Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for the New England Crime Bake

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win an advance copy of Edith/Maddie’s Biscuits and Slashed Browns, leave a comment below.

The 2017 New England Crime Bake was last weekend. As New England based authors, all the Wickeds have written about how grateful we are to the Crime Bake for what it’s added to our careers and our lives.

Wickeds, tell us a story about something that happened at Crime Bake this year that taught you something about craft, the writing community or yourself! Photos are a bonus.

Edith: I went to a great master class on Research given by author and professor of criminal justice, Frankie Bailey. I picked up some excellent tips on new sources I hadn’t thought of.

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I also held a Sisters in Crime New England board meeting over breakfast, and am so grateful for these authors from six states who make our chapter the best one around. SINC National president Kendel Lynn joined us, too, and offered perspectives on what the umbrella organization is up to.

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I had so many other stellar moments, including hanging out with the Wickeds, visiting with friends like Ramona DeFelice Long, Kim Gray, and Dru Ann love, drinks with some of the Guppies, a Seascape reunion photo, and being asked to sit at the “head” table at the banquet along with Guest of Honor Lisa Gardner. Here she is holding one of the centerpiece vases of paper flowers, all made by hand by Crime Bake co-chair Sharon Daynard!

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Barb: I took an excellent master class, too, A Map in the Wilderness, Unsticking Your Plot with Cinematic Structure with Ray Daniel. I did three manuscript reviews for unpublished authors–the best manuscripts I’ve ever seen while doing this. For two of them, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to say.

From left: Kim Gray, Karen Cleveland, Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, one of our revered instructors, Hallie Ephron, Sherry Harris, Dianne Herlihy, Barbara Ross, Ramona DeFelice Long

A group of us who had all attended Seascape in ’09 had a mini-reunion.

The banquet was a lot of fun. Great food!

I moderated a panel called Conflict! Conflict! Conflict! (Fortunately, nobody got hurt.) And I taught a Sunday class called, “Four Lies People Will Tell You about Marketing Your Novel.” The best part of Crime Bake is always the people. It’s like old home week.

From Left: Barbara Ross, Paula Munier, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Karen E. Olsen

Jessie: I learned the most from a stellar presentation by our own Barb Ross on Marketing. It was just like Barb to take a topic that is routinely overwhelming and typically dry and to turn it into a comprehensive, accessible and very funny seminar. I was so grateful for her expertise and her willingness to share it. Thanks, Barb!

Sherry: Ditto, what Jessie said. It was a wonderful class. I learned a lot at the master class on suspense by Lisa Gardner. I love all of those little moments of grabbing some time with an old friend and making new friends. It was also fun to discover one of my daughter’s high school friends was working at the hotel.

Liz: Triple ditto! I thought Barb’s presentation was fabulous and there were many terrific points that everyone could take away. She’s great at breaking things down into pieces that everyone can understand. And overall, it was a great conference. This is always my favorite mystery con and this year didn’t disappoint!

Julie: I moderated two panels, both with EXCELLENT panelists which made my job easier. I was on the committee, so I have a slightly different perspective, but my favorite moments were solo acts by three fabulous women. Lisa Gardner, the GoH, gave a wonderful pep talk at lunch about why it is so great being a writer. Susan Reynolds did a Friday night talk about firing up your writer’s brain (she wrote a book on the topic) that I started taking notes during (which tells me how great it is). And Barb’s talk on Sunday really was wonderful. We all know how wonderful she is, but she really blew me away.

Readers: Tell us about a particular experience at a meeting or conference, or simply say hello.Save

On Finding Your Tribe

Edith here, north of Boston, a little too busy but soaking up fall sunshine and brilliant leaf colors.

We published authors often advise beginning writers to “find your tribe.” But what does that mean and why do we say it?

Here’s why I say it. Without the support from all kinds of writing organizations and groups, I know I would not be multi-published now. That kind of support, networking, and constant learning is a key to success. Of course we writers have to keep our butts in the chair and our fingers on the keyboard in order to finish the book, but beyond that? Hanging out with other writers (whether in person or virtually) is supremely important. Here’s my story.

When I first started writing fiction more than twenty years ago, I found a local critique group. I joined three other unpublished women in a carpool to author Susan Oleksiw‘s home several towns away, where we would read scenes we’d written and have her and each other critique it. I’d never taken a creative writing class (despite holding a PhD) and I learned so much about point of view, use of names, when to insert weather and when not to, as well as basic storytelling.

