Why I’m a Standalone Writer — Guest Lori Rader-Day

I am happy to welcome back Lori Rader-Day. We met at Left Coast Crime in 2014 when we were both debut authors. Our first books weren’t even out yet. Lori’s third book, The Day I Diedreleased on April 11th!

Lori:

[Movie trailer voice] IN A WORLD where the mystery genre is built upon series characters, Lori Rader-Day is a serial author of—standalones.

Hi, I’m Lori, and I write… standalones.

[Everyone chines in.] Hi, Lori.

[A voice from the back of the room] You’re safe here, Lori.

Am I? Am I really? I’m looking around and everyone else—wow, this is hard. Everyone else has a series. Some of them have two or three series. It’s easy to feel as though I’m not doing something right, you know? Like I am not a real mystery author, because I haven’t written a series yet.

Face it. Mystery readers love series. They are always going on about Miss Fisher and Vera and Dexter and Sookie and Longmire. I get it. There’s something great about knowing that the thing you like and have read or, since series books are sometimes turned into television, watched—there’s more! There’s more of this thing I really enjoyed! It’s all good news!

Publishers also love series titles. You know why? Because the marketing does its dang self when it comes to series books. Launch once, write into infinity, and your happy readers from the first book are likely to keep picking up later titles, as long as you let them know they are available. If new readers discover you later into the series, that’s also good news for your backlist sales. Again: all good news.

Wow, you guys are really turning me around on this—

[Voice from the back of the room] Stay strong, Lori.

[Deep breath] OK, right. There’s a reason I write standalones, even so. And the reason is—me. I like standalones. I like to read them. I like knowing that the book I’m picking up is the whole story, that I’m not missing three books prior to this one and hence a lot of backstory. I’m a little OCD on this. If I find a series book that I want to read, I can’t just pick up that new book. I have to go back into the backlist and find the first book. Why? Because I want the origin story. How did this character become an amateur sleuth? Why did they become a bounty hunter instead of a lingerie salesperson (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum) or a private investigator instead of a lady of leisure (Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver)? I’m not going to skip THAT story of all stories they have to tell. That’s the best one!

So there’s my own reading practices to blame. I will take a good standalone over anything, any day of the week. A fully realized story and character, where everything is left on the page and nothing “saved” for a future book is my kind of book.

Though I do like series books. When I find a character who has the potential to carry an ongoing story of growth and change, of course I’ll read that—

[Voice from the second row] She’s wavering. Do something.

But the real reason that I write standalones has nothing to do with my reading habits and everything to do with my own attention span.

When I was writing my first two published novels, I was working a day job. A demanding one. To get my writing done, I had to use my lunch hour almost every day of the week. I was turning down lunch invitations with real friends to go spend time with these fake friends I was making up. I had to make myself want to be at the blank page, or I wouldn’t show up there. There were just so many other things to do. Life easily gets in the way.

So I had to keep things interesting in what I was writing—giving myself fun assignments like two first-person narrators or a really fun character with bad behavior—but I also had to keep myself engaged with the next thing. As in, when I finish THIS manuscript, I get to write something completely different. I get to write The Brand New Shiny Idea!

The Brand New Shiny Idea cannot be a second book with the same character, you see. That’s not Brand New or Shiny enough.

I guess you can say I use the next book, the next standalone by definition, as the carrot at the end of the stick of writing my current project.

[Mumble from somewhere in row four] Heavy-handed metaphor alert.

There are just so many story ideas out there to be written, and the ones that occur to me have me hopping from one character to another, from one setting to another. For now. Someday I hope one of the characters I write gives me another idea—and then another one—for what she wants to do. I will welcome that turn of events. But until then…

[Murmurs from among the group.]

[Voice from the back] You can do it!

I am a standalone writer. Thank you for your support.

Readers: Do you read standalones? Have you thought about writing one?

Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.

Wicked Wednesday- Author Events

Jessie- In NH where the crocuses are blooming and the robins are frolicking with abandon!

