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The Trial Before Christmas – Watch Out for Flying Books!

 

Trial Before Christmas posterThe fine line between fact and fiction blurred last night at a festive holiday reception when a man threw a hardcover book at a woman’s head – in a library, no less. She was seated at a table signing copies of a new edition of A Visit from St. Nicholas. As an author, I’ve never much liked hawking my books at signings, but this represents a new low that’s even more troubling than the usual scenario where no one buys your books.

What precipitated the attack? The woman, Pamela McColl, had just given “expert testimony” in a mock trial concerning the true authorship of  ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Widely attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, the work may in fact have been written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.  The trial took place in the John T. Casey Ceremonial Courtroom in the Rensselaer County Courthouse in Troy, New York, with prominent local attorneys arguing for the plaintiff and the defendant.

The event was part of Troy’s Victorian Stroll, and it was free and first-come first-serve, so I arrived Victorian Stroll balloon manearly. In the lobby, real cops were on duty, and there was a genuine security check, complete with the walk-through entrance and the conveyor belt to detect contraband items. The courtroom was packed, and I grabbed one of the few remaining seats. In the back row, I couldn’t hear everyone clearly, but I picked up bits and pieces of Ms. McColl’s testimony. In period costume, she argued against the portrayal of St. Nicholas as a smoker:

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath. 

After colorful testimony from the ghosts of Livingston and Moore and closing arguments from the lawyers, the jury, comprised of randomly selected audience members, decided in favor of Major Livingston. Then everyone was invited to attend the reception next door at the Troy Library, which had no security checks in place. I was savoring a glass of wine and a fillet mignon sandwich when I heard a shout and a crash. Turning in the direction of the commotion, I saw a man tightly flanked by two others who held him by both arms and propelled him out the door of the Victorian reading room.

Molly and Jack Casey, counsels for the plaintiff Livingston, and E. Stewart Jones, Counsel for the defendant Moore

Molly and Jack Casey, counsels for the plaintiff Livingston, and E. Stewart Jones, Counsel for the defendant Moore

It’s all right, don’t worry,” said one of them as they did their perp walk. But was it? What had happened? Ever curious, I questioned him later. It turned out that the man had been so incensed by Ms. McColl’s anti-smoking testimony that he started an argument that culminated in his throwing one of her books at her head. When she signed a book for me later, she was uninjured and surprisingly calm and collected. (Fortunately, though hard-cover, the book was light-weight.)

Her version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, published by Grafton and Scratch, was listed in the program as a “Non-smoking edition.” I’m not sure if the book thrower was enraged by her testimony, by the book itself, or by both, but any way you look at it, it’s distressing – maybe yet another reason to forget about book signings and focus on selling books online.

So what happened to the guy? One of the two young men who escorted him out – both lawyers – said they didn’t call the cops, just told him to leave. “We know him,” he said, so perhaps he’s a neighborhood character. Perhaps, too, it helped that he was white, of smallish stature, and that there were no cops on the premises.

Victorian Stroll protest 2014Meanwhile, outside the library as darkness fell on the Victorian Stroll, protestors lay down in the street at Monument Square to protest the grand jury verdicts in Ferguson and Staten Island. Try as we may to escape into nostalgia, the twenty-first century and all its inequities remind us we can’t escape reality.

 

 

 

 

Hobnobbing with Agents in the Big Apple

 

Site of the IWWG Summer Conference in August

Site of the IWWG Summer Conference in August

Back in April, I attended the second day of the International Women Writers Guild’s Spring Big Apple conference. I wrote the following piece for their newsletter, and I’m delighted to learn that they published it almost in its entirety. (They diplomatically deleted my critique of the old events, which were held back when IWWG was under different leadership.) Their newsletter included the link to this blog, so I’m hoping some of their members will wander over this way – and maybe subscribe and leave comments.

I’m excited about my newly finished novel, Hope Dawns Eternal, and eager to see it in print, so I was all set to go the self-publishing route, as I did with my two previous mysteries, but IWWG’s Spring Big Apple Conference inspired me to rethink my strategy.

I was ambivalent about signing up. I’d attended a couple of these events a decade or so ago, and although I did get a couple of leads – which ultimately didn’t pan out – I found them disorganized and disappointing. Queuing up in long lines in order to get a couple of minutes to pitch my work to the agents, I could barely muster up the poise it takes to deliver an effective elevator speech, and most of the agents seemed as frazzled as I felt.

