Tag Archives: art taylor

My First Bouchercon: Notes From a Newbie

Okay, I cannot promise this report will be riveting, but I want to get everything down before my addled brain starts resorting my memories of Bouchercon 47, a massive mystery convention that took place in New Orleans this year, Sept 14-18.

Weds: We hate flying, so we drove down. Insane, I know, but we were giddy at the prospect of a genuine road trip. America and all. We got a late start, circling Fairfax a few times because of last minute errands, gassing up, etc. At one point I remarked to my husband that it felt like we were in a bad twilight zone episode. This is us at a fricking Cracker Barrel, we were so happy to get just a little bit down I-81.

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We made it to Athens, TN before we stopped for the night. We were vibrating.

Thurs: Mostly on I-59, which is wonderful. I remembered that when I was a kid, I hated highways that were long, green, and sign-free. Now it’s a rare treat. Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and then this hopeful sight:

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We missed the opening ceremonies parade but made it to the conference hotel on Canal Street just before dinner time. At the center of the hotel lobby was the bar, which was insanely noisy and crawling with writers. The bell men were even joking about it.

Dean collapsed in the room while I checked into the con. Basic conference swag included 6 free books of my choosing, a BIG program, a little program, a cool bag that puts your AWP tote to shame, a brilliant T-Shirt, an awesome coffee travel cup, and probably some other stuff that I forgot or gave away.

That night, after catching some of the awards ceremonies, we went down to the lobby bar where I found myself face to face with Joe. R. Lansdale. Mr. Lansdale is my hero, and I read all of his books, eventually. I’m usually 3 behind. Anyway, there he was and I said, “Wha!” To which he politely said, “Wha?” I proceeded to gush about how great he is, how great the Hap & Leonard  TV adaptation is, and then I introduced him to my husband. Mr. Lansdale was super gracious but had to get the hell away from me, pronto. After he left I realized I’d failed to introduce myself.

I saw him a couple of other times at the conference, but I made sure to hide. I saw Walter Mosley, too. Another of my heroes. I hid from him too, just to be on the safe side.

Fri: Panels, the Aquarium, eating little meat pies, hanging around the book room, and otherwise poking around the hotel. This from the 41st floor:

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That evening, the Bouchercon 2nd line. It was raining on and off, so we watched and encouraged rather than marched.

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I think we started the journey thinking we’d have wild nights on Frenchmen Street, as we usually do, but we were beat. Friday was the day Dean said, “Let this trip be this trip.”

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We did not go to the Anthony Awards that night, but we were hugely happy to hear that Art Taylor won for his editorial work on Murder Under the Oaks. And I think he was happy that we’d driven down, so we could carry back his trophy, which was this wheel sized wooden plaque. Not Airplane friendly.

Sat: The day of our panel, “On the Other Side of The World.” We had nothing more to go on, so moderator Rochelle Staab decided that we would discuss the most unusual features of our works and characters, and with expert wit she guided the conversation beautifully. The panelists, left to right: Rochelle, Steph Post (who hooked me up with Pandamoon Publishing in the first place!!), Lisa Preston, Me, and Sarah Smith.

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Rochelle ended the session with a little game whereby she read out a quote from each of our books and asked the audience to guess which author had written it. I was guessed twice before my quote came around:

Did you know that every piece of jewelry is an apology, and that every apology is really a boast?

This is a line from a letter that a jeweler writes to a corrupt lawyer, whom he vaguely accuses of murder before advising him to grab the cursed emerald and disappear into history. I was realy pleased that she chose this line—it’s one that I’m proud to have written—but I was even more thrilled later when, at the signing table, Rochelle introduced me to Hank Phillippi Ryan by repeating the quote to her.

Another fun moment on the panel was when we started riffing on a mystery based on the hotel’s overly confusing elevator system.

I met one other interesting person—though I did not realize it at the time. A very glamorous writer was seated next to me at the signing table, and she drew all kinds of fans who LOVED her books, which were Hollywood mysteries. Turns out, she knows a lot about Hollywood mysteries. She was Kathryn Leigh Scott, who has been in TONS of things you’ve seen, but is best known for her role as—wait for it—Maggie Evans in the original Dark Shadows series. She was in 319 episodes, dammit.

