You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘crimebake’ tag.
Today is the first guest blog ever by my amazing friend and fellow author, Nora LeDuc. I met Nora at the Backspace Conference last May. She went out of her way to help me work out some of the issues in my story, becoming a close writing friend.
When we met up at Crimebake, I found out she attended workshops I didn’t, so I asked her to share some of what she learned here on my blog. Nora, being one of the nicest people I’ve ever known who also writes a great mystery, agreed.
Guest Blog from Crimebake Conference Workshop
By Nora LeDuc
Last week at the Crimebake, I had the opportunity to attend the Master Class: How to talk about Your Book on the Radio and Create a Podcast by Jordan Rich. For those of you unfamiliar with Jordan he is the host of “The Jordan Rich Show” on WBZ News Radio broadcast from Boston. I can guarantee if you turn on his nightly show, you won’t fall asleep. First the man’s voice is the kind radios producers dream about. Second, the man does his homework and researches his guests to ask intelligent answers.
Jordan’s first piece of advice for us was to do your homework. If you’re planning an interview at a particular station, go to their website; know your host and the format. Ask questions. Will the show be taped or is it live? How long will I speak? Will I take phone calls etc?
Mr. Rich suggested you be prepared and don’t ask your listeners for questions. Plan some topics and questions you’d like to discuss. Your homework will always pay off. Be sure to ask about the parameters of the show.
Can you mention where to buy your book? Sometimes nonprofit shows cannot advertise. If you can mention where your book is selling, try to reintroduce it after 2 to 3 minutes. Jordan himself follows this format. He’ll reintroduce his author guests and where to pick up a copy of their latest release. A good reason for this strategy is that the radio audience changes during the show.
Other important hints for guests included: be aware you will need to wear earphones, should take off jewelry and remember, don’t pound on the table to make a point. Use good posture and keep the mike 3 to 5 inches from your mouth. Tell stories. The audience loves them.
If you’re interested in podcasting from your computer don’t use a cell phone. Jordan noted that phones are worse today than years ago because of the cell phone. Dropped calls result in more lost guests than any other problem when you’re podcasting. He also advised against using a head set. He offered us the names of decent microphones and a brief step by step guide to getting started.
His last piece of advice for us novices was, be enthusiastic. I can say our speaker certainly was a great model for enthusiasm. Thanks, Jordan.
Crimebake saved one of the best panels for last. A detective, whose group specializes in blood spatter analysis, walked us through some of what his job entails, including a couple examples of crime scenes and how to examine the blood spatter evidence. His group examines the crime scene for physical evidence, latent fingerprints, bloodstain patterns and footwear/tire tracks.
Here are some of the highlights of his presentation:
- During a homicide when it gets down to the actual act, most people do not anticipate what will happen and that is where they make their mistakes
- Whenever you see teardrop-shaped blood dripping from knife–that is unrealistic. Blood forms a sphere when it pulls away from the knife
- THE SMALLER THE BLOOD STAIN, THE CLOSER TO THE SOURCE
- Bloodstain pattern analysis is one component of a crime scene reconstruction
- Things can mimic things. It is important to make sure an artery was breached on victim before attributing blood on walls to an arterial spurt
- Many things can affect spatter such as layers of clothes, weight of victim, etc.
- Blood spatter is like a water balloon, the harder you hit something, the smaller the stain. Smaller drop moves faster than a large one
- Bloodstains have been studied since the late 1800s but crime scene blood pattern analysis developed in the 1970s
- Blood is a fluid and the circulatory system is pressurized. When there is a breach of the circulatory system on a live person there will be different results than on a dead person because the pressure has dropped inside the dead person’s circulatory system
- There is an adhesive quality to blood
- There are four stages to a drop of blood hitting a surface:
- Blood always dries from the outside in
- The length of time varies depending on the temperature, the humidity, and many other factors
- Diameter of blood stain increases with the height you drop the blood from
- The bigger the surface area, the more blood wells up before it breaks away
- There is a certain height at which terminal velocity will hit
- Sometimes suspects have wounded hands because their hand slid down knife and this will cause their blood to drip onto victim
- Skin is a rough surface and gets spatter on it
- Directionality is important in bloodstains
- Tail of bloodstain points to where the blood came from
- Blood travels in parabolic arc
- Smaller stains go the least distance because of air resistance and gravity
- Killer tends to forget to wash high and low and leaves blood stains
- The flow pattern follows the path of least resistance
- Vacoules are the little air bubbles in blood
- Castoffs occur when the weapon is pulled back and forth and the blood comes off
- Tiny amounts of spatter on shoe means the person was close to the scene
- Gunshot have a back and forward spatter
- If the bullet doesn’t exit, there is a larger back spatter
- Diluted blood stains in kitchen and bathroom point to the killer cleaning up when the person may still be alive and calling for help which is considered cruel and unusual punishment
- Absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence
A great way to wrap up Crimebake! Thanks to the organizers and everyone who participated in the panels. You made it a conference to remember.
