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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘conferences’

SleuthFest 2015

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 28, 2014

Sleuthfest 2015 Early Registration Ends September 30! October 1 everything goes up $20-40. Get in Now!

 

SleuthFest 2015

• Four tracks of great programming for every of level writer from beginner to best-seller:

Need to polish your writing skills? Try Write On! With sessions on Writing for TV, Nautical Mysteries, and Spy-Fi, in addition to dialogue, plotting, and setting, even the most experienced writer can find something to round out their writers’ toolbox.

Looking for critiques on your writing, or practice on your pitch? Try Feedback Forum. Get feedback on your latest scribbles, your story structure, your pitch, and much more, from those experienced in the industry.

Want to get the scoop on what agents and editors are looking for? Try Finding the Money. What’s selling, what’s not, how to get published, indie vs. traditional, hybrid authors, and all the hot topics in the industry are covered in this track.

Need to brush up on your forensic knowledge? Try Scene of the Crime.

PLUS:

• James Patterson will share some of his writing philosophies.
• Four of the top literary agencies are eager to hear your pitch.
• James W. Hall will tell you how to write a worst-seller.
• Four of the top publishers are looking for mysteries and thrillers.
• The real Miami CSI’s are here to show you the latest and greatest.
• Dave Barry will entertain us at the Sunday brunch.
• Get critiques of your work by established authors and agents.
• And what really did happen to Amelia Earhart?

Early Registration Ends Tuesday!

Register Now at http://SleuthFest.com

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Malice Domestic 2014

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 14, 2014

What is Malice Domestic? As it says on the Website, Malice is an annual fan conference that focuses on the traditional mystery or “books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie.”

Malice Banner

Although I’ve been attending Malice Domestic for a number of years off and on, this was the first time I participated in Malice-Go-Round. What a fabulous event! On Friday morning, 200 people filed into a room with 20 tables. At each table sat 2 authors and 8 readers. As an author, I had about two minutes to give a pitch about my book and then the other author at my table took a turn. I was lucky to pair with Linda Joffe Hull who writes the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series. We hopped from table to table repeating the same spiel twenty times. I lost my voice by the end but was exhilarated by meeting so many mystery fans. This event was worth the price of registration alone. If you get in, bring enough promo items for all the tables.

Nancy J. Cohen and Linda Hull  Malice Go Round

Friday night was a dessert party. This gave me another way to connect with old friends and make new ones. I chatted with Marilyn Levinson, author of Murder A La Christie, waved hello to Toni Kelner, and caught up on news with Carol Nelson Douglas, who writes the popular Midnight Louie cat mystery series among others. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Barbara Graham, a quilting enthusiast who combines her talent with writing mysteries.

Carole Nelson Douglas and Nancy J. Cohen   Maggie Toussaint, Nancy J. Cohen, Barbara Graham and Polly Iyer

Saturday morning, I attended the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. About 160 members attended from 50 chapters nationwide. The Guppies (Great Unpublished) wore colorful boas. Besides this program, SinC offers a monitoring project, quarterly newsletter, grants for chapter events, subsidies for members to attend Writers Police Academy, writing courses, educational seminars and an annual Publisher’s Summit.

Sisters in Crime President   Sisters in Crime Breakfast

Hank Phillippi Ryan spoke about the Writes of Passage collection of essays, and each member received a copy.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Later that morning began the panels. I attended one on Book-Themed Mysteries, ate the box lunch available at the lobby bar, checked out the Dealer’s Room and laid out my promo materials in the Hospitality Room at the end of the corridor. That afternoon, I spoke on a panel about social issues in mysteries. Fellow panelists were John Clement, Judy Hogan, and Linda O. Johnston with Debra H. Goldstein as moderator.

Panel on Social Issues at Malice Domestic  Nancy J. Cohen

At five o’clock, the afternoon speakers gathered at the Mezzanine level for a mass book signing.

Booksigning   Nancy Signing

Later that evening, Maggie Toussaint, Barbara Graham, and I headed to the famous Agatha Banquet where the awards were presented. Everyone looked their best.

