MISS DEMEANORS

Bouchercon Goals

Bouchercon, the largest gathering of mystery and thriller writers in the United States, can be an overwhelming experience. Every hour, there are panels filled with successful, interesting and respected writers. There’s the bar where most folks hang out until the wee hours of the morning. There are lunches with publishers, meetings with editors, and drinks with agents. What do you go to? How to spend the time? Obviously, any meeting with a writer’s agent or publisher is a must. After that, I prioritize lunches and dinners with fellow authors, ideally ones that either write similar stories (domestic suspense, for me), have experiences with similar people (same publisher or editor, for example) or have advanced from where I am and can offer sage advice.  As much as Bouchercon is a place to promote my work, it’s also a place to get out of the writing cocoon and meet people who can relate to the process of crafting a novel, working with a publisher, and promoting a book. These people have invaluable insights into the business. They can let me know whether my experience with a publisher is par for the course, exceptional, or worse than anticipated by relating their own experiences. They can provide insight into what I may have to […]

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Swag or No Swag

 The thriller and mystery writer community’s biggest annual bash starts tomorrow in New Orleans. In the midst of packing for my 7a.m. flight today I made a big decision: NO SWAG. At last year’s Bouchercon, I brought a suitcase full of free giveaways to promote my first novel, Dark Turns. Bookmarks. Stress balls with my blue-hued book cover on them. Folders with a sticker advertising my personal Web site. Three boxes of business cards. I was cheap by comparison to some of the swag-laden authors that I encountered. Some writers splurged on custom printed pens. I saw t-shirts with pithy quotes from novels. A few scribes that I knew splurged on custom canvas bags with their book covers emblazoned on the front.  Aside from the bags and perhaps pens, I’m pretty sure most of the giveaway items ended up in the garbage. People fly to these conferences with carry-ons to avoid checked bag fees. The last thing most authors want after shelling out a bunch of cash for airfare and hotels–not to mention drinks at the bar–is to pay more to bring home additional luggage. It’s enough that authors tend to end conferences with a bunch of books that must be shoved into their bags or shipped home.  This year, I am bringing […]

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Book Promotion = More Writing

When I’m working on a novel, I write everyday. When I am promoting a book, it feels as though I’m writing every minute.  Why am I spending more time tapping away on a keyboard after finishing my latest novel than I did when I was working on it? In two words…guest blogging. For a debut or little-known author, guest blogging is a key tool in getting the name of your book out there. Sure, we mystery writers are all hoping that stellar reviews will sell our work (and they do). But unless you’re fortunate enough to have landed national press through your publisher, few people will visit your Amazon page to read any of that glowing critical praise. Folks need to either hear about your novel from a friend or read about it on a site that they regularly visit. In the month since The Widower’s Wife came out I’ve written: 2 posts for Booktrib.com (One story has yet to be published. Here’s the story that ran:How I Made Two Cinematic Book Trailers Each For Less Than $500) 1 post for Jungle Red Writers on why a horrible cruise inspired me to write my last novel. It’s scheduled to run on September 21.  1 post on How I Got My Agent […]

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Pitch Not-So-Perfect

             I tell long stories. Shortening them has always been a struggle.            From the time I was a child, I’d go on and on with details, trying to give a sense of place and character, while my overworked parents begged for the bare facts. Later, I became a newspaper reporter and the scourge of copy editors. Daily, I’d beg for another inch of newsprint to include a detail that I felt crucial to my story as the higher ups dismissed my pleas as trying to include needless, scene-setting “color.” Things weren’t much better when I moved to writing for business magazines. Serious people, I was told, didn’t want to know that some tech giant had twenty kinds of cereal in their cupboards. Such “fascinating” details were superfluous.            Eventually, I left daily journalism for fiction writing. Doing so felt like moving from a cramped New York city studio to a New Jersey McMansion. I was loaded with space. Finally, I would have eighty to a hundred thousand words to tell a story.           Imagine my disappointment when I learned that nearly every long-form writer needs to pen a pitch.            Pitches are the universe’s way of checking my ego. All the pride I feel […]

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WRITING MY WAY OUT OF A CARDBOARD BOX

 Let me be clear. This is not a criticism of or rant against technology. I am thrilled to be living in an age where there are computers, cellphones, the Internet, and Bluetooth. Admittedly, there is a learning curve for someone my age. I remember identifying with Dave Barry who wondered how they got the ink through the wires of a fax machine. But it has been worth every effort I have made to hang on, clinging to my devices by my fingernails declaring, “I will not be left behind.”            I am particularly smitten with Google. There is no place you cannot go with this wonder of wonders. Just within the past 48 hours, I have explored how to defer federal jury duty, how to fix a dropped stitch, what the weather will be in New Orleans and Italy this month, and who is the better candidate for state senate in my community. When the students I teach at a law school told me I should stop struggling with Westlaw, a complex legal software program, and just use Google, I was relieved to know I was actually in the know.            So when a number of my writing colleagues began to rave […]