Dark Shadows was very important to me growing up, but I’m so glad I didn’t know who she was while we were chatting, given my previous behavior with Lansdale and Mosley.

That afternoon I made one more pass through the book room, which was slow because everyone was at the Blood on the Bayou signing. That’s when I picked up even more swag, including these:

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Some writer was swanning through with a purse full of Jack, and the proprietor of Scene of the Crime Books proclaimed her his new best friend. I really wish I knew who she was. I want to buy her books.

We hit the road after that, so we could get home by late Sunday. The drive back was significantly more challenging as we were met with bouts of heavy rain and fog. And after spending so much time with mystery writers, we were definitely in a mood, as evidenced by the creeping terror we felt when we stopped at an Alabama rest station at dusk. It was still misting with rain, and there were no other cars in the parking lot. As we walked up to the building, we saw a man in a khaki work uniform standing outside, staring into the tree line as if he was very concerned. I tried to say hello, but it was as if he couldn’t see me.

The building was deserted, with sickly yellow light bouncing off the tiles. Also, it was already decorated for Halloween, with straw bundles and “cheerful” scarecrow and ghost cutouts taped to the walls, like the beginning to every slasher flick ever filmed. Our steps echoed, and we nervously giggled about how the decorations really cheered the place up. When we left, the sentinel caretaker had moved to a different spot but was still staring into the trees. Another couple had arrived, and when they passed us they seemed ridiculously relieved to see us.

In the car, I asked Dean, “Did you see the attendant? What’s up with him?”

And Dean said, “You mean the Confederate ghost?”

Sunday: Looong day of hard driving, bad weather, and truck traffic. The hours stretched, as they say. Our last stop before the final push for home was at a truck stop. I haven’t been to one in years, but it struck me that it was a lot like a university campus, with its same intimacy and lost island feel, except that the inhabitants were older, stranger, and possibly trapped in time.

Like I said, we were in a mood. Pulling out, we saw this:

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All in all, a very rewarding but sometimes weird trip. I’m definitely planning on Toronto. Here’s the book haul, with puppies, who were happy to have us back home:

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Upcoming Events: Readings, Bloggings, and Thongs

Oh gosh, where to start?

Monday, June 13 I’ll be in Baltimore for the Ivy Bookstore’s Starts Here! Reading series hosted by the always delightful Jen Michalski, I’ll be reading with a stellar line up featuring Art Taylor, Tara Laskowski, Sherrie Flick, and Paula Whyman. 7pm at Artifact Coffee.

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Saturday, June 18 I’ll be at Loudoun Co Library’s first Eat Local Read Local festival, which runs 11-4. I’ll have a table inside Cascade Library where I’ll be signing/selling books, and later in the afternoon I’ll give a short reading. Cool poster:

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Right now I’m quite busy preparing materials for my upcoming blog tour, which will take place  July 11-15. The tour is being arranged by TNBBC’s Lori Hettler, and I’m really excited by what she’s put together.

Also in the near future–there will be some social media changes in my life, including the launch of an author page on Facebook. I’ve resisted doing this for a while, but the time has come, especially since I’m doing so much promotion with Pandamoon Publishing. I’m sure my friends will be grateful for the relief in their feeds!

Finally, the marketing manager is playing with putting The Juliet art on items in the Cafe Press store. I can’t wait to show you what The Juliet underpants look like.

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A list of things that happened over the last few days plus tomorrow

