Thursday, April 19, 2018

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

It’s that time again. On Saturday and Sunday April 21-22, 2018, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will take place on the USC campus in Los Angeles. I’ll be signing on Sunday from noon to one in the Sisters in Crime Booth #376 and from two to three in the Mystery Writers of America Booth #377.

This is an amazing gathering of writers of all genres with the added excitement of a street fair. My favorite from last year was Morrie Marcoff who was there signing his very first book, Keep Breathing, which had just been published. Morrie was 103 at the time.

As I tell aspiring writers, it’s never too late to start.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Do People on the Extreme Left or Right Have a Sense of Humor?

Here's a question I’ve been thinking about: Do people on the extreme left or right have a sense of humor? As a mystery writer who uses humor in my writing, I also post parody comments on Facebook. These comments sometimes get attacked by people who take what I say literally.

I believe this is a symptom of extreme thinking when people have made up their minds and have no intention of discussion with people who hold a different perspective. I also think there are few extremists who are capable of laughing at themselves—they take their views too seriously and won’t step back to look at themselves.

Humor can be used to diffuse difficult situations, but it is also part of human nature. Most of us enjoy a good chuckle. I think it’s important to take positions on key topics, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously in the process.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Triage Approach to Publishing

One of the most helpful pieces of advice I was given when I started writing was once I finished my first novel-length manuscript to start writing the next one. It was important to continue new writing while editing the completed manuscript. This has served me well as I now have fourteen published books, another due out in October, 2018, and other manuscripts that I am in the process of getting published.

The basic concept was to build a portfolio of manuscripts. This allowed me to write what I wanted to write while seeking publishing opportunities. With this approach it’s possible to pursue a triage strategy to publishing.

Some manuscripts are mainstream and lend themselves to working through an agent to reach a large publisher. A second group of manuscripts that may not be what large publishers are looking for can be sold to small or medium-sized publishers who take submissions directly from writers. A third set of manuscripts that are outside the mainstream will lend themselves to self-publishing.

This triage approach allows the writer to pursue three different simultaneous paths to publication.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Report from the Left Coast Crime Conference

This year’s Left Coast Crime Conference completed this last Sunday. Here are my highlights:

I moderated the Meet the New Authors Breakfast and had the opportunity to introduce 21 new mystery authors. I have done this over the last eleven years. I particularly enjoy meeting these enthusiastic new authors and tracking their careers.

I also moderated a panel on writing multiple genres. We had a lively discussion on the subject of branding books that cross genres and branding authors who write more than one genre. The outstanding panelists were Maegan Beaumont, Daryl Wood Garber, Phoef Sutton and Keith Tittle.

Another highlight was at the awards banquet where I sat with guest of honor William Kent Krueger and his wife. He presented each of the people at the table with one of his books and a can of Spam (from his home state of Minnesota). Here is Kent addressing the conference.

I am already signed up for next year’s Left Coast Crime Conference which will be in Vancouver, Canada March 28-31, 2019.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why Attend Mystery Conferences?

First of all, what are mystery conferences? These are annual gatherings of mystery fans and mystery writers to share our mutual love of the mystery/suspense/crime/thriller genres. They range in size from three hundred to two thousand attendees.

As an author, I attend anywhere from one to three of these a year. Upcoming is The Left Coast Crime Conference in Reno, Nevada.

I don’t sell a whole lot of books at these conferences, but they are a great opportunity to connect with avid mystery readers and schmooze with fellow writers. I always attend a number of the panels, which give me new ideas for my writing and help to re-energize me. At The Left Coast Crime Conference I have volunteered for the last eleven years to moderate the Meet the New Authors Breakfast. Through this event, I meet new authors and then have the opportunity to track their writing careers. This year I will also moderate a panel on writing in different genres. This is a subject dear to my heart because I write geezer-lit mysteries, paranormal mysteries, theater mysteries, historical mysteries, sports mysteries, thrillers and biographies.

Next post I'll share some of my experiences at this year’s conference.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Writing Cycles of an Author

By way of background, I began writing in 2001 when I was 56 years old. I made the decision that writing would be something I would retire into. At the time I was still working, but I learned that if you’re 55 or older you could attend any course with the instructor’s permission at the University of Colorado near where I lived. I availed myself of this opportunity and took two semesters of fiction writing courses where we wrote short stories and critiqued each others’ work. In addition to mingling with young writers, this gave me a start on my writing.

My next step was to get something published. I began sending short stories off to magazines and anthologies, and I’m happy to report that on my 112th submission, I sold my first short story, Never Trust a Poison Dart Frog, in an anthology titled, Who Died in Here?

Then I bridged into novel length writing and began seeking an agent and publisher. As a result of pitches to two agents and two editors at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in 2005, I sold my first book, Retirement Homes Are Murder. This was published in January, 2007, and in August of that year I retired into writing.

Up to this point, I had completed a number of novel length manuscripts and kept writing. In retirement, I wrote every morning and then dedicated afternoons to editing and promotional activities. This was a very productive period for me, and as a result I now have fourteen published books with a fifteenth scheduled for release in October, 2018.

I have a portfolio of completed manuscripts that I intend to have published over the next few years. My main attention currently is on our two-year-old grandson. My wife and I spend time with him almost every weekday. My writing focus right now is on editing my manuscripts.

I feel fortunate that I had a career and time with my kids while they were growing up and then the opportunity to write after my kids left home and into my retirement.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Writing in More Than One Genre

As I mentioned two posts ago, I will be moderating a panel at The Left Coast Crime Conference this month titled, What Kind of Fool Am I? Writing in More Than One Genre. I imagine I was selected to moderate this panel because my published books include seven geezer-lit mysteries, two paranormal mysteries, a theater mystery, a historical mystery, a sports mystery, a thriller and a non-fiction biography of a World War II prisoner of war.

I have had discussions with other others about writing multiple genres. The basic issue is one of branding, and there are two dimensions to the branding topic. One is if you write a book that includes multiple genres, how do you brand the book? As an example, one of the authors on the panel has a book that includes mystery, history, time travel and romance. On the panel we will explore the question of where this book should be on a shelf in a library or bookstore. For me, my geezer-lit mysteries include romance. I was a member of Romance Writers of America for a time as well as Mystery Writers of America. I classify these books as mysteries with romantic elements.

The other dimension is writing books that represent different genres. Then the question becomes branding the author. One of the other authors on the panel writes romance novels and suspense novels. Some authors tackle this difference by writing under different pen names. British thriller author, John Creasy, wrote crime, science fiction, western and romance novels. He wrote his romance novels under his wife’s name. Another author on the panel writes cozy mysteries and suspense. She writes some of her cozies and suspense under her real name. Does this cause confusion for the reader? My contention is that readers are smart and don’t need to see two different author names for different genres. Just as long as the information about the book is clear, readers will chose authors they like or genres they like.