Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bouchercon for Dummies (Fourth Bouchercon's the Charm!)

By Lisa Alber

This year, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention for crime writers of all genres, aspiring writers, readers and fans, and anyone involved with writing, editing, reviewing, and publishing, was held in New Orleans, and thanks to New Orleans, it turned out to be the biggest Bouchercon yet with over 1900 people.

That's a lot of overstimulation right there. And for first timers, I'm sure it was daunting. In fact, it could be daunting for anyone, anytime. You might have read Eileen Rendahl's post last week about being a first timer (so fun to meet her! and she certainly didn't seem like a first timer). I've been to four now, and each time I get better at it and it gets more fun.

Bouchercon 2010, San Francisco: No publishing deal on the horizon. I knew no one and felt hesitant, for the most part, being the huge introvert that I am. Still, I figured out fast that the place to be was the bar (which surprised me, but now it seems natural), but never great at small talk, I'm sure I was a little awkward. I did manage to introduce myself to many women of Sisters in Crime, and to a few others that I "knew" from online. I felt like the classic outsider--and a bit insecure because of it.

And, I attended the panels all day, every day. The conference was fun in a voyeuristic way. And I did make some new friends.

Bouchercon 2013, Albany, NY: OK, I was good. I was rooming with a buddy, and said buddy already knew everyone because she's an extrovert and she participates--you know, the extracurricular type--in Mystery Writers of America and other organizations and events. Plus, by then, I had a book deal! Woohoo! I had a bonafide bookmark and business cards with the cover for KILMOON. I felt more comfortable mixing and mingling because I actually had something to say for myself.

I went to fewer panels because I'd meet up with people and get to chatting (I knew a few more people by then). I also figured out quickly that no one actually talks about their books unless they're specifically asked or participating on a panel/other promotional event.

Bouchercon 2014, Long Beach: My book was out! I was a debut author! And I'd been to a few more conferences, and knew more people. I participated on a panel, the debut author breakfast, and something else I can't remember. I was a nervous wreck most of the time, because I'm not comfortable with public speaking (phobic, just about, up until getting a book published anyhow).

I went to even fewer panels this time because I was "on" and meeting people and getting met and holed up in my room practicing my book blurb like the nervous Nelly I was. I stayed up too late, drank a little too much--probably nerves. But I survived, had fun, and in the end I had to wonder, Could it be that the mystery community was becoming my tribe?

Bouchercon 2016, New Orleans: I don't know if I can call myself an "old-hand" yet, but I was certainly comfortable and knew that every time I walked through the bar/lobby, I'd see someone I knew. The joke was that if you wanted to get anywhere, you had to duck your head to not see and hopefully not be seen.

I think I went to one panel. Most of all, I realized that I knew how to do Bouchercon. Paced myself when it came to staying up late and drinking (difficult in New Orleans!), took time outs to rest in my room or wander the French Quarter on my own, ceased worrying about whether I was missing something. I barely thought about the release of my second novel, WHISPERS IN THE MIST in August, to be honest. In fact, I forgot my bookmarks and business cards at home!

By this year's Bouchercon, I'd figured out that the point was communing and having fun, not stressing about whether my book was selling in the book room. It was like going to world's best reunion. Now I can honestly say: This is my tribe.

New Orleans was on my bucket list--what a great a city! Have you ever been to New Orleans? What did you like about it? What cities are on your bucket list?

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

Monday, September 26, 2016

Murder for Fun and Nonprofit

by Tracy Weber

Writers are among the most generous people I know.  Mystery writers, even more so.  Who would have guessed that the world’s nicest people spend their spare time plotting murder?

From graciously offering advice and kudos on the SINC discussion lists, to writing blurbs for their peers, to donating items for auctions and fundraisers, SINC members do it all.  Some, however, go even further.  I recently spent time with chatting with some of our most generous sisters to learn where, why, and how they give via their writing.

