Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What’s New at New England Crime Bake

Just back from the 10th annual Crime Bake, a mystery conference for writers and readers held outside of Boston and sponsored by the NE chapters of Sisters in Crime & Mystery Writers of America. Thought I’d share a little report while the whole experience is fresh in my mind.

A panel with several “top guns” emphasized the need for persistence in our profession, as well as a little luck. Guest of Honor Nancy Pickard (The Scent of Rain and nancy-hrLightning) described herself as a “thirty year overnight success,” and said that although she came along in the early 80’s -- the right time for women in crime fiction (that’s the luck part) -- she realized early on that “somebody has to be published – it might as well be me.”

Doudera EislerBarry Eisler (The Detachment), Nancy’s co-honoree, stressed hard work and our need as authors to stay on top of the entire process of publishing. He told many stories about less than stellar covers and/or titles of his books, decisions in which he was denied input and that led him to turn down a lucrative contract in favor of self-publishing. I hope he realized how lucky he was to have his books beside mine at the bookseller’s table…

HeartbeatAway175wMichael Palmer (A Heartbeat Away, The Last Surgeon) consistently offered down-to-earth advice that really resonated with me, such as how important it is for writers to care about the characters they create. It made me think of an early version of my first mystery, A House to Die For. I had a smarmy spinal surgeon murdered in the prologue and my agent pointed out that he was a really despicable character. “Is anyone going to care that he died?” he wondered. In later revisions, I made Emerson Phipps more dimensional, making him a volunteer for a relief organization and showing him through the eyes of his sister as a loving uncle.

Frequently these conferences provide not only suggestions “from the experts,” but hard-earned wisdom from writers such as those of us blogging here. I spoke on a panel with three other series writers about setting and how it influences characters and plot. We had a nice crowd for our discussion and fielded many excellent questions from the floor. I came away with tips from the other writers as well as imparting some of my own.

Of course, we all know that writing conferences aren’t all work, work, work…

Vicki and TerriI was thrilled to discover that Terri Bischoff, Midnight Ink’s Acquisitions Editor, was among the attendees, and she and I enjoyed catching up and talking mysteries. I met the owner of a bookstore in Vermont as well as several local readers who want me at their mystery club. I sold and signed copies of Killer Listing and made many new friends.

And then there is the ball…

This year the event featured “Sleuths, Spies, and Private Eyes,” and it was great fun. I dressed as Jill Masterson, the unfortunately gilded victim from Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, and was delighted to discover 007 waiting when I exited the elevator. We teamed up as a last-minute entry in the “Partners in Crime” category of the costume contest and captured second place!  (Mrs. Peacock and Mr. Boddy from CLUE beat us out.) Some of you know Nikki Bonnani who hosts the Killer Coffee Club… She came as a chilling Lizbeth Salander, dragon tattoo and all, and won the whole thing.

BOND AND GOLDFINGER GIRLDancing in gold lame may be akin to being sprayed with the precious metal, and by the end of the evening, I felt poor Jill’s pain. But I also felt buoyed up by the spirit of the conference: camaraderie, optimism, and sheer love of writing. I’m now back in Maine, hard at work on my manuscript, and using the tips I gleaned from Crime Bake to try and make it better.

8 comments:

irishoma said...

Thanks for the summary of the conference. Lots of helpful info in your post.
Last April Nancy was a speaker at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference. Her presentation was great. She is a generous and gifted writer.
Donna V.

Robin Allen said...

Fun post, Vicki. I don't know whether to be dismayed or heartened that Nancy Pickard has been "persisting" for 30 years. How did she pay her bills in the meantime?

Keith Raffel said...

Vicki, nice costume. But didn't Jill die after being painted gold all over?

Vicki Doudera said...

Donna, your comments about Nancy are right on. She is so poised and together. Eisler was quite the contrast, so that was kind of fun!

Robin... I agree. I think she enjoyed "modest" (i.e. starvation level) success in those 3 decades...

Yes, Keith, you're right! poor Jill perished... I just showered.

Darrell James said...

Thanks for the recap, Vicki. I would like to make it to Crimebake some time. And you look fantastic as Jill Masterson (dead or alive).

Alan Orloff said...

Well, now I need to mothball the gold lame outfit I was going to wear to Malice. Thanks a lot, Vicki!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for sharing! I've always heard Crime Bake is a great con. Maybe one day...

Vicki Doudera said...

Thanks Darrell! Kathleen, if it keeps being this much fun it will be TOO fun.

Alan, did you want your suit back now or can I send it after Thanksgiving?