In a rare turn of events all the Wickeds are together today for two author events. We will be in Nashua, NH for both, first at Rivier College for a R.I.S. E. presentation at midday and then at the Barnes and Noble in the evening. We are ridiculously excited about gathering together for these two occasions and would love to have you all join us. It promises to be memorable. Which got me to wondering about memorable events the other Wickeds have held. So, any favorite memories you’d love to share?

maxwellEdith: Other than my double launch party a couple of weeks ago, I’d have to say my first launch party was an unforgettable evening, for all the right reasons. Speaking of Murder had just released in September 2012 (written as Tace Baker), and I’d invited everyone I knew. The young man managing the Newburyport bookstore had set out ten chairs. I said, “Um, I think you’re going to need more chairs.” I was right. 55 people were there from all different areas of my life: church, work, town, family, and Sisters in Crime, including several Wickeds. The bookstore sold out but I had a box of books in the car to supplement their order. The whole night was touching, exhilarating, just perfect.

Liz: I have to say my first launch party, for Kneading to Die, was also my most memorable. Full of family, friends and dogs, it was held at The Big Biscuit in Franklin, Mass. Shaggy even got her own doggie cake for the occasion!

Sherry: I’ve had so much fun going to author events that it is so hard to pick one. The first time I was on a panel as an author was at Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California in 2014. The women on the panel with me have become friends — Lori Rader-Day (doing a post here on Friday), Carlene O’Neil, Martha Cooley, and Holly West. I was so nervous I don’t think I said much. Afterwards we had a signing time and this was the order of the table Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Jan Burke, then me. I didn’t even have a book out yet, but a couple of people had me sign their programs. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and Jan Burke was very gracious the one second she didn’t have someone in front of her.

Barb: I enjoy author events, too. Most memorable was the launch of my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman. It seemed like everyone I’d ever mentioned I was writing a book to came. Porter Square ran out of books. I did a little talk and a reading and thanked my friends and family. My sister-in-law pointed at me and said to my daughter, “This is what it looks like when your dreams come true,” which is such a lovely, heartfelt sentiment.

CAKE KILLERJulie: My launch party for Just Killing Time was a blast. Friends and family packed the New England Mobile Book Fair. Three of my mentors–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Hallie Ephron–sat right up front, and cheered me on. My friend Courtney made me a cookie cake decorated to look like a clock. It was just lovely. This year Liz and I both have August and September books–2 women, 4 names, 4 books, 2 new series being launched. We are going to do something to celebrate, so stay tuned.

Readers: Do you like to attend author events? What’s your most memorable one?

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Scrivener Tips

We’ve arrived at the middle Wicked Wednesday out of five this month!

We haven’t talked about Scrivener for a while, but we [ALMOST] all use it for our writing. Wickeds, share your favorite new (or old) tip for writing fiction in Scrivener. Keywords? Compiling? Let’s let each other, and the world, know what in this fabulous application makes creating a book easier for us. On your marks, get set, dish!

Edith: I make heavy use of the synopsis card. In it (in the Inspector) I jot down the day and time the scene takes place – Thursday 4 PM, for example – and then a quick couple of sentences about what happens: “Cam drives home, reacts to news about her mom being in there with Susan.” After I read a scene to my critique group I prepend R to the synopsis so I can tell at a glance if I’ve already shared that scene. When I’m revising and I need to remember where in my list of thirty or forty scenes something happened, I can slowly mouse over the list of scenes in the Binder and the start of the synopsis shows up in a small text window.

Liz: I love the synopsis cards too, Edith. What I haven’t figured out is how to not have those little blurbs print when I compile so I don’t have to go through the word doc and delete all the extra stuff. Maybe you can show me! What I like is the ability to color code and tag things differently in the “general” section under the synopsis area. So I color code my day of the week so I can see if I have too much action each day or too little. And you can edit so the colors show in different places, like right in the binder area, or just the Screenshot 2016-03-13 09.02.51synopsis cards, etc. Then my next category is place, so I can see where things are happening around town. I’m sure there are tons and tons of things I haven’t figured out yet in Scrivener, but I love it so much – it makes life easier!

