the second book in my series, Stone Cold Case - A Rock Shop Mystery. I am hoping for a September release. Publishing is a long process!
For book one, my publisher asked for cover art suggestions. I had plenty of ideas, and fortunately they did not use a single one. Instead, the cover artist created the amazing, and very red, cover with the beautiful flying magpie. I would like to see the same cover style used for book two, but with a different "clue" featured.
In the meantime, I can cheer on my friend Liesa Malik, who received her book cover art a few days ago. Sliced Vegetarian looks like a delicious read. Liesa's novel is coming out this summer.
I would like to say I am taking a break now, after a very busy 2014. Truthfully, I will be going full steam ahead on book three in my series.
I wish everyone happy holidays!
After three days of excitement at Bouchercon 2014, I expected the energy level on Sunday to be lower. Attendees were surely worn out by now, and the last day was scheduled to end shortly after noon. I was happily mistaken.
I decided I could not miss any of the sessions on Day Four of Bouchercon. Deciding which to attend was difficult.
At 8:30 I went to the panel Sleuths at Every Age - Young, Old, or In-Between, They’re on the Case. The panel members each write using characters of different ages as their protagonists.
While discussing the impulsiveness of youth, Janet Dawson commented, “some of us lack impulse control at any age.” Becky Masterman knows her characters, but what they do can catch her by surprise. She describes her work as “a fifty-nine year old coming of age story.” Thomas Perry finds it easier to write about an older person, but Allen Eskens believes it is easier to write about a younger person. Allen can remember being fit, being irresponsible, being twenty-one, but when writing about older characters, “there are certain things you don’t think about.” In his series, Mike Befeler writes about the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild. He said it can be very hard to keep up with the banter of young people. I scribbled in my notebook that every author on the panel needed to go on my to-read list.
Bouchercon is a fan and writer’s conference. So far I had been caught up in the entertainment and the fan experience, but I had also come to learn more about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. For session two, I chose to attend Agents and Editors – the Book Business and the Business of Books.
Moderator Andrew Gulli, managing editor of the prestigious The Strand Magazine, kept the conversation lively. The panel of agents and editors offered their views on marketing, writing, and the changing publishing industry.
Juliet Grames from Soho Press said they publish 25 – 32 mysteries a year. Her best marketing tool is to only publish good books. The number one most important thing about a book is that it’s ready to publish. There is pressure on authors to produce a book a year, but that is not her ideal. “Take the publishing out of writing and just write – art does not have a time frame.”
Pamela Brown of Mulholland Books told us that the author is a partner in marketing. She recommended joining a reading community such as Goodreads as a reader, not just as an author. Avoid the "buy my book" syndrome.
Michaela Hamilton from Kensington said the rise of the ebook has had an impact on the money authors make, and what publishers can pay them. She looks for books that fall into the categories published by Kensington, but books should also be fresh and interesting within that category.
Lukas Ortiz from the Spencer Agency said, “Good writing speaks for itself.”
Jason Pinter from Polis Books emphasized doing things for the long run. It is worth the time and money to attend Bouchercon to get your name out there, although you may not realize a profit from the event. He pointed out the advantage of ebooks - they can be promoted year round, not just the brief time a print book is on the shelf. "You have digital real estate indefinitely."
The final event of the conference was the All Guest of Honor Panel - the Final Words. I attended this just for fun, and I was not disappointed.
I didn't take notes. Trust me, almost every word was a notable quote. I especially enjoyed Jeffery Deaver's story about stopping in a bookstore, offering to autograph his books, and being asked for an ID by the suspicious clerk.
My first Bouchercon experience ended, and it was time to go home. I hope I can attend another Bouchercon soon. Maybe Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015?
Friday had been my day to attend as many workshops and panels as I could. Saturday was going to be the day my roommates and I each enjoyed our moments in the spotlight at Bouchercon 2014. What we didn’t plan for were some spontaneous moments of fun.
