MISS DEMEANORS

Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and Thrillerfest. Or how to fill your conference calendar.

Everyone is signed up, keeping an eye on travel schedules and hotel bookings, and checking their panel assignments. And triple checking that their books will be in stock with the conference books sellers for fans to purchase. That’s how many writer’s fill their idle time in spring. Bouchercon, Malice Domestic and Thrillerfest. Surely three of the largest, or at least well known, of the mystery conferences. I’ve attended all three both as a reader and later as a writer. Here’s a brief run down for anyone thinking about diving deeper into the mystery world – they are for readers and writers alike! Bouchercon, held annually in a rotating North American location, is Fan Conference writ large. I’ve met book clubs in attendance, families on vacation, and best friends who use it as an annual gathering. The panel topics are aimed at fans, so writers use the time in between their own talks to see friends or listen to their idols on the stage. There are hundreds of authors in attendance and it is a great chance to get an autograph! If you want to ‘run into’ someone, make a plan because this is a large gathering. At the conclusion of the […]

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Catching up with author Deanna Raybourn.

We are thrilled to have bestselling author Deanna Raybourn with us today at MissDemeanors. Deanna is the award winning author of fifteen novels and novellas including the wildly popular Lady Julia Grey and Veronica Speedwell series. Tracee de Hahn: Deanna, You are prolific! When you start a new project do you have in mind that it will be series or does that evolve? How does that impact the project and character creation? Deanna Raybourn: I always know before I even begin the actual writing if I’m creating a series or a stand-alone. It means that the character development is a bit different and how I relate the backstory changes. In a series, I can let out bits of the past over a much longer period of time because the arc is much broader. In a stand-alone, I have to be ruthless about deciding what matters and whether it makes the cut of what goes in because I only have so much space to work with.  TdeH: I’ve dipped back into your books recently and the trip down memory lane makes me wonder if we’ll ever see Ryder again?  DR: He was a fun character to write, but Ryder’s day is […]

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Who’s the best? Time for writing awards season.

Every year I feel that spring launches writer’s conference season. For writers and fans alike there are many choices to fill the schedule. Interested in networking, there’s a conference for that. In advancing craft? Connecting with an agent, meeting your writing idols? Still other choices. This week at MissDemeanors we’ll take a look at a range of choices and weigh in on a few of our favorites. Later this month, the Mystery Writer’s of America (MWA) host a symposium followed by the Edgar Awards (yes, named for THAT Edgar…. he of the tell-tale heart). The groups mission is to promote higher regard for crime writing and the writers in the genre. As part of this mission, the symposium features the Edgars’ nominated authors in categories ranging from Best Novel and Best First Novel, to Best Fact Crime, Best Juvenile, Best Short Story, and Best TV episode, among others. Held annually in New York City, this is a great chance to hear from the best of the year, and meet them in person. The size of the event makes it possible – almost inevitable – to speak to your favorite authors. Ask that burning question about how they started in their […]

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Influential Women

As Women’s History Month winds down, I’ve been reflecting on the women who have influenced me. My mom, in particular. She showed me what it meant to grab life with both hands and commit to goals with enthusiastic abandon. There would be times when I would hear “no” along the way, but she taught me that “no” isn’t lethal and, heck, sometimes all it means is “not yet.” Try a different approach. Learn from the experience. Most of all, keep going. The only way to truly fail is to give up. How about you, my fellow Miss Demeanors? Who were the women who made an impact on you? Susan: This is such a great question, Robin. I would also say that my mother has been my greatest influence. She was a woman who had a very tough life–struggled with her own illness and my father’s and various other issues. Yet, what I learned from her was the importance of enjoying every single moment that you can. You could take my mother to a Nathan’s. She loved their French fries more than anything. And she would be absolutely overjoyed. She would get as much pleasure out of that French fry as […]

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The Not-So-Lonely Part of Writing

One of the best parts of writing crime fiction is getting to meet my heroes. I’ve mentioned this before but it’s still true – crime fiction authors are the nicest people. At last year’s ThrillerFest, I spent time with Lisa Gardner. Her books scare the crap out of me in all the best ways. It was therefore an absolute pleasure when Lisa asked if I’d be willing to talk to her about the technology pieces of her then-work in progress. I jumped at the chance. I had a great time sharing some of the particulars of digital forensics and the dark web. The results of our conversations are masterfully reflected in Never Tell, Lisa’s latest best seller. By way of thanks, she sent me a signed copy of the book. This photo is now on the desk in my writing lair. I encourage anyone writing in the genre to join Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime (national and local chapters) to get the inside scoop on the schedule of meeting and events. Then attend those events, even if it’s just one or two a year – you never know what may happen next.