This time, with 10-minute sessions scheduled online in advance, I decided to give the Meet the Agents event one more try. Once registered, I printed out the blurbs for the agents, studied them and targeted those who handle fiction. Though the slots were filling up fast, I managed to schedule appointments with four agents and one lawyer. With Cynthia Stillwell and Kristin Conroy as time keepers and task masters, the sessions ran like clockwork, and I felt I had each agent’s undivided attention.

The earlier talks and panels gave me some valuable pointers on how to craft my pitch, and I’m delighted to report that all four agents want me to send them my work. Even better, three of the four seemed genuinely enthusiastic to an extent I’ve never experienced at similar events in the past. But then how could they resist a paranormal thriller about vampires and soap operas?

Remember Port Charles?

Remember Port Charles?

So it’s back to the classic routine I thought I’d abandoned forever – crafting an enticing query letter and synopsis, polishing my first few chapters and sending them out either online or with the old-time SASE, depending on their specifications. I’m researching other agents as well – I won’t necessarily restrict myself to these three. Meanwhile, I plan to reissue my older novels as e-books and keep building my presence online, in hopes of landing the agent of my dreams.

My heartfelt thanks to IWWG for putting together such an inspiring event – one I’m confident will help me reboot my career and take it to a level higher than I’d ever dared to dream of.

To learn more about the International Women Writers Guild, go to www.iwwg.org. They’re having a four-day conference in Litchfield, Connecticut this August. I attended several when they were held at Skidmore in Saratoga, and I have writer friends who go religiously every year. I recommend it especially for women who are suffering from writer’s block or need help finding their voices as writers. Fortunately, I no longer fit those categories, so I’m probably going to pass this year, though who knows, I could still change my mind.

Please subscribe and leave your comments – I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

UPDATE – Saturday, June 7th

Two major changes since this post:

  • I’ve decided to go to the IWWG conference after all.
  • I’ve decided to self-publish after all, rather than retreat to the old model of querying agents.
Me and Romeo at Lake George on June 5th

Me and Romeo at Lake George on June 5th

The conference in Litchfield looks irresistible, especially because of the location. Wisdom House is set on 70 acres, with a swimming pool and labyrinth, and it looks as if I’ll have ample time and space to have my own mini-retreat if I’m not in the mood for nonstop conferencing and socializing.

My husband came back from a day of workshops on e-publishing at the recent Book Expo in NYC, full of information and enthusiasm for the opportunities for authors who have the gumption to go it on their own.

I’ll blog more about these soon. But right now, I’m off for some shopping and gardening before I settle in to watch the Belmont. Romeo, the horse I rode at Lake George two days ago, has the same coloring as California Chrome – chestnut with a white blaze and feet – though he and I are a bit slower. I’ve always loved chestnut horses, though, ever since as a teen I fell in love with one named Diablo.

Anyone out there going to the IWWG conference? I’d love to hear from you – and from anyone else, for that matter.

First Editions, Final Sale: Eldercide and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders

Eldercidefrontcover[1]Want an autographed first edition of Eldercide or Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders? I can get it for you wholesale! I have only a few dozen copies of each novel left, and I’m offering them for $12.00 apiece, or $20.00 for both. If you want more than two, each additional copy will also go for $10.00. Shipping and handling is additional.

I self-published both books with the print-on-demand company Virtualbookworm, and for now, they’re both available from Amazon at $14.95 each. You’re welcome to order them there, but I’m suspicious: many people have told me they ordered them, but my royalty checks have been pitifully few and far between. Soon I’ll be withdrawing these editions from Amazon and replacing them with new editions on Kindle and CreateSpace, to coincide with the launch of the new paranormal novel I’ve been blogging about.

Thanks to my fellow Michael Easton fan, Alison Armstrong, for inspiring this idea. Her vampire novel Revenance looks intriguing, and we agreed to trade books via good old-fashioned U.S. mail. She said she’d prefer I send the one with the character based on Michael. Sorry, I thought, I haven’t finished that one yet, but then I remembered: his Caleb Morley character was a major inspiration for Gabriel in Eldercide – a charismatic and charming serial killer with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Below, I’m reprinting the segment of Chapter One that introduces Gabriel. He’s killed an elderly woman a few hours earlier, and Claire, the nursing supervisor for the home care agency providing live-in care for the woman, has just learned of the death.  I hope this excerpt intrigues you enough to buy a copy and read more about him!