The morning began with the Sisters in Crime breakfast. Patricia Coleman and I didn’t just show up for the buffet, although it was fabulous. Our main focus was watching our roomie Maria Kelson accept the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. Frankie Bailey presented the award, after which Maria gave a wonderful acceptance speech.
Then outgoing SinC president and Colorado author Laura DiSilverio passed on the Seal of Office to incoming president Catriona McPherson.
In the hallway on my way to the first panel of the day, I had to get my photo taken with Ingrid Willis, chair of Bouchercon 2014.
A Fine Palate for Death – Dessert, Wine, and Crime was an unexpectedly hilarious panel. Moderator and author Ovidia Yu threw her panelists curve balls with creative questions. The authors of novels involving cuisine of some variety responded with unconventional answers. The audience was in stitches.
The panelists did manage to give some serious advice to aspiring authors. Kathy Aarons achieved success when she was willing to tackle a different series. Nancy Parra advised keeping a story bible to keep characters straight, and to think about settings for multiple bodies and victims. Jennifer McKinlay recommended attending conferences, and to think of your story arc as longer than three books, in case it picks up steam. Carlene O’Neil said to be careful who you kill off and who you keep. Penny Warner told aspiring writers to be persistent. “Don’t give up.”
My author session was up next. I brought my prospector’s hammer and geodes to demonstrate an important element in my Rock Shop Mystery series. Things did not go quite as planned. I hammered and hammered on the geode, and nothing happened. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing happened. Lots of sparks flew off the geodes, and there was enough noise to wake the dead. Charlene Dietz even took a turn with the prospector’s hammer, but she had no better luck than me.
The twenty minutes went too fast, as I spent my precious time mostly hammering on the geode. People assured me it had been most entertaining. Sigh. I am sure my author session was unforgettable, although not perhaps in the way I intended.
I was determined to prove there was something inside the homely rock, so I went out by the pool with Liesa Malik, author of the Daisy Arthur Mystery series. We took turns whacking away with the hammer. I expected security to toss us out of the conference, but we had as much time as we needed to finally crack open that geode!
Liesa helped me carry my prospector’s gear and posters back to the hotel, and then I accompanied her to lunch. We are both Five Star authors, and we had a great time talking shop.
After that break (ha ha), I went to watch roommate Patricia Coleman on her panel, Whodunits in Every Era: the Crimes May Change, but Murders Stay the Same. Moderator Darrell James led the discussion with authors Charlotte Hinger, Robert Kresge, Linda Richards, and John Maddox Roberts. Patricia actually writes in three different eras – Regency, contemporary, and steampunk.
Now came the unexpected fun. Patricia, Maria, Liesa and I played hookey from the conference. We walked past the marina to the nearby beach. Palm trees, ocean, seagulls, and salt water. It was a beautiful diversion.
One enterprising bird tried to steal the daisy off Liesa’s bag. The flower symbolized Liesa’s Daisy Arthur mystery series. The bird did not seem to realize the flower was not real, but it gave up after a few beaky plucks at the flower.
We made it back in time for one more panel. I dropped in on Historical Sleuthing – Historical People Sleuthing versus Fictionalized People. This panel was a bit controversial. I had to consider whether I enjoyed the idea of actual historical figures being used in a work of fiction. As peripheral characters, I have no problem, but I’m not sure I would enjoy a novel with a historical figure as the main protagonist. I suppose I should read books by these authors to see how it plays out. Moderator Robert Kresge, panelists Emily Brightwell, Carola Dunn, Barbara Hambly, Francine Matthews (Stephanie Barron) and Holly West.
Liesa, Pat and I decided on dinner at a burger place. This was California – I knew there would be veggie burgers. We were fired up with all we had learned, discussed the business of writing, and gave each other motivational speeches.