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Writing What You Know

I’m en route to the Left Coast Crime Conference where I’ll be on a panel to talk about law enforcement research. This brings to mind the oft-debated topic of writing what you know. You know the one, whether writers should write based on their own experiences versus stories based on research. You might expect me to favor the “write what you know” camp, given I’m a real-life cyber crime fighter who writes cyber crime fiction. And you’d be right. But not in the way you expect. A few years back, I wrote one really great scene in an otherwise “meh” novel unlikely to ever see the light of day. The story wasn’t bad, I just managed to squeeze in just about every trope we’re told to avoid as beginners – opened with the main character waking up, a flashback in the first 10 pages, that sort of thing. The one really great scene was loosely based on a real series of events in my childhood that I heavily adapted. Once I opened the floodgate of my memories, I experienced a surprising amount of recall. I tapped into heartbreak as seen through the lens of my 7-year-old self to write that […]

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The “Right” Way?

People ask me for advice on getting published more often these days. I love mentoring but it’s not a simple question to answer. My response is to ask questions of my own to figure out the person’s goals. The path I’m on may be wildly different from the one another writer wants to follow. The first topic of discussion is usually about agents. My parents used to tell me, “It’s not just what you know, but who you know.” They were talking about finding a job-slash-career. My mom was a professional recruiter for 20 years or so. She matched up job seekers with employers. She also helped the job seekers fine tune their resumes, practice interviews, and coached them on ways to obtain skills relevant their interests. That’s effectively what an agent does, too. My goal was to follow the traditional path, which meant I needed that “who you know” person. A literary agent is a writer’s advocate, matching authors to publishers. My agent is also my cheerleader and my mentor. That’s exactly what I wanted. Does that mean my path is should be your path? Nope. There is no “right” way to reach your writing goals. This is just […]

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Comfort zones

Earlier this week I was traveling around Monterey with my daughter. She’s a lot of fun, and very energetic, but she firmly believes that I should not get stuck in my comfort zone. She’s always trying to nudge me out of it, whether by pushing me to hike longer than I might have, or encouraging me gently to climb a fence. I’ll catch you mom! (I should note that we were climbing the fence because we realized we were on private land and were trying to get on to public land.) Or even to talk to people that I might otherwise be intimidated by. So, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors: When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone? This is what they said: Alexia: Last week. I presented three workshops, each ranging from 60-90 minutes, at Sleuthfest 2019. My room was an actual auditorium-style lecture hall–a stage facing semicircular rows of built-in desks. From the stage, I couldn’t even see the faces of anyone sitting in the back row. To my horror, people actually showed up. I was forced to stand in front of an audience and not sound like an idiot or a nervous […]

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New York Pitch Conference

Today was the first day of the NY Pitch Conference. I’ve been a workshop leader there for ten years, and it has a very special place in my heart because that’s where I sold my first novel, The Fiction Class. It was a truly life-changing experience. I’d been wading through the publishing waters for some years, trying to catch a wave. (I’ve just been in Monterey and surfing images are in my mind.) I wrote up a pitch and presented it to the first editor, who kindly informed me that no one would ever publish my book because it was about creative writing and no one cared about that. The next editor was much more pleasant, and seemed genuinely interested in my book. Except that he quit publishing that very day and went to work for his family’s logging company in Canada. The third editor was also kind, but she was not the right editor for my book. Then, on Sunday morning, I went in to meet with the fourth editor, read my pitch and she said, “We’re going to want to publish this book!” Even a decade later I can remember how thrilled I was. So now, when I’m […]

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And more pitch tips!

Last night (or possibly last week–I’m not sure. Still on California time) I spoke to the Central Coast Writers meeting in Pacific Grove. A truly lovely group of people who made me and my daughter feel very welcome. My daughter was there to assist me in my talk, which was about how to use pitches to help you sell your book, but also how to use them to diagnose problems with your novel. I am a self-confessed pitch addict and find them very useful in figuring out if a writing project is worth pursuing. It’s also a great way to figure out if the structure of your novel is working. For example, one of the things you want to include in your pitch is a sense of the conflict that will fuel your story. Ideally that conflict should happen fairly early on. Ideally it should happen around the first chapter. But what if you’re writing your pitch and realize that nothing happens worth writing about until page 218? That can be a sign that your novel is not starting quickly enough. In fact, a gentleman at the meeting who’d just had a book published said that his editor wound up […]

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