Oh – and one more thing. I use a Mac, and unfortunately there is no Scrivener app for iPad. BUT – I recently learned about Simplenote, which syncs with Scrivener so you can bring your scenes with you on iPad, then sync them back up in Scrivener. It saves all versions too, so you don’t have to worry about overwriting something accidentally. I love this when I have to travel for work and don’t want to bring two computers with me.

[Edith: The blurbs never show up when I compile, Liz. We’ll have to compare notes next time we get a chance!]

Jessie: I love the split screen feature which I use frequently during the revisions process. I am using it even more often now that I am writing books with more than one viewpoint character. Sometimes I want to try rewriting a scene from the other character’s POV and having the original scene in front of me whilst I do so gives me a strong sense of whether it is working in real time.

Julie: First of all, how much do I love that I’m learning more tips? My favorite thing to do these days is to figure out new ways to compile. Example? Lately I’ve compiled my scene cards into a document that I keep with me. When I have a block of time to write, I can look at that document, work on a scene, and then paste it into Scrivener when I get home. I am also color coding days of the week, so I can remember where I am. Also, if I end up moving a scene, I visually know I need to go back and change any time references.

Barb: Liz, have you tried check the Compile button=>Formatting=>uncheck synopsis (for every scene)?

I put all my character names as keywords, so the show up in the outline view when I am revising.

I prefer the screen outline view to the print one because it's more compact, so I screen capture and print.

I prefer the screen outline view to the print one because it’s more compact, so I screen capture and print.

Edith: Outline view? That’s a new one for me! I also put my characters names as keywords. Must investigate outline view …

Sherry: Au contraire, dear Edith — I don’t use Scrivener. I tried to learn and even signed up for an online class. I started out with the lessons but soon grew impatient. I’d rather write than take time to learn the program. At Left Coast Crime a couple of authors were talking about a different program with a much easier learning curve — now if I could just remember the name of that program!

Edith: I’m sorry, Sherry! I thought we all used it. It’s never too late…

Readers: Questions about Scrivener? Things you love, or hate, about the application? Or, like Sherry, have you tried it and found it not to your liking?

Westward Ho — Julie and Sherry go to Left Coast Crime

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The view from our room!

Julie and Sherry were so excited to attend Left Coast Crime not only to spend some time with each other but it’s a fabulous conference. The weather was perfect and February is a great time to leave the northern tier and visit the West!

It didn’t take long to start running into friends!

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Sherry reunited with the women from her very first panel at LCC in 2014. It was a panel for debut authors and what an amazing bunch of women and writers.

Holly West, Sherry Harris Carlene O'Neil, Lori Rader Day and Martha Cooley

Holly West, Sherry Harris Carlene O’Neil, Lori Rader Day and Martha Cooley

Guppy Karragh Arndt left a message on the Guppy list serve that she wanted some pitch advice. We met her at the bar. Julie and Dru Ann Love gave her some great advice.

 

THE NEW AUTHOR BREAKFAST

 

PANELS

Julie and Sherry were both on panels, and enjoyed others!

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What to do between panels? Run outside and enjoy the warm weather!

So many fun things to do!

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THE LEFTY AWARDS BANQUET!

What a fun night! We sat at the table sponsored by Lori Rader Day and nominee Jim Ziskin.

 

THANK YOU PHOENIX!
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Writing the Wicked Job — Guest Lori Rader-Day

I am delighted that Lori Rader-Day was able to join us today to talk about jobs, writing, and her latest book Little Pretty Things. I met Lori on a panel at Left Coast Crime in March of 2014 a few months before her first book, The Black Hour, was published. Lori is smart, funny, and always interesting. Take it away, Lori.

Writing my second novel, Little Pretty Things, I had a lot of time to think about work. Not writing—work work.

In the book, Juliet Townsend works at a “roadside dive” of a motel, cleaning up after people who have no compunction about not keeping the rooms neat.

