Readers Favorite Awards Ceremony

This was my first time attending the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards Ceremony. I won a gold medal in the Southern category for Facials Can Be Fatal. I’d submitted this title in their contest a while ago and forgotten about it until I received an email one day telling me I had won. This was indeed a pleasant surprise! Most writing contests let you know when you’re a finalist, but the winners aren’t announced until the actual event takes place. This usually happens at a conference away from home. I really liked that I knew I’d won ahead of time.

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Because the Readers’ Favorite Awards Ceremony was being held nearby, I signed up to attend along with my husband. We checked into the Regency Hotel Miami on Friday afternoon. The hotel is conveniently located near the airport for winners flying in for the ceremony. People came from all over the country, plus Canada and Australia. Since the event didn’t include a full meal, we ordered a snack in the lobby bar/restaurant.

Dress for the event was billed as formal or semi-formal. Ladies wore cocktail dresses or gowns and men for the most part wore jackets and ties. The doors at the hotel’s nightclub opened at 6:00 pm. The evening before on Friday, there had been a Meet and Greet in the lobby, but we hadn’t attended. So I picked up my name badge Saturday night along with a pin and a complimentary pen. Then we took our seats. A cash bar was available in the rear.

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I was impressed by the production that made this event special for the award winners. Chairs were draped in white like at a wedding and arranged auditorium style. The stage was flanked by two huge floral bouquets and a back screen projection of the award logo. We could take photos before and after on the stage or over by the official photography station.

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The event was filmed, while the photographer took pictures of each candidate standing beside the host. The awards were not called by category, like at other ceremonies. Instead, beginning at 7pm, people sitting in a certain section of the room were directed to line up. One-by-one, we climbed the steps to the dais and handed the emcee a card from our name badge. He read from this card, which included our name, book title, award level and category. Then we proceeded to the center stage to receive our medallion, shake the host’s hand, and pose for the photographer. When one group finished, the emcee called another section to come forward.

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This method proved to be efficient as we were done in an hour. A buffet of finger foods followed while contestants mingled. We ate triangles of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, turkey slices, chicken empanadas, cookies, or pastry. Free soda and coffee were available.

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I truly did feel special. My book had been picked by anonymous judges for this honor. There might have been hundreds of submissions. I liked that my story had been evaluated for its merits and wasn’t a popularity contest with votes like some other writing awards. This made it more meaningful, and so did the sponsors for giving winners an evening to showcase their talents.

Find the list of winners here: https://readersfavorite.com/2017-award-contest-winners.htm

Visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ReadersFavorite/

Enter the 2018 contest at https://readersfavorite.com/annual-book-award-contest.htm

FWA Conference Recap – Staging Fight Scenes

Fight Scenes

Author L.E. Perez gave a good talk on fight scenes at the Florida Writers Association 2017 Conference . Here are the tips I garnered. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

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  • Focus on character emotions.
  • Defending yourself is not the same as being prepared to injure someone.
  • PTSD happens to anyone who experiences a violent event or is a crime victim. This also applies to domestic abuse since the characters are at war.
  • Consider words that reflect a fight: sudden clarity, adrenaline rush, freeze up, smashed, buffeted, rage, pain.
  • If your character punches someone, he may need to shake his hand out afterward. It hurts to throw a punch.
  • Allow for recovery time. Either use the recovery in the story, or skip ahead and have the character recount what happened during this interval.
  • In a knife fight, someone invariably gets cut. Or your hero might survive a knife fight and then cut himself chopping vegetables for a bit of humor.
  • Act out your action scenes to get a sense of motion. How is your character moving during the scene? How is he holding a weapon?
  • Kamas is a weapon with a scythe-like blade on one end and a pointed blade on the other end.
  • Not all knives are throwing knives. They have to be properly balanced.

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FWA Conference – Day 2

Saturday morning at the Florida Writers Association annual conference found me starting off the workshops with a talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget.”
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Next I attended Penny Sansevieri’s presentation, “Help! My Book Isn’t Selling.”

