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The last panel of Killer Nashville wrapped up with The SARTEC K-9 Unit. Amazing experience to hear these people speak and meet their partners (who are also their personal pets).
Some highlights from the panel:
- Their dogs are trained to find people–alive or dead and will ignore deers and snakes
- The search coordinator works with the dogs and their handlers and oversees the group
- Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Human beings stink to them.
- It is hard to scent block, you would need to overload the senses of the dog.
- If you bathe, you may kill the scent on you, but a dog can still find you pretty fast.
- The process for a K-9 unit being brought in: 1) The police or fire department must call the unit in after they have been on the scene. 2) The coordinator puts out calls and emails to see which volunteers can help. Based on the specific problem (cadaver search vs. living person or water vs. air scent), the dogs will be assigned to the scene. 3) The coordinator will liase with the PD/ fire dept/rescue squad and fills the unit in on what they need to do. 4) If the search is long going, the owner will rehab the dog.
- There is no one breed that is best for this, but long noses generally have the best sense of smell. Pugs however can’t smell as well because of their short nose.
- Bloodhounds are great at tracking and trailing where someone has been. (Have 10,000x better sense of smell than shepherd)
- Shepherds are good at figuring out where the person is now. (Have 10,000 x better sense of smell than human)
- The longest a dog can stay in the field is 12 hours.
- Dogs sweat via the pads on their feet and their tongue–handlers must beware of hot pavement.
- When it’s hot, scent gets light and rises, when it’s cold out the scent stays toward the ground
- A cadaver trained dog will dig up a grave–any grave–once found a Civil War grave at a State Park.
- Searches are sometimes scent specific, meaning that the dog is given the odor via a piece of clothing. But if the item was worn by another it can confuse the dog because the item may have multiple scents.
- Best thing to give a searcher is a pillow case–very specific to that person
- All handlers and dogs need to rehab. They go back to base where they interview with the incident man sit & eat, drink water, and are watched for dehydration. Only then can they go on the next call. Rehab generally lasts 2-4 hours.
- Cigarette smoke can kill a dog’s sense of smell for an hour.
- If a child is relocated into a car and taken away, cars are not airtight so the scent will come out of the car as it is driven away.
They also gave us a demonstration of what a dog does during a search by having a person hide in the room and bringing the dog in to find her. It took the dog less than a minute and she sat and barked beside the hiding person. Very cool.
These people really knew their stuff and were very generous to share their time and expertise with us. What a wonderful way to end the conference!
A dear friend of mine has opened a new store on Etsy--Mala Handmade. This was a labor of love. I know because as I struggled with my novels, she debated whether or not to turn her love of jewelry making into something more. As much as she encouraged me to pursue my dreams, I did the same. And after months of work, Mala Handmade was born!
Before the website was up, I bought four of her pieces. Three bracelets and a necklace. Each piece is made with such attention to detail and the finest stones and materials available. Instead of merely stringing peridot stones on a bracelet, she created a pattern of accents that are both eye-catching and one-of-a-kind. She is extremely talented. Her pieces are versatile too and can be a part of your everyday wear or saved for a special occasion. Each piece is infused with her style–think Bollywood meets Vogue.
One of my favorite things is to layer the bracelets. They look so elegant and fabulous together.
The prices might feel like a bit of a splurge, but once you take into account that she uses the best materials (everything is made with genuine stones not glass beads and that she uses silver and gold metals) and hand makes each piece herself, you realize you are buying a showpiece not just an accessory.
Here’s my second to last installment from Killer Nashville and in my mind the most important. Why? Because I stunk at writing query letters until this conference. And C.J. Redwine’s workshop was a big part of turning that around.
Ms. Redwine is an electrifying public speaker, who immediately captures the audience’s attention and keeps them engaged, making an hour fly by.
She opened with an honest explanation of how she got into teaching this workshop–her first two years of querying sucked. She struggled with putting 90K words into 1 page–it all sounded state and boring. Draft after draft of her query was sent out and rejected.
Unfortunately revising only made it worse. She didn’t know what to do. (Sounds terribly familiar doesn’t it?)