LittlePrettyTHingsAs Juliet puts it, “I’d encountered bloody towels left behind the door, sheets covered in terrible things. I’d had to clean up spilled beer, used condoms, dirty diapers, and more. People came to motels like the Mid-Night to be someone else for a night, and their new identities rarely wanted to pick up after themselves. Sometimes their new selves wanted to smear things on the walls.”

I’ve worked in nice, clean offices for twenty years, but the reason I started writing about Juliet was because I wanted to write about the kinds of jobs I might have had to live with, if I’d chosen a different path.

My first bad job was as a busboy in a family-owned restaurant in my hometown. I was too young to drive, so my patient parents dropped me off and then picked me up a few hours later. In the mean time I would have picked up a … scent. I was 14. I hardly made any money at all, but I managed to get a lot of baked potato under my fingernails.

Jobs were hard to get. My family lived far out in the country and until I could drive myself, I couldn’t get the kinds of jobs my friends in town did. The half-hour commute into town was a long commute for someone with a brand new license and three hours of homework every night. At the same time I was highly involved in school activities like the yearbook staff, which dragged into the summer and took crucial time away from work.

In the ensuing high school-to-college years, I worked a series of crappy jobs. At the family fun park where all my friends worked midway games or rollercoasters, I sat alone in a hot little camper shilling all things deep-fat fried. Because I learned to use a cash register there, I was saddled with cashier jobs for a while. At Wal-Mart the next summer, I stayed on into the fall before I realized I couldn’t seem to get my homework done anymore. I had to quit. I felt as though I’d worked a lifetime there. It was four months.

metallic_purple_tinsel_garland_1One summer I worked in a factory that made shiny tree garland. I ran a special machine that turned rolls of thin, glossy plastic into ropes of shiny, fluffy tree décor. In the history of garland-making, no one was ever worse at it. I worked at another factory later, where I was asked to break apart giant wooden wire spools with a sledgehammer. I started out tentative but by the end of the day picked up a real Paul Bunyan’s ax mentality.

The summer before I went to college, I wore a tight, brown polyester uniform dress, like a punishment, at the cash register of a Ponderosa franchise. Once in a while, I was asked to dump a bag of powder into the top of the ice cream machine. Voilà, ice cream. I couldn’t wait to go to college.

popmovieAnd then in college, I worked at a movie theatre, slinging popcorn. One time, a kid stumbled out of a theatre into the deserted lobby, made a beeline for my counter, and puked all over it.

 

So I’ve been in the trenches, is what I’m saying.

I’ve never worked in a motel—or la-di-da, a hotel—but I found that I could finally put some of this life experience to good use, giving Juliet the right mix of shame and pride in her work.

Black_Hour_cover_webThat’s the amazing thing about writing, isn’t it? You’re not writing about yourself exactly, but when you dig for the right detail or the right emotion, you find that you are inserting a little bit of the real you—the you who remembers and stores away information—into these fictional characters.

And readers who feel you’ve nailed something just right want to know: How? Unless you’re writing directly from experience, “getting it right” can seem like a little bit of magic. The conjuring of sense memory, of emotion, of anything transferable to the themes of your project, of feeling the words start to lift off the page and take flight beyond your own abilities, when the work work of writing fades away and the joy of creating takes over.

It’s not always like that, I think we can all agree. But having someone with chronic pain tell me the pain my protagonist describes is exactly right, or having a friend who’s a runner tell me I got Juliet’s former track team life right, that I “must have been a runner in a past life”—that’s the real payday for this job we love to do.

Readers: What was your worst job?

Rader_Day_Lori_2Lori Rader-Day’s debut mystery, The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014), received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her second mystery, Little Pretty Things, is out in July. Her short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled dog and is active in the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.

Where Are They Now?

By Sherry from Hotsville aka Northern Virginia

IMG_3472In March 2014 I was on my first panel as an author, Deadly New Voices, at Left Coast Crime with four fabulous debut authors: Martha (M.P. Cooley), Carlene O’Neil, Lori Rader-Day, and Holly West. At the time only Holly had a book out so I thought it would be fun to catch up with everyone and see what had happened since the panel. Each of us (except for Carlene whose book just came out May 2015) have been nominated for a best first novel award and some for multiple awards!