  1. Conversations & Connections. The panels were packed, people were sitting on the floor. When Art Taylor read as part of the keynote, the conference ran out of copies of On the Road with Del and LouiseThey had to start a waitlist.
  2. Spring came. (see above. The view from my cabin’s back window. Taken with an iPad, no filter)
  3. Anthony Ballots were due.
  4. Edgar Awards.
  5. Malice Domestic. Congratulations to Barb Goffman for winning the best short story prize. Congratulations to Art Taylor for winning the best first novel prize. His West Virginia fan club  was tracking twitter and drinking a little too much.
  6. My mother, who is 87 and has the flu, casually came up with a brilliant idea for a short story epilogue to The Juliet. Involves finding a skull in the desert 20 years later. Emerald inside. Mom says, “I should write these things down.” Um, yeah you should.
  7. Panda-bro Todd Tavalozzi’s Looking Into The Sun reached number 1 in War novels during his free day on Kindle.
  8. Matt Magelssen-Green’s delightful essay, “Roleplaying as Live-Action Fan Fiction” is available on the Alternating Current Press blog, marking the last of my choices as guest editor to go live. Woo hoo! Plus Matt is one of the BEST EGGS.
  9. My Father-in-law just read my book and doesn’t know why it isn’t a bestseller.
  10. Tomorrow is the LAST DAY of my Goodreads Giveaway for a signed copy of The Juliet. Get on that, ya?
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The Origins of The Juliet at JMWW and Conversations and Connections

The endlessly generous and talented Jen Michalski invited me to write a post for JMWW’s recently relaunched “Origins” series in which authors talk about the seeds of ideas and inspirations that grew into their books. You can read my Origins post here. In the post I ramble on about Mom’s influence on the book, as well as the original research I did, and how I manipulated it.

In other news I finished (I hope!) a long-ish short story called “Artie & The Angels,” which is about what happens when a young woman who inherits a house on the Bayou Teche suspects that there’s a man inside a refrigerator that’s been dumped in the waters behind her new home.

This weekend brings Conversations and Connections, a one day conference with practical advice on writing that is just about sold out. See? only 1 ticket left!

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I’ll be serving on a panel with my dear friends and fellow novelists, Steve Himmer and Art Taylor. The panel is called, “The Art of Creating Imagined Spaces Inside Real Places,” and here’s the description:

Three novelists—Steve Himmer, Laura Ellen Scott, and Art Taylor—talk about the techniques and risks of inventing non-existent locales and integrating them into real settings. What does authenticity mean when you manipulate known places in fiction, and how does “world-building” happen? And in this context where do invention and cultural appropriation intersect?

This year C&C is starting at it’s new home, George Mason University. The event on Saturday will be out at the Arlington Campus–where the law school is housed. Yes, THAT law school. We’ll do our best to dispel any bad mojo while we’re out there. Should be fun!

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The Path might not be a path

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Too many good things happening! 1) My former student/current friend Jonathan Harper‘s debut collection, Daydreamers, has been nominated for the Kirkus 2015 Fiction prize. Check out the full list of nominees here–it’s amazing. 2)ARCs of Art Taylor’s debut novel On The Road With Del & Louise roaming around in the wild, and you may be able to get your hands on one via a Goodreads giveaway that ends June 28.

On the horizon, we’re expecting Erin Fitzgerald’s novella, Tara Laskowski’s second collection, Steve Himmer’s third novel, and of course, my second. We all started this journey at different times, but it feels like we’re reaching important benchmarks together. This leads me to wonder if, as a writer, I haven’t been laboring under the wrong metaphor all this time–maybe this stuff is less path-oriented than event-oriented–like doomsday only way better–and we’re the best preppers.

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The Agatha Awards Finalists and Bram Stoker Awards Prelim Ballot Announced

Crime and horror fiction your thing? Mine too. And I love writing award season; I use the ballots for crime and horror as shopping lists to fill my TBR shelves. Quite recently the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards prelim ballot was posted. Voting began Feb 1 and closes on the 15th, and it’s only open to members. (Note to self: need to join HWA).

Random creepy image I like:

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In more close to home news, Malice Domestic’s Agatha Award finalists were just announced, and my dear friend Art Taylor appears TWICE in the Best Short Story category. Voting happens in early May at the Malice Domestic conference (Note to self: join Malice Domestic). Art won an Agatha last year for a story called   “The Care And Feeding of Houseplants.”

You may not have voting privileges either, but please do take a look at all the nominees. It’s so much fun discovering stories, writers, and presses you may have overlooked in 2014. Oh! And a treat from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine: A free pdf of Art’s nominated story, “The Odds Are Against Us.”

Let’s hope the odds are with Art once again.

