Low Down Dirty Vote

I was on vacation with the family on July 4th so the day passed rather uneventfully, except for the annual blooming of the hot dog tree. The children were a bit skeptical this year about how a tree could produce hot dogs attached to strings but ultimately decided to keep on believing.

July 4th was notable this year for another reason: the release date for Low Down Dirty Vote, an anthology of short crime fiction edited by Mysti Berry, AKA my first real publication. The book exists in real life, paper and electronic, and people are actually buying it. Even better, all proceeds are donated to the ACLU to fight against voter suppression.

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The feeling of holding the book in my hand, seeing my name on the cover, and reading my story right alongside the other accomplished authors, is really exciting. I can now say I’m a published author! Yahoo!

Now to get back to that novel….

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Writing Update

Since my last post, I received the news that my short story, Bombs Away, won first place at the San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts contest, Mystery/Thriller Short Story/Adult category. The story is the same one that will be published this summer in Low Down Dirty Vote, a charity anthology to support the ACLU. I’m excited for readers to meet Olivia, community organizer and Black Lives Matter advocate, who takes on a bomb threat at a poll on Election Day.

I’ve also been working on meeting a May 31 deadline for several other projects.

One is a short story submission to the Mystery Writers of America Young Adult Anthology. That story is titled The Prank. It’s been critiqued by two of my beta readers and I’m now making sure it meets the submission requirements.

Contests and anthologies have specific formatting guidelines, and I’d hate for my entry to be disqualified because I didn’t follow them. (Much better to be rejected because my story’s not good enough. Or…wait…)

It’s things like font size, margins, cover page, and even deleting your personal information from the file itself so the entry can truly be evaluated blind.

My other May 31 deadline is a Fantasy Agent submission through Guppies, an online chapter of Sisters In Crime for unpublished authors. The Fantasy Agent is an opportunity to submit the first thirty pages of a novel and a synopsis for evaluation and feedback by a published author. A synopsis is a concise summary of the entire novel. I don’t know how to write a synopsis, but fortunately, Susan Dennard does and explains how here. I’m going to submit one of my previous NaNoWriMo novels.

May 31 is turning out to be good timing since the kids are off school in a couple of weeks and we have some trips planned early in the summer. I’m looking forward to pressing Send on these submissions. Then…to hurry up and wait!

Left Coast Crime Highlights

So maybe you read my other Left Coast Crime post about how I got to Reno (barely!!) and you’re wondering what happened at the mystery conference once I got there. Fortunately, there are no non-disclosure agreements with Reno like there are with Las Vegas.

I could use this post to tell you how amazing it was to sleep in a room by myself with no small humans waking me up at all hours of the night but that doesn’t make for an interesting blog post. Besides, I know at least half of you following me are moms who are totally jealous so I won’t dwell on the oh so comfortable bed or the opportunity to wake up on my own schedule and not have to worry about lunch or breakfast for anyone else.

The amazing thing about attending this conference was getting to feel like a legitimate author. This was the first conference I’ve been to where I got to tell people that I would be published in July in a short story anthology. In fact, the program for the conference had this in it:

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If you squint, you can see my name!

While going to panels was fun, connecting with other authors was the main reason I went. Here is where I will drop names and include links so you can rush to their websites and buy their books should you so desire.

Some authors I knew and loved already, such as Mysti Berry and Gigi Pandian. Some were new to me but I immediately bought their books after meeting them because of how awesome they were in person (Wendell Thomas, Daryl Wood Gerber, Tammy Kaehler, Marla Cooper)

Then there were my Twitter connections. I met Nadine Nettmann at a conference in 2015 (that would be post Kid #2, pre Kid #3 for those keeping track). At the time, she had just gotten an agent for her Sommelier mysteries and now she has three books out. We’ve stayed connected via Twitter and it was fun to see her again in real life. Also, she gave out wine tips as a bonus.

I discovered Kellye Garrett‘s book Hollywood Homicide right before the conference and when I figured out she was going to be there, I tweeted to her about how I enjoyed her book and hoped to meet her. She responded so sweetly both online and in person, and it was pretty awesome to watch her win an award for Best Debut.

Kellye’s book is notable both for its laugh out loud humor and for having a black woman amateur sleuth (of which there are not enough in the mystery world—in case any publishers are reading).

Finally, I have to mention Cynthia Kuhn. Cynthia’s first book, The Semester of Our Discontent, takes place at a university and has the most perfect title ever. Her second book was a nominee for Best Humorous mystery this year.

I wanted to meet Cynthia because I enjoyed her book and because until I read it, I did not know there was a subcategory of the mystery genre called academic mysteries. Since the novel I’m currently working on would fall into that category, I thought maybe Cynthia could give me the secret password to break into the academic mystery world. Although no password was forthcoming, she was super warm and supportive and full of advice and encouragement.

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In this photo from left to right: Cynthia Kuhn, me, Kathy Valenti, Nadine Nettmann, Gigi Pandian, and Kellye Garrett.

I left the conference feeling two things: one, trepidation about driving home (but it was actually fine) and two, amazement that the other writers accepted me as one of their own. It felt great and I came back motivated to keep on writing.

It’s a Mad (dee James) World

Maddee James is the queen and empress of xuni.com, a website design company that creates and maintains author websites. I met Maddee at a workshop for writers and wondered if her career involved much writing. In my quest to be Jessica Fletcher, she who writes and does other things, I requested an interview with Maddee to find out exactly what she does and how she came to do it.

During our conversation, I discovered that like me, Maddee once had babies and needed something she could work on from home. Unlike me, she taught herself how to build websites.

As far as her process goes, Maddee reads her clients’ books and uses a questionnaire to get to know their preferences. Then she applies her own artistic eye to create a website that reflects the author and their work. Her job is much more visual and colorful than writing is, and more collaborative than most novel writing (if you don’t count conversations with the people in your head). Still, both jobs involve bringing ideas to life so that others can appreciate them.