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A buffet lunch followed with barbecue chicken and accompaniments. Awards were given to youth writers. After lunch, I had a booksigning and later a video interview.
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Then it was time to get ready for the Royal Palm Literary Awards banquet. My family came to support me as a finalist. It was interesting to see the blurbs about each author’s book on big screens as we ate. I didn’t win, so I’ll have to try again next year. I’m still thrilled to have made the finals.
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On Sunday, I attended a workshop “Bring that Action Scene to Life” by author L.E. Perez. I learned a few tips during her entertaining presentation.
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Then I checked out and packed up the car to meet our family for lunch.
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FWA Conference – Day 1

This was my first time attending the Florida Writers Association annual conference. The theme was “What A Character.” I didn’t attend the Thursday all-day workshop with bestselling author David Morrell, but I did hear him speak later on. Instead, I checked into the hotel and went to faculty orientation followed by a general welcome for conference attendees.
Friday morning, things began in earnest with a breakfast buffet at 7am. Scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, bagels and pastries were on the menu. We sat at genre tables to speak to other writers in our specific categories. Here I am with true crime author Carla Norton.
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First on the agenda was my talk on “Writing the Cozy Mystery.”
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I put away my laptop and attended Carla’s workshop on “True Crime – Stranger than Fiction.”
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Then I wandered through the bookstore organized by Murder on the Beach and the silent auction rooms. Lunch was a bountiful buffet of Italian food.
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At 2pm, I was on a panel titled “Dredging Up Your Dark Side” moderated by Ken Pelham. Also on this panel were Carla Norton, Doug Dandridge, Micki Browning, and Dan Alatorre.
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Later that afternoon, I attended a panel on “Effective Book Marketing with POEM” by speaker Keith Ogorek.
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That evening was a welcome reception with superhero-costumed characters. The picture with a foursome has Carla Norton, Ken Pelham, Vic DiGenti, and literary agent Mark Gottlieb.
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A sit-down dinner was followed by a keynote address from bestselling author Steve Berry.
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RWA 2017 Overview

I had a wonderful time at #RWA17, the Romance Writers of America national conference. The site rotates each year, and this time it relocated to Orlando, Florida at a hotel not far from our condo there. Thus I commuted to the Dolphin Resort on a daily basis. Sessions began at 8:30 every morning, although I got there by 8:00 to cruise the goody room and see who I could run into at the conference lobby. On the left, here I am with Jane Ederlyn and Tina Stitzer. On the right, I’m with Pam Stack.
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Before I get into summaries of what I learned, I want to mention that in addition to the educational aspects, networking is a prime goal of mine at these events. I was happy to see many of my fellow members from Florida Romance Writers as well as mystery author Joanna Campbell Slan from our Florida MWA chapter. Here are photos of all of us having fun. Below are Tina Stitzer, Elayne Cox, Kristin Wallace, Victoria Pinder, and Jane Ederlyn on the left. On the right is Joanna Campbell Slan, Melanie McCarthy, Zelda Benjamin and me.
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Publisher booksignings meant giveaways, and I took home a collection of books to last months if not years. I only selected the ones in my favorite genres so as not to be greedy. Indie authors had their own signing event too. Signing below are Zelda Benjamin, Lynnette Hallberg, and Heather Graham.
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Then there was the massive “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing that raised $44,163.59 on behalf of ProLiteracy Worldwide and the Florida Literacy Coalition. According to ProLiteracy, the amount donated from this Literacy Autographing over the years has helped 40,000 adults learn to read.
Reading is what it’s all about, and we authors learned how to reach readers through marketing skills until it felt like steam coming out of my ears with info overload. When I’ll have time to implement any of this information is your guess as well as mine.
I especially liked the luncheons, where we could meet new people at our tables, and the mixer with librarians, booksellers, and bloggers. Individual sessions with industry reps were also helpful. In my next few posts, I’ll try to summarize the workshops to the best of my ability.
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Mystery Fest Key West