Debra H Goldstein was the inspiration for this article.  In addition spending her time on numerous family and professional obligations, Debra has always been an active community volunteer. Her writing could be no exception. Here’s what she told me:

“When my first book, Maze in Blue, a mystery on the University of Michigan's campus, was published, I realized just how lucky I was and decided to give back.  For that book, my royalties from different signings were directed to the American Red Cross for tornado relief efforts, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, and the YWCA's childcare programs.  My advance and all royalties from pre-orders and both bookstore and e-book sales of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery through May 30, 2016 were divided between the YWCA of Central Alabama's domestic violence and Collat Jewish Family Services CARES dementia respite programs.  I serve on the boards of both organizations and know the impact they have on the lives of people in Birmingham.  I've been fortunate to have a wonderful happy and healthy family, a successful legal career and the opportunity to fulfill my book writing dreams, so it only seems right to pass it along.”

Janis Patterson:  Janis donates one quarter of the royalties of her new mystery A Killing at El Kab  to the restoration fund of the El Kab dig house/excavation headquarters. Here’s why:

“I am doing this because Egyptology is very important to me - my husband and I met through our mutual love of Egyptology, and he even proposed to me in the gardens of the Mena Hotel, which is across the road from the Pyramids. 

Last year we were fortunate enough to be invited to stay at the dig house - and civilians are NEVER invited to stay at dig houses. Our dear friend the director had to work his way through three levels of Egyptian bureaucracy to get us permission to stay. 

The house was built in 1906 and is in dire need of restoration. I chose this as my 'charity' because the El Kab excavation is an important one, spanning from the Badarian culture to the present, and the dig house is itself an important part of history.”

Kaye George, Kathy Waller, V. P. Chandler, Reavis Z. Wortham, Gale Albright, Laura Oles, Earl Staggs, and Scott Montgomery! Kaye George told me about an anthology put out by her Austin writing group called Murder on Wheels:  Eleven Tales of Crime on the Move. The anthology was published by Wildside Press. 

Kaye says, “Many of us, including me, have been involved with Meals on Wheels and have done volunteer work for them, so we donate over half of our royalties to the Austin Meals on Wheels group. Since the royalties aren't much, we add to that.”

Susan van Kirk: Susan lives in a small Midwestern town that is economically depressed, and she uses her work to support the arts in her local community.

“I taught English in the public school system for thirty-four years, and we all know the arts are the first area to be cut when money problems persist. The Buchanan Center for the Arts is very active in our small town of Monmouth, Illinois. It keeps fine arts programs going for all age groups, but especially for the young people in the area. They had a fundraiser and two of the names of characters in my upcoming book, Marry in Haste, were auctioned off, raising $2800 (when added to a state grant that doubled the bids.) Marry in Haste is my second Endurance mystery, following Three May Keep a Secret.”

Tracy Weber: My writing combines the three things I love best:  yoga, dogs and murder mysteries!  The dog part is my passion and inspiration.  My own lovely German shepherd, Tasha, suffers from the same autoimmune disease as Bella, the German shepherd in my series: Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).

EPI is a relatively rare disease that primarily impacts German shepherds.  Although the disease can be controlled, it can’t be cured, and approximately twenty percent of animals diagnosed with the disease are euthanized before the owners even try.  Those who do choose to treat their animals often undergo significant financial hardships.  A pit bull with EPI was recently profiled on the TV show, Ellen.  The owners spent over sixteen thousand dollars on veterinary bills before getting a diagnosis!

I donate a portion of sales of my Downward Dog Mysteries, including the most recent, Karma’s a Killer, to EPI dogs in need.  How could I not?  If it weren’t for my own EPI dog, I never would have written a single word, much less four books—and counting—in a mystery series.