Enjoy!

 

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Intel

Last Saturday, April 5, was the day of Conversations and Connections in DC. C & C is a one day writers’ conference with a minimum level of bullshit–no one there trying to pitch the one size fits all platform, etc. I directed a panel on the how and why of the Flash Novella, with guests Erin Fitzgerald and Tara Laskowski, and it was very well attended. I got a little overexcited, and when I handed out a prompt list (15 sections in 15 weeks), I promised everyone in the room that if they tried the FN and sent me their draft in August, I would read it or find someone else who would. Wonder if anyone will take me up on that . . .

I attended the crime writing panel–low turn out for that one because it was up against a “what editors want” session–and I’m really glad I did. Nick Korpon, Art Taylor, Steve Weddle, and Tara Laskowski had a great conversation about the state of crime fiction, confirming some of my own experiences. I’m finding writing with the knowledge that I am operating firmly within the genre is delightful. And natural, dammit.  Hot tip from the panel: agents troll crime mags to find new clients. That there is news you can use.

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The Next Biggie Thingie

Thanks to Erin Fitzgerald for tagging me in this author-blog-chain-thingie-self interview-thingie. My writerly activity/output has been wiggly in the wake of promoting Death Wishing, so I appreciate getting the chance to shape my thoughts.

What is your working title of your book?

I have a short story collection called The Temple of Love and Hate. It’s actually a short collection (only about 200 pages) of long stories, including three new ones that nearly qualify as novella length, using The Matt Bell Standard. Anybody want to see it, just holler.

I’m also working on a novel called Willie Judy and The Mystery House.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Long form is always a collision of ideas–I wanted to write about Death Valley. I wanted to write about a cursed gem. So those two go together, geologically speaking. I also wanted to write about a woman who drives all the men crazy even though she looks like a rodent.

What genre does your book fall under?

I guess it’s a kind of an eccentric mystery. Is Wacky Treasure Hunt a genre?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Sam Elliot plus the entire cast of Torchwood. There might be room for an Arquette who isn’t totally played out.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

The cursed Juliet emerald is hidden in Death Valley, and Willie Judy must find it before she’s arrested for murdering a legendary cowboy actor inside a desert shack known as The Mystery House.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

There is an agent who is enthusiastic about the novel, and she wants to see it first. With the stories I’m going straight to publishers myself.

 How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

First draft is a myth.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I want it to be like a movie—It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World specifically—but I just finished a big chunk that feels like an outtake from a Taylor Caldwell potboiler.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My mom has been interested in rocks and gems all her adult life, and every time she visits we go to the Hall of Gems at the Smithsonian. I’ve always thought it was hilarious that she has no patience for the effing Hope Diamond, and she thinks Hope fans are rubes. So that’s my Maltese Falcon, if you will.

Otherwise, I really enjoy writing about places that move me, and Death Valley is one of those. We were there in 2005 during the Great Wildflower Bloom, and it was like being in Oz.

 What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The main storyline takes place in 2005 as grim weasel-girl Willie Judy searches for The Juliet emerald while navigating a burgeoning romance with a depressed innkeeper (a Welsh extreme marathon runner everyone calls Scottie just to torture him) and avoiding arrest for murder. Each chapter alternates between Willie’s storyline and episodes in The Juliet’s ridiculous history. So we start with a grotesquely flawed emerald plundered from an Egyptian tomb and go all the way through it’s many unlucky owners until it ends up as a cereal box prize.

Every once in a while I dream the ending, and it’s “Face of Boe” brilliant, but then I forget it.

I think I’m supposed to ask other writers before I tag them, but I prefer the West Wing Blue Ribbon Commission Approach—remember that episode where Toby neuters Seth Gillette (Ed Begley Jr.)by announcing his appointment to a panel on social Security without asking him?

So I’m tagging for variety–

noir writer: Art Taylor

chicken-poet proprietor of Big Russian Soul: Danny Collier

novelist, children’s author, activist, and educator: Jyotsna Sreenivasan

folklorist and newbie fiction writer: Debra Lattanzi-Shutika

Will they play? who knows. at least I almost tried.

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