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Some years later I discovered the New England Crime Bake, attended for the first time, and promptly  joined both Sisters in Crime National and the New England chapter, going to my first chapter meeting a month later in Kate Flora‘s living room. I met Sheila Connolly there, and others who are now luminaries in our chapter. I started taking SINCNE workshops, meeting Barb Ross at one, and Sherry Harris at a meeting she hosted on the local air force base. I met Julie Hennrikus and Jessie Crockett at SINCNE meetings, too. I joined the Guppies, a big online SINC chapter for the Great Unpublished, where we all share information and learn from each other (and they let the published among us stay on!).

Seascape group 2009

Seascape 2009

After I finished my first novel, I dipped into the Guppies Agent Search subgroup and then the Small Press subgroup, finally finding a reputable small press. I joined a different critique group, the Monday Night Writers, and read nearly all the scenes from my first five or six manuscripts on years of Monday nights, learning all the way. I attended the Seascape weekend writing retreat with teachers Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib, and S.W. Hubbard. There I got to know Liz Mugavero, Ramona DeFelice Long, and Kim Gray for the first time. We all received coaching on various subparts of our manuscripts, were given time for revision, and cemented some lasting friendships. My first mystery, Speaking of Murder, was published with a small press exactly five years ago, written as Tace Baker.

After an agent came knocking at Sheila Connolly’s email door when she was President of SINCNE, and she sent his search for authors out to the membership, I hopped right on it. I signed on with him and put my Jane Hancock on a three-book contract with Kensington Publishing within a month’s time. We six Wicked Cozys all share that same agent, and we formed the core of the Wicked Cozy Authors blog a couple of years later, which of course is the best lifeboat tribe evah.

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I started going to Bouchercon,  Left Coast Crime, and the California Crime Writers conference as well as my annual appearance at Malice Domestic. I snagged more contracts, wrote more books, and soon my short stories and novels were being nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. Well-known authors agreed to blurb my books, including Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Rhys Bowen.

Last week I returned from Bouchercon in Toronto where Louise Penny gave me a hug and signed her latest book for my Canadian sister. I soaked up wisdom and laughs from old friends and new and heard all kinds of kind words about my work from avid mystery fans.

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Three stellar authors: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Louise Penny, and Rhys Bowen in Toronto

I’m part of the Newburyport Writers, a local writers’ group that crosses all genres and all kinds of fiction and nonfiction, but we gather for food and valuable information-sharing once a month. And a lovely cross-genre group of five of us toured local libraries for a couple of years and shared our widely varying paths to publication. We of the Nevertheless Writers are still friends and turn out for fun evenings like Witches Night Out!

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Nevertheless Writers (from left) Nancy Crochiere, Susan Paradis, Holly Robinson, me, and Elizabeth Atkinson

And I also check in with Ramona DeFelice Long’s Sprint Club on Facebook every morning before seven. It’s a great start to the workday to know that writers scattered around the country are all sitting down for an hour of uninterrupted work just like I am.

NONE of my modest successes would have happened without these various members of my tribe. Not a bit of it. Well, maybe I would have stayed in my virtual garret, cranking out words. But they wouldn’t be very good ones, and I would have been their only reader. Now I’ve completed book #17 and have a half dozen more under contract. With actual fans out there!

Readers: Who is your tribe? Who do you turn to when you want to learn new things, need a professional shoulder to cry on, or have joyous craft news to share?

Auctioning for a Good Cause

I just assembled a basket of signed books and goodies. It will be auctioned off at auction basketthe Fur Ball in a few weeks, which is the gala fundraiser of our local Merrimac River Feline Rescue Society, a no-kill shelter, cat adoption center, and feral project.

I love doing this. I get a colorful basket at the discount store and line it with green tissue paper. I sign copies of my books. I include the Fish Nets anthology, which has my short story of murderous revenge, “The Stonecutter.” I slip in bookmarks, a bottle of local beer, a packet of organic salad green seeds, a pair of gardening gloves, and voila!

1980-01-01 00.00.14It’s easy, inexpensive, and could raise a few dozen to a couple hundred dollars for the society. I made a similar basket for the auction at the California Crime Writers’ Conference.

And finally, I drew up a certificate for the right to name a character in the book I’m IMG_2589writing now, Farmed and Dangerous. How fun is that? They want to put that item in the live auction. I offered the same thing at a different auction for a character in ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part and someone named Diane Weaver won it. I met her in person this weekend at Boucheron!

I’m going to put together another basket and certificate for an auction to support our local art cinema, the fabulous Screening Room.

What kinds of things do you bid on in auctions? Have you ever had your name attached to a character in a mystery?