Here are notes from some of the workshops I’d attended at Mystery Fest Key West. Any errors are mine due to my misinterpretation.
Friday started off with a talk by a representative from the Bomb Squad. The bomb squad in Monroe County gets about thirty calls a year. Lots of them involve old military ordinance like torpedoes and grenades, and about eighty percent are still live. Once a mortar round was dug up in a fellow’s yard and it dated back to 1887. Other finds might include acid bombs, pipe bombs, vehicle bombs, flares, and other old explosives that turn up in people’s backyards.
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The investigators want to know: What is it? Why is it here? How can we disrupt it? Compressed water will tear the devices apart but won’t set them off. They have to make sure it’s safe while preserving the evidence.
When the guys respond, they keep a distance of three hundred feet or more and stay behind a protective barrier. If they have to go in closer to determine if an object is safe they’ll don helmets and flak jackets. Or they’ll send in the Robot.
The Robot is used for recon and demolition. It costs approximately $265,000 and can run up to seven miles per hour. It has six cameras, some of them encased, and it can climb stairs as well as go in and out of planes and buses. The Robot can take X-rays and can drag up to 300 pounds. It is remote-controlled at a five mile range. The machine runs on dual motorcycle batteries.
Police Myths
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James O. Born spoke about police myths and how to make our law enforcement officers more realistic in our stories. He distinguished between the uniformed Highway Patrol officers and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that’s more of an investigative agency. He spoke about pay and pensions and how patrol is the main job for a cop. They are taught to shoot in order to stop a suspect, not necessarily to kill. Deadly force would be a last resort. Plainclothes is not the same as undercover which involves deception.
I missed some of Lisa Black’s excellent talk on Blood Spatter as I had to prepare for my “Writing the Cozy Mystery” workshop coming next. Then it was time to head over to Hemingway House for an outdoor reception with drinks and appetizers.
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On Saturday, Randy Rawls moderated a panel on “Where I Get My Ideas” including John H. Cunningham, David Beckwith, Charles Todd, and Paul Sinor. Next came Heather Graham moderating the interesting discussion on “How to Commit a Perfect Murder” with Lisa Black, Rick Ollerman, Robert Coburn, and Siera London. Here’s how: 1. Don’t Get Caught. 2. Is it really a murder if there’s no body? 3. Poisons have worked well throughout history, especially before modern forensics. 4. If there’s trace evidence, you will get caught. There really isn’t a right answer to this question.

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Honored Guest Clifford Irving gave the keynote luncheon speech. Here he is with conference chair, Shirrel Rhoades.
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I skipped the next panel, “It Takes a Crook,” to get ready for Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths. I moderated a panel about female sleuths where we touched upon many subjects. One of the main points that came across was that women sleuths are more intuitive and compassionate, and these stories often involve interpersonal relationships or family issues.
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The evening continued with a special dinner party held at the historical Custom House Museum, which houses displays on the island’s military history.
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This is always a fun conference in a relaxed atmosphere with fellow authors and fans who are eager to learn about our books.
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Malice Domestic Mystery Conference

Malice Domestic is a conference for cozy mystery writers and fans. This one began with a bang on Friday morning with the always fun but exhausting Malice-Go-Round. I was number four on the wait list in this author lottery, but I got in as no one else waited in the wings. Armed with my series postcards and a two-minute spiel promoting Facials Can Be Fatal, I sat at the first table with my partner, author Jeri Westerson. The two of us would hop from table-to-table twenty times in total. By the time we ended, my voice came out as a croak and my throat was dry despite the water provided. But I’d met my goal of encountering new readers and greeting author friends along the way. This remains a favorite event to introduce my books to potential fans.
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On Friday afternoon, I skipped out to meet family at Brookside Gardens. We had a lovely stroll and a snack together. I returned in time for the opening ceremonies at Malice. Dinner on your own followed. I’m afraid I bypassed the live auction and later reception in favor of retiring early.
Saturday morning, I attended the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
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At 10 am, I was on a panel titled Just Die Laughing: Humor in Mysteries with authors Donna Andrews, Jessie Chandler, and Nancy G. West. Our moderator was Karen Cantwell who did an excellent job. We laughed along with the audience hearing our stories about research and other experiences. Some humor can be slapstick. Some can be situational. Or some can come from secondary characters or the sleuth’s world view. I enjoyed listening to my fellow panelists.
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A booksigning followed upstairs in the atrium. Here I am sitting next to Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta, a Destination Wedding Mystery.
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After lunch, I sat in on a panel about U.S. Historicals. It was interesting to hear about each author’s sleuth and series setting.
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Saturday evening was the Agatha Awards Banquet. Congratulations to all the winners! The meal was delicious and my table companions were delightful. I sat with the elegant Carole Nelson Douglas along with Julie McKuras and Patti Ruocco.
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Sunday morning, I attended the new author’s breakfast. It’s fun to hear the newbies speak and tell about their first published mystery novels. Then I sat in on another panel titled “Death for Dessert: Sweet Murder.” These authors write culinary mysteries. Listening to them speak about their works made me hungry again.
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I satisfied this urge at the final Agatha Tea and closing ceremonies. Then we were off to see family again before leaving the next day. Into my suitcase went this stack of books I’d acquired at the conference.
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The best part of any conference is the friends you make. Here are some of the wonderful people I met at Malice.
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Getting an Agent – Part 2

