Highlights from Bouchercon 2014, Murder at the Beach

This year, I attended my first ever Bouchercon: The Annual World Mystery Convention, for readers, writers, publishers, agents, booksellers, murderers, and general lovers of crime. Fiction. Crime fiction.

The conference travels to a variety of locations. This year, it was in Long Beach, CA.

Top Three Best Moments:

  1. Pulling a Dr Livingstone, I presume? on Terry Shames in the Oakland airport.
  2. Socializing with Oakland writer friends Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield, Juliet Blackwell, and Mysti Berry, because really, why hang out at home when we can go hang out in Long Beach?
  3. Deliberately sitting in front of Charlaine Harris in the audience at a panel, having her introduce herself to me, then best of all, waiting in line to have her sign a book and having her greet me by name. Yes folks, Charlaine Harris recognized me and remembered my name SEVERAL HOURS after meeting me. And she didn’t even check my name tag first.

Things I learned for next time:

  1. If you don’t want to eat cookies for breakfast—and even if you do—it’s smart to bring your own food.
  2. Take breaks if you need to. There is always another panel.
  3. Room with Gigi Pandian, because she’s awesome. And she’s armed with chocolate.

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Me and Gigi at Bouchercon 2014, which was held entirely underwater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing Process Blog Chain

Thanks to Michele Cacano and Struggling Writer for tagging me in this Writing Process Blog Chain. You can find out more about their writing processes on their blogs, A Dream and A Scream for Michele and The Struggling Writer for Struggling Writer.

The purpose behind the blog chain is to learn more about fellow writers. Also, if you break the chain, you’re looking at seven years of bad luck. I wasn’t about to risk that, so here goes.

What am I currently working on?

An urban fantasy about huldras (telepathic super strong women), shape shifters (who can turn into animals at will and are mostly super hot) and the humans who bumble around in their midst. My main character, novice huldra Jolene Birch, is trying to adjust to her new reality and take control of her powers when she stumbles over the body of a dead shape shifter and find herself framed for murder. Hilarity ensues.

I have several other WIPs including a YA science fiction and two murder mysteries, but those are in the “on the shelf” stage.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

It’s not as dark and gritty as a lot of urban fantasies. I’m not into blood and gore. Death and danger, yes. Intestines and severed limbs, no. There is a murder mystery at the heart of the story. There’s also some romance and humor thrown in. It’s kind of a blend of all the genres I like to read.

Why do I write what I do?

Because the voices in my head tell me to, of course. Why else?

Also, I write what I want to read. I love books that are funny and suspenseful and have female leads who are strong but have a lot of growing to do. There’s got to be at least one love interest, preferably a couple of murders, and if someone has a secret superpower, all the better.

I was kidding about the voices. Really.

How does your writing process work?

I get ideas all the time. Usually they’re ideas for characters and/or scenes. I like to put my character into situations and imagine how she’d react. Then I start writing the scene. I often don’t end up plotting/outlining until I’ve written a lot of scenes. This doesn’t always work out well for me. I wish I could be more of a planner. Sigh.

Next, the piece gets workshopped through my writing group. They are always kind and invariably tough. They don’t let me get away with clichés and plot holes. They only occasionally confuse me with my main character.

Then I rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. Throw my hands up and start on the next thing. Go back to the original and rewrite some more. I don’t know exactly where all this will end, but that’s the good, bad and the ugly of my writing process.

The next step

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Now it’s my turn to tag another writer. For your reading pleasure, I’ve chosen MA Scott of Masfiction, a spousal writing team that creates extraordinary stories of adventure and romance. They’ve seen reality and it’s not for them.

Enjoy!

Top Three Best Moments of Oscars 2014

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should begin this post by admitting I have not seen any of the movies that won Oscars this year, or any that were nominated, or any that were not nominated. You might be wondering, then, why I sat through the Oscars in the first place. I wasn’t planning on watching, but people in my house had it on, so I joined in. Here are my top three best moments from this year’s Oscars.