 From Eldercide, Chapter One

Copyright 2008 Julie Lomoe

Across the lake, Gabriel squinted through the telescope. Claire Lindstrom sprawled motionless on the chaise, her head turned toward the morning sun. Her wavy blond hair curtained her face from view. Too bad – he’d have liked to see her expression. When she’d made the call, her back had been turned. He felt a flash of anger. Watching was part of what made his work worthwhile, and she was depriving him of the pleasure.

The scene was deceptively idyllic, like a watercolor on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalog. The slender blonde in a turquoise tee and khaki shorts stretched on the forest green, Adirondack-style chaise, her skin still summer tanned. The big dog, its hair a shade lighter than Claire’s, lying nearby on the lawn that swept down to the water. The kayak, a nifty accent in fire engine red, pulled up on the beach, the lake sparkling in the morning sun, encircled by deep green hills.

Maybe he should start painting again. He’d taken a couple of courses in college, and the instructor had told him he had talent worth pursuing. The network kept him fairly busy, but although the number of assignments was increasing, there were still stretches of inactivity. And painting might bleed off some of the nervous energy he felt when he’d successfully completed a mission. 

Last night, for example. The old lady’s death had progressed perfectly, exactly as planned. He had shone the flashlight full into her face, watched the confusion, the slow dawning of comprehension segueing into terror, the creeping paralysis as the drug took hold. Even after the breathing stopped, the eyes clung desperately to life. It was hard to pinpoint the exact moment she crossed over, but he kept the light focused on her face for a full five minutes as he watched the life glow fade from her eyes. Then, still wearing the latex gloves, he closed her lids.

Death by paralysis had to be ghastly, but at least the suffering was short-lived, infinitely superior to the endlessly prolonged agony and degradation that modern medicine inflicted on the chronically and terminally ill. He’d had his fill of that in the nursing career he’d abandoned.  

The new affiliation had come as a godsend, and the money wasn’t half bad. But the role they’d cast him in was too limited, too predictable. The powers that be had cautioned him to follow their protocol precisely. No room for creativity or improvisation. He was just a cog in a much larger machine. But that could change with time. If he played by their rules, they promised, the potential for advancement was virtually limitless.

He watched through the scope as Claire climbed off the chaise. She raked her fingers through her hair, daubed at her eyes. He caught a glimpse of her elegant features before she turned and headed for the house. Before long she would probably be at Harriet Gardener’s place. He wished he could join her there, savor her reaction. But that was out of the question. 

He’d called in his report hours ago, and a day of enforced idleness yawned in front of him. All at once he knew how to spend it: he would drive to New York City, pick up some supplies at that discount art supply store in SoHo. Pearl Paint, on Canal Street, near Chinatown. He’d be down and back before nightfall, and if they had a new assignment for him, they could always reach him on his cell.

He decided to buy oil paints. They had a squishy, sensuous feel that was more satisfying than acrylics. Cadmium red light would be perfect for the kayak, and it was good for mixing flesh tones, too. He wanted to do justice to Claire.

Caleb Port Charles promo 

 If you’d like to read more, e-mail me at julielomoe@nycap.rr.com and we can work out the details. I’ll be delighted to inscribe the books to you personally, and who knows – they may be worth more than ten or twelve dollars some day!

Summer was a bummer, but I’m back

It’s the first full day of autumn, an auspicious day for new beginnings, and for better or worse, I’m back on my blog, after a leave of absence that lasted virtually all summer. I’ve been mired in a deep depression that stole over me last May, robbing me of my motivation and self-confidence, convincing me that I no longer had anything worth writing about, much less anything people would care about enough to read. But with the coming of fall, I’ve resolved to write myself out of my doldrums.

Writing is an integral part of my identity, and the notion that my writing years might be behind me severely deepened my depression. I spent far too many beautiful summer days ensconced in my old Lazy Boy recliner, endlessly reading other authors’ novels. For the first time in ages, I bypassed the races at Saratoga.

The sorry state of my parched and weed-infested garden all too accurately mirrors my state of mind. Upstate New York’s been unusually dry this summer, with only half its normal rainfall over the past two months, and my imagination has been suffering a similar drought. In May and June, my posts grew less frequent, more downbeat. Afraid of becoming a Debbie Downer like the Saturday Night Live character, I made a deliberate decision to stop blogging, possibly forever.

I made a mistake. I missed the creative excitement that came with crafting a new post, the cameraderie of the online community, and I came to feel increasingly like a nebbishy nonentity. So I’m jumping back in, hoping it’s not too late.