We watched one of Charlaine’s favorite episodes of TrueBlood with her (I Will Rise Up from Season 2) and had a Q&A about it on Friday night. Then Saturday there was a Q&A with her during lunch hosted by the Crimebake Co-chairs, Pat Remick and Margaret McLean (pictured above). These were such amazing events, I thought I’d share my notes from the Lunch Q&A.
- Sookie was a grandma’s best friend’s name and is a nickname for Susan or sister.
- Her advice to aspiring authors:
- Rejection hurts and you do take it personally
- Write the best book you can write
- Research agents you send to so you find the right person
- Check the agent’s website before you send a query
- Don’t send your book out until it is ready
- How to determine it’s ready: reach point where you know it’s mature, you put your best effort into it, and you let it go
- Find a peer to read it and give opinion
- The writing process is always hards
- Starts with crying even when writing a long time
- Have a writing routine. Go to work everyday. She works from 8-12, breaks for lunch, and writes from 1-3:30.
- The more successful you are the more demands on your time
- The business of being a writer takes up more and more of your time
- There are times she laughs out loud when reading her books
- Sex scenes are hard to write because she wants them to be good
- One time a fan told her she liked to re-enact the scenes from the book with her boyfriend!
- Experts like to be asked about what they are experts in. For example, a funeral home guy loved to tell her all about his job
- If she could write any book it would be Jurassic Park
- Her beta readers are Toni Kelner and Dana Cameron.
- She had never had a writing critique group
- How has being famous has changed her life? The money increased but brought along responsibilities, it’s nice to be recognized, and it’s been good for her kids
- Her writing process is more of a pantser.
- She edits as she goes and writes 4-8 pages a day.
- Each day she starts by reviewing what she wrote the day before and changes things as she goes.
- She doesn’t write an outline
- She edits as she goes and writes 4-8 pages a day.
- It took 2 years for Dead Until Dark to be picked up. She didn’t write other books in series. She wrote other books she was already contracted to write
- She was turned down very harshly. Her agent didn’t like Dead Until Dark. But her friend Dean at Murder by the Book loved it and gave it stamp of approval. It was enough to keep her agent working on selling it.
- She’s edited several anthologies and highly recommends editing other people’s work
- Her books are published in 25 countries
- France had translation issues where they took out the sex scenes and any mention of menstruation. Readers were very upset and publisher had to retranslate and include those scenes
- She keeps all her foreign rights
- She and her editor have vision for the books–they’ve had intense discussions but never had a huge blowout
- Harper Connelly series was optioned by CBS and a pilot show is being taped–Hope they pick it up!
- She is contracted for two more Sookie Stackhouse books and might write a third, but she wants to end the series while it is still good. The readers deserve nothing but her best :)
I also had Charlaine sign a few books. She is the most gracious author I’ve ever met. For me this was the equivalent of meeting the biggest hollywood movie star. Her books inspired my writing and I go back to them constantly as a reference tool on how to write great scenes and characters. Here’s a picture of us from the Vampire Ball!
Most people would rather leap off this rock than pitch face-to-face with an agent. My huge fear of heights, however, does not make me one of them.
Since I signed up for an agent pitch at Crimebake, I also signed up for the seminar on pitching. It was extremely helpful. There was an overview of pitching with handouts conducted by Lynne Heitman and Paula Munier.
Here are some of the key points:
- 50 word opening pitch including:
- word count
- type of book
- unique selling point
Titles can be based on: objects of desire, action, one liners, setting, twist on a poem, song, book, or cliché, theme, symbolism, or character.
With wordcount read agent blogs and do Google searches to make sure your wordcount is inline with industry standards.
For type of genre, research the conventional genre names.
The unique selling point is what differentiates your book from every other book. It can be:
- High-concept premise
- Unique setting
- Unique characters
- Unique voice
- Author credentials
During the rest of the session, an agent sat at each table and helped the author’s hone their pitches for the next day. We had Ellen Pepus whose insightful comments helped get my pitch in shape.