Agatha Awards  Maggie Toussaint and Barbara Graham

Sunday morning had more panels. I enjoyed the talk on Paranormal Mysteries with authors Carolyn Hart (“Death at the Door”), Molly MacRae (“Spinning in her Grave), TJ O’Connor (“Dying to Know”), and Maggie Toussaint (“Gone and Done It”) and moderated by Aimee Hix.

Paranormal Mysteries   Maggie Toussaint

They discussed the rules and limitations of their paranormal element and why they write about it.

Why are these stories so popular? They offer an escape from reality to readers who want to experience something new. Readers can enter someone else’s imaginary world that’s fun, exotic, and touches upon the unknown. As mystery fans, we want to solve a puzzle, and what greater puzzle is there than “What’s on the other side?”

Do ghost stories and detective tales go together? “Death is a mystery,” Molly replied. Maggie Toussaint, a Five Star author and member of Booklovers Bench, agreed. “These stories engage your senses and your mind.”

See Photos here: http://bit.ly/1jX7QVy

Coming Next: Our Trip to Maryland and D.C. and the beautiful flowers of Brookside Gardens

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Are you following my Blog Tour and entering my Contests?  Please click on these links for my guest posts, interviews, and chances to win some free books plus a Hanging By A Hair tee-shirt!

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Laura Lippman

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 26, 2014

Lunch with Laura Lippman at SleuthFest

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Like my page, then click on Photos, Albums, and SleuthFest 2014.

Laura Lippman

Bestselling Author Laura Lippman discussed what it means to be a professional writer. Publishing has changed in terms of e-books, self-published writers and hybrid authors. “The conversation has become so charged and so vitriolic. I’ve yet to see any reliable numbers on either side.” The argument for traditional publishing is couched in money and control.

No one argues that self-publishing will lead to better books. This avenue can produce as good a book as traditional publishing. But where is the true masterpiece in self-publishing? “Show me a masterpiece that could only have come” from a self-published work.

Find someone you can trust to tell your dreams about publishing. What are you prepared to do to get there? Professionalism is taking your work seriously, and being respectful of other people’s time and expertise.

Laura calls indie publishing “a less precise euphemism” for self-publishing. The key is in doing the work and reaching a reasoned decision to self-publish but not for instant gratification. Is the work ready? Be a ruthless critic of your own work. The goal has to be to write the best book you can. Your words are your legacy. Make them precise. Make them good.

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preparing for a Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 21, 2014

How long does it take to prepare for a conference? Soon I’ll be heading to SleuthFest in February, Lake County BookFest in March, Malice Domestic in April, the Florida Library Association Convention in May, and Mystery Writers Key West Fest in June.

It can take me several weeks to get ready for each event and another couple of weeks to decompress and get caught up upon my return home. That’s a lot of time lost, not to mention money for gas, lodgings, registration fees, promo materials, etc. However, it’s time and money well spent from the benefits you receive by meeting other authors, booksellers, fans, and industry personnel.

FLA2013 Mystery

Conferences necessitate a lot of preparation, especially if you’re going as a speaker. Aside from determining your particular goals for this event—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to consider.

  1. Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.
  2. If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material and get copies made of handouts.
  3. If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
  4. Order business cards unless you have them already. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
  5. Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the tables.
  6. Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways.
  7. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.
  8. Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price.
  9. Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.
  10. Consider giving a couple of books away at the Q&A sessions for your talks.
  11. If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.
  12. Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to put out at signings.
  13. Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.
  14. Bring a highlighter along so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.
  15. Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.
  16. Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching shoes, handbags, and jewelry.
  17. Determine what gadgets to bring along: iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?
  18. Pack a notebook to take notes. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge.
  19. Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
  20. If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.

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And the countdown begins. What else would you add to this list?

To see my upcoming conference appearances and virtual blog tour, go here: http://nancyjcohen.com/appearances/

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

SleuthFest 2014

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 23, 2013

February 27 – March 2, 2014 Wyndham Grand Orlando, Bonnet Creek Orlando, FL

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO SLEUTHFEST 2014?  

New York Times bestselling authors, Edgar Award winners, and many of the top mystery and suspense writers in the country! In addition to our amazing keynote speakers—Laura Lippman, Ace Atkins, and Hank Phillippi Ryan—here are just a few of the talented authors who will be joining us on panels on Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1:

Wendy Corsi Staub, Jennifer McMahon, Lisa Unger, Alison Gaylin, Michael Sears, Susan Elia MacNeal, Chris Grabenstein, and Heather Graham.

