Sail from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 and return to port on Monday, February 20th, 2017.
Editor/Agent appointments, writing workshops, and social networking events.
Interior Cabin: $480.72 per person with a $50.00 on board credit per cabin
Promenade $441.47 per person
Oceanview $563.22 per person with $100.00 credit per cabin (H)
Balcony category E3 $642.47 per person (E3)
Junior suite $1050.72 with $300.00 credit per cabin
These prices are only sample fares, contact our travel agent at 305-666-1010 to get the current pricing. Promotion offers are frequently available at lower prices.
Cruise includes ship accommodations, ocean transportation, meals onboard, entertainment, taxes, and port charges. Cruise fee deposit is due when you reserve your cabin and is paid directly to our travel agent.
Pre-sail Party on Wednesday night February 15, 2016. Details TBA.
FRW Members – $160 conference fee through 7/1/16
RWA Members – $180 conference fee through 7/1/16
Non-members – $200 conference fee through 7/1/16
Companion/Spouse $50 conference fee
Four editors discussed the publishing biz at Sleuthfest. These included Chris Knopf from The Permanent Press, Erin George from Henery Press, Anne Speyer from Ballantine Books, and Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
The first question addressed was if any of the editors would accept a mid-series submission or backlist titles. This would depend upon the rights available. An author has a better chance with a new series or with the relaunch of an ongoing series.
The editors all emphasized the importance of social media for authors. Writers should also have a newsletter, schedule in-person events, speak at libraries and conferences, nurture a relationship with bloggers and reviewers. An author’s website and Facebook page should be “really, really good; new and fresh; welcoming.” With your social media, you should do ten percent book promo and ninety percent interesting content.
What does a publisher have to offer? You get an editorial team, a guiding hand, resources that might not be available otherwise, support, reviews, sales of subsidiary rights. Plus you’ll qualify to speak on conference panels and to enter contests. Print is still a larger proportion of sales compared to ebooks.
· Exclamation Points
· Too much description
· Unrealistic dialogue
Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.
View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.
Four literary agents gave advice at Sleuthfest on submissions for writers. The agents included Danielle Burby, Kirsten Carleton, Mark Gottlieb, and Steve Kasdin. Look them up on the Sleuthfest conference website.
Danielle likes cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, domestic suspense, medieval fantasy, contemporary YA, and upmarket women’s fiction. She does not do romance or erotica. She prefers stories without overt violence. She’d like to find a cozy set in Scotland. Send her an email query with the first five pages in the body of your message. The author’s credentials should be mentioned along with the genre and word count. If you tell the plot, make it sound like back cover copy. Don’t bother to mention themes. “If you have an axe to grind, go somewhere else. I want a story.” Respect the conventions of word count to meet reader expectations and publisher’s production costs (i.e. Don’t offer a 600 page book).
Kirsten would like to find a thriller with series potential. She is looking for amateur sleuth stories, historical, crime, and suspense; anything with a speculative element; or a story that presents a twist on the genre. She doesn’t do romance. She does accept YA and adult fiction.
Steve will look at contemporary and historical thrillers, capers and crime stories, and contemporary, historical, cozy, and paranormal mysteries. No romance and no scifi/fantasy. He’d like to find a thriller with series potential but with a female protagonist.
Mark also doesn’t do romance or erotica. He is interested in finding authors who write thrillers, noir, and hard-boiled crime fiction.
You can verify their submission requirements on their agency websites.
On average, the agents receive 150-200 queries per week. They won’t take a book that has been self-published since it’s already in the marketplace. However, they’ll look at an indie author who has been successful and who has something new to offer to get to the next level.
If you’ve submitted your work to an agent, let them know if you get an offer from someone else.
An agent helps to build an author’s career. They have access to publishers and editors and can act as the author’s advocate. They’ll also handle subsidiary rights.
When you do a verbal pitch, make it brief and get to the character.
An audience member asked about New Adult fiction. The panelists agreed this category was a “failed experiment” because booksellers and librarians didn’t know where to shelve these books. There wasn’t any consensus on how to define the genre. YA with sex? Chick lit renamed?
The agents mingled with conference goers during the weekend and at the cocktail party. Sleuthfest also offers manuscript critiques and presents the Freddie Awards. This writing contest is judged by editors and agents at the final round. So you have numerous opportunities to meet these industry professionals.
Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.
View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.
This weekend is SleuthFest and Left Coast Crime. Writers’ conferences require advance preparation, especially if you’ll be speaking on a panel or giving a workshop. Aside from determining your particular goals—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to consider.
Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.
If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material and get copies made of handouts.
If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
Order business cards unless you have them already. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the tables.
Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways.
If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.
Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price.
Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.
Bring a copy of your receipts showing your registration and any other special paid events.
If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.
Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to put out at signings.
Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.
Bring a highlighter along so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.
Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.
Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching accessories.
Determine what gadgets to bring along: iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?
Pack a notebook to take notes. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge.
Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.
And the countdown begins. What else would you add to this list?
I’ll be at SleuthFest for the next few days, so there will be a brief hiatus here while I take notes and photos to share with you later.
Writers can spin stories out of thin air. Yes, it’s true. We grab ideas out of the effluvia around us. Soon we’re building a novel. The characters gel, and the setting takes on detail. And then we’re off, pounding at the keyboard, the fervor of creation keeping us in its grip.
Let me give you a demonstration.
The other day, my husband and I enjoyed a sunny afternoon at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray. Florida may have changeable weather in the winter, but we have no snow, sunny skies, and colorful flowers.
Birds fly down here in the colder months to share space with ducks and turtles that grace our neighborhoods.
We also have a variety of critters we’d rather not meet up close and personal. Witness this guy we observed during our visit to Morikami.
Here he is enjoying a meal. Thank goodness iguanas eat plants and not people.
Places like Morikami remind me of why I became a writer. When I sit on a bench and gaze at a lake or tread upon dead leaves through the forest, I let my imagination soar to other worlds. And so here we go with an example of how easy it is for a writer to start a story under any circumstances. We are walking along a wooded trail surrounded by tall trees and leafy foliage.
Mystery: I’m a tour guide/curator/director leading a group through a botanical garden. Our continued funding depends upon the success of this excursion as does my job security. All is going well until one of our party goes missing and later turns up dead…murdered. Whodunit? Is it the real estate magnate who covets the property to turn into condos? The chief curator at a rival attraction? A meandering spouse who saw the tour as a good opportunity to make his partner disappear? A politician whose stance on public safety will lift his status on the campaign trail? The mystery deepens as I begin my investigation and learn that each person in the group has a secret to hide.
Romance: I’m sitting on the park bench when a cute guy sits beside me. He wears a camera with a big lens around his neck. With a sexy grin, he peers over my shoulder and asks what I am sketching. We get to talking. I love the dimples that crease his cheeks when he smiles. But I’m dismayed when he tells me he’s the photographer assigned to the article I’m writing. Oh, no. How will I keep my professional distance when all I can think about is jumping his bones?
Horror: Patrons have vanished from the trail around the lake. Other guests have reported hearing strange noises in the brush and glimpsing a reptilian tail. But my friends think it’ll be a hoot to stay here overnight. We’re all drinking and having fun after dark until Ada is pulled screaming into a clump of trees. No one sees what grabbed her, but she’s totally gone except for the blood. We pack to leave and go to call for help, but our cell phones have no service and the road is closed due to flooding ahead. We’re trapped there….
Science Fiction: With my laser weapon strapped to my hip, I patrol the woods. My acute sense of smell tells me the creature is near. Anticipating the bounty for my catch, I track its life form on my portable viewer. My client will pay a bonus if I capture the specimen alive. All I have to do is net the prickly ardtrunk and transport us both to my flier.
Fantasy: I halted at the Japanese rock garden, admiring the combed gravel. At the far end, a pair of white stone statues guarded the display of Bonsai plants. A sense of peace washed over me as I stared at the small, glittering stones on the ground. They’d been raked recently, with a spiral pattern leading one into the other like a miniature maze. I’d been drawn to this place, never realizing the oasis sat just outside the city beyond the Fae Woodlands. I glanced to my right, where the air under a painted red archway seemed to shimmer. My heart raced as I approached. I could no more stop my feet from stepping across the threshold than I could stop my breathing. And that’s when the world tilted….
YA Fantasy: Oh Gawd, why’d my parents have to bring me to this boring place? They might enjoy the trees and plants, but nature isn’t my thing. Give me my cell phone and a Diet Coke, and I’m a happy sixteen-year-old. I took out my cell phone to text Marlene and tell her what Randy had said to me in math class, but the dang thing wouldn’t connect. “Hey, Ma,” I yelled, glancing up. “When are we leaving already?” Oh great, I couldn’t see my folks anywhere in this freakin’ garden. They must have gone up ahead. Wait, that hedge hadn’t been there a moment ago. And where did that weirdo come from? The short little guy stood staring at me as though I had come from Mars.