Best Moment #3: Lupita Nyong’o’s Acceptance Speech

Lupita began her acceptance by acknowledging the suffering of the real-life person she played in the movie, thanked about a million people in the middle, and ended with affirming that everyone’s dreams matter. And she never even mentioned her future self.

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As heartfelt as her speech was, it’s worth remembering that Lupita Nyong’o is only the seventh black woman to win an Oscar. SEVENTH. Think about it, people. The Oscars have been happening for about a million years, and we only have seven black women winners. This win was a massive, well-deserved, life-changing step for Lupita and a minuscule, tiptoeing, have-to-look-really-closely-to-see-it shuffle in the general direction of equality for all humankind.

Best Moment #2: Robert De Niro’s Description of the Writer

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Here’s Nathan Bransford responding on behalf of writers everywhere, via Twitter:

#1 Best Moment of Oscar’s 2014: John Travolta Epically Failing to Pronounce Idina Menzel’s Name

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The best part about this moment? Within seconds of the flub, someone had created a Twitter handle for Adela Dazeem. By the time Idina/Adela finished her song, @AdelaDazeem had over 1,000 followers and was tweeting things like “THANK YOU JORN TROMOLTO!” She now has over 18K followers. When somebody gets to be funny and clever on a global scale, I say that is truly progress. And we should all thank the Academy for not putting John Travolta in charge of presenting the award to Lupita Nyong’o.

Did you watch the Oscars? What did you think? Which movies did you love? Let me know!

Another Kind of Warrior

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend my first NBA basketball game, the Golden State Warriors vs the 76ers. My husband’s idea of date night: Free tickets courtesy of an educational technology firm called EverFi. They were sponsoring a group of high school students to attend the game. I agreed to go after being assured I wasn’t responsible for monitoring the children. Field trips are great, but not my idea of a hot date.

We met the EverFi folks in front of the Oracle Arena in Oakland. They seemed like a nice group, fluent in both regular English and Edu-speak. We donned our Oracle Arena lanyards with our Oracle Arena tickets, and were led by an usher into the Oracle Arena. He led us right past a line of people waiting outside a door marked VIP Entrance. As we cut in front of the VIP line, I started to think maybe my husband had the right idea about tonight.

Later, we were given Wilt Chamberlain bobble head dolls. What I knew about Mr. Chamberlain is he slept with about a billion women. What I learned is that he scored one hundred points in a single game. Good to know they’re giving bobble heads out for that instead of the other thing, no?

Another perk of being the EverFi guests: We got to sit courtside to watch the warm-up. Here’s a picture of us, which we immediately put up on Twitter and implied we would be sitting there for the whole game. Instead, it was about ten minutes.

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The gentlemen warming up were quite large and tattooed.

Here’s a picture I took of one of them:

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That’s Marreese Speights, who ended up leading the blowout against the 76ers.

Another player, Stephen Curry, was also really good, despite being neither as large nor as tattooed as his teammate. I did find his oral fixation a bit distracting. I mean, if you’re going to wear a mouthguard, shouldn’t it stay inside your mouth? I wore them back in my field hockey days, and I’m quite sure they don’t work when hanging out of your mouth.

Although we passed on the $12 Bud Lights, I still had a great time. The company was fun, the game was exciting, and we even got featured on the Jumbotron. All we had to do was wave around some big red posters that read Oracle Arena while wearing Oracle Arena T-shirts. And now I can say for certain that I know exactly where the Warriors play, and it’s named after that sailboat that won the America’s Cup.

Post-NaNo Update

Wow, it’s been a long time since my last post. I left off of blogging to put my energies into NaNoWriMo and somehow two and a half months have gone by. I guess I have no one to blame but Thanksgiving Hanukkah Christmas New Years myself.

NaNo was awesome. I had daily word count goals, which I stuck to (for the most part) and accomplished 50,000 words of a new novel by November 29. It was such a great feeling to achieve that goal. But the best part was actually spending a month writing consistently.

Here are my Top 5 Lessons Learned from my first NaNoWriMo:

1.    I can write a page in 15 minutes.

A real page! In regular-sized font! I didn’t know I could do that. Kind of does away with the excuse that I don’t have time to write, doesn’t it?