(For a complete list of attendees, please visit the SleuthFest Attendees page.) 

And you won’t want to miss our ‘Third Degree Thursday’ workshops on February 27!

Craft workshops will be taught by fabulous author/instructors Elaine Viets, Nancy J. Cohen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Greg Herren, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Wallace Stroby, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), and Joanna Campbell Slan. We will also have special workshops led by author/professors Neil Plakcy and Christine Kling on creating a successful eBook program and on Scrivener, a powerful writing software tool. Click to see the Thursday workshop schedule.

But SleuthFest isn’t only about the craft of writing!

This year we’ll be ‘Thinking Outside the Book’ with some of the most respected publishers, literary agents, and industry professionals in the business.  Meet with and pitch your book to editors and publishers from St. Martin’s, Putnam, Berkley Books, and Five Star Mysteries, and literary agents from The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, McIntosh & Otis, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, and Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. Click to read more information about the publishers, editors and agents attending. Also joining us will be representatives of Kobo, Autography, Bookigee, and WriterCube, to talk about changes and opportunities in the world of publishing.

Register today to reserve your place at one of the most exciting writers conferences in the country! 

Rates for the 3-day conference are only: 

  • $285 for MWA members, $305 for non-members—includes luncheons, cocktail party, Sunday breakfast
  • $85 for Third Degree Thursday, a full day of workshops
  • Rates go up after January 15, 2014 

See you at SleuthFest!

 www.sleuthfest.com

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

FRW Cruise Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 1, 2013

FRW Cruise Conference
Liberty of the Seas
Feb. 24-28, 2013

Click Here to See Photo Album

Day 1, Thursday

Ninety registered guests attended the Florida Romance Writers Cruise with your Muse conference aboard the RCCL ship Liberty of the Seas. We boarded easily, getting right onto the ship after parking and checking our luggage at Port Everglades. Upstairs at the Windjammer Buffet, we ate lunch and waved to fellow FRWers who’d already arrived. We checked into our cabin and then set out to explore the ship. This is a beautifully appointed ship of the fleet with its traditional interior Promenade, ice skating rink, and usual bars and lounges. Downstairs at the conference center, we picked up our registration materials. Then we hustled to the lifeboat drill before departure time. At 5:00pm, we met our conference shipmates at a Welcome Aboard party in the Sphinx lounge on deck five. The editors and agents shared industry news and writing tips.

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Editor/Agent Tips
Get rid of the prologue
Hit the ground running
Avoid clichéd writing
Shorter works, less than 100,000 words, are more desirable these days.
Don’t overuse dialogue tags.

Next, my husband and I dashed to the Diamond Club lounge where, as repeat cruisers at a certain level in the Crown & Anchor Society, we enjoy benefits like free drinks and appetizers. Of course, this was my favorite activity and we made it up here on deck 14 every evening. Our dinner seating was late at 8:30 so we had plenty of time to meet fellow cruise enthusiasts.

Day 2, Friday

This morning, workshops were held with authors Traci Hall, Kathleen Pickering, and Karen Kendall. I found some time for walking the decks with my husband. We sat the pool and watched the action or lounged on our balcony to stare at the ocean.

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Along the way, I got a glimpse of an interesting lady who would intrigue me for the entire trip. On previous cruises, I always spotted a character who would be great in my books. Thus the elegant white-haired woman from a prior voyage became the Countess in Killer Knots, my cruise ship mystery. I haven’t placed the witch lady from our previous cruise yet, but she’ll make her way into one of my stories. On this trip, I saw someone who definitely had an air for dramatics.

This woman had blond hair that she wore teased and curled atop her head like a poodle. I swear, she even had poodle bangs. But this wasn’t all. No matter the time of day or place, she wore a chiffon dress with spaghetti straps and sparkles and high heels. One day her shoes were black velvet with rhinestones. Her dresses glittered and the hemline swayed as she moved. I saw her in ivory, burgundy, and gold variations of the same dress, often with sequins. She wore a heavy application of makeup as well. I assumed she must be European. She just had that air about her. We always saw her clinging to the arm of a dapper gentleman who looked fairly ordinary in comparison. Neither one of them were youngsters. She’ll end up in one of my stories for sure.

