Tag: Bouchercon


Toy Lady

Over the next few days the Bouchercon Mystery Convention will be taking place in St. Petersburg, Florida. More than 1,500 mystery writers and fans will be attending. Karin Slaughter will be the guest of honor. It will be a fabulous time, but I had to bow out this year because I will be having a different sort of fabulous time. I will be sorting toys for my church Attic Sale.  I am the chairperson of the Toy Department, which is not an honor I actually had to fight for. But it’s an honor nonetheless. That means that I spend hours sorting through black trash bags and trying to figure out what that thing is that looks like a bean ball and how much can charge for it? The miraculous part about this whole exercise is that we raise a huge sum of money. The Attic Sale as a whole raises about $50,000 and my little department raises about $2,000. (You can only charge so much for a used Barbie car.) Every penny that we raise we donate. We give to local organizations that help kids in our community, to groups who help prisoners trying to get acclimated after they get out of jail, to groups who help veterans find homes. We donate to people who’ve been hurt by natural disasters. Organizations abroad. You name it, we give to it. Or if we don’t, we will, if you ask nicely. My favorite part of the whole exercise is the way the whole church comes together for the sale. It reminds me a little bit of that scene in the movie Witness where they’re building a barn. Except no Harrison Ford. And there is also a food department that sells the best ham salad sandwiches I’ve ever had.  So hugs to all my friends at Bouchercon. Hopefully I’ll see you next year in Dallas. And meanwhile I’ll be buried under toys. 

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Authors and Books and Readers, Oh My

 Crime conference season is still in full swing. Thrillerfest takes place in New York City in a couple of weeks. (Yes, I’ll be there!) Bouchercon happens in Florida in September. Dozens of other events are scheduled worldwide between now and November. I counted 17 on Sisters in Crime’s upcoming events calendar. Libraries also kick off their summer reading programs this time of year. They host author events in conjunction with their efforts to encourage people to get out and read. This Saturday, June 30, from 1-3pm, I’ll be at the Dixon Public Library in Dixon, IL as part of their Summer Author Series. Author events and conferences have several things in common—authors, books, and readers. Beyond that, they’re as different as, well, authors, books, and readers. Some feature moderated panels. Several authors answer questions they may or may not have received in advance. Some feature interviews. Someone, usually an author, interviews the featured guest author in front of an audience. Authors read from their works at some events and give prepared speeches at others. Sometimes an author hosts a table. Readers may spend the entire event seated with the table’s host or they may move from table to table and meet several. These events usually involve food. Yum. This weekend’s event at the Dixon Public Library is a meet and greet and Q and A. Readers will ask me questions and I’ll try to answer them. What’s your favorite format for author events?

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The Power of Positive Flying

 A day after returning from Bouchercon, I sit shoehorned into an economy seat for a four-and-a-half hour flight to the West Coast to make a site visit to one of our stations. I had fifteen hours to unpack, try to salvage waterlogged books and journals from the aftermath of the apparent flood that invaded my basement while I enjoyed Toronto, repack, eat (miniature Swiss chocolate bars, a Naked protein shake, and a Starbucks latte), catch up on some blogs (a Femmes Fatales post and two posts for my Lone Star Lit blog tour), nap, shower, dress, and catch a taxi back to the airport I’d just left. The shrieking (full-on, Banshee-worthy wails punctuated by sobs akin to chainsaws. Think of the fits thrown by Mary in the Secret Garden. Think of someone being tortured by Klingons.) temper tantrums of two of my coach-mates have turned the possibility of sleep on the plane into a hope as forlorn as Miss Havisham’s wedding dress. So what to do in the face of hours of cramped elbows, sore knees, a weird numbness in my pinky, and an onslaught of relentless screaming?
Focus on the positive. I picked up a magazine called “Live Happy” (seriously, that’s the name) in the airport lounge. It’s filled with tips for better living through positive thinking. So, I’ll try it. I’ll think of the nice things about this flight. The flight attendant gave me two creamers and two sugars for my coffee without my having to ask. The young woman in the middle seat next to me moved to an empty row so now I have more room. The vapor trails of the jet that passed disturbingly close beneath us were beautiful. The woman in the aisle seat is not chatty; she’s absorbed in her book. And I ended up with enough material for a blog post. 