2.    Accountability is helpful.

Posting my goals and updating my word count on the NaNo website was fun and motivating. Anyone want to start a word count competition with me?

3.   Outlining is a good thing.

I wrote an outline for my NaNo novel during the month of October. Turns out when you outline an entire story, it helps you stay on track when you’re actually writing the thing. Otherwise, you may reach the end of your novel only to realize the story is totally different than you thought it was. You then have to decide: Do I rewrite the entire first half of the novel? Or toss it into the trash and never look at it again? With an outline, you get to the end and say, “Yay, I got to the end!”

4.   Social media is a mixed blessing.

The pep talks by authors on the NaNoWriMo website were inspiring. Twitter was slightly distracting but somewhat NaNo-related. Trolling Facebook to see which of my friends is getting married/having a baby/eating Paleo was not conducive to writing at all.

5.    50,000 words is a lot—but it’s not a complete novel.

It’s a skeleton. The next step is to go back and fill in the flesh, the blood, the organs, the muscle tissue—well, you get the idea. But having a solid skeleton is whole lot better than having nothing.

Did you win NaNoWriMo this year? What was your experience like? What are you going to do with the novel? Let me know!

Positive Thinking Versus the Rejection E-mail

People say the biggest challenge when running a marathon is the mental block.  It’s that voice in your head. You know the one:

running_legs“You think you can run 26 miles? Are you crazy? Go back to the couch before your lungs explode and your legs fall off!”

I haven’t run a marathon, so I couldn’t say if it’s that or the whole running thing that makes it difficult. But I do believe that your attitude and mindset have a huge impact on whether you reach your goals.

I bring this up because I recently received my first rejection from an agent. Don’t worry—the drowning of sorrows in a vodka tonic or twelve is almost complete.  Just one or two more should do it….

Actually, I was not devastated by the rejection at all. The agent politely informed me that there is a glut of paranormal books out there right now and she didn’t think she personally could sell mine. Since I am writing in the paranormal genre, she is not the right agent for me. And that’s fine. In fact, I’m excited to have a rejection under my belt. Kind of gives me some street cred in the writing world. (Not quite the same kind of street cred as knocking over a liquor store, but it’s something.)

How do you deal with rejection? How do you overcome obstacles that stand between you and your goals? I’d love to hear from you!

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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Sisters in Crime, Northern California. It was called “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down,” and members were invited to submit the first page of their manuscript to the panel of three distinguished authors. The page was read aloud and the panel gave their critique and opinion as to whether they would keep reading, and whether they thought an agent would keep reading as well.

The three panelists were Sophie Littlefield, Gillian Roberts and Keith Raffel. When the meeting started, I’ll be honest, I was a tad nervous. Okay, I was really nervous, and had been the entire drive up from Oakland to Marin. Yes, the critique would be anonymous, but it would also be very public.

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I spent too much time tamping down my Inner Critic as it tried to predict all the ways the panel could tear my writing apart, and ignored said Critic when it suggested I grab my page out of the purple box and run for Mt. Tamalpais with it. Instead, I sat in the second row and waited for the impending doom. At least if mine was one of the first to be critiqued, the ordeal would be over and I could relax.

Of course, mine wasn’t first. No, mine was second to last. The penultimate submission. Which gave the Inner Critic a good two hours to mess with my head.

criticize_bloggers    But that’s not actually what happened. (For one thing, my Inner Critic does not sound like Simon Cowell.)

In reality, I enjoyed the session. I loved hearing other people’s pages. This is a talented group of writers, and I heard many story beginnings I would’ve loved to read more of. The panelists were encouraging and constructive with their feedback. I told myself I wasn’t crazy to think I could do this writing thing. And I was right. The panel liked my first page.

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They suggested moving a line around and had some questions (when you’re writing about huldras, questions are inevitable), but the major feedback was that this fit right into the urban fantasy genre and that it worked. Hearing that felt great.

In my next post, I’ll share some of the most helpful advice I learned from the panelists about the market and what works in the opening page.