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.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Gun Violence

I have stayed away from political topics in this blog, but there is one issue I can no longer ignore and must speak about: gun violence. By way of background, I have no problem with people owning properly obtained handguns and hunting rifles. Although I have not been in law enforcement, I have had the opportunity to attend three citizens’ police academies and to help train over 100 law enforcement officers (local police, sheriffs’ deputies and FBI) as a role playing volunteer. I have been involved in law enforcement training exercises as a hostage, hostage taker, and shooting victim in an active shooter scenario at a high school. I value the dedication and courage of law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line daily.

But it is time to make serious changes to the use of assault weapons in our country, We need legislation to improve background checks, eliminate bump stocks, improve mental health services and ban assault weapons. I have enjoyed shooting guns on a range, but there is no need for semi-automatic and automatic military-style rifles to be readily available. Sure, it’s a thrill to shoot a semi-automatic rifle, but I am happy to give up the thrill for the safety of our children in schools. The second amendment allows us to bear arms but it doesn’t indicate that we need assault weapons just as you wouldn’t want other than the military to have rocket launchers.

It’s time for common sense to prevail and for effective changes to be made to reduce the risk of gun violence.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Left Coast Crime Conference

One of my favorite mystery conferences is coming up: The Left Coast Crime Conference in Reno from March 22 through March 25. This is a wonderful gathering of mystery fans and writers to exchange ideas and explore the world of mystery/crime/suspense/thriller novels.

I will be moderating the Meet the New Authors Breakfast where we will introduce, at current count, nineteen authors who have published their first mystery novel within the last year.

I also have the opportunity to moderate a panel titled, What Kind of Fool An I? Writing in More Than One Genre. Panelists include a group of terrific writers: Maegan Beaumont, Daryl Wood Gerber, Phoef Sutton and Keith Tittle. During this panel we will explore the idea of branding a book that covers multiple genres and branding an author who writes in multiple genres.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Conflicting Emotions

As I watch my two-and-a-half year old grandson, it brings back memories of my childhood. He loves playing with balloons. We play balloon catch, balloon volleyball, balloon soccer and balloon baseball. But balloons also scare the dickens out of him when they pop. When he comes over weekday mornings, he will go over to a bin that has a balloon in it and say, “Balloon pop.”  He’s always hesitant at first to play with the balloon until he gets into the game.

I remember a similar reaction I had as a small child. My dad belonged to an Elks Club. In a storage area near the parking area was stored a stuffed elk. When we went there I was always afraid of what I called “the dead horse” but had to go look at it. It was both terrifying and exciting.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Similarities Between Novel Plots and Two-Year-Olds

In addition to my writing, my major focus in the last two plus years has been getting to know my grandson (now two and a half). I’ve learned a great deal watching and interacting with him. Here are several of the lessons that apply equally to writing novels.

My grandson loves playing with his toy train, which he pushes by hand over wooden tracks. He enjoys a specific track configuration for several days, then wants to change it. Equally true of novels. Readers don’t want the same plot over and over. They want new twists and turns.

My grandson will run the train along the track for a while, but this is too easy. He will then remove a piece of track so the train can’t proceed and say, “Oh, no.” Often he will replace it with a different piece of track. Other times, he will put toys on the track to block the train. As in writing novels, there need to be obstacles and conflict to bring the story alive. We don’t want a boring story where everything is fine with no challenges to be overcome.

It’s fun to watch him construct his own stories as he plays with his train.