Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Darrell James
Growing up working on my brother-in-law’s farm, the idea of “work” conjures images of something like toting barges and lifting bales. (For the record, while I have lifted bales, I’ve never actually toted a barge, or for that matter seen anyone else do it.) Still, being a writer has its own kind of grind. There’s long hours of brain numbing plotting. The continuing tedium of pounding a keyboard. And the excruciating madness of fitting just the right words to a scene, just the right scenes to a story. And, of course, there are the dreaded deadlines that can provoke hives, night sweats, and other yet unnamed mal-physical reactions. But the part of being a writer that isn’t so much work is the part where we get the chance to meet and talk to readers, and share camaraderie with other writer friends.

One of my favorite events of the year is Men Of Mystery, held annually in the fall in Irvine, California. This event is hosted by the ever-lovely Joan Hansen and the Orange County Writers Guild. It features some fifty male mystery writers and attracts more than five-hundred attendees. It’s a hands-on (so to speak) chance to engage with readers. Each author hosts a table of ten guests and also gets the chance to speak in round-robin fashion to the entire assembly. Which usually turns out to be something more like “Last Comic Standing” or maybe “The Writers Roast”. It’s great fun with each author trying to best the author to his left or right.

(And just in case you’re wondering, the O.C. Guild also hosts a mystery event for women authors too.)

Men of Mystery will be special for me this year. I have been participating for the past three years or so on my credentials as a short-story author. While I’ve had the pleasure to present Body Count: A Killer Collection of fifteen of my short stories to the audience, and the occasional additional anthology where my stories have appeared, I’ve always felt something of the step-child syndrome around all the fabulous novelists. Short stories, as masterful as they might be, and as difficult as they can be to write, just don’t seem to buy you the same respect.

This year, I’m pleased to report, will be my first chance to publicly announce a three book contract with Midnight Ink and foretell the coming release of Book One in the Del Shannon series of novels.

It’ll be great! It will! It’s something I have worked long and hard for.

Still, as much fun as it will be to show up with some bragging rights this time, I’m mostly looking forward to hosting a round-table of wonderful readers (mostly women, gotta love that!) and having the chance to socialize with all my great writer buddies.

The always noir Gary Phillips will be there, as will Bob Levinson (Robert S.), Michael Mallory (M2), James Scott Bell (Jim), and of course our very own Midnight champion, Keith Raffel (Mr. Silicon Valley himself). And headliners have included the likes of Vince Flynn and Michael Connolly. Just to name a few.

So, during those long days, weeks, and months of grind, alone, with my feet propped up in the recliner, hammering laboriously away on my laptop, I’ll think back on Men of Mystery, and all the other great writer events, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll manage to toil my way through to the end of another book by New Years.

Ahh, that ain’t workin’!

What about you? As a reader or writer, what’s your favorite event? And as a writer, what’s the best part of being one? Leave a comment.

Men of Mystery is an annual fall event in Irvine, CA bringing 500 mystery enthusiasts together with more than 50 male mystery writers from the US and beyond. The event is coordinated by a large and dedicated volunteer committee led by Joan Hansen. Whose mission is to promote mystery reading and writing and literacy while having tremendous fun! This year’s MofM will be held Saturday, October 30th at the Irvine Marriott.
To attend go to: www.menofmystery.org


Beth Groundwater said...

As a writer, my favorite event is the Pikes Peak Writers conference, while as a reader, my favorite event is the Malice Domestic conference. :)

Darrell James said...

Beth, I'm looking forward to Malice next year. Would love to come to Pikes Peak again. My last time was on a motorcycle.

Keith Raffel said...

See you there, campadre! Keith

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Malice Domestic and Murder on the Menu at the Cerritos Library are my two favorites.

Knock 'em dead at MofM!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Have fun at Men of Mystery!

I enjoyed Malice this year. :)

Lisa Bork said...

I had fun at Malice this year, too, although Bouchercon 2009 was the first conference where I got to talk about my book, hold it up, had out bookmarks, etc. That first time is quite a thrill!! Enjoy, Darrell!

Vicki Doudera said...

I'm signing up for Malice again -- I did enjoy that. I also like small gatherings with readers at public libraries. The questions people pose really run the gamut, and that's fun.

Lois Winston said...

Definitely, the best part of being a writer is being able to work in slippers and pj's! I wore a pair of stilettos this weekend for a wedding, and my feet are still protesting. You really can't beat not having to "dress for success" every day.

As for writing events, my favorites are the book clubs I've been invited to speak to. What can be better than sitting around a room with a dozen or so people who have read your book and loved it and want to hear more about your characters?

Dru said...

I loved attending Malice and I'll be there next year.

Darrell James said...

It sounds like Malice is the place to be next year. Shall we call it a Midnight Reunion?

(Actually "Midnight Rendezvous" sounds more interesting.)

Terri Bischoff said...

I love Bouchercon, just for the sheer volume of books, fans and authors. I haven't been to Malice in a few years, but I am looking forward to attending in 2011.

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference was the only writer's conference I've attended. I was invited as a guest editor. It was fabulous. I really can't speak highly enough of the conference, the planners and the attendees. Classy group all around. In 2011, I am planning on Sleuthfest and possibly Love is Murder.

I pretty much think anytime you get a group of authors and/or readers togethere, there is potential for scandalous amounts of fun.

Kate Thornton said...

I'm looking forward to next year's Bouchercon - I was away at an Army Reunion this time. Left Coast Crime was the last time I saw you all in person - although it seems like you're right here with me in jammie-land on the computer.

Men of Mystery - sigh! Love 'em all.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Congrats on the new novel! Enjoy!

Am looking forward to seeing lots of MInkers at Malice this year. (Although last year I think Alan enjoyed being the only Man of Mystery in our group photos.)

Alan Orloff said...

Yes Alan did! But I suppose I can share this year.

I've been to Sleuthfest (twice), which was great, and Malice, which was great, and Bouchercon, which was great, and ThrillerFest, which was great. Either I'm not very discriminating or all of these conferences are great. Next year, I'll be at Malice and Bouchercon for sure, and probably ThrillerFest, too.

Darrell, have fun at MoM!

Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, Darrell ... enjoy yourself. The anticipation before that first book hits is the BEST time of being a writer.
PS: Do the Men of Mystery have a calendar? If so, I know what I'm getting for Christmas!

Darrell James said...

Alan- sorry cut the odds, but maybe we can team up and have a great time. What do you think?

Kate- you always brighten any conference.

Deb- Now that you ask. This year MofM is offering a claendar with all of our handsome mugs ofeature on the date of our bith. That way you won't forget us when our day roles around. They're $10 each and the proceeds go toward scholarships for the best high school male writer honorees. I haven't seen anything on the website as yet, but I'll let you know how to order.

Lois Winston said...

Terri, you're going to Malice this coming year? That's fantastic. We'll finally get to meet. And I'm so looking forward to meeting all the other Minkers who will be there.

Terri Bischoff said...

Lois - Malice is definitely on my schedule... so unless something comes up between then and now, you can expect to see my smiling face!

Darrell - that calendars sounds great. Let us all know when there are more details available.

GBPool said...

The ladies will be spiking the drinks of the other attendees just to sit at your table, Darrell. You have always wowed 'em and with your three-book contract, you will have a chance to acquire even more followers. Knock 'em dead.