I have to admit that by this point in the conference, I was dead on my feet. I had to muster up the energy to go to the Anthony Awards ceremony. Liesa and I were prepared to cheer for our Five Star editor Deni Dietz, who was nominated in the short story category. We were devastated when she did not win, but just being nominated is an honor.
After the awards, I dragged myself to the reception. I caught my second wind when I saw that quite a few members of the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America were in attendance. We gathered for serious writer talk and photos.
Walking back to the hotel, I tried to soak up the beautiful warm evening, hoping to store it away for later remembrance during the cold days of winter. As a colorful fountain splashed, I enjoyed the camaraderie of other Bouchercon attendees who had experienced their own adventures that day. This was my last night in Long Beach. I didn’t want it to be over.
Sunday would be short, and couldn’t possibly have anything more to offer. Or so I thought.
Join me and twenty other local authors this Thursday, December 11th, as Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America hosts Mystery and Mistletoe.
What: Writer’s Showcase and Book Sale
When: Thursday, December 11, 6–9 p.m.
Where: The Historic Denver Press Club
1330 Glenarm Place, Denver, Colorado
Cost: $10 - RSVPs are mandatory. Please RSVP to Donnell Bell at bellson@Comcast.net
Who: Guest emcee Helen Thorpe, author of Soldier Girls.
RMMWA members reading include Mario Acevedo, Shannon Baker, Bonnie Biafore,
Mike Befeler, Donnell Bell, Rex Burns, Ellen Byerrum, Catherine Dilts, Wick Downing,
Chris Goff, Joan Johnston, Liesa Malik, Becky Martinez, Susan Paturzo, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, and more!
There will be hors d’ouevres, a cash bar, and lots of merriment! Books will be available for sale by Who Else! Books.
More fangirl moments, notable quotes, and lots of photos!
Friday, November 14, my game plan was to attend as many panels and workshops as I could fit in. The difficult part was deciding which sessions to attend, when there were so many terrific offerings.
The first event of Day Two at Bouchercon 2014 was the New Author Breakfast. I attended for two reasons. 1) Fellow Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America member and Five Star author Mike Befeler was the host, and 2) there is no better way to hone your own elevator pitch than to hear dozens of emerging authors selling their novels. Mike did a great job keeping the event on track and on time.
Next up on my schedule was the Walk Through a Crime Scene workshop presented by George Fong, former special agent with the FBI. A mock crime scene had been arranged at the front of the room, and two audience members - an author and a reader - were selected to walk through the scene identifying evidence with markers.
The FBI Evidence Response Team guided the audience and the two participants through the legal and scientific aspects of crime scene investigations, while debunking some of what we see on television crime shows. As a mystery writer, I have attended plenty of talks on crime scene investigation, as well as my county DA's Citizen's Academy. I thought I was well versed, but I learned four new things at this workshop.
1) Investigators will remove an entire wall and take it as evidence if need be.
2) DNA evidence is packaged in paper because plastic may cause it to mold. (Yuk!)
3) A small police department may reuse body bags to save money. Even if they are washed between uses (another yuk!) this can ruin evidence.
4) The main investigative goal is to Stop the Clock in order to set the timeline of the crime.
When I took my seat for a 10 am session, I ran into Charlene Bell Dietz. We were on a short story panel together at Left Coast Crime 2013, and have corresponded since then. This time, we were in the audience for "A Place by Any Other Name."
Moderator Deborah Lacy hosted authors John Connolly, Tammy Kaehler, William Kent Kruger, Mark Pryor, and Julia Spencer-Fleming (not pictured). Here are my favorite quotes from this panel on how stories wouldn't be the same in a different setting:
"By their natures writers tend to be outsiders." - John Connolly
"Being an outsider in some way can often give you an insight into a region that locals don't have." Julia Spencer-Fleming
Mark Pryor described doing research in Old Town Barcelona. He had to be there to see the shutters of shops open to reveal a pub or a bakery. "You can't Google Earth that."
William Kent Kruger said that setting is not just the place the story takes place. "I always think of setting as one of the characters."