How about you?  What causes are important to you?  How can you use your writing to support them? I’d love to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Mysterious Lives Of Mystery Writers

Back in February of this year I blogged about the disappearance of Agatha Christie in my post, Wherefore Art Thou Agatha?  But Agatha isn't the only golden age mystery writer cloaked in her own mystery.

Elizabeth MacKintosh, a.k.a. Gordon Daviot, a.k.a. Josephine Tey as she's known in literary circles, led a very private life. Even her close friends didn't know her well. What is known about her life, such as Tey giving up teaching to take care of her father has been a topic of debate since her father was known to be an avid fisherman late in life and not someone who would be thought of as needing cared for.

Vanity Fair ran a fascinating article last September.

Decades After Her Death, Mystery Still Surrounds Crime Novelist Josephine Tey

I don't know about you, but I'm always curious about mysteries surrounding the men and women who write mystery novels! Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Jamie Blair
Deadly Dog Days - Nov. 8, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bouchercon Virgin No More

This past week, I attended my first Bouchercon conference. I've been hearing about Bouchercon for a long time and have always wanted to go. I finally decided it was time. I registered, bought my tickets, scored an awesome roommate at the conference hotel, and went for it. The week started with a workshop on diversity put on by Sisters in Crime. It led off with a keynote speech by Walter Mosley. I would show you a picture, but I was too busy giving him a standing ovation and wiping the tears off my cheeks. His speech was that good. Next day was my panel about cozy mysteries. Shawn Reilly Simmons, Loretta Ross, Carol Ann Newsome, Debra Goldstein, and I (in my Kristi Abbott persona) talked about our books, our motivations, and our favorite lines from our books. Carolyn Tillery was our fearless moderator.
I think it went well. I only mentioned penises once and I used a euphemism so I'm pretty sure it was classy. Then there was time in the bar with fun people like Midnight Ink editor Terri Bischoff and Midnight Ink authors Catriona McPherson and Lisa Alber.
There were publisher parties, regular parties, and tons of food everywhere, including beignet for breakfast.
There were hot sauce tasting bars:
Heather Graham's band played at House of Blues:
Then I also got to see cousins that I almost never get to see because they live way down here and I live way out west. They took me to eat more amazing food (red beans and rice, am I right?) and to walk along Lake Ponchatrain:
Monday morning, I go on a cemetery tour then get on a plane to go home. It's been an amazing and exhausting week, but I'm so glad I went! UPDATE: Had to add this because I'm not sure I've ever done anything this dangerous. I walked half barefoot through the French Quarter due to a flip flop blow-out in the cemetery.
Anybody have any good conference stories they want to add?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Midnight Ink Books for Your Autumnal Pleasure

Webmistress Lisa here. We don't have a guest author today. Instead, I've rounded up the Midnight Ink new releases for September. As we head into colder weather and the hectic holiday season we need our reading material, do we not? Happy reading! ~Lisa

Salem's Cipher by Jess Lourey

A troubled codebreaker faces an epic plot reaching back through centuries of America’s secret history.

"A fast-paced, sometimes brutal thriller reminiscent of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code."         —Booklist (starred review)

Close Call by Laura DiSilverio

Mistaking a killer’s phone for her own, Sydney Ellison is drawn back to a past she thought she’d left behind.

"DiSilverio's excellent plotting in her stand-alone thriller will keep readers on the edge of their seats . . . A treat for Megan Abbott fans."—Library Journal (starred review)

The Question of the Felonious Friend by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen

When a young man who also has Asperger’s, asks if a store clerk is truly his friend, Samuel Hoenig, for the first time, can’t bear to give an objective answer. It’s a dicey situation that only gets worse when one of the key players ends up dead.

"Samuel Hoenig . . . takes on a real puzzler in Copperman and Cohen's winning third Asperger's mystery."—Publishers Weekly

Friday, September 9, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quaker Midwife News

Edith Maxwell here, with several bits of good news!

The large print version of Delivering the Truth came out yesterday. I've only had one other of my books come out in large print and I'm delighted. Isn't that a great cover? I'm happy that vision-impaired readers will be able to read a paper copy of the story.