Isn’t this fun? Which story do you like?
As you can see, storytelling is in my blood. I can’t stop playing the “What If?” game. Where do you go for inspiration?
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It’s annoying, when I’m judging a writing contest or reading a self-published book, to find common mistakes that could be avoided with editorial help. Unfortunately, many beginning writers don’t even realize they need assistance. They’ll ask a friend or an inexperienced critique partner or a local English teacher to proofread their work, and the result is considered ready for publication. Think again. If you write fiction, you want an expert in the genre to edit your work and not the local journalist who has published nonfiction or the lit professor mired in academia.This post doesn’t apply to indie authors who know the ropes and have an expert eye screen their story.
Revise and polish your work as best you can before submission, whether to a writers contest or a publishing house or even to an editor you might hire. Here are ten common mistakes to avoid.
1. Create an Identifiable Main Character
Get us into the action right away with a sympathetic viewpoint character. Put us in her head and show us the world from her unique viewpoint. Make sure we can identify with this character throughout the story, so stay in her head as much as possible. Even when you use multiple viewpoints, we want to root for the hero.
2. Make Your Characters Likeable
Remember to address your character’s goals, motivation, and conflict. What does your character want? If she wanders aimlessly through life with no particular goals, that makes me as a reader less interested in her. Give me a reason why she behaves that way. Maybe she lacks confidence because of a past event. Maybe she’s afraid of failure. Knowing this will make the reader become more engaged with her. Give her redeemable qualities so we’ll like certain aspects of this person. If not, the reader won’t care, and that’s the death knell to your story. This also applies to the anti-hero. What makes him redeemable? Why should I, the reader, care about him? By balancing action with reaction, you’ll motivate your characters and make them more believable. For every action, you need a reaction. Don’t focus on plot to the exclusion of emotion. Makeme care about your characters’ lives.
3. Avoid Bouncing Heads
Don’t switch viewpoints in mid-scene. If you must switch viewpoints, use a space break. Don’t leap into the head of every minor character. We cannot know a person’s thoughts unless we’re in their mind. You have to infer what the other person is thinking through non-verbal cues or dialogue. It becomes very disconcerting when every character we meet has an internal dialogue. Then the story loses focus. Stay in one character’s head. When you switch, indicate it with a space break.
4. Establish the Setting Up Front
As soon as possible into the story, establish the place, season, and time of day. Remember your five senses of Who, What, Why, Where, and When. Try to work these into the opening pages. Examples: Crickets chirped their nightly summer chorus, or late afternoon sunlight glinted off an icicle hanging from the roof. Also, don’t mention a street name or landmark and assume the reader knows where this place is. Be specific and give a location. Use the five senses to bring your settings alive, but remember to describe them from your viewpoint character’s perspective.
5. Watch Your Use of Bad Language
The occasional curse word may be acceptable for a hero who’s a hardass or for a heroine in the urban fantasy genre, but elsewhere it may raise a reader’s hackles. It can also turn off some readers completely, so this language should be sprinkled in judiciously, if at all. Add it only if it helps to define a character, not because you believe it makes your protagonist seem tough. Ask yourself: Is this necessary? If not, leave it out. Or deploy a substitute, like “frak” on Battlestar Galactica. Remember the old adage: Less is better, especially if you want to expand your readership.
6. Show, Don’t Tell
To keep the pace flowing, use dialogue and action and minimal exposition. If you have long passages where nothing happens except the protagonist thinks to herself or explains what happened in the past, the story comes to a dead halt. You want to imbue a sense of immediacy to your story, and that won’t happen unless you involve the reader. Long meandering passages of narration may have been acceptable centuries ago, but that doesn’t work today. Show us what’s happening; don’t tell us.
7. Avoid Flashbacks Like the Plague (and don’t use clichés, either)
The first chapter is your only chance to grab the reader so she’ll continue your story. If you segue into a flashback, the forward momentum is lost. Who cares what happened in the past? Throw in a line or two of dialogue or introspection to show us how the past is relevant to the current action, and then move on. Or make it part of the story action, such as a confrontation with a friend or a hesitation on the part of the main character to perform some act. Work backstory into your chapter with minimal intrusion. Flashbacks, too, will kill pacing, so remove those long passages that reflect past scenes and not the present. Only retain what is necessary to explain the current action.
