Sunday morning, May 5, at Malice Domestic mystery conference in Rockville, MD started early with a breakfast honoring debut authors. We heard about each of their titles and learned about a few new books we might like to add to our TBR pile. Then I attended a panel on Culinary Mysteries with Ginger Bolton, Catherine Bruns, Tina Kashian, Maureen Klovers, Shawn Reilly Simmons and moderated by Cathy Wiley. It was entertaining to hear how they each incorporated food elements into their stories. At the break for lunch, I left the conference so we could meet my husband’s family for the afternoon. It was a long day and we retired early prepared for our flight home in the morning.
There’s quite a difference between a fan conference and a writer’s conference. This one is the former, with panels and sessions geared toward readers. As an author, I get to meet other writers and hear about their work. I don’t go to learn about marketing techniques, forensics, or advanced craft. Networking is the most important goal. That’s why I advise new authors to introduce themselves to people and sit with strangers at meals. You make friends, and next time you attend, you’ll be happy to see some familiar faces.
Malice Domestic mystery conference began on Thursday, May 2, in Rockville, MD. That night, a couple of mystery movies were shown if you signed up in advance. I didn’t attend, preferring to get a good night’s sleep instead after a delicious meal nearby at Del Frisco’s Grille. Here is the dessert shared with my husband:
On Friday morning, May 3, the hospitality lounge and book dealer’s room opened. We could lay out our promo materials in the former and bring our books in on consignment for the latter. Then Malice Go Round speed dating with authors began at 10 am. I’ve done this before, and it’s a frantic session where authors hop from one table to the next offering their tag lines and book blurbs to eager fans. I couldn’t participate this year as an Agatha Awards nominee, so I went to the local Drybar and got my hair done instead. Here I am with my Booklovers Bench crew: Debra H. Goldstein, Cheryl Hollon, Maggie Toussaint and myself.
Panels started that afternoon, and I attended the one with Agatha nominees for Best Historical. This included Victoria Thompson, Edith Maxwell, Sujata Massey, and L.A. Chandlar with Harriette Sackler as moderator. It was interesting to hear about their unique settings. The opening ceremonies followed. Agatha Award nominees were called up front and given these lovely certificates.
Then we were on our own for dinner. Richard and I tried a local Vietnamese restaurant that was satisfactory if nothing else. I skipped the live charity auction that evening to get a good night’s rest. It had been a good day where I’d greeted old friends and met some new people. Here are some of the photos. People included besides me are (1) Nancy G. West (2) Vicki Mejia-Gewe from Fangirl Nation Magazine (3) Diane Vallere (4) Grace Topping and Joan Long.
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. 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 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. 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.
Honored Guest Clifford Irving gave the keynote luncheon speech. Here he is with conference chair, Shirrel Rhoades. 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. The evening continued with a special dinner party held at the historical Custom House Museum, which houses displays on the island’s military history. This is always a fun conference in a relaxed atmosphere with fellow authors and fans who are eager to learn about our books. <><><> See all my Florida Keys Photos Here. Click on Photos and then Albums. Enter Here to win a six-book beach reads bundle from Booklover’s Bench authors. Sign up for my Newsletterfor my latest book news, giveaways, bonus content, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.
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. 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. 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. A booksigning followed upstairs in the atrium. Here I am sitting next to Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta, a Destination Wedding Mystery. 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. 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. 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. 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. The best part of any conference is the friends you make. Here are some of the wonderful people I met at Malice. SEE ALL PHOTOS HERE Giveaway! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench <><><> Sign up for my Newsletter for my latest book news, giveaways, sales, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.
Friday, October 9, at Bouchercon started out with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. Here we heard about all the wonderful programs this organization offers.
Then I attended a panel on Paranormal Mysteries with Heather Graham, Alexandra Sokoloff, Lorena Peter, Toni Kelner, and Rochelle Staab as moderator.
Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.
The definition of paranormal includes any phenomena that is beyond normal experience and scientific explanation.
Is there evil in the world? Do we believe in witches? This question of belief is part of the mystery. Some elements used in the speakers’ stories include witches, energy vampires, skeletons, and ghosts. Ghosts are more possible than other creatures, Heather said. We want to believe in the afterlife. Alex agreed people like to be scared. Lorena admitted that family experiences and personal stories influence her books. Tony was inspired by TV shows, such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Heather liked The Twilight Zone.
Alex said the scariest things are what people do to other people. She has to scare herself as an author, note the experience, and then scare the reader. Heather suggested the scariest things are what we do in our own minds. Lorena delivers messages from spirits. “They are out there.”
Why do people read these stories? They want more control over their lives. They like to have the powers. The little bit of magic is appealing. Ghost stories relate to the history of sites. Heather mentioned residual versus active hauntings. Alex likes the sensual thrill of the unknown with a slow build to an exciting climax. As for ideas? They are all around. Keep a dream journal. And listen to people with interesting stories.
Besides these authors, check out Maggie Toussaint’s Gone and Done It series with a psychic sleuth.
Preventing a Mystery Series “Jumping the Shark”
Panelists included Nancy J. Cohen, Candace Robb, Lisa Unger, Laurie R. King, and Francine Mathews as moderator.
We spoke about how we keep a series fresh and then fielded questions from the audience. Ideas that I spoke about included:
The relationships between recurring characters should evolve and change like in real life. Switch locations every few books but not too often. Learn something new that excites you for each story. Bring in new characters or focus on a different secondary character for a change of pace. Also consider having a continuing personal thread that isn’t resolved right away. If you really need to step away for a break, think about doing a short story or novella, either with your main characters or from the viewpoint of a secondary character.
Early Registration is now open for SleuthFest, the premier mystery writers conference sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
Feb. 26 – March 1, 2015 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Deerfield Beach, FL
· Keynote Speaker is James Patterson.
· Florida Guest of Honor is James W. Hall.
· Sunday Brunch Guest of Honor is Dave Barry.
· Agent appointments to pitch your work.
· Forensic topics.
· Writing craft, marketing, and hands-on workshops.
· Manuscript critiques by agents and editors.
· Practice your pitch workshops.
· Sunday morning Flamingo Pitch Tank.
· Cocktail Party and More!
Early Bird Registration starts now and goes until September 30, 2014. Sign up now and save $20 on a three-day registration (MWA members $265, non-members $305). Included in the three-day registration price are two lunches (Friday and Saturday), two cocktail parties (Friday and Saturday evening), and Sunday Brunch; four tracks with panels, lectures, and workshops; and Agent/Editor appointments. The hotel rate is $159/night, and is available a few days before and after for those attendees who want to combine an exciting conference with a vacation.