Preparing for Left Coast Crime Conference

Whale of a Crime, 2019It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since I last attended a Left Coast Crime conference, or any crime-writing conference, for that matter. But as LCC begins tomorrow, I’ve been in preparation mode, accompanied by plenty of emails for the coordinators to remind us of various events. My itinerary looks something like this:

Thurs. morning, a 2-hours of book-pitching to potential readers.

Thurs. afternoon, 3:45 – 4:30 is our panel discussion, “Technology in Crime Fiction”.

Friday afternoon, is volunteering at the Crime Writers of Canada table, followed by escorting a group of guests on a walk, and then a meal.

Saturday: reading to attendees from my latest book, followed by Saturday night’s banquet Sat., where I’ll be co-hosting a table of ten people.

Somewhere in there, I’m hoping for time to schmooze and catch up with other writers. Meanwhile, I’ve come up with a to-do list, which is:

. double-check itinerary and review all emails to ensure nothing’s forgotten.

. check transit schedule to commute from my home to hotel

. gather books, business cards, panel notes, pens, granola bars, and a form for the bookseller

. prepare insightful answers for moderator’s panel questions

. choose wardrobe

. review information about fellow presenters

. find the registration area, check in, then dash to the first event.

I might have forgotten something, but I guess I’ll find out. The event finishes early Sunday afternoon. I might just need a nap after that.

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Human Drama on a Sunday Stroll

conflicto_2[1]Last week I was out for a walk with my mom in her neighborhood. On her street, there are a number of assisted living facilities for seniors. Plenty of seniors using walkers are out and about on sunny days.

On our way home from the store, a man and a woman, in their 20’s or early 30’s, were having an intense discussion about thirty feet in front of us. She was carrying a bouquet of log-stemmed red flowers wrapped in cellophane. He had his hands in his jeans pocket and kept his head down while she did all the talking.

Suddenly, the woman’s voice rose in anger. She looked at her companion, then turned away again. At one point she stopped to face him and her voice rose a second time. With the traffic passing by on this fairly busy street, I couldn’t hear what she was saying and didn’t really want to, except to gauge if we were heading into a dangerous situation. Still,  I slowed my pace.

My 84-year-old Mom doesn’t walk fast anyway, so as we lagged further behind the couple, I kept watching, wondering if things could spiral out of control. I also worried that they might be heading to my mom’s building and could bring their conflict inside.

Suddenly, the young man marched ahead a few steps, then abruptly spun around, and said, “Don’t tell me how I f—g feel. You don’t know how I feel!” He turned back and kept walking.

She said nothing, but continued walking and was soon beside him again. After a minute or two, more words were exchanged but in a calmer tone. They reached the three-way intersection, and crossed the side street. At that point, she abruptly turned right and crossed the street we’d been walking down. He raised his arms slightly above his head, then brought them down hard in obvious frustration. He watched her a moment, then turned left, heading in the opposite direction. By the time we reached the intersection, both had vanished, as if nothing had happened.

Writing about conflict is one thing, witnessing it in real life is something else. Human drama is everywhere. As writers, observing and capturing emotions of the moment is part of our job, but at that moment all I thought about was protecting my mom. What if one of them had been carrying a weapon? What if they’d spotted us and decided we’d been intentionally eavesdropping?

So I write about it now, wondering if those two people resolved their differences or if further drama will enfold in their lives.

Book Launch Memories

Speaking at Golden Ears, Oct 21, 2014This week, I had the pleasure of attending a book launch for a colleague who’s about to have her first children’s book published. It’s been a long haul for her, and I wanted to get my hot-off-the-press copy. Her name, by the way, is Eileen Holland and her book is Sophie Trophy (I hope to have her guest blog in the near future!). It’s a delightful story for the 8 to 10 age group.

Her event Monday night was held in the same room where I launched my second novel back in 2008. Seeing Eileen’s happiness and exuberance brought back great memories of other book launches I’ve attended and hosted, and I have to say there’ve been a few of them. Looking back, I’ve attended launches at arts centers, community halls, libraries, bookstores, a pub, a restaurant, a church, and of course, there’s been a few Facebook online launches.