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Bite-sized Bouchercon

 I started this post a few days ago. Now I’m sitting in Toronto Pearson International Airport waiting to board my flight back to the U.S. I’m manning the International Thriller Writers’ table at my first Bouchercon, feeling…overwhelmed. This conference is huge. I ran into Hank Phillipi Ryan in the elevator and joked there were more people in the hotel than there were on the streets. 1700 registrants. Wow. 1700 authors, editors, agents, bloggers, reviewers, readers, all gathered to celebrate mystery. Double wow. No danger of not finding enough to do. The opposite. Activities run non-stop from 7:30 am until 11 pm, or later. Hard decisions must be made to choose what to do without overdoing it and making yourself crazy. Try to do everything and, in addition to discovering you’d need to clone yourself to be in multiple places at the same time, you’ll collapse from exhaustion. Here are a few suggestions, based on what worked for me. If you’re on a panel, it’s easy. Start with that. Block out your time slot so you don’t inadvertently schedule yourself to be someplace else while you’re supposed to be on the dias. Dont forget, a 30 minute booksigning follows your panel. Next, find your friends’ (and agent’s and editors) panels and mark those. We members of the mystery community are friends with each other. The only throats we cut are on the page. We support each other. But at Bouchercon, support has to be rationed. At least two of your friends will be on concurrent panels. Attend one friend’s panel and buy the other a drink later to make up for it. You could spend the entire conference going from panel to panel to panel but I advise you not to. Panel fatigue will set in quickly. Break up the routine by volunteering for a shift at a table promoting one of the many writers’ organizations and fan societies represented at Bouchercon: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and several others. Or volunteer to help Bouchercon itself. The volunteer table lists opportunities to serve. Plus, depending on what you sign up to do, you get to sit for a while and let people come to you. Finally, leave some time for fun. Cocktail and dinner parties abound. Or get away from the conference completely and be a tourist. Experience what your host city has on offer. Fellow Missdemeanor, Susan Breen, and I went on a ghost walk (led by Ryan of The Haunted Walk Toronto) through the Distillery District. We learned a bit of Toronto’s distillery past, discovered that Canadian ghosts are more polite than their American counterparts, and had a free sample of beer at Mill Street Brewery. I became a Fluevog shoe convert and celebrated my shoe-shopping victory with a tasting at Spirit of York distillery (sadly, not available in the US. Yet.) and at Soma chocolate. I also squeezed in a visit to the Guillermo del Toro exhibit, At Home with Monsters, at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I marveled at pieces from his apparently endless collection of books, movie memorabilia, paintings, photographs, and sculptures, all related to the people” places, and things that inspired him and accented by his quotations on creativity and belonging (or not). So, those were my tips for navigating Bouchercon. Pick and choose and break it into smaller pieces so it’s easier to wrap your hands, and your brain, around.

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Miss Demeanors in Toronto! Come find us.