Later that afternoon, I sat in on a workshop with bestselling authors Heather Graham and Charlaine Harris. Here’s what they said about writing humor:

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Charlene: “When you’re writing sex, there is no dignity, and it can be funny.”
Heather: “It’s fun to have supporting characters where things don’t always go well. You can make jokes with these people.”

Floridian Idol followed, where the editors and agents tore apart submissions from attendees. You could learn a lot by listening to their comments, and this session was well attended.

Day 3

Saturday, we arrived at Cozumel. My husband and I took a taxi into town for $8.00 each way. Even though I had vowed not to buy anything, I ended up with a pair of earrings, rum cakes, and Mexican vanilla. That evening, we went to the show on the ship. The entertainer was a magician who kept the audience laughing.

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Day 4

Sunday morning was my workshop on Mystery Writing 101. I had a great group and the time went fast. We hustled out to attend Charlaine’s keynote speech where she talked about her long career history and provided inspiration for the rest of us.

keynote    NanCharlaine

That afternoon, ten of us authors held a booksigning in the dining room. Since the notice had gone into the ship’s daily newsletter, readers flowed into the room to buy our books. I couldn’t believe it when I’d sold my last copy! It was one of the best conference booksignings I’ve done.

NanRoz  P1020251  SandyMary

We hurried off to see Saturday Night Fever in the main theater while others went to the ice show.

At the end of the day, we had a farewell party led by our FRW president Rose Lawson and the hard-working conference planners before our final dinner together.

The four days went by too fast. We hung out; we talked; we learned and we shared. We got to know each other and the editors and agents who had nowhere else to go. We watched a dazzling parade of famous animated characters on the Promenade, sampled as much food as our stomachs would allow, and explored the hidden nooks of the sleek vessel. We each came away with something different—an invitation to submit pages to an editor/agent, a sense of peace, a few extra pounds.

I hope you can join us next time.

Nancy  TracHeath Kristin  SharKar

 

Posted in Conferences | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Necronomicon, Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 1, 2012

Necronomicon, Part 2

Getting Started: Writing Believable Dialogue with Nick DiChario, K.L. Nappier, M.B. Weston, Nancy J. Cohen, and William Hatfield. A lot of good advice came from this panel. Be true to your character. Determine your target audience because it makes a difference in the language you can use. Listen to the people around you to get ideas for speech patterns. Read your material aloud to see if it sounds stilted. For more detailed advice, see my Blog on Writing Effective Dialogue. Below: Author Gary L. Zeiger and his lovely wife selling his book in the Dealers’ Room.

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I skipped out next to roam around the hallways and to stop in to the hospitality room for a snack. You could attend such subjects as Higgs Boson [Particle] and You, Steampunk Invasion, Author/Publisher Contract Do’s and Don’ts, the Music of Science, and Anime Timeline. Then I met up with my husband for lunch and we strolled across the street where a farmer’s market was in full swing.

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Why Sell Your Books to a Small Press with Eric Beebe, Lucienne Diver, Ed Howdershelt, and K. Piet. The reasons are many. First of all, Lucienne said the term Indie Author applies to writers who are published by an independent press. This is different from self-published and authors who are published by small presses or by vanity presses. One advantage of going with a small press is the individualized attention you get that you may not receive from one of the Big Six. You can build up your following and increase your readership. You may also have a say in your cover art. Discoverability is always an issue, so see what the small press publisher will do for you in terms of marketing.

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Lucienne said the best chance for a high level of success is still with the big presses, with some exceptions. She discussed the agency versus the wholesale model in regard to pricing. Brick-and-mortar stores may devolve into smaller boutique shops over time. Humor can be a hard sell in today’s market, but anything erotic is still hot. Science fiction and fantasy aren’t doing as well in e-book format as romance and erotica, which are the biggest sellers. YA Paranormal doesn’t sell well in ebook either, because not all kids have e-reader devices. This genre is also hard to sell right now because Barnes & Noble has decreased demand for them.