My first launch back in 1995 is still one of my favorites, not just because this was my first published book but because it was a house party for friends, families, and writing colleagues. We served a lot of food and wine that night, I sold books, and everyone had a good time. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about being out of the room by a certain time or cleaning up early. Honestly, if I hold another one, I might just do it again, which brings me to my second point. Will I ever do another launch? Even though, I’ll be bringing out book number ten over the next few months, it’s not a question I can answer right now.

While I didn’t hold a physical launch for my latest Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, I did the usual launch-day announcements. It was the third week of November and I was in over my head with weekend craft fairs, the day job, and my publisher’s launch of one of my novellas a week after that.

While it’s still gratifying to see a new book in print, I’m not overly excited to be the center of attention again. The speech preparation, venue rental, RSVPs, and catering issues have always caused this introvert a fair bit of anxiety. Still, maybe another house party is the answer. We’ll see. The Blade Man is coming either later this year or early next…I’ll let you know when.

Positive Takeaways From an Ugly Experience

The Latin Quarter, Paris, FranceIn ten years of book reviewing, now topping over 500 reviews, I have to say that it’s been a rewarding experience. I love reading and reviewing books. It’s amazing when I come across an author I’ve never heard of and find a story that I just love.

I read both famous and new, unknown authors. I read almost everything and draw on both self-published and traditionally published books. Basically, I choose whatever intrigues me on any given day. I also like to help and support other authors. So when I answered someone’s review request in the fall of 2016, I gave a balanced, honest review of a book that had some major grammatical, spelling, and typo flaws, but which also had a good plot and characters. I wound up giving it a 3-star interview on Amazon, (2-stars on Goodreads).

The author didn’t like my review and also wanted me to tell her where all the typos were. I told her about two of them and pointed out that it was her job to find the rest. That’s when she began ranting at me on Twitter. She emailed me a couple of times, but I didn’t respond. What was the point? I felt no need to defend or justify my review, and still don’t.

So imagine my surprise when I learned this past Sunday that she had posted a scathing rant on Facebook about me, warning her Friends about my “malicious” review. Oh yes, apparently, I was “stupid and ugly” too.

Honestly, I’d forgotten all about her because the review was posted well over two years ago. Clearly, she hadn’t forgotten about me. What happened next was what really shocked me. Within an hour of the woman’s post, I had 23 people who had called her on it, told her it was wrong to attack a reviewer, and who then asked to “Friend” me as a means of offering support, so I did. Many felt that the woman’s remarks were uncalled for and that I didn’t deserve this treatment.

My expanding social network is still expanding as I write this. More people know who I am, what I write, and that I approach my reviews with integrity. I could make a number of points about this experience, but I want to focus on two that are most important to me.

One: The writing community is filled with wonderful supportive people who will not put up with bullying, abusive behavior.

Two: Honesty and integrity not only matter, but are appreciated.

It does my heart good to know this, and I will continue writing reviews because I still enjoy it. I’m not afraid of the occasional unprofessional rant about my work, whether it’s over reviews, blogs, or my books. The positive feedback far outweighs the negative and for that I’m grateful.

Two Projects, Lots of Decisions

volunteer-1888823_960_720[1]This week, I’ve been immersed in two projects (until I came down with the flu yesterday), one is the third-draft edit of my urban fantasy novel. It’s been a challenge, a genre I’ve never written before, but it’s slowly coming together. There’s been positive feedback from my writers’ group, but the novel far from reaching the beta reader stage. I’m making lots of changes, page by page, deciding what to cut, what needs fleshing out, and trying to come up with a deadline for myself, given that this project could go on for years. I’ve already been at it for quite some time, and I maybe I should decide on a timeframe to complete the book.

The second project, in its own way, is also challenging, although this one has a set deadline. In the city where I live, I’m also a volunteer with the city’s Citizens Advisory Group. Our task this month is to review twenty-four grant applications and submit our top five for consideration.