In Getting an Agent – Part 1, we discussed how to find a literary agent. Let’s say you’ve made the connection. Here’s what to do next.
Questions to ask a potential agent
How many agents and staff work in your agency?
How many clients does the agency represent? How many clients do you handle personally?
How long have you been an agent? Are you a member of AAR?
What is your particular area of interest?
How many new authors have you sold in the past year?
What is your average response time for a completed manuscript?
Do you prefer emails or phone calls?
How long does it take for you to return a phone call or email inquiry?
How do you feel about multiple submissions?
How long do you wait after sending an editor a manuscript before following up?
Do you give your client an update on the status of their projects, or do they have to contact you?
How many rejections would it take on a manuscript before you stop marketing it?
Do you handle subsidiary rights, such as translation, foreign sales, film/TV, audio?
Do you offer a written or verbal contract?
What percentage do you charge? (15% is standard for domestic sales)
What happens if you die or are disabled?
Do you deposit money received into an escrow account for clients?
How soon do you pay clients after receiving a royalty check?
How do you keep track of submissions?
Do you submit to digital first publishers?
Do you allow an author to do indie projects separate from the work you represent?
What do you expect from your clients?

Contracts
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Not all agents offer written contracts. If you do get one, be careful to read the terms before you sign. See if the agreement covers only this project or everything you write. You may request changes, such as to specify novel-length works of fiction only. If you want to do indie projects on the side, make sure the agent is agreeable and that you’re not obligated to pay him any part of this income. The agent should get paid only for rights he sells on your behalf.
Be careful of committing yourself for more than a year, and make sure you can disengage with a written notice. If you terminate, you should have no further obligation to the agent except for works which the agent has submitted or sold.
Beware of “interminable agency” or “perpetual agency” clauses in your publishing contracts. This clause grants the agent the exclusive right to represent your work for the length of the copyright. Terminology like “agency coupled with an interest” is also to be avoided. Do not commit for sequels or subsequent works or the length of your copyright. Also examine the clause an agent puts into a publishing contract when the time comes. Some of the professional writing organizations have sample contracts online, so get involved in the writing community and ask experienced authors your questions after you’ve done your own research.
How to tell if your agent isn’t working out
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A. You never hear from him.
B. He doesn’t answer your calls or emails.
C. You don’t receive copies of rejection letters if you’ve requested them.
D. The agent turns down your new ideas.
E. He claims to be busy with more important clients.
F. You find out he never submitted your manuscript to an editor as promised.

How to switch agents
Send your current agent a letter or email and say your relationship isn’t working out as desired, and you wish to move in a new direction. Thus you are terminating your agreement. Keep a printed copy of his acknowledgment. Keep in mind that you remain under obligation to this agent for any work he has submitted or sold for you. To be clear on the termination terms, check your agency agreement. Once you are free from your previous relationship, you can seek a new agent.
Author/Agent Etiquette
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  • Be prepared to suggest markets to an agent to show you are savvy about the business and have done your research. It’s hard to keep up with all the changes in the publishing industry. Consider your relationship as a business partnership where you each contribute.
  • Don’t accost an agent in the restroom at a conference or if they are in a deep discussion with another author.
  • Leave your manuscript at home. If an agent agrees to see your work, follow up with an email and ask for his submission requirements. Remind him where you met.
  • Don’t hound your agent. Responses from editors can take months. If you need someone to hold your hand, join a critique group. Remember that you are not the agent’s only client.
  • Always be courteous and professional. Keep producing new work at a steady pace. Listen to your agent’s suggestions even if you agree to disagree. Maintain a social media presence and keep up to date on industry news.