8. Every Conversation Should Have a Purpose
When I suggest you use dialogue generously, I don’t mean that two friends should get together and chat meaninglessly on matters that don’t move the story forward. Dialogue must serve a purpose: to reveal information, define character, move the plot ahead, offer reaction and reflection on what’s just occurred. So ask yourself as you approach a conversation, what do you want to get across in this segment? If you don’t have a point to make, delete the scene.
9. Use Character Tags Sparingly
Try to replace “he said” or “she said” with actions. Avoid adverbs and show the tone of the conversation in dialogue instead. Don’t use “he thought” or “he wondered” if you are in the character’s head. Do use italics for inner thoughts.
“You’d better not stick your nose where it doesn’t belong,” he said in an angry voice.
You’re telling me to mind my business? she thought. “I’ll do whatever it takes to find Angie’s killer,” she replied. “You’re the one who should watch your back.”
“Oh, yeah?” he sneered nastily. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“You’d better not stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.” He towered over me, as though his superior height could intimidate me into behaving.
You’re telling me to mind my own business?You’re the one who should watch your back. “I’ll do whatever it takes to find Angie’s killer.”
“Oh, yeah?” He jabbed his finger in the air. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
10. Proofread Your Work
Would you enjoy reading a book riddled with spelling errors or misplaced commas? No? Then why send one to a contest where mechanics are judged? Proofread your work for typos, dropped quotation marks, missing periods, and misspellings. Same goes for your work before you indie publish it. Get beta readers to help if you can, and definitely hire both a developmental and a copy editor. You want your work to appear professional, not only out of respect for your readers but also for your future career as an author. If the goal is to increase your readership, you’ll strive to publish a polished product so readers will want more.
Also, we have a new Facebook Page. Please visit us to see what’s going on in our lives, including news about our upcoming releases, first looks at book covers and more. Check it out and Like the page while there! https://www.facebook.com/bookloversbench
My husband and I took a walk on Saturday, since we finally had a break from the rain and cold weather in South Florida.
Our conversation went something like this:
“I finally figured out the murder weapon,” I said. “Now I just have to determine whodunit.”
“Oh, and I thought you were looking at knives on the computer to use on me.”
“No, I found the perfect blade with a special handle. It’ll help lead to the killer’s identity. But I’m not sure how I’ll get there. I have to eliminate each suspect one-by-one to reveal the bad guy.”
“I don’t know how you can do all that. It would give me a headache.”
“Me, too. I haven’t figured out what Marla will do next. Her stepdaughter just had an emergency. We have to get past that, and then….”
And so on. You get the idea. Our imaginations are always active. I tend to zone out at times and have to remind myself to live in the moment. But it’s hard when you’re in the middle of writing a novel to stop thinking about it. We need the momentum to keep going, until the final page where we can write The End. Then it’s like a great burden lifts off our brains…at least until we start revisions.
Thanks to a post by author Terry Odell, I am turning back the clock to my early blogging days. It’s incredible to realize I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I didn’t start out on WordPress and converted my site somewhere along the way. Fortunately, I save all my posts in Word. My very first topic was on Critique Groups. Believe it or not, much of the same advice applies today. Here’s what I said back then:
CRITIQUE GROUPS (August 2005)
Yesterday I went to critique group. Including myself, this consists of six authors, most of us published or agented. We meet every other week and rotate houses. While eating a sumptuous brunch, we discuss publishing news, share personal insights, and encourage each other to keep writing through the ups and downs of our careers. I can’t tell you how invaluable this group has been to me. I could not have achieved what I have without them.
After exchanging news, we get down to work. We read each other’s manuscripts silently for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, passing the pages around the table, until all of us have been read. Then we share our comments aloud, focusing on one person at a time. We do not do line editing. Mostly we focus on character development, emotional reactions, dialogue, plot consistency, and so forth. For example, when my sleuth Marla asked a suspect outright if he might have killed the victim, one of my critique partners said this was too blunt. So this morning, I toned down Marla’s response in my WIP (work in progress). We catch typos, point out clichés, and suggest ways to restructure for more impact. But more importantly, we’re there for each other to gripe, to cheer, to support, and to listen.
I wrote an article for Romantic Times Magazine [now RT Book Reviews] on how to set up a critique group. Here’s an excerpt with seven tips for getting started:
1. To find other interested writers, join a local writers group and put a notice in their newsletter that you are looking for critique partners.
2. Limit your group to six members or less.
3. Seek friends with compatible personalities and a similar writing level.
4. The focus of your meetings should be on critiquing content, not line editing. Consider holding a separate meeting on occasion just for brainstorming plot ideas.