Martha_Cooley-31-retouched_web_(2)Martha Cooley: Our debut panel at Left Coast kicked off what was an amazing year!  Well, not quite a year–Ice Shear came out last July.  Everything between May and September  was a hazy blur of promotion, but when I emerged on the other side I found myself with a BEAUTIFUL book in my hand and part of a fantastic community of writers. Ice Shear had a nice reception when it came out–Oprah had it on her list of best thrillers of summer 2014, it received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and was named one of the best books of FlameOut0x420the year by the Sun Sentinel.  The book has picked up some awards nominations, including the Barry Award, The Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award, the Anthony, and the Strand Magazine Critics Award.

In the last few months, I’ve published a prequel and sequel to Ice Shear. FAINT TRACE is an e-book novella that shows what June lost before Ice Shear began–a home, her husband, a career, California.  FLAME OUT is a sequel that investigates past crimes. June is working to solve an attempted murder in abandoned factory that had been set on fire and digs up secrets that hit close to home for June and her family.  Currently, I’m hard at work on Savage Gods, my next book with William Morrow.

Carlene O’Neil: Thank you Sherry for inviting us to spend time with the Wickeds. All of you are such fantastic writers and I feel like an honorary Wicked; I was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, so, although I grew up in California, I come from “good Yankee stock,” as my grandmother was fond of saying.

It’s been such an amazing year since Left Coast Crime. My first book, One Foot in the Grape, was published by Berkley and came out on May 5th. This was the culmination of a life-long dream, and I’ve been having a lot of fun, even when standing in the middle of a Barnes and Noble crying my eyes out.  It’s there (sob), on the shelves (hiccup.) Since Left Coast Crime, I’ve also been on panels at Bouchercon and the San Diego Writers Conference. I’m kind of a ham. Who knew.

OneFoot2_s260x420In addition to writing and the Dreaded Day Job, I’ve managed to clear some free time to devote to research. I need to make sure the wine tasting, growing, tasting, bottling, and tasting details in the book are accurate. In fact, I’m so excited to be in Paris as you read this, getting a combined vacation/research trip in. Also, last month I had a chance to spend the weekend in Temecula, California, a wine growing region a short drive from San Diego, and I’m hoping to revisit Monterey and Carmel, a beautiful part of the state. If you are familiar with the town of Carmel, my fictional town of Cypress Cove may sound familiar.  Just saying.

What’s next? I just got word from my editor that the next book in the series, Ripe for Murder, will be out March 2016. This time my protagonist, Penny Lively, gets to travel to the Napa Valley where she manages to get involved in a murder on the Wine Train.

Rader_Day_Lori_2Lori Rader-Day:
What l remember from our panel was laughing. We had so much fun — so much has happened since that day! The Black Hour launched on July 8, 2014, and I spent the rest of the year going wherever my Google Calendar said to go. I had a launch party in Chicago with about 80 of my nearest and dearest friends, and then another launch party in my hometown, at the library where I first learned to be a voracious reader. In all, I did about 30 events.

The Black Hour had an embarrassingly good year, getting some good reviews and earning nominations for the Mary Higgins Clark Award (I got LittlePretty2_s260x420to go to the Edgars! Stephen King was there!), the Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original, and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. The Black Hour even managed a couple of wins: the Lovey Award for Best First Novel and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association Mate E. Palmer Award in Communications for Fiction.

The biggest news is that The Black Hour has a little sister! Little Pretty Things will be released on July 7. I’ve also already sold my third book, still in progress, for next July. So here we go. I’m just really glad to have had that deadly first panel with you ladies. We had so much fun—and we’re just getting started.