She submitted her query to the Janet Reid Query Shark blog and it got ripped apart for being stale/boring and synopsis like. Ms. Redwine threw out everything and read the back of a book cover. She made her query sound that way. She resubmitted to Query Shark and 4 hours later Janet Reid requested the manuscript. This was the turning point for her and soon after she queried more agents and got her agent.
After everything she went through, she understands how frustrating the query writing process is and how hard that elusive breakthrough can be. She has a comprehensive online workshop run once a month which teaches what a query letter is, the dos and don’ts and how to write an effective query letter.
Golden Rule: Books sell on concept and hook, not on deluge of information.The query has to make the agent worry and wonder just like the back of a book cover.She is a master at helping you sift through all the extraneous information to get to the heart of your concept.
A query is not about showcasing your writing ability. Being a great manuscript writer, does not mean you can write a killer query. They are two different writing skillsets.
- Addressing agent correctly
- When emailing queries always sent to one agent at a time–Never cc
- Only send what agent wants to see based on their guidelines (shows you can follow directions and meet expectations)
- Write a hook that makes you want to read book
- Include 1 paragraph of stats (writing creds if any, memberships in national writing organizations)
- Use the proper business format
- With e-queries send it to yourself to make sure formatting is okay after pasting into email from Word doc.
- You want the query to stand out–but not because you use scented paper or include a gift. Focus on your hook
- Remain professional at all times. Thank agent or stay silent when get a rejection email. Keep in mind you will be googled so check that your web presence is professional
- Generally 8-10 queries at a time in manageable. Keep track of it all in a spreadsheet. Don’t re-query same agent
- Query 1 book at a time
- Never ever reference rejection letters in query
- Don’t pitch an incomplete manuscript
- Do not say you are the next J.K. Rowling or better than what on the market now
- Don’t say your book is life changing/important
- Don’t dare the agent to take you on
- Avoid rhetorical questions
- Avoid cliches
In terms of a web presence, a blog is free to have, but you must maintain it. Having a presence on Facebook and/or Twitter is useful. A website is great, if you can afford it, but content has to be updated.
The query is composed of 3 parts:
- Salutation–Get agent gender correct.
- Hook–concept of book–NOT A SYNOPSIS. Introduce main character, give glimpse of their personality, introduce antagonist, and tell what the stakes are and key conflict is.
- Stats–Title. genre, word count (approximate) in one sentence. List any publishing credentials. Membership in national writer’s associations. Reason why query agent.
During the second hour of her panel she went on the critique several audience query letters. It was a great experience to hear what was and wasn’t working. I think everyone in the room benefited from it. I know I certainly did.
I hope this summary helped, though it is a poor substitute for the actual workshop. It’s one thing to read about it, another to be there participating and her on-line workshop is far more in depth than the condensed version at the conference.
So after a long delay, here’s another post about a panel at Killer Nashville. There were so many great panels, it was hard to choose which to attend and then which to blog about. Anyway, since genre was my biggest stumbling block and I now know I write YA mysteries, I thought I’d give some highlights from this panel. The panel included Marlis Day, Bonnie Doerr, Earl Fisher, Linda Fisher, and Jessica Verday. The discussion leader was Joseph Terrell.
Question: What are the key elements of YA novels?
- The main character of must be a young adult (age 10-18)
- The parents are usually not around in the book
- Focus on teen objectives such as: boys, school, what to wear, etc. (They don’t worry about paying the rent)
- Protagonist usually gets no help from adults
- Protagonist may struggle to define where they fit in and their own morals
- Protagonist has to solve things
Q: What is the subject matter that can be covered in YA?
- Less and less is off limits, but stay sensitive to your readers age group (tween vs. late teen)
- Depends on publisher
- Keep in mind that edgy books can be banned by school libraries
Q: How do you develop a character?
- Mystery is all plot. It has to move fast to grab the YA audience too
- Explore background and motivation in subplots
- Characterization can also flow from plot
- Use of senses is important in how the characters define themselves (For example, a perfumer sees a flower and thinks what can I make from it. A painter thinks can I capture it in a painting.)