Charles Burchfield

What brought on this dark night of the soul? Probably a combination of biochemical and psychosocial factors. I’ve written before about my bipolar diagnosis, but it’s been well controlled with medication, and over the past few years, my mood has been amazingly upbeat and sunny. Back in May, in the post titled “Depression – cloudy, cool and drizzly,” I said, “I’m a firm believer in the biochemical nature of manic depression, as some still prefer to call bipolar disorder, and I know medications work.” I had faith in my shrink’s ability to tweak my medications enough to banish my increasingly bleak moods, but I’ve undergone lots of tweaking in the months since then, and nothing seems to work.

What triggered my depression, I’ve come to believe, is an old-fashioned identity crisis. For years I’ve identified myself as a mystery writer, but the success I’ve dreamed of has eluded me. I’m proud of my two self-published novels, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders and Eldercide, but the sales have been less than stellar. I’d hoped that building an online identity through my blog would boost my readership, but I came to realize that impressive blog stats don’t necessarily mean lots of people will buy my books, and my track record isn’t likely to inspire an agent or editor to beat down my door any time soon.   

Even so, I enjoy online schmoozing far more than marketing my books in person. My depression descended soon after a signing at a local independent book store. It was my first straight solo signing ever, with no talk, panel discussion or party to drum up interest. True, I sold a few books, but each sale took painstaking effort in teasing out the themes that would appeal to each reader. For some it was the regional locale, for others an interest in bipolar disorder or end-of-life issues, for still others an interest in mysteries pure and simple. I’m basically an introvert, and the expenditure of energy left me drained and exhausted, with the realization that I’m just not cut out to be a demon marketer. Never was, never will be.

But am I still a mystery writer? At the very least, I’m a woman who has written four mystery novels and published two of them, and that’s something to be proud of, or so I try to convince myself. Will I write another? The verdict’s still out on that one. But one thing’s for sure – I’m still a writer, and I need to write. My life literally depends on it.

Can I write my way out of this depression? Stay tuned to find out. Never fear, I’ll cover other subjects as well, but I plan to post at least twice a week. And if you’ve read this far, please leave a comment – I know my readership has dwindled during this hiatus, but I need to know you’re out there.

Marketing Tips from Larry Thacker

Are there any authors out there who honestly love marketing their books? We all know it’s an absolute necessity, but if you’re anything like me, you find excuses not to do it nearly as much as you should. Larry Thacker, author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, seems genuinely to enjoy it, and he has a lot of great tips I’m passing on today. Larry’s book is chock full of fascinating tales of supernatural sightings in Appalachia. I hope you’ll check it out, and leave comments too.

 THE HOWS AND WHYS OF BEING YOUR OWN MARKETING MANAGER

By Larry Thacker

As you’re already finding out, marketing your book, even when others at the publishing house may also have that responsibility, can be a wonderful and challenging experience. Besides the pleasant anxieties of having to learn – often by teaching yourself – how to be a self-promoter, you have to get quickly comfortable with everything from interviews to tabletop displays, from speaking gigs to press releases. At the end of the day, the only person losing any sleep over who hasn’t heard about your dynamic personality and your world-changing book, however, is you. Whether you like it or not, it’s mostly your job to get that book in the hands of readers. This is a fine arrangement since, of course, no one knows your material better than you, no one can give that twenty second blurb about your work better, and no one should be more excited about what your book has to say to the world. In other words, you are your best marketer.

Unfortunately, most of us authors are not marketing managers. Most of us don’t have MBAs and wouldn’t know a viable marketing plan if one crashed from the sky and split our signing table in half. In fact, depending on our personalities, self-promotion may be quite an uncomfortable expectation. Your silent attitude might be, I’m an author not a marketing manager, but if you want to get your book and message out, get used to it.

If you’re not quite comfortable yet with the salesperson role in this endless sea of struggling authors, perhaps thinking about your work as a message will make it taste better while you wait on that next curious-looking, but only window shopping book buyer. Your book, no matter what the genre, is your message; a message about something important that you are passionate about. People need to hear what you have to say, don’t they? When I’m most frustrated, reminding myself of the purpose of my work re-energizes me.       

We have to eventually realize there are no days off. Like most of our day jobs, work stays at work when we go home. Not so with writing. We are author’s 24-hours a day. People will approach you all the time about your book. They’re interested. And though you might not be in your best mood and may be tired of parroting your same spiel a thousand times, you must approach the conversation like it was your first ever. Being ready for those out-of-the-ordinary situations is a must. Expected opportunities can sometimes disappoint, while unexpected opportunities can be fruitful. Your constant awareness will bring opportunity. I promise. 