 Five of the Miss Demeanors, along with Paula Munier, better known as the glue that binds them together, swarm the city for the weekend. While you will certainly find them in the bar or roaming the halls to see friends, visit panels and chat with readers, there are times when you can count on finding them! Thursday kicks off with Michele Dorsey and Tracee de Hahn on competing panels (wander from one to the other and they promise not to object as the door opens and shuts): Michele’s panel is in Sheraton A at 4 pm. She joins fellow beach lovers Ryan Aldred, Baron R. Birtcher, David Burnsworth, Mike Martin and moderator Kay Kendall talking about “Coastal Crimes: How does living on the Water’s edge drive crime?” Meanwhile at 4 pm in Sheraton C, you are invited to “Read the World: Discover mysterious characters travelling through multiple counties.” Tracee de Hahn will sell you on the merits of a vacation in Switzerland, or at least a good read about that country, joined by panelists Cathy Ace, Annamaria Alfieri, Barry Lancet, Chris Pave and moderator Puja Guha, chatting about their respective destinations. Michele and Tracee will sign books immediately following their panels in Osgoode. 7:30 am and Friday starts bright and (too?) early for Tracee at the New Author’s Breakfast in Grand East where she has her one minute of fame. She will follow that up at 10 am in the VIP Room Concourse Level as a 20 on the 20s. Stop by and talk about ANYTHING. Really. She will be signing at 11 am. Saturday is another early day for the Miss Demeanors as they swarm the Sisters in Crime Breakfast to help celebrate 30 marvelous years. 7:30 am in Grand East (reservations required). Dashing straight out from breakfast, Alexia, Cate and Paula offer another chance to run between panels to catch all of the action. At 10 am in Sheraton A, Alexia Gordon with co-panelists Christine Cabo, Allen Eskins, Thomas Mullen, Lisa Turner and moderator Katharine M. Nohr, represent the US contingent in “North vs South: An American Panel, with authors setting their work at either end of the contiguous states.” Going head to head at 10 am with Alexia are Cate Holahan and Paula Munier in Grand West. Paula moderates this panel on “The Twisted Panel: Plotting, how to keep them interested….. and guessing.” They are joined by Jane Cleland, Ragnar Jónasson, Linda Landrigan and Felicia Yap. Alexia, Cate and Paula, will sign books immediately following their panels in Osgoode. Closing out a great day, at 4 pm Susan Breen and her co-panelists Scott Adlerberg, Terry Shames, Randall Silvas, Robin Yocum and moderator Valentina Giambanco share thoughts on “Pacing a Mystery: the keys to pacing from writers of a variety of mystery styles.” Immediately afterwards, Susan will be signing at Osgoode. On Sunday, you have a chance to quiz Michele to your heart’s content from 9:20-9:40 while she holds forth as a 20 on the 20s in the VIP room. At 10:30 she’ll be signing in Osgoode. Whew, we will leave tired, but rejuvenated! Hope to see many of you there! And thanks to Alison and Robin for staying behind to hold down the fort below the border. For all the Bouchercon details list the official website here. 

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Conferences–Worth it?

 I am writing this blog when I should be booking a ticket to Nashville. I’ve already signed up for Killer Nashville, you see, and–though I’ve paid my conference fee and for my hotel–I have yet to book a flight. I will. I’m hemming and hawing about airline prices and not yet wanting to part with the money in my savings account.  Conferences can empty wallet. I’ve yet to attend one that didn’t ultimately set me back a grand with all the travel expenses and registration fees–not to mention the cost of promotional swag. So, a natural question is, are they worth it?  I think conferences help build an author’s brand and enable writers to connect with other novelists, both of which can sell books. Though I think anyone that believes he or she will go to a conference and see a resulting spike in his or her Amazon ranking will be ultimately disappointed. Conferences are largely attended by other writers. And, though writers buy and read lots of books, they are there to sell their own work–not to spend a bunch of money on their friends’ novels. What’s more important, though, is that writers talk about other writers and, ultimately, will read and promote authors whom they respect. This community promotion can help legitimize a new author’s career and get mid-list authors noticed. Successful writers, in my experience, are very generous with their time and platforms, perhaps because they were once in a similar situation on the mid-list or struggling to get published. (I also believe that people who spend a great deal of time imagining the feelings of others in various situations might be trained to be more empathetic than the average Joe. Though, this is a theory based entirely on supposition).  Conferences also give out awards recognizing stellar books, which can be helpful for sales. And, since writers typically vote for the winning titles, it can be difficult for a novice to get noticed for such recognition if he or she doesn’t have other authors–likely met at conferences and book signings and panels–who are aware of his or her work.  So, I guess that means I should go on Travelocity.     

