Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

SleuthFest 2017 Recap

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 22, 2017

SleuthFest 2017 was another stellar event held at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. This premier mystery writers’ conference is sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Third Degree Thursday kicked off the weekend with a bunch of workshops and Dirk Wyle’s Readers’ Corner. That evening, co-chairs Victoria Landis and Joanne Sinchuk welcomed everyone to the conference. We heard publisher Neil Nyren discuss the state of the industry and agents in particular. Then those folks who had signed up attended the “Sleuthfest 101” dinner followed by a trivia contest.

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Friday morning, I attended a workshop by publicist Maryglenn McCombs titled Seven Secrets to Promoting a Book. Then I moderated a panel on How to Keep a Series from Getting Stale with authors Lynnette Hallberg, Cheryl Hollon, Carol J. Perry, and Nancy G. West. Using different settings, interesting research, new characters, evolving relationships, and character arcs were some of the techniques mentioned.

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Lunch in the ballroom followed with a talk by our Forensic Guest of Honor, Dr. Vincent DiMaio. His graphic slides made swallowing our meal difficult but his talk was fascinating. He spoke about cases that appeared to be natural deaths or accidents, but upon closer examination, proved to be murder.

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Another round of workshops followed. Next came my own presentation on Preparing for Your Book Launch. I spoke about the various ways writers can publicize a new book release.

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The banquet on Friday evening included the Freddie Awards Ceremony. The winner in the Mystery category was Graham Reed from Vancouver for his entry, The Chairman’s Toys. The winner of the Thriller category was Millie Naylor Hast from Texas for her entry, Takeover.

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Saturday morning found us back attending workshops. I moderated the one titled Crime Solving Couples with speakers Carol J. Perry and Nancy G. West. The three of us spoke about how the couples work together in our respective series.

Luncheon brought us Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author David Baldacci, who entertained and educated us while we ate. He’s a great speaker, and I couldn’t wait to read his book “The Finisher” that I’d bought in the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.

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Then former chapter president Randy Rawls presented the Flamingo Award to the very deserving Rick Wymer, who with his wife Mary Lou, have spent hours of selfless devotion as volunteers in the service of FMWA.

At this point, I’m sorry to say, I went upstairs to my hotel room to rest. I’d contracted a cold and sinus infection at the end of the FRW conference cruise, and I was getting worse instead of better. But I made it to the cocktail party that evening and had a nice chat with fellow authors. Still not feeling well, I cut out early on Sunday morning and had to miss our Sunday Guest of Honor, Jeff Lindsay. I’ve heard he was a great speaker and very entertaining.

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And so now we must begin to plan for next year. Go Here to see more photos.

 

 

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Writers Conference on Independence of the Seas

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 27, 2017

Fun in the Sun Writers Conference on Independence of the Seas
Sponsored by Florida Romance Writers
February 16, 2017

As soon as we boarded Independence of the Seas, we headed to lunch in the Windjammer Café. Entrees were tempting. They had the grill with burgers and hot dogs inside here instead of out on the pool deck like on other ships. Desserts were not overly appealing, especially after the artistic confections on Celebrity Equinox. The cookies were the crunchy type, whereas I prefer soft, chewy centers. However, there is a soft ice cream machine on the pool deck that’s free to guests.

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We strolled around and unpacked a bit before the lifeboat drill. This one took place outside on the deck where we lined up like sardines and stood there for a half hour until dismissed. No life vests required for the drill, which was a bonus. However, I prefer the cruise lines where you sit in an air-conditioned lounge to hear the spiel.

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The FRW Meet & Greet Welcome Party had the editor/agent panel where we heard what each industry guest has on their wish lists. This event gave us a good chance to mingle in the Olive or Twist lounge on Deck 14. Here I am with my agent, the wonderful Evan Marshall from The Evan Marshall Agency.

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Shortly thereafter, we attended dinner in the King Lear Dining Room. I’m not a late diner, and eating at 8:30 led to a long evening on a full stomach. Some nights we didn’t finish until after ten. While the food was good, it wasn’t exceptional. Nor was the dining room service as efficient as on other vessels.