The pitch should tell what the story is about and what makes it marketable. The thing mine lacked was specificity. Ellen also stressed the need to be colorful and catchy.
There are great resources on the web about pitching–some of which I list in my blogroll. My favorite is this Nathan Bransford’s blog on pitching.
I also had a manuscript critique done by Kate Flora. She raised many good points. Having digested them, I’m working on serious revisions again. Manuscript critiques with published authors are offered at most conferences and are a golden opportunity to get critical feedback. I recommend getting one if you can. Take lots of notes and give yourself a few days to process it all. Several points that Kate pointed out were also mentioned by a couple beta readers. Whenever 3-5 people point out a similar issue/concern, I know there’s a problem and I have to figure out how to fix it.
Crimebake was a huge learning experience and I can feel my manuscript improving because of all the amazing people I met who shared their knowledge with me.
The second workshop I attended at Crimebake on Friday night was called Techniques for Using Humor in Mystery and our speaker was Toni L.P. Kelner. Humor tends to seep into my writing, so I knew this was a must-attend workshop.
She started by talking about the different ways humor can be incorporated into a mystery:
- Crazy capers
Mysteries can be funny throughout or simply have a smart aleck character. There can be humorous moments to allow the reader to catch their breath. It also makes it easier to ratchet up the suspense. When building tension you can use humor before inserting a clue so that you are hiding information in plain sight.
There can also be humor in the setting. Keep in mind that everything in the story should be doing something. Don’t insert humor unless it performs a function for the story. Humor must pull double duty such as exposition or catching your breath between tense scenes.
Humor can be risky because no one loves the same humor. You also run the risk of losing a reader. There is no margin of error for humor. Your book can be a moderate thriller, a tepid romance, or sorta sci-fi. If you miss the mark with humor, it fails.
It is important to realize that humor differs by age, background, culture, etc. Things will not translate. Be aware that humor can hurt people’s feelings.
Revision is key–If I had longer, I’d have made it shorter. Remember to whittle down your humor. If it’s not moving the action, cut the humor.
Keep in mind there is a time and place for humor, but it slows down the pacing. And some moments cannot be funny,
Humor can be very visual and hard to do in a story–like when the Three Stooges throw pies in people’s faces.
Structure matters with humor. Don’t tell the funny line first.
Topical humor can be a roadblock–try for age trying to get to.
In her mysteries, Toni found that the more specific she got, the more universal it got. She didn’t set out to write funny, she just based things off of the people in her life and readers found it very funny.
Timing is essential with humor.
Note: This week my wordcount is not moving. I am doing another serious revision of my first book for a contest including new chapter breaks. So second book is on the back burner until next week when I get this contest submission in.
Firstoff, huge thanks to MWA NE and SinCNE for making Crimebake 2010 a fabulous conference!
Friday at Crimebake started off with an amazing welcome for Sisters in Crime New England. They had coffee and cookies and the perfect ice breaker–a scavenger hunt to find people with different abilities–like Agatha Winner or Writer of Paranormals. Immediately, we all had a conversation breaker and it make the conference kick off the best ever!
I signed up for the master classes and soon made my way to Writing the Traditional Mystery with Roberta Isleib. She’s a great public speaker and I highly recommend taking any workshop she does on writing mysteries.
She started by explaining that all cozies are traditional mysteries but all traditional mysteries are not cozies.
Typical traits of a cozy include:
- Amateur Sleuth
- Violence and sex happen off-screen (if they happen)
- A closed/contained setting
- Emphasis on deduction
- Victim and murderer know each other and the sleuth has to figure out the relationship between the two
- Being a comfort read
- Not jarring
Traditional mysteries can be darker than cozies. Cozies are a subset of traditional mysteries and usually include a craft/cooking/gardening.
She stressed the importance of knowing your genre. If a book can’t be labelled, it can’t be sold.
The killer must be in the book in enough detail so that the writer plays fair with the reader. At the end of the book, the reader should think, I should have seen it coming.
The three most important things in a Traditional Mystery are:
- Character Development
In the past, characters weren’t expected to change much in a series. Now readers expect growth and change within the book and over the course of the series. There must be a character arc–what she learns and how she changes. The arc of the character can be: character realizes she’s obsessed with an outer goal/desire but needs x to be whole/fulfilled. You have to have an idea of where you wants the character to end up.