New authors often associate “promotion” with the romance of book signings. That’s what popular culture has shown us as the writer’s public life. I’ve had mixed experiences with these and have determined that book signings alone don’t accomplish much. Unless you’re a huge name that draws lines before the store opens, sitting behind a table at a signing on a slow day will most likely frustrate and discourage you, perhaps even make you wonder why you bothered pouring your life into such a project in the first place (we have such delicate egos, do we not?) But sitting alone waiting for a “bite” offers a lot of self-reflection. Finish that doodling and make good with your time.  

Here are a few suggestions for marketing your work:

Speak first, then sign: Book signings by themselves? Not so great. Book signings AFTER a presentation? Guaranteed better results. In these difficult economic days, people are more apt to purchase after they’ve been drawn into your unquenchable enthusiasm and convinced they have to be reading your book before the night ends. Other means of getting your word out before you sign can be press releases, radio and television interviews, and classroom presentations. If you can’t talk first, have a table with several authors. A crowd draws interest.

Holidays: Figure out what popular holidays mesh with your topic and plan for presentations and events during the two weeks leading up to the holiday. Additionally, that familiar crazed look in shoppers’ eyes the week before Christmas says, “Get out of my way! I need something unique and I need it now!” Be that unique item. Get yourself a visible table at the entrance of your local bookstore and watch that stack of books melt away. I once sold twenty books in two hours like this.

Speakers Bureaus: Get on a speakers circuit. Though your talk may only be vaguely connected with your book topic, that can lead to other talks and additional interest in your writing work. For instance, I am a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. One of my presentations is closely related to my book, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. You can bet I’ll have copies of my book there post-speech.   

First impressions: Have more on your table than just your book and an eager autograph pen. My publisher has been great at providing stacks of slick bookmarks and promotional postcards covered with reviews and quotes. I display these in a nice twisted antique basket that fits the mood of my book. Whether they buy or not, give them a business card or a bookmark. Send them away with a reminder.

 Search out your book: Always search for your books at whatever store you’re in. If you can’t find any, approach a manager and ask where you might find your book. If they’re not carrying them, offer some promotional material and ask them to consider making an order. 

Autograph your books: When you do find your books on the shelves, gather them up and take them to the counter and ask – with an assuming attitude – if you can autograph them. Autographed books sell faster. They’ll more than likely have “signed by the author” stickers as well. If they’re low, suggest they reorder.

Your own website: Nothing is more frustrating when someone wanting to buy your book finds the publisher’s website down. Not everyone wants to purchase through Amazon and the like. Even if it’s a single page, have your own just in case. Include ordering information, reviews, blurbs, important links, past and upcoming events. Make it eye catching, professional, and update it regularly. 

The trunk: Consider the trunk of your car as your mobile sales office. Have copies at all times. Be able to put a copy in anyone’s hand whenever the opportunity presents itself. And be flexible on the price! Selling it for a little less might make the sell. Hopefully they’ll talk.

A second book: Be working on a second book. Or a third. Or a fourth. I’ve been asked many times when “the next book” is coming out by satisfied readers of the first. Having two or more published books on your table will lead to additional sales. If your second work isn’t out yet, have examples of your other types of writing to show you’re not a “one hit wonder.”

Enjoy yourself: Above all, have a good time introducing the world to your writing! The moment it’s no longer fun, re-evaluate what you’re doing. It should be more fun than work. 

Larry Thacker is author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia (now in its second printing, 2007, published by The Overmountain Press, www.overmountainpress.com). He is a frequent speaker and a published columnist, a blogger for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, non-fiction writer and poet. He is editor of the on-line Roadkill Zen Journal (www.roadkillzen.net). A seventh-generation Cumberland Gap area native, Larry serves as Director of Student Success and Career Planning at his alma mater, Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.

 

Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Symposiuim – a networking bonanza

“How was your trip? I know you had to catch an early train.” That’s how Margery Flax of Mystery Writers of America greeted me at the registration table for the Edgar Symposium. That could mean only one thing – she’d read my blog the day before. Yes, the post in which I’d expressed ambivalence about whether I should be going at all.