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Our cabin service was excellent, though. The balcony cabin was spacious with adequate storage. We had an extra-long couch across from a desk console. The shower is the round manhole cover shape but at least it has a glass door. Don’t drop your soap on the floor. You have to be a contortionist to pick it up. I used my slumber mask as light came in from outside the ship at the edges of the drapes. Bathroom amenities included bottles of lotion, shampoo, and conditioner. The bar soap was very thin. I missed the robes we get on other cruise lines.

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We awakened at our usual early hour. I prefer the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast in the Windjammer Café offered varied choices, but they didn’t change much from day-to-day. A chef would do made-to-order omelets. Pancakes and waffles were always available along with the usual fruits, pastries, yogurt, and more.

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Our conference workshops began promptly at 8am on Friday. Stay tuned for more in the next installment. See all photos HERE.


Tropical Treats Giveaway, Feb. 21 – March 14

ENTER HERE to win a blue scarf, a blue crystal pendant necklace, a West Indies cookbook, and a signed hardcover Killer Knots.

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Posted in Conferences, Cruising, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

American Library Association Convention

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 1, 2016

Last Sunday, I attended the American Library Association conference at the enormous convention hall in Orlando. For one hour, I greeted librarians and signed books at the Sisters in Crime booth. Once my stint finished, and I’d given away all 32 copies of Hanging by a Hair paperback that I’d brought, I circulated around to see what books I could collect and who I might meet. Publishers touted their books while vendors selling equipment and technology experts plied their wares to passersby. It’s a huge conference. This was only the exhibit hall, but there were classes and other events going on concurrently.

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My feet tired after an hour, and so we joined our kids to visit the Artegon Marketplace on International Drive. Artisan shops and artsy displays on the walls filled this indoor air-conditioned mall next to Outdoor World. Be aware that food choices are limited, and so is the shopping.

This ended our last weekend in Orlando. Back home, I got an email that my first ever audiobook had gone live. More on that next time!

 

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Writers Conference on Cruise Ship

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 14, 2016

Cruise with your Muse aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

Fun-in-the-Sun Conference sponsored by Florida Romance Writers.

FRW Cruise2017

Join us to see the beautiful blue seas of Cozumel with Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Hoyt and Special Guest Speaker Michael Hauge.

Guest Speakers

Sail from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 and return to port on Monday, February 20th, 2017.

Editor/Agent appointments, writing workshops, and social networking events.

Interior Cabin: $480.72 per person with a $50.00 on board credit per cabin
Promenade $441.47 per person
Oceanview $563.22 per person with $100.00 credit per cabin (H)
Balcony category E3 $642.47 per person (E3)
Junior suite $1050.72 with $300.00 credit per cabin

These prices are only sample fares, contact our travel agent at 305-666-1010 to get the current pricing. Promotion offers are frequently available at lower prices.

Cruise includes ship accommodations, ocean transportation, meals onboard, entertainment, taxes, and port charges. Cruise fee deposit is due when you reserve your cabin and is paid directly to our travel agent. 

Pre-sail Party on Wednesday night February 15, 2016. Details TBA.

Conference fee:
FRW Members –  $160 conference fee through 7/1/16
RWA Members – $180 conference fee through 7/1/16
Non-members – $200 conference fee through 7/1/16
Companion/Spouse  $50 conference fee

To Register, go to http://frwfuninthesunmain.blogspot.com

 

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Raising Suspense in your Novel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 10, 2016

How to increase suspense in your novel was the topic of a Saturday panel at Sleuthfest. Speakers included Laurence P. O’Bryan, Chris Pavone, Charles Salzberg and Alison McMahan as moderator.

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What you want to do as a writer is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. You say things, but you don’t explain all of them. Follow the principle of R.U.E.—Resist the Urge to Explain.

Start out the story with a bang. Don’t give all the backstory right up front. Respect the reader to figure things out on his own. Create situations to make the reader care about your character’s backstory. This history can come in during “down” times in the pacing but only in small doses.