Getting it Right: Paranormal Elements in Fiction with Nancy J Cohen, Lucienne Diver, Pamela Labud, Will Ludwigsen, and Brandy Stark. As I was on this panel, I didn’t take notes but we each talked about the elements we use in our fiction. My new series deals with Norse mythology. Being consistent in your world building is essential.

Getting Started: Writing Fight Scenes with Richard Byers, Johanna Bolton, R.M. Garcia, T.S. Robinson, Michael Joy, and William Logan. One of the recommendations is to give glimpses of your hero’s special ability along the way. Build anticipation and get to know your villains. Johanna writes spaceship battles, and she visualizes the scene ahead of time. Richard suggests that you consider the level of realism you want to achieve. Consider scene length also. Is this meant to be the grand finale or merely a build-up to the end? The fight scene should have a purpose, such as showing team work. And don’t forget physics. When you hit a wall, what happens? Does the wall crack? What are the results on your body? Michael says his fight scenes serve as the action around the dialogue.

Problem areas can be giant battle scenes with multiple armies, unfamiliar technology, mercenaries for hire, psychic combat, lack of experience with weapons. What are some common mistakes? If you use very specific terms such as Japanese martial arts moves, you are appealing to a narrow audience. Either rename the move or qualify it through action. A general audience won’t understand the jargon. Fight scenes can go on too long. Get back to the people. Factual errors can be a problem, like when the gun is putting out the wrong caliber bullet. Or the choreography can be wrong. Make sure the sequence of events is physically possible. Also if somebody gets killed, give a definitive ending for that person before the story moves on. And remember that injuries need time to heal. It’s unrealistic when your hero pops up the next day after a major fight scene, and he’s perfectly fit.

Your hero’s background will determine how he approaches the scene. A trained fighter will observe how the enemy holds his weapon, and that may tell the hero how to confront the guy or if it’s wiser to get out of his way. Women can fight for different reasons than men, so keep that in mind. Alternate moments of high tension with those of low tension but don’t ever completely let go.

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On Saturday night, the Masquerade brought out characters in all sorts of costumes, including the bagpipe artist in a kilt and the dog. We skipped outside to have dinner at a restaurant just past the yacht club and alongside the marina. It was breezy but clear with a full moon. I’d had a great time but left early Sunday to head over toward Orlando and a revisit to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

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Necronomicon, Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 31, 2012

Necronomicon was the first SciFi/Fantasy convention I’ve attended. In many ways, it’s similar to a mystery conference. There were more men than at a romance con. The panels were professional and moderated by a host. Aspiring authors attended in abundance. However, here’s the biggest difference: Gamers. One darkened breakout room held 3 rows of computers where people sat all day and sometimes all night playing Halo. Other guys sat at round tables engrossed in role playing games. And the hospitality room was open 24/7 with free food and soft drinks. A guard on sentry duty made sure you were wearing your badge if you walked by. The mode of dress differed, too. At a mystery con, many of the men would be wearing sport coats. Not so much here. No editor/agent appointments either. So it was a curious mix of writers and fans of the genre.

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Authors who paid for a table sat in Author’s Alley down the hallway at tables with their books for sale. The Dealers’ Room was similar to the ones at mystery cons, where authors have to hope one of the vendors has their books for sale or else make a consignment deal. Few booksellers showed up here; vendors sold mostly jewelry and games and other knickknacks. Did this mean people weren’t booklovers? I only sold two books. Granted, my name isn’t known by this crowd, but I’m thinking most readers of this genre probably buy e-books since they’re tech savvy. Or else they are just not familiar with sci fi/paranormal romance. This convention was unlike those huge SciFi cons with celebrity stars. The cost is reasonable to attend and many panels are geared toward writers.

Instead of a forensics track like at a mystery writers con, this event had a science track led by scientist guests. All in all, it was a valuable introduction to an entirely new audience. People were very welcoming and if I went again, I’d start to recognize familiar faces. The panels were all interesting and parties ranged into the night if you were so inclined. We arrived the night before to settle in and become familiar with the hotel. Across the street was a big sports arena where a soccer game played on Saturday night. Down the road was the Dali museum. And nearby was a popular Mexican restaurant, the Red Mesa Cantina, where we had dinner. The food was delicious and the Halloween decorations really neat. I had grilled mahi mahi on a bed of plantains with mango salsa and my husband had shrimp with beans and rice and veggies.