Holly West: It’s been a great year and a half since our panel at Left Coast Crime in 2014. The second book in my Mistress of Fortune series, Mistress of Lies, came out in September 2014 and in 2015, the first in the series, Mistress of Fortune, was nominated for a Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best First Novel. Now, after a whirlwind debut year, I’m back at my writing desk, working on a new Mistressv8_s260x420book set in modern day Venice, California, featuring amateur sleuth Mia Bartlett, a bartender who works at the oldest bar in Los Angeles. It turns out that walls can talk when a renovation turns up a mysterious case of champagne set aside by the bar’s gangster owner during Prohibition. It’s a discovery someone will die for. In the meantime, look for short stories from me in a few upcoming anthologies–publishing dates to TBD.

longestyardsaleSherry: Thanks for stopping by ladies. It was so great to hear about all of your achievements. I think you all must be good luck! My first book Tagged for Death came out in December 2014 and was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The Longest Yard Sale comes out June 30th. And I’ve turned in All Murders Final which comes out in May 2016.

Readers: I hope you add these books to your summer reading piles! What else are you looking forward to reading this summer?

 

Guest: Jim Jackson and Left Coast Crime

Edith here, in surgery in Newburyport, but I posted this in advance! 

I’m so delighted to have James Montgomery Jackson (otherwise know as Jim), my fellow james-m-jackson (1)Barking Rain Press author, here as our guest today. I love his crime fiction and his protagonist Seamus McCree, and was more than pleased to blurb Cabin Fever for him. He just got back from attending Crimelandia, this years Left Coast Crime, in Portland, Oregon, and he’s treating us to his reflections, since none of the Wickeds were able to make it this year. Take it away, Jim.

Why I Went to Left Coast Crime

Before I get to my post, I want everyone reading this to look at the masthead. Do the Wicked Cozy Authors look like they are having fun, or what? I’ve been tempted to take up writing cozies just in the hope they’d be willing to add a guy to the group. I love hanging out with them online and at conferences. Alas, I write medium-boiled financial crime novels, and although my protagonist Seamus McCree hails from Boston, much of his story occurs outside New England. I guess I’m stuck being a wannabe. Thanks for having me as a guest. [Edith: Thanks! We do have fun…]

*****

When I was a rookie novelist, I signed up for multiple conferences and sweated bullets over panel assignments. Sometimes I received good ones; more often, as an unknown, my assignments were either the first panel in the morning after the awards banquet or the last panel of the conference when many people were already on their way home.

First Thoughts About Conferences

Initially, I went to conferences because common wisdom told me they were important for debut novelists. Eventually, my finance background kicked in and I contemplated the economic value of conferences for writers.

Left Coast Crime (LCC to its devotees) is a fan conference (as contrasted to craft conferences, which are primarily designed to help authors improve their writing). It’s not a pure split. At least a third of the attendees at LCC were authors and a number of the panels were directed toward them (how to use social media, what agents do, etc.).

The Economics of a Conference

I had to fly from the East Coast, stay at a hotel, buy restaurant meals, etc. To attend the three and a half day conference conservatively set me back $1,500. [Jan (my much better half) and I also did some vacationing around the trip, so I can’t provide an accurate number. Her costs aren’t included in my $1,500.]

No author is going to earn anything near that from book sales at the conference. My own “profit” from LCC book sales was in the very low two digits. So, having your books for sale at the conference can’t justify the expense of attending this conference—or any for that matter.

In this age of ebooks I notice a bit of a bump in ebook sales after I attend a conference. The additional royalties may be enough to pay for one overpriced hotel coffee (or soda, in my case).

It should be clear by now that expecting a positive economic present value is NOT a reason to attend a conference. Common advice suggests that authors get their first 1,000 readers one-by-one. On a per reader basis, attending a conference is a very expensive approach.

Why Authors Should Go

Economics should not drive your decision to attend a fan conference. The main reason to attend is because you are a fan of mysteries and the mystery community. (As a working author you have the added benefit that, assuming your tax advisor agrees, you can write off the adventure as a business expense!)

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The paper books Jim and Jan brought home from LCC. Not shown are the Kindle books!