Contain mini-mysteries within the overall plot. Give solutions along the way to keep the reader interested, and then raise new questions.

Guide the reader down blank alleys but not too many of them.

Sentences should have velocity.

Leave out the paragraphs readers will skip over. Don’t dump info like descriptions of places or people unless it serves a purpose.

Spread out character background. Reveal things sparingly in terms of character and place.

Mood and temperament of the sleuth can add to the suspense. How is he going to behave? Will he act morally? Relationships add tension. Action shows a character’s true motivation.

Adding a ticking time bomb or a deadline or using bait and switch tactics are other methods to raise suspense. So can a sense of menace, but be subtle. For example, you mention that a character is meeting someone on Monday. Who is he meeting with? What’s going to happen?

“Our job is to keep people reading. Each chapter should have an arc that doesn’t resolve.”

Increasing suspense in your novel #writetip #amwriting @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/1XftNAk

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Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Editors at Sleuthfest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 8, 2016

Four editors discussed the publishing biz at Sleuthfest. These included Chris Knopf from The Permanent Press, Erin George from Henery Press, Anne Speyer from Ballantine Books, and Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Editors

The first question addressed was if any of the editors would accept a mid-series submission or backlist titles. This would depend upon the rights available. An author has a better chance with a new series or with the relaunch of an ongoing series.

The editors all emphasized the importance of social media for authors. Writers should also have a newsletter, schedule in-person events, speak at libraries and conferences, nurture a relationship with bloggers and reviewers. An author’s website and Facebook page should be “really, really good; new and fresh; welcoming.” With your social media, you should do ten percent book promo and ninety percent interesting content.

What does a publisher have to offer? You get an editorial team, a guiding hand, resources that might not be available otherwise, support, reviews, sales of subsidiary rights. Plus you’ll qualify to speak on conference panels and to enter contests. Print is still a larger proportion of sales compared to ebooks.

Pet Peeves?

· Exclamation Points
· Backstory
· Too much description
· Clichés
· Unrealistic dialogue

Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Tweet: What are some editor pet peeves from #SleuthFest? #pubtip by @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/24OOzfU

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Agents at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 3, 2016

Four literary agents gave advice at Sleuthfest on submissions for writers. The agents included Danielle Burby, Kirsten Carleton, Mark Gottlieb, and Steve Kasdin. Look them up on the Sleuthfest conference website.

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Danielle likes cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, domestic suspense, medieval fantasy, contemporary YA, and upmarket women’s fiction. She does not do romance or erotica. She prefers stories without overt violence. She’d like to find a cozy set in Scotland. Send her an email query with the first five pages in the body of your message. The author’s credentials should be mentioned along with the genre and word count. If you tell the plot, make it sound like back cover copy. Don’t bother to mention themes. “If you have an axe to grind, go somewhere else. I want a story.” Respect the conventions of word count to meet reader expectations and publisher’s production costs (i.e. Don’t offer a 600 page book).

Kirsten would like to find a thriller with series potential. She is looking for amateur sleuth stories, historical, crime, and suspense; anything with a speculative element; or a story that presents a twist on the genre. She doesn’t do romance. She does accept YA and adult fiction.

Steve will look at contemporary and historical thrillers, capers and crime stories, and contemporary, historical, cozy, and paranormal mysteries. No romance and no scifi/fantasy. He’d like to find a thriller with series potential but with a female protagonist.

Mark also doesn’t do romance or erotica. He is interested in finding authors who write thrillers, noir, and hard-boiled crime fiction.

You can verify their submission requirements on their agency websites.

On average, the agents receive 150-200 queries per week. They won’t take a book that has been self-published since it’s already in the marketplace. However, they’ll look at an indie author who has been successful and who has something new to offer to get to the next level.

If you’ve submitted your work to an agent, let them know if you get an offer from someone else.

An agent helps to build an author’s career. They have access to publishers and editors and can act as the author’s advocate. They’ll also handle subsidiary rights.