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Now here’s what I learned at some of the talks.

Friday

The Resurgence of Fairy Tales with Tracy Cornett, David Berger, Lucienne Diver, Kat Heckenbach, and K.L. Nappier.

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How did you get interested in the genre? Kat replied that she wanted to see how contemporary fantasy fit the fairy tale model. Lucienne was interested in anthropology and how creation myths are similar and different for various cultures. Comparative religion sparked her interest. David was inspired by books and mythology. A high school English teacher, he mentioned how many mythologies are similar to each other regarding the Hero’s Journey.

What’s the difference between fantasy and fairy tales? David said both can have magical elements, but fairy tales are lighter. Our exposure is Disney-fied. Lucienne mentioned that the original fairytales were dark and cautionary. They were meant to strike fear into people and their dangers still apply. For example, the big bad Wolf could be considered the serial killer in the woods today. People are trying to recapture the earlier mythos and not the sickly sweet tales we’ve come to know. We would rather have the Princess save herself these days.

Can things swing too dark? Not if the demand is there, Lucienne advises. “Dark really sells.” She said that fairy tales don’t teach kids that there are dragons. The stories teach kids how to defeat dragons. David writes about Greek mythology. The kids in his classes write dark stories with vampires, werewolves, and dragons. The dark experience in literature can be safe and cathartic. K.L. Nappier added that the overall plot arc and character growth are important. Fairy tales derive from folklore, while mythology has religious origins. For example, myths have gods that are similar in the various creation myths. Legends have heroes, while folktales are more achievable by human standards.

Romantic Elements in F&SF: The Male Perspective with Nancy J. Cohen, William Hatfield, Chris Helton, Rick Wilber, and Linnea Sinclair. In this panel, we discussed the male viewpoint in romantic relationships. Some of the men write female protagonists. Linnea suggested you have to target the audience to know what readers you are trying to reach. And Chris gets into the emotional depth of his male characters so he has no problem showing their feelings. You can show characterization through dialogue as well as action.

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The Future of “Star Trek” was a fun panel where we discussed the recent movie that reinvented the series. People had vocal opinions on whether they liked certain elements or not, and a lively debate ensued. You could tell from the episodes bantered about that the audience members felt great affection for the show, whichever version we discussed.

A delicious Italian buffet dinner followed the last panel after which Guest of Honor Linnea Sinclair gave an inspirational speech. After 8 PM, you could either attend more panels such as Settling Mars: The Next Great Challenge; You call it Urban Fantasy, I call it Horror; Dr. Who and the 21st-Century; It’s the End of the World: Apocalyptic Fiction. If you are still awake at 11 PM, you could attend Sex and Science Fiction/Fantasy or still other topics. There were ongoing sing-alongs, cartoons, art shows, and role-playing games into the wee hours. Pix below: Linnea Sinclair on left. Bestselling author Timothy Zahn with me and Linnea on right.

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More to Follow.

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Mixing Romance and Murder

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 6, 2012

Malice Domestic Conference: The New Nick and Noras: Mixing Romance and Murder

Sunday morning at Malice started out with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. It was a lovely affair where I met new friends. The Board was introduced and volunteers were thanked for their efforts throughout the year.

Nancy Cohen, Ann Parker, Nancy G. West

Following this event, I attended the workshop titled above. Moderated by Stephanie Evans, the panel included Kathleen Ernst, Christina Freeburn, Barbara Graham, Elizabeth J. Duncan, and Kate Carlisle. Following are the questions posed by the moderator. Disclaimer: These interpretations are based on my notes and the paraphrasing is accurate to the best of my ability.

How does danger affect the relationship?

Kathleen: Her characters are a detective and a park curator. Danger reveals a new side to each character, i.e. protectiveness of the hero and a broken heart in the heroine’s past. Also it shows that the heroine doesn’t crumple in the face of danger. Chris says danger in her stories brings her couple back together. They have to work to restart their relationship. Barbara says her hero is the sheriff. “Danger finds you no matter where or who you are. Thing happen.” Hers is a loving couple. “Every day, if it’s the last one, it’s a good one.” Elizabeth’s hero is a police officer. He overrides his training and instincts to put the heroine ahead. In Kate’s story, the woman is a suspect but the hero grows to protect her. Danger heightens the sexual tension between them.