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Getting an Agent – Part 1

How do you get a literary agent? Here are some tips to start your journey from writer to published author. First, complete your manuscript in the proper format. Look online at literary agent sites for submission requirements.
Where do you find an agent? Sign up for writers’ conferences with editor/agent appointments. If your group runs a local event, volunteer for the editor/agent committee. Enter writing contests where agents are the final judges. Note the acknowledgments to agents in books by your favorite authors to find people who represent your genre. Search the Guide to Literary Agents or Writer’s Market at your local library.
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Follow agents on Twitter. Look for the hashtag #MSWL (manuscript wish list). You can get more specific for a particular genre (i.e. #MSWL Mystery). Also check out #Pitchmas, #AdPit, #Pit2Pub, #PitMad, #AgentsDay, #Carinapitch, #PitMatch for online pitches. Also use #AskAgent if you want to find agents who might be interested your story. Here are some places that might hold online pitch sessions:
http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/
http://www.savvyauthors.com
http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/
http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/
Also follow blogs by well-known agents and publishing industry professionals. You’ll learn who these people are by getting involved in the writing community.
Do Your Research
http://aaronline.org/
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/activity.php
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/
http://www.agentresearch.com
http://www.agentquery.com
http://www.literarymarketplace.com/
http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/
http://mswishlist.com/
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com
http://www.querytracker.net
http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts/
http://www.writersmarket.com/
http://www.1000literaryagents.com/
Follow the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. Write a snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, your writing credits, and a few sentences about your story. Make it read like back cover copy. Include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This letter should be no longer than one page. DO NOT describe your life history or any personal details that do not relate to your writing career. DO include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.
If you hear nothing for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if the agent received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the mail.
If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Never pay an agent any fees. The agent will receive a commission on sales.

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Coming Next: Getting an Agent – Part 2

You’ve found an agent who interests you. Now what?
 
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SleuthFest 2017 Recap

SleuthFest 2017 was another stellar event held at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. This premier mystery writers’ conference is sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Third Degree Thursday kicked off the weekend with a bunch of workshops and Dirk Wyle’s Readers’ Corner. That evening, co-chairs Victoria Landis and Joanne Sinchuk welcomed everyone to the conference. We heard publisher Neil Nyren discuss the state of the industry and agents in particular. Then those folks who had signed up attended the “Sleuthfest 101” dinner followed by a trivia contest.
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Friday morning, I attended a workshop by publicist Maryglenn McCombs titled Seven Secrets to Promoting a Book. Then I moderated a panel on How to Keep a Series from Getting Stale with authors Lynnette Hallberg, Cheryl Hollon, Carol J. Perry, and Nancy G. West. Using different settings, interesting research, new characters, evolving relationships, and character arcs were some of the techniques mentioned.
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Lunch in the ballroom followed with a talk by our Forensic Guest of Honor, Dr. Vincent DiMaio. His graphic slides made swallowing our meal difficult but his talk was fascinating. He spoke about cases that appeared to be natural deaths or accidents, but upon closer examination, proved to be murder.
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Another round of workshops followed. Next came my own presentation on Preparing for Your Book Launch. I spoke about the various ways writers can publicize a new book release.
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The banquet on Friday evening included the Freddie Awards Ceremony. The winner in the Mystery category was Graham Reed from Vancouver for his entry, The Chairman’s Toys. The winner of the Thriller category was Millie Naylor Hast from Texas for her entry, Takeover.

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Saturday morning found us back attending workshops. I moderated the one titled Crime Solving Couples with speakers Carol J. Perry and Nancy G. West. The three of us spoke about how the couples work together in our respective series.
Luncheon brought us Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author David Baldacci, who entertained and educated us while we ate. He’s a great speaker, and I couldn’t wait to read his book “The Finisher” that I’d bought in the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.
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Then former chapter president Randy Rawls presented the Flamingo Award to the very deserving Rick Wymer, who with his wife Mary Lou, have spent hours of selfless devotion as volunteers in the service of FMWA.
At this point, I’m sorry to say, I went upstairs to my hotel room to rest. I’d contracted a cold and sinus infection at the end of the FRW conference cruise, and I was getting worse instead of better. But I made it to the cocktail party that evening and had a nice chat with fellow authors. Still not feeling well, I cut out early on Sunday morning and had to miss our Sunday Guest of Honor, Jeff Lindsay. I’ve heard he was a great speaker and very entertaining.
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And so now we must begin to plan for next year. Go Here to see more photos.

 
 
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