5. Determine a procedure for your group that is agreeable to everyone. Some groups read aloud, others pass pages around the table and read silently, and still others e-mail chapters ahead of time. It’s up to you how you want to run your show.
6. Offer constructive criticism. If you see the need for change, make suggestions for improvements in a positive manner. Don’t forget to give praise where it’s due.
7. Have fun! Enjoy refreshments and spend time chatting about the industry. Being sociable will draw you closer together and enable you to accept advice more readily.
My current group has six members, most of whom were around back then. See how long we’ve known each other? These are steadfast friends, and they understand me on a level better than most people. We share common needs and goals and understand the foibles of the business. We’re also pros at our jobs, producing a constant stream of material, attending conferences, and supporting each other via social media. When you find a good critique group, it’s like discovering gold. Treasure your partnerships.
In these photos, besides myself, are Zelda Benjamin, Sharon Hartley, Alyssa Maxwell, Kat Carlton, and Cynthia Thomason. We do like to eat!
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, what is your process?
You can’t complete a full-length novel without a strict code of self-discipline. Imagine all the distractions we have throughout the day. How can a writer put these aside to focus intently on a book? How can we face a blank page each day, knowing we have to fill in the words? How can we concentrate day after day, month after month, on the same story until it’s done?
It takes immense self-discipline. You can train yourself to do it. First, you must set an attainable goal. Don’t think about the 300 page manuscript you have to complete or the 80,000 minimum word count. Consider how many pages you can reasonably complete each day. Set a daily goal. Determine what time of day is your most creative and set your starting hour. You will complete your pre-writing rituals and get down to business each day…when?
Now consider how many days per week you’ll be able to get this done. Do you want a five-day work week with weekends off? Or do you have a day job, so you have to binge write on weekends? How about allowing for doctor appointments, lunch with friends, and business meetings? Now set a weekly goal.
Use your tabulations from above to figure out your monthly projections. Then set monthly goals.
Beyond all this is the deadline you set for the first draft. Always leave leeway for sick days or vacations or unexpected visitors from out of town. When is your expected completion date?
Keep in mind that these deadlines are somewhat variable. Let’s say you’ve set five pages per day as your attainable goal. One day you might write two pages. Another day you might write seven pages. But your overall goal is twenty-five pages per week. As long as you reach the weekly goal, you’re okay.
Now comes the hard part. You need to practice BICHOK: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. You must do this day after day, no matter how tedious it becomes. Progress may seem slow, but even if you complete two pages a day, you’re moving forward. That’s the important thing. Do not stop to revise your work. You can fix it after it’s done. Keep moving ahead.
Non-writers don’t realize how hard it is to accomplish these goals. It’s easier to make plans with friends, play on Facebook, or do the household projects you keep putting off. You’d rather do a hundred other things than stick to a writing schedule. But the only way you’ll write that book is through sheer determination. You WILL do it despite temptation.
So set your goals, grit your teeth, and get your butt in the chair. You’re allowed to take an exercise break, but then sit back down and finish your daily goal. When done, you can have the reward of checking your email and social media and going out to have fun. The next day, it starts all over again. Put on those blinders while you write and keep going full-speed ahead. Many people say they want to write a book. Only a true writer at heart will finish one after the other.
The Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (FMWA) is proud to announce the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence competition.
Designed to recognize outstanding unpublished mystery writers and novels, Freddies will be awarded to winning contestants in two categories, HARDBOILED and TRADITONAL. Hardboiled entries may include Suspense, Thriller, Espionage, Police Procedural, and Private Eye mysteries. The Traditional category is for Whodunit, Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, Legal/Medical, and Historical novels.
Submissions will consist of the first 20 pages of an unpublished mystery manuscript. All will be scored by published authors, and the top five entries in each category will be read by an acquiring editor or agent. Freddie winners will be announced at Sleuthfest 2016, February 25-28, in Deerfield Beach, FL.
Entries may be submitted electronically beginning August 15, 2015. Deadline for entry is October 15, 2015. The entry fee is $20 for FMWA members, $25 for Mystery Writers of America (MWA) members, and $30 for non-members.
For complete rules and category descriptions, and/or to enter the Freddie competition, visit the FMWA contest web page: http://mwaflorida.org/contest/ . To learn more about how to join MWA or to register for Sleuthfest, visit the FMWA main site at http://mwaflorida.org/.