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Fan conferences

 Readers who haven’t heard about fan conferences are missing something. They are – to my mind – a unique opportunity for writers and readers to mix. And honestly, aren’t all writers also readers, so it’s a perfect storm. More seriously, for those choosing which conferences to attend, writers have a to remember that these conferences aren’t about craft. Panels tend to focus on the experience of reading – what’s it like to set a book in a hot climate or why do you write such scary books. If you want a seminar on plot or constructing believable characters pick another type of conference. That said, fan conferences are a chance for writers to have down time with their fellow scribes and network among colleagues. If you are a beginning writer then you can take advantage of the (often) more relaxed atmosphere and get to know some of your favorite authors and make connections that may help your career down the road (when you need that blurb for your first novel). For fans who have no intention of writing these conferences are a vacation. I’ve met mother-daughter traveling teams, groups from book clubs who want to take their reading interest to a new level, and families who use the conferences as a base for their vacation (particularly true in cities like New Orleans). There are large national conferences and small region ones, which means that there is probably an event for all budgets and needs. Some of the ones I’m familiar with for mysteries/thrillers are listed below. -Thrillerfest in NYC every July (a fan conference with a CraftFest component prior) -Bouchercon every fall. This conference is huge (which means a little something for all mystery/thriller fans) and moves around North America (guaranteeing a good vacation spot) -Killer Nashville in August (small enough to have a chance to interact with anyone you want, even the big-name headliners) -Malice Domestic in Bethesda every spring (focus on cozy mysteries but with room to include others. Again, small enough to allow access to the superstars) -Suffolk Mystery Festival (I’m going for the first time this year) I’d love to hear about any other great fan conferences out there!

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Should you go to a conference?

 I sold my first novel, The Fiction Class, to an editor I met at the NY Pitch Conference. A few years later,  I met my fabulous agent, Paula Munier,  at the NY Pitch Conference. She sold my Maggie Dove mystery series to an editor I had met at the NY Pitch Conference. So it would be fair to say, I’m in the pro-conference camp. (I should add that I now work at the NY Pitch Conference.)  Last year, with my new mystery series debuting, I thought it  important to get out and meet people in the mystery-writing community, and so I went to three new (to me) conferences: Malice Domestic, which is geared toward cozies, Bouchercon, which is huge and was in New Orleans, and Writers’ Police Academy, which was in Wisconsin and gave me lots of hands-on experience. The conferences were thrilling, exhausting and educational and I’m still going through my notes. So, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors what they felt about conferences and this is what they said:  Count me among the big fans, too. I attend a lot of conferences for both my day job and my writing career and learned early on that you get out of them what you put in. Like most experiences in life. Through writers’ conferences I’ve learned the difference between writing for myself and writing for commercial markets, continually learn how to hone my craft, and offer my technology expertise to fellow authors during social events to anyone who asks. I’ve also seized opportunities to hang out with a couple of my heroes whose careers I intend to mimic. And, of course, I met my wonderful agent, Paula, at a conference 🙂
–Robin Stuart Conferences? I’m a huge advocate. There’s no other place where you can learn about the business, network, and feel like a part of a vibrant community. Of course I met Paula at my first writer’s conference so I’m predisposed to like them. And there are so many choices – near and far, for craft, networking or to meet fans. Anywhere or any type, I return home re-charged. –Tracee de Hahn It’s how I found Paula. That was super helpful for me. I don’t know from a sales perspective. They always seem like writers talking to other writers. I makes me feel like I have a community, though–Cate Holahan I love writer’s conferences. As a writer, I love them for craft, camaraderie, and creativity. As an author, I love them for selling books and networking. As an agent, I love them for meeting new writers and hanging out with editors and agents and clients. Best of all, they’re fun!–Paula Munier I adore writing conferences where I can get lots of information about craft and the business of writing and seek the comfort and company of fellow writers. This year I am co-chair of my favorite conference, The New England Crime Bake. I’d love to see you there. 

–Michele Dorsey  

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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 contend with five, ten or fifteen years into my career. Most importantly, writers can help other writers feel less insecure.  Everybody needs coworkers–particularly people who work alone.      

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