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CONFESSIONS OF A BOUCHERCON VIRGIN

  Note:  I wrote this post a year ago before I attended my first Bouchercon in Raleigh and thought it might be helpful to share with this year’s new batch of Bouchercon virgins.  I’ve been a mystery lover since I was a kid reading Nancy Drew.  I still love reading mysteries, have taken to writing them, and have always wanted to go to Bouchercon, which I picture as a long weekend party for mystery lovers. This year I am finally attending Bouchercon.  Here are ten reasons I have been longing to attend this fabulous conference:  1.         Bouchercon is a fan conference. Fan is spelled R-E-A-D-E-R! I love readers. I am a reader. A reader is the acorn from which the writer-tree grows. There is nothing more delightful than being in the company of fellow readers who understand and share their obsession with mysteries. While I love a conference where craft is the focus, I am looking forward to lots of discussions with and recommendations from my fellow book lovers. 2.         I am unabashed about being in awe of the authors who write the books I read and love. I look at the list of authors who will appear and see names like Lawrence Block, […]

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WHEN DID EVERYONE GET SO MEAN?

  Sometimes being on social media makes me feel like I am back in high school. That is not good. I found high school to be like a four-year dental appointment. And I was considered “popular,” whatever that means. I can’t imagine the pain if you were a nerd.    “Like” me is now the unembarrassed beg on Facebook. Was your post “shared”? How many “friends” do you have? Dear lord, not that again.    But still, I engage. I’d love to blame it all on being a writer just following Jane Friedman’s latest advice (which is right on), but the truth is I get sucked into the vortex. I want to play with the big kids, be part of the fun, and sell a few books along the way. I’ve trying “getting in” with the other crowd, you know, those Twitter folks, but so far they’re not sure about me. I’ll keep trying, though.    Okay, I’ll admit it. I can actually have fun on Facebook. It’s just short of miraculous to be reconnected with people I haven’t seen or heard from in years. I love seeing photos of new babies, weddings, and puppies. Celebrating new books is like an online party. Sharing […]

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Were Rules Really Made to be Broken?

Rule breakers make me crazy. Oh, not the ones who do something so blatantlyagainst the norm, there’s a number for it in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, for those of you who have managed to escape this psychiatrictome). Perhaps there will someday be a diagnosis for writers who gomad deciding whether to follow “The Rules” or to break them. I imagine I willqualify. It’s not that I don’t know the rules. I have bookshelves filled with writingbooks containing them according to various authors. The first problem is thatthere are lots of rules, many of which contradict one other. Words like, “never,”“always,” “do,” and “don’t,” remind me of being in parochial school where therules were easy. Someone else told you what to do and if you did it, you’d stayout of trouble. Of course, you’d never have an original thought, but that’s a topicfor another day. Elmore Leonard shared ten great rules for writing in a often- quoted NewYork Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and EspeciallyHooptedoodle.” It’s hard to argue with a writer as terrific and prolific as Leonard,especially when his tenth rule is to leave out the part that writers tend to skip. Buthis admonitions to “avoid detailed descriptions […]

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

No, I didn’t have too much to drink at the Labor Day barbecue, thank you. I’m just celebrating what I believe Labor Day really is to me, and to many, if not most other people.  It is the beginning of a new year.            I am not trying to diminish the significance of Labor Day, which according to Wikipedia “honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of the country.”  Nor, will I start a conversation about what’s happening today to workers in our country, although that’s a topic worthy of discussion.            I’m simply acknowledging that for most of us, the end of the summer and the beginning of a new school year marks what most of us consider a new year. Ingrained in us since we were students, reinforced when we send our own children to school, that back-to-school fever is more about new beginnings, fresh slates, and starting over than the 31st of December ever was. Kissing goodbye the celebration of summer and all the gifts it brings is not without sadness. Who won’t miss fresh blueberries, carnivals and county fairs, beaches, lakes, and pools? But admit it. […]

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Take a little trip

( picture by http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/deveer.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)  I love traveling. By car, train, airplane, it doesn’t matter as long as it gets me from home to someplace else. Sadly, actual travel isn’t always possible. I have a job and I’m expected to show up more often than not. And I’m not on anybody’s richest people list. But I’m determined not to let the practicalities of real life hold me back. I can always travel in my imagination.Between books, movies, television, and the internet I can virtually visit any place in the world. France, Spain, Iceland, Croatia, Fiji, Antarctica, anywhere. All I have to do is turn a page, click a mouse, or change a channel and I’m there. Given the choice, I’ll take an actual trip over a virtual one but sometimes I have to make do.Virtual travel does have one advantage (besides no lines at airport security) over actual travel, an insurmountable advantage. You can’t actually travel to a place that doesn’t actually exist. No trains stop in Wonderland. No buses run to Oz. You can’t buy a ticket on Southwest to Tatooine, even on sale. And no roads lead to Hogwarts. (You can drive to Universal to […]

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