Last year Jan and I enjoyed a two-week train trip surrounding our first LCC, which was in Monterey, CA. We had the pleasure of hearing Sue Grafton talk about her road to publication. Let me tell you, Sue does not pull punches. We also heard Tim Hallinan on a panel and chatted with him later on. Once home, Jan binge-read all of the books in his two current series, and since Tim was the guest of honor at this year’s LCC, she lobbied to come back. (Plus she had a childhood friend in Portland we could visit.) She won one of Tim’s books during his guest-of-honor interview, but since she’d already read all of them, he is sending her a pdf of his next as soon as he finishes the edits. She’s delighted. She could have bought the book when it comes out for a fraction of the conference price, but her conversations with Tim were priceless.

What about panels? Authors may pick up a tidbit or two of useful information at a fan conference. LCC included a panel of five FBI agents that was fascinating, and the Sisters in Crime sponsored a breakfast with three invited local police representatives who provided insight into their world as cops. There are always panels with doctors and lawyers where they ridicule how TV shows portray their work. You may even find a new favorite author, as Jan did with Tim Hallinan.

It all adds to your engagement with the larger mystery community. That’s the reason to spend money to attend a convention like LCC. You can meet favorite authors, learn of new authors, and visit with friends in the mystery community. You can make connections.

For example, at last year’s LCC “New Authors Breakfast” (where I did my one-minute spiel as a newbie) we met and enjoyed the company of Anne Cleeland. Anne and I have kept in touch and this year shared table-hosting duties at the LCC awards banquet, which was a lot of fun (but cost money for the ego trip.)

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From left: Jim, Tina Whittle, Christine Kling, Glen Erik Hamilton, and Lynne Raimondo

Oh sure, you may be dynamite on a panel or as a moderator. (Of the conferences I’ve attended, LCC’s panels stand out for me because moderators and panelists follow well-considered guidelines, and organizers set panel assignments sufficiently in advance of the conference to allow participants time to prepare well.) I am an excellent moderator (so-so as a panelist). I know a few people have noticed my moderating skills and bought a book or put me on a “want to read list.”

But I don’t kid myself that the exposure is worth the cost. There’s an endorphin boost to being selected for a panel. When my first novel was published, it was a time of great (and deserved) celebration. Being included in the “newbie” festivities was part of that fun.

So when you are considering whether or not to attend a fan convention, ‘fess up that it’s a money loser. Once you consciously make that recognition, you can attend for the good times, and the connections, and to recharge your spirit. And maybe even sell a few books.

Best of all, you too can kick up your heels and laugh and smile—just like the Wicked Cozy Authors!

Readers: Do you go to conferences? Authors – find it worth the cost? And what else would you like to know about Jim and his superb novels? Did you know his new novel, Ant Farm was chosen for the very competitive Kindle Scout program? Ask away – he’ll Ant Farm Coverpop in to answer questions throughout the day.

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. ANT FARM (Spring 2015), a prequel to BAD POLICY (2013) and CABIN FEVER (2014), recently won a Kindle Scout nomination. (Ebook published by Kindle Press; print from Wolf’s Echo Press). BAD POLICY won the Evan Marshall Fiction Makeover Contest whose criteria were the freshness and commerciality of the story and quality of the writing. Jim has published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, ONE TRICK AT A TIME: How to Start Winning at Bridge (Master Point Press 2012), as well as numerous short stories and essays. His website is http://jamesmjackson.com.

ANT FARM is a prequel to the Seamus McCree Mystery series. In it, financial crimes consultant Seamus McCree combats the evil behind the botulism murders of thirty-eight retirees at their picnic outside Chillicothe, OH. He also worms his way into the Cincinnati murder investigation of a church friend’s fiancé and finds police speculate the killing may have been the mistake of a dyslexic hit man. Seamus uncovers disturbing information of financial chicanery and in the process makes himself and his son targets of those who have already killed to keep their secrets.
Jackson’s crisp plotting keeps the story rolling, and his complex characters feel as real as next door. Get to know Seamus, one of crime fiction’s most intriguing sleuths, and plan to stay up late turning the pages. -Tina Whittle, Author of the Tai Randolph Mysteries