Nathan Bransford blog talks about how every protagonist wants something and the novel is about them trying to get it. The antagonist is in conflict with the protagonist.
The character’s stakes are also crucial. Here are the things you should ask yourself to get a better grasp of the character’s stakes. (BTW, this was my favorite part of the workshop–very interactive and thought-provoking).
- What brings character into story now?
- What is her goal?
- Will her goal change?
- How will the character change by the end of novel?
- What makes your character unique?
- Central strength of your character?
- What weakness should she have?
Think about your characters history and from that make the stakes feel more real. Convince reader why they got involved. Can’t sell plot until sell character.
Setting is the third key part of a mystery. Change has to be underway–a place in turmoil and something happening in bigger world. Setting has its own value system.Something new to reader.
Setting has to intersect with character and plot. We were now asked to write a two sentence setting. Go ahead and write yours.
Okay now take that same setting and view it through the protagonist’s eyes. Description should do double duty by showing and telling character’s feelings. You can use description of setting to convey stuff about the character.
Audience members also got up and read their responses to parts of the workshop to illustrate how to use her teachings. Overall an awesome workshop–Thank you Roberta!
I’m hitting the road Friday morning with M from my CTRWA group. M and I met at the first meeting and discovered we live in the same town about 2 miles away from each other. M had already signed up for Crimebake as had I. She graciously offered to carpool. So 10AM Friday we set out!
Crimebake, or New England Crimebake 2010, is sponsored by Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Charlaine Harris, one of my favorite writers is going to be the guest of honor. That alone was reason to buy my ticket. But it keeps getting better. Agent pitches, published authors critiquing your first chapter, a vampire ball, classes on craft, amazing panels. Need I say more? Check out this schedule.
One of my Backspace buddies, Nora, is also attending. I can’t wait to catch up with her.
Are any of you going to Crimebake? What are you most looking forward to? If not, what conference are you looking forward to or do you have great memories of?
BTW, wordcount hit 60,532! That 18K in 3+weeks!
Did you ever wake up and have zero energy? Like the idea of getting out of bed sapped all your strength. And you hadn’t moved a muscle yet. That was this morning. The alarm went off and all I could think about were the aches and pain in my body.
I crawled back into bed and slept another hour. I woke up mentally alert, but physically I could use another day of sleep. I don’t remember ever feeling like this in my 20s. And another birthday approaches in November. Ouch.
I forced myself up and out of bed to work on my Flashwords for the Crimebake conference. It came to me last night at midnight and I put in 2 more hours revising this AM. Then I had to shower and breakfast and take the dogs out. I came back in and reworked my synopsis based on all the amazing feedback from the CTRWA critique group. I even added a couple hundred words to the manuscript itself. With the synopsis in better shape, I sent it off to another auction from the Brenda Novak summer auction. Now there is only one left to finalize.
So much to do! Then I have a few more contests to enter. It never stops. Then again, when it comes to writing, I never want it to. It feels like what I was born to do. Sure sometimes, I have to force myself to sit down and start a new scene. But it usually comes to me once I’m in the chair.
I’m still feeling physically spent, but I think that is because of the move and all the stress. I unpacked about 45 boxes in 7 days. I have 4 left to unpack and the room is set up. I’m taking it slow now so it might be another week before it is all done.
Have you ever felt physically wiped out, without being sick? What did you do to get your energy back?
So my big activity today was cutting 5 temporary blinds and hanging two of them. My dad had to hang the other three because of how hard it was to get to those windows. The room is coming along. Now I can sleep in here. I can’t sleep if there is too much light and there are 9 windows in this room. I know, how did anyone put 9 windows in 1 room. It’s intense.
Oh and the printer is up and running, so I can print everything for the saturday CTRWA meeting.
Also a writer friend read my novel and got back to me with amazing input so I’ve got several days to a week of work ahead of me there. It’s funny the things you miss even on your 100th draft. But I’m uber grateful to have someone take a look at it and give me their feedback. The hardest thing about feedback is getting it for the later chapters of the book. Most auctions and critique groups are focused on the first 5 pages, or the first chapter or first 3 chapters. So my first chapter was in great shape, and chapter 2&3 were pretty good, but the rest needed more focused attention.
I’m also contemplating my costume for Crimebake. Vampire or red and black colors…Hmmm. Any ideas?
And I start my Essentials of Romance Writing Class from Writer’s Digest University next week!
Until then back to unpacking…