Thursday, May 09, 2013

Malice and Me

I just returned home to Arizona after attending my first Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, MD. It was wonderful. It was exhausting. It was expensive. It was worth it. It was enlightening (reference Barbara's post below). I was overjoyed to meet my friends face to face, as well as some of my fellow Poisoned Pen Press authors and my fellow Type M blog mates. I shared a room and quite a bit of philosophy with Charlotte, met Barbara and Frankie for the first time in the flesh. I reconnected with my favorite traveling companion and ex-Type M-er Vicki Delany. Hannah and I had dinner with this year's Amelia Award winner, our beloved Carolyn Hart, author JoAnna Carl, and friends.

When my first book was published in 2005, I spent my entire advance and the tens of dollars I made in royalties on mailings, and doing signings and book tours. It’s difficult when you start a writing career to know what the most effective things are to do to gain attention for your books. I was advised to concentrate on a narrower audience until I was better known, which I have done, and it has served me well. But I began to wonder if the law of diminishing returns was kicking in. It occurred to me that I’d be better served to do fewer signings and start concentrating on attending the big writing conferences. That way I’d get to know some of the other mystery writers around the country, and maybe get some real world advice and a little bit wider exposure.

So I attended Bouchercon and a few other conferences, and discovered quickly that no matter whether or not attending conferences is good for your career, it is absolutely good for your soul to be around other writers. You discover that even the rich and famous suffer the same insecurities as we not-so-rich-and-famous.

I just finished my latest barely under the deadline and I'm exhausted. I don't know if I'll ever be able to write again. I'm stuck and have no idea how to get unstuck. This last book turned out great but I don't know how I did it.

One of the best things of all about attending conferences, in my humble opinion, is that I discover that people actually read my books. Now, I live in Arizona, which is a long way from Bethesda, MD. But I had three or four people actually come up to me and say they liked my series. One woman went out of her way to tell me she had found one of the books in the Richmond, VA, library and ended up reading the whole series. That was practically worth the trip.

I did get to participate on a panel--mine was entitled "A Little Education on the Side", which had to do with writing about social issues in fiction. Why the organizers put me on that one I'm not sure. Probably because my last book, The Wrong Hill to Die On, dealt with Arizona/Mexico border issues in 1916, and as we all know, things never change.

So if you are wondering whether to take the time and go to the expense of attending a large mystery conference, I would recommend it if you can manage it. If you are a mystery reader, you'll get to meet your favorite authors. If you are a mystery writer, published or pre-published, it's essential to rub shoulders with your peers occasionally. After all, we writers don't get out of the house much.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Piffle! I just missed the chance to be with two of my favorite authors, Charlotte and Donis. Shoulda gone to Malice. Darn me!

Donis Casey said...

Next year the Guest of Honor is Margaret Maron and the toastmaster is Earlene Fowler. That makes it worth the day-long trek to get there from here. Maybe I'll see you there, Irene.

Meg said...

I found my first Malice to be friendly and enlightening - agree about finding kindred souls. :-) I am definitely returning next year. Great photos!

Donis Casey said...

Hey, Meg! See, you do meet the best people there.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

I agree. Attending conferences is worth the time and expense. I'm always energized and inspired to get down to work when I spend time with other writers and readers. Great seeing my Type M colleagues at Malice.

Connie Archer said...

This was my first Malice. Exhausting, but I had a terrific time, and met so many wonderful people!