When you do a verbal pitch, make it brief and get to the character.

An audience member asked about New Adult fiction. The panelists agreed this category was a “failed experiment” because booksellers and librarians didn’t know where to shelve these books. There wasn’t any consensus on how to define the genre. YA with sex? Chick lit renamed?

The agents mingled with conference goers during the weekend and at the cocktail party. Sleuthfest also offers manuscript critiques and presents the Freddie Awards. This writing contest is judged by editors and agents at the final round. So you have numerous opportunities to meet these industry professionals.

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Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

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

Arson Investigation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 1, 2016

Do you know how fast a fire can become deadly? At a talk by an arson investigator at SleuthFest 2016, we saw a film that demonstrated the minutes you have to exit a burning building before everything ignites.

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Firefighter personnel include rescue, emergency medical services, special ops, hazardous materials, fire prevention and investigation. The arson investigator may carry a gun and have arrest powers. He conducts interviews and identifies suspects. He can develop charges and arrest the bad guy right there if arson is suspected. The arson investigator will follow a case from beginning to end, from the initial investigation through court appearances. The ideal clearance rate on cases is at least 20 to 30%. These investigators are multi-trained in various disciplines, including post-blast (explosion or bomb) response. The International Association of Arson Investigators has stringent requirements. The investigator’s job includes identifying consumer safety issues regarding fire risk and notifying the authorities.

“People think everything burns up in the fire, but it doesn’t. Everything burns differently. Patterns are left, and evidence is left, at the fire scene.”

Fire Classifications

1. Accidental

a. Cooking fires are the Number One cause of fires right now in the U.S. Unattended cooking in residences can lead to fires. This type accounts for 49.4% of all residential building causes.

b. Heating causes may include careless use of smoking materials or candle use. Post-hurricane, you leave the window open. The draft reaches the candle and blows the flame toward a nearby drape. Or else the candle falls over.

A portable lighter in the hands of a curious child poses a danger. So do cell phone cigarette lighter connectors in your car. These can heat up and then the plastic melts, burns, and causes a car fire. Knockoffs from China are more likely to heat. Make sure to unplug these devices when you leave the car.

c. Electrical malfunctions are another cause. Overloaded outlets and surge protectors are a hazard.

2. Natural, i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, floods

3. Incendiary

This is a fire that is deliberately set with the intent to cause a fire to occur in an area where the fire should not be. In Florida, you don’t have to prove intent, only that the person willfully and unlawfully set a fire.

4. Undetermined

If a fire should occur on a bed, for example, look at the people and the objects. A pile of clothes burning on the bed is personal. Study the spouse, boyfriend, relationships of the people involved. If the fire occurs in a closet, it might be that a child has flicked a lighter to see what it does, and the flame ignited nearby materials.

Mobile homes are “baked potatoes.” These usually cannot be saved.

Investigative Procedure

Step one is to determine the origin. Where did the fire start? You want to look at the area of origin, which is the general region, and the point of origin, which is the exact physical location where the heat source and fuel interacted.

Step two is to examine the possible cause. This can be overloaded circuits. Coffeemakers can start a fire because sometimes the burner stays on even though it’s supposed to shut off. Investigators look for patterns at a burn scene.

Step three uses the scientific method. The investigator will identify and define the problem; collect and analyze the data; develop and test their theories; and select the final hypothesis.

Fire requires a heat source, fuel, and oxygen. Take away the heat, fuel, or oxygen, and the fire goes away.

Fire travels the path of least obstruction. “As things burn, their chemistry and composition changes.” The upper levels will get heated vapors and gases that occur when furnishings and synthetic materials burn. The smoke heads up to the ceiling and then banks down the walls. So when you are in a fire, do not stand up and breathe. Drop to the floor and crawl.

Other items in the room start to heat up and burn. A flashover is when the heated gas and vapor ignite. This situation is not survivable.

The closer to the floor on the walls that you see the smoke level, the closer you are to a flashover. A flameover is another warning sign. This is when the flames roll across the ceiling. They’re seeking oxygen and will break through windows and walls.