Does your couple need or seek out danger? If it wasn’t there, what else would they need?

Kate says her couple wasn’t brought together by murder but that murder found them. Her heroine is open, free, loving. Her hero is a James Bond, by-the-book type. He feels fear for her safety. Elizabeth’s hero is an inspector who wants a quiet, peaceful life away from work. He warns the heroine away from every case, but she’s curious and can’t leave it alone. He’s unable to keep his work separate from her. Barbara’s heroine listens to gossip and lets the hero do the detecting. They’d like to have a normal life. Chris: Finding people who need protection is their purpose. They each possess a strong protective instinct but in different ways. They are willing to take risks so that others can have a better chance at life. Kathleen’s hero doesn’t want the heroine involved but he needs the info she can provide, so she gets sucked into the situation. They each define danger differently. Solitude and wilderness don’t frighten her when she goes to a deserted island to restore a lighthouse, but he’s concerned about the isolation. So they define danger differently.

How do you work in the lightness and levity of romance with the darkness of murder?

Chris’s romances are more inspirational so they’re not graphic. The couple was married but the marriage ended over guilt from her sister’s death. Dark issues and pain are involved and they have to work out these problems. Elizabeth: Her heroine was a witness that the hero interviewed and subsequently liked, so their romance progresses slowly. In her stories, the romance offers comfort and security for people in their 50s, so it’s a different angle. Kate also writes romance for Harlequin. “A good romance has heavy conflict so I don’t consider that part to be light even though I don’t write dark, deep mysteries.” She adds humor in other ways like with secondary characters. Kathleen has an inner plot or personal conflict that affects the outer plot. Barbara has a married couple who are loyal and faithful to each other. Tender moments enter into the story on occasion.

For the cozy genre, what do you use to create the mood for sex?

In Kathleen’s stories, the relationship is progressing slowly. She says the power of suggestion can be incredibly sexy and better than spelling things out on the page. Chris’s couple needs to rebuild trust in their relationship. It’s more about caring and the “little things” the couple does for each other. Barbara’s characters long for each other when they’re apart. She agrees that it’s the little things, too. Elizabeth says intimacy can be pretty sexy, more so than overt sexuality. Her hero thinks about the heroine often. “It’s more about love than sex, but they’re inching toward it.” In Kate’s mysteries, nothing is overt. “Little moments are sweet but they can’t stop to consider them because they have to solve the crime.” You get the feeling that the relationship is growing.

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I took a break after this panel, skipping some of the events and going out to lunch with family until the Agatha Tea later that afternoon. If I’d known we would be served little sandwiches, scones, cheese and fruit, I wouldn’t have eaten so much earlier! This final event was well attended and then it was time to say goodbye.

Elizabeth Zelvin

Carole Nelson Douglas and Nancy Cohen

Our drive home was uneventful except for a stop at a historic house in South Carolina and a couple of country stores where we bought Peach cider, pecan meal (ground pecans—great for coating tilapia before frying), cinnamon honey, and peach jam.

Historical Museum House

     

Front View

Magnolias in Bloom

     

250 year old live oak

Stone gator at foot of tree

Face in the Tree! Is it the tree god from Warrior Prince?

Coming Next: Guest Blogger Peg Herring on Tuesday, May 8!

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Writing Southern Mysteries

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 5, 2012

Malice Domestic Conference: Writing Southern Mysteries

Saturday morning at the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda began with a New Authors Breakfast wherein two dozen newly published authors spoke briefly about their works. It was a great way to get to know these newbies and to discover interesting reads.

Writers’ conferences are often more about networking than attending workshops, but I did manage to attend three sessions. One of them was for writers by “The Poison Lady” on how to kill people using alcohol. I won’t be repeating that information here, but I’ll tell you about the other two panels for fans.