That got me thinking about my own online presence, who I am as an author, and what readers can expect from my work. Like my blog voice, my book voice is female and humorous. My book has an academic setting and takes place in the fall. Unlike me, my protagonist has no children because if she did she would have no time to solve mysteries. The other reason there are no children in my book is that I write a lighter kind of mystery and putting kids in danger is too icky.

Maddee also shared that because she loves her work, she does it almost all the time. It’s hard to turn off or take a vacation. The work/life balance is something I think about because I have responsibilities other than writing, but when the story is flowing, it’s hard to stop. I can imagine a looming deadline would also make it hard to stop. The combination of a looming deadline plus children needing attention, dinner and clean diapers sounds really challenging.

So while I have no plans to teach myself how to design websites anytime soon, I left my conversation with Maddee feeling inspired by her journey and her achievements. And maybe, hopefully, one day I’ll be in need of her services myself.

 

Boosting Your Social Karma with Karma Bennett

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a workshop on using social media by Karma Bennett of WordPress Blogs for Writers. The workshop was not titled Social Media for the Non-Social, but it might as well have been. The target audience was writers. Need I say more?

The first point she made was that social media is all about connecting with strangers. A collective shudder may or may not have gone through the audience. Perhaps it was just me.

There are times when my relationship with my husband is sustained through texting, so the idea of putting time into connecting with strangers seemed a bit daunting. But, as the presentation went on, it became clear that interacting with strangers on social media doesn’t have to be time-consuming or scary.

First of all, you are trying to connect with your readers, who probably like you already since they read your book.

Secondly, your online persona shouldn’t be too different from your off-line persona. It’s best to share about topics you’re genuinely interested in. You’ll find your niche of others who are interested in the same things and suddenly all these people are not the scary kind of stranger anymore. They’re just other people who like goats in tutus as much as you do.

Karma encouraged each of us to think about what topics we always like to talk about and to engage online about those topics. The things I like most to share on social media are about odd or interesting writing topics, humor, and social justice. I also like to follow or mention authors I enjoy reading, and it’s really exciting when they respond to a tweet.

If you are interested in interacting with me on social media, please look for me on Twitter (@MariahJKlein) or on Goodreads. I’ll do my best to socialize virtually with you when I should be sleeping.

 

 

Left Coast Crime, or How I Survived Donner Pass

This year, Left Coast Crime conference for mystery readers and writers is being held in Reno. Reno’s close, I thought. I can drive there. Easy peasy, I thought.

I sort of forgot about the enormous mountain range between Oakland and Reno. Forgot about it, that is, until yesterday morning when I had to cross said mountain range in a raging blizzard (okay, it was snow-raining, but still). Not only that, I had to cross the mountain range at a point called Donner Pass (YES, THAT DONNER, AND IT WAS SNOWING).

On the one hand, I had chains in my trunk in case I needed them. On the other hand, I had no clue how to attach them to my tires. I could only hope some kind-hearted gentleman (or lady, but probably a dude) would be willing to take money from me to stand out in the snow-rain and put them on.

I drove higher. The going got more treacherous. A sign alerted me that chains were required ahead. Then Google Maps swooped in for the rescue.

Faster route, popped up on the screen. Take next exit for Rainbow Road. My remaining drive time dropped by about twelve minutes. Well, hello there. Leave this treacherous freeway for the glorious Rainbow Road and shave twelve minutes off this torture? Yes, please. Rainbow Road, here I come.

I took the exit as directed. The phone next told me to turn left onto…DONNER PASS ROAD. WHAT. IS. HAPPENING. I don’t watch horror movies but I’m guessing the technology gone rogue has already been done? Having committed to this course of action, I went ahead and turned onto DONNER PASS ROAD.

This ill-fated road was, in fact, less traveled than I-80. Also, no one was stopped putting on chains. Possibly because no else was on the road. The thought occurred to me that perhaps Google Maps doesn’t take weather into account when deciding on a route. I may actually have been better off on the slow freeway. Finally, I’ve found something the little elves inside the phone aren’t good at.

At any rate, the road had been plowed, so that was a plus. There were no half-eaten corpses or knocked over covered wagons, so another plus. The lakes of melting snow that puddled on one side of the road (my side) were not pleasant. Fortunately, there was no one coming in the other direction, so I took advantage of the higher side of the road. Unfortunately, there was no one coming in the other direction, so if I got stuck I might have been on my own.

Google directed me back to the I-80 eventually, and I did make it to Reno. No chains. No accidents. No death and destruction. Thank goodness, because now I have a murder mystery conference to attend where I’ll get plenty of that, thank you very much.

What’s for Dinner?

Yes, this post is about food, and no, this blog is not about food. How many parents out there have things they want to do besides churning out three meals every day for the foreseeable future? No? It’s just me?

I’m not that picky. I want a healthy, delicious dinner on the table every night at a reasonable hour, it can’t take forever to prepare, and oh yeah, the kids have to actually want to eat it.

Here’s a sample schedule of dinner at my house.

  • Sunday: Eat dinner at Grandma’s if possible, otherwise, pasta.
  • Monday: Burritos
  • Tuesday: Chicken, rice, vegetables from the freezer
  • Wednesday: Mac N’ Cheese
  • Thursday: Something in the slow-cooker
  • Friday: Tuna Melts and roasted garbanzo beans
  • Saturday: Left-overs

Is it boring? Yes. But these meals are inexpensive, quick to prepare, and generally healthy.

Not spending hours producing dinner means I might be able to squeeze in another 500 words that day. (See how I brought this back around to writing?)

What are some go-to meals I’m missing? Share, please!