- Setting is important because characters are products of where they are from
- Sometimes characters can make their own plot
- You have to like characters or love to hate the characters. They must inspire emotions that keep you turning the page.
Other highlights include:
- The importance of cliffhangers in chapters
- Kids read to explore the things they cannot do. So show them that world–the good and the bad.
I started reading Bente Gallagher’s novel, A Cutthroat Business, after meeting her at Killer Nashville. She’s a totally cool person and her book intrigued me from what she mentioned during her panel about blending romance and mystery. Then I read the blurbs and had to buy it.
It made my flight back from San Diego fly by. I fell in love with her protagonist, Savannah Martin, a southern belle who did everything right but ended up divorced and cash strapped. So she starts out in the real estate business.
Ms. Gallagher does a great job here of giving just enough detail to make it realistic without inundating the reader with realtor lingo. She made me interested in real estate. I think that is the mark of a great author, when they make you curious about the career they give their protagonist.
Anyway, in Savannah, you have a likeable heroine who’s got her quirks and flaws, but I immediately signed up to see where the story went because of her. There is amazing voice from page one. I tend to favor protagonists with a sense of humor and Savannah definitely has that too.
Rafe Collier is the bad boy that Savannah gets embroiled with because of the murder at a listing she was showing him. He’s dreamy to read and their chemistry is undeniable. The supporting characters are also well crafted and you get a vivid image of the other realtors and Savannah’s family.
The writing is top notch. A fun read, great pacing, and snappy dialogue.
So onto the plot–really well thought out, I had no idea who the killer was, and I loved following Savannah and Rafe as they looked into things and tried to put the pieces together.
The book is set in Nashville, which I enjoyed after seeing a bit of the city during my time at Killer Nashville. I confess, being a northerner, I do love books set in the south.
I had 100 pages left last night and I couldn’t put the book down. Seriously, I was up until 3:10 AM finishing it. I won’t spoil the ending but I will say it was highly satisfying. Now I’m dying for the next Savannah Martin Mystery.
The blurbs on the book are completely true! If you only have time to read a few mysteries this Fall, add A Cutthroat Business to your list.
This is a great travel read. I was headed to Killer Nashville on a tiny 80 seat plane and it made the flight fly by. I was looking for a distraction that wouldn’t tax my mind and a fun read. I found it here!
Let me start by confessing, I’ve been addicted to romance novels since I was a tween. So I am very partial to the genre.
Still I applaud Katheryne Kennedy‘s My Unfair Lady for its twist on the My Fair Lady/Pygmalion plot. Ms. Kennedy creates a quirky, engaging, lovable protagonist in Summer Wine Lee, a “frontier bred” noveau riche. Without spoiling the book (god I hate when people do that), she’s got the coolest collection of pets, a true bff, and a new spin on the spunky heroine.
The antagonist–The Duke of Monchester–is a total blue blood, but for the fact that he had a title and zero income. The writing is easy to read and the dialogue well written.
I polished this off during the first day of the conference. In my room, mind you, not while attending a session–way too much good info to absorb then. All in all, a great escape that left me smiling. Nice moral to the story too.
Thanks Ms. Kennedy!
So I was like oh no another teen movie when I first saw the previews. BUT OL loved the lead actress’s slight speech impediment and wanted to see it. As I caught a few more commercials for it, I decided it might be better than most teen movies.
OMG, I was so right! Emma Stone is phenomenal. Easy A is worth a trip to the movie theater. The parents were great supporting characters. Quirky and sarcastic they were the perfect foil for the main character, Olive Pendergast.
Seriously, if you are going to see one teen movie this fall, this is it. Total bang for your buck thing.
Amanda Byrnes rocks as the bible-thumping ringleader of the group that Olive has to deal with after word spreads about her “exploits.” Lisa Kudrow is great as the guidance counselor from hell.
I was really excited to visit the Neue Galerie on 86th and Fifth Ave. It’s a gallery of Austrian and German Art. I loved the museums of Vienna so I thought this would be a fun thing to do.