Early in the day, I greeted Dana Cameron, Charlaine Harris, Ellen Byerrum, Joanna Campbell Slan, and Neil Plakcy, among other writer friends. Besides Neil, Joanna and myself, Elaine Viets and Deborah Sharp were present from Florida MWA. We discussed marketing ideas and met new readers. I was able to display my promo materials in the hospitality suite, peruse the silent auction items, and greet booksellers in the dealers’ room.

Nancy Cohen and Dana Cameron

Nancy Cohen and Dana Cameron

Live Auction

Live Auction

Ellen Byerrum and Hank Phillippi Ryan

Ellen Byerrum and Hank Phillippi Ryan

Southern Mysteries Panelists

The first workshop I attended was on Southern Mysteries. Panelists were Sandra Parshall, moderator, whose mysteries are set in Virginia. Lisa Wysocky sets her series around horses. Erika Chase’s books are set in Alabama. Leann Sweeney’s cat mysteries take place in South Carolina. Christy Fifield’s haunted shop series is located in Florida. And Miranda James (aka Dean James) writes about a male librarian in Mississippi. Following are the questions posed by the moderator. Disclaimer: These interpretations are based on my notes and the paraphrasing is accurate to the best of my ability.

What is your personal connection to the South?

Miranda grew up in Mississippi in generations of farmers. He moved to Houston and went to grad school and became a librarian. Christy married a Southerner whose family comes from Alabama. Leann went to where her husband’s job took them to Texas and hopes to move to South Carolina someday. Erika loves horses and was captivated by Southern culture. Lisa moved to the South and also loves horses. “Characters in the South are wonderful fodder for mysteries.”

What is special about the South?

Leann: “What’s so wonderful about the South is there are all these secrets.” People are very polite and courteous, and they use indirect routes of speech as opposed to Northerners who say what they mean. Miranda: People in the South beat around the bush when speaking. “How many of you know the two meanings of ‘Bless your heart’?” It’s all in how you say it. Lisa: “History in the South is so much more fascinating than in the North.” Erika: “The word southern conjures the imagination, as in southern lady or southern gentleman.”

Tell us about your settings.

Lisa’s books are set in Tennessee where “many eccentric people live.” Christy’s stories are set in a small Florida town dependent on tourism. She loves the Florida Panhandle. Sandra’s mysteries take place in Virginia, while Miranda’s are set in Mississippi. Leann favors South Carolina, and Erika’s stories are centered in Alabama. Quite a variety!

How do you deal with darker issues?

Lisa approached the theme of child neglect with humor so that the humor balances the darkness. Erika doesn’t deal with any Gothic themes beyond murder. She says secrets from the past affect her characters, who help each other through them. Leann says her editor helps her balance the light and the dark. “Secrets are dangerous, and I want the reader to feel that tension throughout the book.” She often deals with dysfunctional family issues.

Christy has a main character who is a ghost. Another character is the ghost’s acquaintance, and their relationship goes back to a more turbulent time in history. She indicates how racial relationships in the South are still a fact of life there. It’s tough to balance those elements with the lightness of a cozy. Miranda likes to make the reader forget about their problems when reading his books. So he aims for a balance between real southern issues and a lighter mystery.

How do you include accents?

Miranda offers colloquial expressions and rhythm of speech instead of heavily accented speech which can be distracting to the reader. She says to be aware that certain words may be used differently. For example, do the people in a locale say cellar or basement? Erika says the flavor of interactions is more important than the words themselves.

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Later that afternoon, I was on a panel called Living with the Seven Deadly Sins: Mysteries as Modern Morality Plays. Moderated by Art Taylor, our panel included R. J. Hartlick, Carolyn Hart, Tracy Kiely, Margaret Maron, and myself. I discussed the value of relationships among the characters in a mystery and how that’s the focus of my stories. We joined other afternoon panelists at a booksigning later.

Lisa Wysocky, Maggie Toussaint, Nancy Cohen

Nancy and Tracy Kiely

Lorna Barrett and Nancy Cohen

Nancy Cohen and Jacqueline Corcoran

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Saturday night, we attended the Agatha Awards Banquet. I didn’t take pix here, too many people, and it was a long evening.

Coming Next: The New Nick and Noras: Mixing Romance and Murder

Posted in Conferences | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

 
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