Happily, we can do this online and on our own time, so I downloaded the booklet and began reading it late last week. After making notes on all twenty-four, I found it increasingly difficult to decide which organizations most deserve grant money because they all have merit. Collectively, the applications could have an important and positive impact on communities, our environment, and the physical and emotional well-being of residents of all ages.

After a lot of pondering and determining my own criteria, I came up with five and submitted them on Monday (before the flu took hold), but I wish there was more money to spare. Our small city’s budget isn’t large and the demands far outweigh the available funds. As I’m only one of over two hundred people in the advisory group, my decisions might not have any impact on the final outcome, but at least I tried and did what I thought was best.

To Succeed or Not—It’s More Complicated Than I Thought

search-for-success-intro-220x140[1]In an earlier blog, I wrote about the question of success for writers…what it means, how we define it, and I pretty much decided that it’s up to each of us to define our own measures of success. This often involves meeting goals, some that might have little to do with large royalty checks and tons of book sales.

Of course, the reality is that the world beyond our front door will judge us by our income, book sales, awards and prestigious reviews. Whether that matters is up to you, but apart from my own definitions and goals, I find the overall topic of success fascinating. So I was pretty excited to come across a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this book, Gladwell makes it clear that the success achieved by Bill Gates and the Beatles, for example, is not just a matter of talent or IQ, but of cultural background, family and community support, opportunities seized upon (right time, right place) and decisions made. There’s also the matter of the extreme amount of practice put into mastering their skills.

Gladwell cites the famous study which suggested that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieved the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything. This goes for lawyers, rock stars, and writers, I expect.

It makes me wonder how many hours authors put into writing before publishing that first book (traditionally or through self-publishing), and if that practice is a sufficient foundation to reach multiple book publications and huge sales (whatever huge means). I’m just not sure that the 10,000 hour rule is all that straightforward.

For instance, if authors manage to put in 10,000 hours of writing practice before publishing that first book and landing a contract, is it enough experience to help them write the next two books that publishers often expect in quick succession? Will the authors have the mastery to produce the same quality of work that landed them a contract in the first place?

While Gladwell provides some intriguing anecdotes and stories, not all of the answers are there. He discusses the concept of failure as well, through the story of one of the most intelligent men in the world, yet very few people know who he is. It’s an insightful story.

I do think that Gladwell is spot on when he reveals that the super stars portrayed in his book are well aware that they didn’t get there alone. Again, this is also true for writers. If you’re interested in the topic of how success is created in some people and not in others, then I would definitely recommend this book.

Left Coast Crime Conference In Vancouver Next Month!

Whale of a Crime, 2019I’m thrilled that the popular mystery writing conference Left Coast Crime will be held in Vancouver next month from March 28 to 31st. You can find more details about panels and other events HERE.

Due to time and financial restrictions, it’s been ten long years since I last attended LCC  and that one was on the big island of Hawaii. Hubby and I, along with my sister, turned that excursion into a week-long vacation with tons of sightseeing after the conference ended. I love that island!

LCC conferences choose a different host city, usually in a western state, every year. The conferences tend to be smaller than some of the other mystery conferences, which is why I love this one. There’s a friendly, informal feel to LCC that’s always welcoming.

The organizers have done a great job in providing ways for authors to interact with readers, so to that end I’ll be taking part in in a “Speed Dating” event on Thurs. the 28th from 9 – 11:00 a.m. I’ll be partnering with another author and moving from table to table, pitching my work.

On the same day, I’ll be taking part in a panel from 3:45 to 4:30 called Technology in Crime Fiction. It should be an interesting discussion.

On Saturday, I’ll be reading from my latest Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, for five short minutes (there are many authors lined up to read), but again, it’s an opportunity to let others know about my work.

Needless to say, it’ll be a fun, busy weekend. I hope to volunteer there as well. One of the best parts will be catching up with colleagues I haven’t seen in a long time and finally meeting those I’ve only chatted with online. Judging from the roster, BC writers will be well represented, so if you’re a crime fiction fan living in Metro Vancouver, then don’t miss out as LCC won’t be back to our city anytime soon. I believe the 2020 event will be in San Diego!