Wrong. It’s 15$ to visit 2 floors. That’s a pretty high cost. But if it was chock full of art, I’d say it was worth it. Instead, I was treated to 2 dozen sculptures of facial expressions on one floor, a room of sketches, a room of paintings, and a room of furniture and furnishings. And by furnishings, I mean ikea-looking silverware, coffee pots, and crystal glasses.
To top it off, as I am walking around the ugly expression sculptures, the museum guard comes up to me and tells me that it is museum policy that I not drape my sweater over my arm and I must either wear it or tie it around my waist. I’ve heard of museum policy to check umbrellas and large bags but never to force patrons to wear their clothing in a certain manner. Plus, I was warm so his options were ridiculous. I dumped the sweater in my large handbag. At that moment, I realized I hated this museum.
I had zero interest in the bookstore because who wants a memento of this experience? I wanted to try Cafe Sabarsky, but the line was out the door. So we left and headed to Blaue Gans to salvage the afternoon.
I hate saying goodbye. Doesn’t matter if it’s a person, a place, a time period, a job, whatever, it bothers me to have something end and lose it. So even though I am committed to leaving NYC at the end of the month it bothers me to see all these boxes everywhere. To see a life in the process of being packed up and moved. OL has been so generous in helping me pack and moving boxes and furniture. I don’t think I could have done this without him.
But he is returning to Europe on Saturday and then it will be me on my own again. Having to say goodbye and wrap up things here by myself. So for our last week together in New York, we went to the Empire State Building. He’d never been and although we dreaded the crowds we braved it. On Tuesday at 2:40pm. No line to get in. A five minute wait to ride up to the 86th floor. And then bam we were there. OL took the pics and I pointed out all the buildings.
We made a loop around and I asked if he was ready to go. He said one of those brilliantly insightful things he’s known to say. “Are you done saying goodbye?”
And I realized that was what I was doing. Without realizing it, I was looking out at all the buildings I’d come to know over the years and say goodbye to the city. To the memories. To who I was and what this place meant to me. So we did another loop around. And I focused on saying goodbye.
Here’s some of what we saw…
My first apartment in the city (east side)
Our next day consisted of a 8+ hour drive back to San Diego. Tough day. We started off well leaving the lovely Mammoth Lakes and stopping in Lone Pine at an awesome rock store. Made several purchases there. But we made the mistake of not eating and then faced hours on the 15 with nothing edible around. Ouch. When we hit San Bernadino the move from one lane highway to 6 lanes threw me. It was a bit intense. I wanted to get through there before we tried to eat. BIGGER Mistake.
We ended up stuck with a Carl’s Jr. Not my idea of a good lunch. Then we got back in the car and headed south. Except all of a sudden a cop car comes on the freeway weaving back and forth with his lights on. Everyone slows down and comes to a stop. I’ve never seen this before. They were still clearing an accident from the freeway. So we all come to a stand still and await instructions. The rest of the ride toward San Diego was uneventful. Except for me wanting to pass out at Mira Mesa. Weirdly enough, a day packed full of driving (for a non-driving city girl like me) does me in. WE broke for a half hour or so and then drove to downtown San Diego.
To the Westin on Columbia and Broadway. The worst Westin I’ve ever stayed at. I’m talking Holiday Inn experience with a Westin price tag. First off, the pool is closed. WTF?! I booked the hotel for the pool. And it’s being resurfaced. But wait, they say I can walk 4 blocks to another Westin and swim there. Why would I want that inconvenience?! I can go swim in the ocean too. Our room was tiny. The valet was 32 and change per day. And our last night, there was a beerfest outside that was so loud I felt like I was in a college dorm. And it was scheduled to go to 12AM. My calls to complain were ignored. Finally, a manager called and offered to switch our room. That allowed us to get 5 hours of sleep before our 5 am wake up for a 7:50 flight out to NYC.
But our last day in San Diego, OL was great. We went to Old Town and Torrey Pines Beach.
Sometimes it’s nice to wander into the past, especially when you bring someone from the present along.