This Saturday is the big event: the staged reading of scenes in Delivering the Truth between Rose Carroll and John Greenleaf Whittier. If you're in New England, I hope you'll join us at the historic Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse!

Friends Journal is the US national Quaker Magazine. They reviewed the book last week, and it was a glowing review! "...presents Quaker characters and their practices with refreshing authenticity...key themes and challenges highlight timeless elements of the human experience..."

In short fiction news, "Adam and Eva," a new 1888 short story of mine was published in Kings River Life Magazine recently. This one is told from the point of view of my midwife's postmistress friend, Bertie Winslow, as she and Rose work together to find and catch a killer. 

Also, I'm very excited to be one of the Blood on the Bayou contributors, this year's Bouchercon anthology. If you'll be in New Orleans next Saturday afternoon, come get your own copy signed by the authors!

Next, Called to Justice is in production. That's very exciting - it means the book is on its way to being out in the world next April. It's available for preorder, too.

Third, my manuscript of book three is done, polished, and out with an independent editor. It's always a great feeling to finish a book. I like the story, which takes place during election week of 1888 and has a sub theme of women's suffrage. (More on that later...) So far I'm calling it Turning the Tide, but that could change. The book isn't due until January, however I have to write another book in another series before then, thus the head start.

It was a good August for me. I went away on a writers' retreat and got a lot done. At home I'm enjoying all the summer produce and my family is well. Fall is nearly officially here, though. I'll welcome some crisp temperatures, finding my knee-high boots, and sinking my teeth into local apples.

Readers: have you ever read a large print version? Do you enlarge the font on your ereader instead? Anybody with deep knowledge of the women's suffrage movement in the late 1880s?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day

by Linda O. Johnston

            It's the first Monday of the month, and here I am doing my InkSpot post after Tj O'Connor, who posts on the first Thursday.  I'm usually before him, and last month I posted on the first day of the month.

            So... Happy Labor Day, everyone!  I hope everyone who celebrates and gets the day off is having a wonderful time.  I also hope that everyone who doesn't get the day off has a wonderful time... including me!

            Labor Day isn't a holiday for me--not exactly.  In fact, as a writer, I have very few days off.  Generally, I write, and/or edit, seven days a week.  Weekdays?  Sure.  Weekends?  Yep.  Holidays?  Almost always.  Vacations?  Depends on where I'm going, how I'm getting there and all, but again, almost always.  And in any event, even if I'm not in front of a computer or otherwise involved with the writing or editing process, my mind is always working on another plot, either something I'm committed to write or an idea I'm working on in the hopes that it'll turn itself into a new story that'll be published someday.

            This month, I'm looking forward to... next month.  That's when my next book--my next mystery for Midnight Ink--will be published.  It's UNLUCKY CHARMS, my third Superstition Mystery, and my fingers are crossed that everyone has as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

            That also means that, in addition to writing, I'll be involved with promoting my new release. I'll be on a blog tour most of the month, plus on Sunday, October 2--the day before my next InkSpot post--I'll be in Huntington Beach, California, at the Ladies of Intrigue event where I'll be in wonderful company, including Carolyn Hart, Rhys Bowen and Robin Burcell.

            Then again, later this month I'll be on a panel at the Woman's Club of Hollywood, not far from me.  Not sure what we'll be discussing but I know it has something to do with mysteries, since a fellow mystery writer set it up and the other panelists also write mysteries.  So... well, I should add to that paragraph above that I'm nearly always busy letting people know about my stories, and that can again happen on weekdays, weekends, holidays and vacations.

            Not that I'm different from other published authors.  But I was a practicing attorney once upon a time, when I actually did get time off from my job.  And know what I did then?  On top of raising my kids... I wrote!

            So, again, Happy Labor Day everyone--and may you spend it doing something you love.