Do not run back into a burning building. You must get out before the flashover.

Another sign is the color of the smoke. It starts out white as Class A materials burn. These are papers, magazines, books. The smoke turns gray when plastics and petroleum products start to burn, like your furniture cushions. Then finally, the smoke turns black. Heat is transferred to other objects in the room via conduction, convection, and radiation.

A flameover to a flashover takes seconds. We saw a film wherein newspapers ignited inside a plastic trash can, which could happen if somebody threw a cigarette butt inside. The papers ignited, and the plastic can melted. The fire leapt to a nearby sofa. We watched the smoke turn from white to dark gray. Other items of furniture caught fire as the heat transferred. Flames rolled across the ceiling. It took minutes for the entire room to be engulfed in a flashover.

My takeaway from this session? Don’t plug one surge protector into another. Don’t overload your electrical sockets. Make sure the burner on your coffeemaker cools down. Don’t leave your cell phone charger plugged in inside your car once you depart. Don’t leave candles and cooking pots unattended. If you’re in a fire, drop and crawl. Don’t inhale the deadly gases. Know your exits and get out of the building fast.

Resources:

http://www.Firearson.com

http://www.Nafi.org

Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View Photos from SleuthFest on my Facebook page.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Conferences, Research, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Writers Conference Prep

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 24, 2016

This weekend is SleuthFest and Left Coast Crime. Writers’ conferences require advance preparation, especially if you’ll be speaking on a panel or giving a workshop. Aside from determining your particular goals—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.

SF16Ad Keynotes

  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. Bring a copy of your receipts showing your registration and any other special paid events.
  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 accessories.
  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.

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

I’ll be at SleuthFest for the next few days, so there will be a brief hiatus here while I take notes and photos to share with you later.

 

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

Florida Romance Writers Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 18, 2016

Saturday was a one-day mini-conference for Florida Romance Writers. The day started off with an inspirational keynote address by NY Times bestselling author Carla Neggers. She spoke about the ups and downs of a writing career and how we balance these setbacks and successes.

Carla Neggers

A panel followed with agent Marlene Stringer, Cleis Press Publisher Karen Thomas, Harlequin editor Charles Griemsman, and Berkley editor Kristine Swartz.

Editors Panel

Charles from Harlequin mentioned how he works with short category, contemporary romance series. He prefers alpha males who are wealthy and passionate, hard men with an underlying vulnerability. Tycoons and ranchers are ever popular as are stories with babies. He looks for books that focus on romantic tension and internal conflict. The Special Edition line is more family-oriented but its stories are still sensual.

Kristine from Berkley likes epic and urban fantasy, sexy romance, women’s fiction, and some mystery. She likes humor in stories as well.

Karen Thomas spoke about her publishing house that produces erotica and gay/lesbian fiction.

Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Agency is looking for commercial fiction but no erotica, inspirational, or space opera. She says there aren’t any bans in romance anymore like there used to be for musician or actor heroes.

Regarding genre fiction, paranormal isn’t dead if it’s something fresh. New Adult is a hard sell because booksellers don’t know where to shelve it. The Chick Lit label is gone, but the stories are still there. As for historical romance, it’s on the rise again. Regency, Victorian, and Scottish settings remain popular. Stories set in France do not fare as well. Books today need more diversity to reflect our society.

We ate a box lunch following the agent and editor panel. Then Dr. Debra Holland spoke about how she became a bestselling indie author.

Deborah Holland

At 2:00, I gave a workshop titled Marketing on a Shoestring.

Nancy Speaking

Then I listened to my friends Carla Neggers, Alyssa Maxwell, Kat Carlton, and Traci Hall speak about Revitalizing Your Career. A general booksigning followed with Murder on the Beach booksellers present.

Career Panel

As it is with any conference, networking with other authors was the best part. Now I am looking forward to SleuthFest next month.

Nancy VickiLisa DebbyGrahl

Contest Alert!

LAST DAY! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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