Margery’s the Administrative Manager for the MWA, and she uses a Google search to bring up new references to the MWA. I felt instantly validated, and the feeling continued throughout the day as people I’d never met in person scrutinized my name tag and said “I know you from somewhere.” We then played the traditional game with an internet twist – “Oh, I know you from CrimeSpace.” Or the Yahoo groups for Sisters in Crime or Murder Must Advertise or maybe the Poisoned Pen Web Con.

I’ve been busy building my brand online for the past year, and it was good to know my name actually has some recognition value, even though I haven’t yet hit the big time with my books. Actually I’ve been paying my dues – and my conference registration fees – for several years now. I was thrilled when I handed Laura Lippman my brand-new bookmark, she read the title Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders and said “I remember your talking about this book at Malice Domestic a couple of years ago.”

I told her I’d gone the self-publishing route and explained I wouldn’t be going to Malice this year because they no longer recognize nontraditionally published writers as “authors.”  We chatted about the pros and cons of this issue and she urged me to publish my work on Kindle ASAP.

At the Baltimore Bouchercon in 2008, Laura raffled off a bottle of red wine from South Africa called “Herding Cats” with a label featuring two gorgeous leopards. I won it, and on Wednesday I told her I love the bottle so much that it was still sitting unopened on my kitchen counter. She told me it actually isn’t a very good wine, so it’s no great loss if I never get around to drinking it.

This was only one of many friendly encounters on a day that kicked off with Donald Maass’s condensed workshop on “Writing the Breakout Mystery” and ended with the traditional Agents and Editors party. We authors had name tags bordered in red. Agents had green, editors and publishers blue. Fortified by a glass of Pinot Grigio, I bravely made the rounds and introduced myself to as many green- and blue-tagged folks as possible. I hadn’t rehearsed a pitch, but I had my bookmarks conveniently stashed in my handbag so that I could instantly whip them out.

The bookmarks proved excellent ice breakers, and I told people that although I’d self-published two books, I was still hoping to land a good agent or publisher when the time felt right. And they definitely perked up when I discussed my success as a blogger. I came away with a pocketful of business cards from agents and editors open to future contact. When I arrived home and showed them to my husband, he said, “Great – now what are you going to do with them?’ In other words, I shouldn’t just stash them away in a bottom drawer and forget about them. He knows me all too well.

I chatted with other authors on the prowl, and some who were more stationary. One man had parked himself at one of the high circular tables, saying, “If I station myself right here, I figure all the agents will have to pass by eventually.” And so they did – pass him by, that is.

So what did I do right, and what would I advise for others?

  • Work the room – with a little alcoholic lubrication if necessary.
  • Get and use bookmarks – they’re a great icebreaker and time saver.
  • Talk about your books but maybe more important, about what you can bring to the table in terms of promotion, for example blogging and social networking skills.
  • Ask for business cards and an agreement that it’s okay to contact the people you meet – then do it!

All in all, it was a rewarding day. In upcoming posts, I’ll report on the Q&A with Lee Child and Laura Lippman, and on Donald Maass’ workshop and why my novel Eldercide could be a breakout mystery.

Am I a patient here? My mysterious ophthalmological morning

Alex Katz

Tomorrow’s the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Week Symposium in New York City. I sent in my check back in February, especially because the cocktail party that follows the day of talks and panels is limited in size, and I wanted to be sure to snag myself a reservation in plenty of time.

I’m ambivalent about going, though. If my check hadn’t already cleared, I might stay home. Instead, I’m psyching myself up to catch the Amtrak train at 5:10 am so as to make it there in time for Donald Maass’s opening talk on “Writing the Breakout Novel.” I’ve got brand-new bookmarks to pass out, but I’m ambivalent about those as well. Iconix did an excellent job and carried out my instructions exactly, but they turned out a tad busier and more lurid than I’d hoped. Oh well, live and learn.

With two self-published novels, I haven’t exactly “broken out,” but maybe Mr. Maass will inspire me to take it to the next level. Then there’s that cocktail party with the bountiful hors d’oeuvres, the open bar, and the agents and editors wearing specially colored name tags so the authors can more knowledgeably accost them. By then I hope I’ll be feeling more jazzed and sociable than I am right now.

This morning threw me badly off my stride. When I showed up for my 9:30 appointment for an ophthalmology checkup at the office I swore I’d been to before, the receptionist said they had no record of my appointment. The office looked strangely different as well.

(Note: the following saga is tangential to the topics I usually blog about, but I feel the need to vent. In case you prefer to skip the rest of the post, this is a reasonable place to stop.) Continue reading