Tammy Kaehler described her female race car driver protagonist as a "fish out of water." There is value in the writer being an outsider, but there is also value in a character being an outsider.
In between sessions, I went to the dealer's room. Book vendor Anne Saller placed my novel on her Book Carnival table. I had to drop by for a photo of my book for sale at Bouchercon. How exciting!
After swooping through the dealer's room for the umpteenth time, I saw Charlene Dietz in the hotel cafe area. She waved me over to her table and introduced me to her friend author Patricia Smith Wood and another author she had just met, Rhys Bowen.
I had recently read books in two of Ms. Bowen's series. I was thrilled to be able to discuss them somewhat intelligently, and then in true fangirl style, to request a photo.
I was amazed at how many people I knew in the crowd of over 1600 people. I talked to Chris Goff in the hallway. She has a new bird-watchers book coming out, and recently signed a two book thriller deal.
Soon after this encounter, I ran into friend and author F. T. Bradley. This then entailed a trip to the dealer's room, because my granddaughter would never forgive me if I didn't buy Fleur's newest novel, and get her autograph.
The next session I attended was The Long and the Short of It, featuring authors of both short and novel-length fiction. I know, it is getting old, but this was yet another fangirl moment.
I have read short stories and/or novels by almost everyone on the panel. The authors discussed how they decide whether an idea is best suited for long or short fiction. Jeffery Deaver defined it best.
"Short stories are not a springboard to novels." Both involve entirely different sets of skills. "The point of a short story is a twist" whereas a novel is multi-plotted.
Terrie Farley Moran moderated the panel that was her inspiration. She said more and more people are writing both long and short fiction. Terrie said she will take characters from novels and write short stories about them to explore their backstory. Alternately, she may "test drive" a character in a short story before using him or her in novel-length fiction.
Simon Wood described his approach to writing short by telling the audience he considers "is that word worth $1." Brendan DuBois said time and space are your enemy in short fiction. You have limited space, and must choose your words carefully.
Dana Cameron, Bouchercon anthology editor, likes to throw scraps of ideas into a basket until the idea finds its place in either a short story or a novel. Toni Kelner enjoys writing to a theme, such as for an anthology. "Two authors never see the same thing the same way."
Jeffery Deaver ended the panel with these words: whether writing long or short, "We have a real responsibility to give our best."
I enjoyed the afternoon panel with mystery mega-star authors who shared trials, tribulations, and triumphs from their careers. Moderator Clare Toohey hosted Sue Grafton, Charlaine Harris, Sara Pretsky, and J. A. Jance. Afterwards, I joined the mad scramble for a place in the long lines to get autographs.
I was running out of steam, but the day was far from finished. Roomie Patricia Coleman and I took our dinner break at the Irish pub across the street from the convention. Is there a better place for writers to hang out?
Later I went to the dessert reception and charity auction with my other roomie Maria Kelson. The walk along the promenade at night was bright with light. We reveled in the sensation of not needing jackets, much less winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots.
On our trip down the escalator to the reception, I claimed that if I made enough money off my writing, I would buy an island and write poetry all day. Maria commented that she could say she wrote poetry before she had an island.
The desserts were beyond description, so I'll just include photos below. Maria and I were commiserating that there was too much dessert, and we had too little room to stow it, when a gentleman sat down next to us. He looked somehow familiar, but I couldn't place the face. Then he introduced himself.
Mark Baker is the blogger behind Carstairs Considers. He reviews cozy mysteries, among other things. Mark's blog was the first to review my novel Stone Cold Dead. A handshake was not enough. I gave him a hug.
Back in our hotel room, Maria and I described the evening, and the desserts, to Patricia. Then Maria grabbed her laptop and went to the lobby to write. Now that is dedication!
And that was Day Two of my Bouchercon adventure.
Join me next week for Day Three, and my author spotlight that didn't go quite as planned.
More photos in the slideshow below.
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