Getting excited

I signed up for two conferences this year, both near the end of conference season.  I went to Magna cum Murder in Indy at the end of October last year and decided to go back for their 25th anniversary.  25 years!  And last year, when the hostess asked people to raise their hands who’d come from Day One, a LOT of people raised their hands.  Now that’s a dedicated crowd.  I’m not the type of person who makes instant friends, so I’m looking forward to seeing who’s there again this year and what they’ve done since I saw them last.

Magna cum Murder isn’t aimed for writers.  There were no panels on the state of the industry, poisons, or how to market.  The panels were geared for readers, but oh, were those readers prolific.  They knew their stuff.  I love talking shop with fellow writers, but I love talking to serious readers, too.  And this conference is packed with them.

The second event I’ve signed up for is “CozyClub Mini-Con Midwest.”  My publisher, Kensington, organized it.  It’s on Saturday, September 7–the weekend after Labor Day– from 11 a.m. to 1:00 at Pierogi Mountain (German Village) 739 S 3rd St. in Columbus, Ohio.  Okay, pierogis instantly caught my attention.  But then I read the list of authors who’ve signed up for author signings, and I’m going all fan girl.

I’m sure every author is wonderful, and one might be your favorite, so I’ll list them, but a few of my favorites are going to be there.  Here are the names:  Alex Erickson, Amanda Flower, Anna Lee Huber, C.M. Gleason, Cheryl Hollon, Christin Brecher, Debra H. Goldstein, Ginger Bolton, J.C. Kenney, J.R. Ripley, Julie Ann Lindsay, Lynn Cahoon, Olivia Matthews, Annelise Ryan, Rose Pressey, Sherry Harris, Carlene O’Connor, Kate Dyer-Seeley, Lena Gregory, Winnie Archer, and ME.  At least, that’s the line-up for now.  The book seller is The Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio.

If you read my recommendations on BookBub, you’ll know that I’m hooked on Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series and Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series.  And J.C. Kenney has written two mysteries, and I liked them both.

I’m dragging my poor husband with me to both conferences (lucky him:), and I have an old friend who lives in Columbus that I hope to meet up with and maybe go out for supper with once the mini-con is over.  And my daughter and grandson both live in Indy, so both conferences are a win/win for me.  Sometimes, I do well at conferences and sound halfway intelligent.  Sometimes, I get nervous and it’s dodgy.  But it’s nice to leave my writing cave once in a while and see what’s out there, to meet fellow writers in the flesh instead of just reading their blogs or twitter posts.

I have writers’ club this Wednesday, and it feels like sitting down with old friends, talking plots, dialogue, pacing, and word choice.  They keep me on my toes.  But it will be nice to meet some new people and see what they have to say.    Whether you’re locked in a little room by yourself, sitting in your gazebo or by your pool with your laptop, or meeting up with fellow writers, all the best.  And happy writing!

Book Signings

My husband and I went to hear Anna Lee Huber at Barnes & Noble on Thursday night, and as much as I enjoyed it–and I enjoyed it a lot–I think he enjoyed it even more.  He has a thing for World War I and II history, and Anna’s new Verity Kent mystery series takes place right after World War I.   She had information neither of us had ever heard of.  Did you know that Britain recruited aristocratic women to be spies and go behind enemy lines when Germany cut off Belgium and occupied it?  The conditions of that poor country and German-occupied France was deplorable.  Never mind the conditions in the trenches.

Before Anna even started her presentation, she let us chatter with her about writing and publication.  John loves that, too.  He actually likes talking writing and the business end of it as much as I do.  Probably has to out of self-defense.  Anna writes TWO historical mystery series.  Both of them intrigue me.  Her Lady Darby series is set in 1830s England.  Now, as everyone must know by now, I’m a huge fan of Julia Donner’s Regency romances, which take place from about 1810 to 1820 (unless Julia reads this and corrects me).  Anna loves research as much as Julia Donner, but she purposely picked the 1830s because no one had written very much about that time period.  A good writers’ tip.  Find a niche of your own.  The 1830s were between the Regency period and the Victorian years.  A nice pocket to explore.  Too soon for Jack the Ripper–which always intrigues me:)  That series is her Lady Darby series, and I’ve already bought the first book (on sale as I write this) to try.

Her second series is the one John’s excited to start.  It’s the years right after World War I with plenty of flashbacks about the war.  It’s her Verity Kent (she’s a spy for England) series.  The second book in the series recently came out:

The good news is that Anna Lee Huber was interviewed on NPR the morning of her signing.  The sad news is that John and I and ONE other person showed up to hear her, besides her mother.  Fun for us, since we got to ask more questions and interact with her more.  And she’s DELIGHTFUL.  Just saying.  But not so good for her, because she didn’t sell many books.  She took it in her stride.  Book signings are like that.  Sometimes, people show up.  Sometimes, they don’t.  And only the heavens know why.

Talking about people showing up, I’m plugging the reading event (with Kyra Jacobs, Julia Donner, TG Wolff, L.A. Reminicky, and me in Decature on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. again.  It’s hosted by The Next Page Bookstore and Monster Pizza.  Hope you can make it.

AND, it snowed today.  Just enough to let you know it’s cold outside.  So I hope you’re holed up inside and hitting the keys.  Happy writing!


P.S.  If you look up Anna Lee Huber on Goodreads and look at her reading lists, etc., she has a shelf of books she uses for research…in case you’re a history buff like someone I know who writes Regencies.



Borderline Illiterate

I went to the writers’ conference Magna cum Murder last weekend.  It’s a small, intimate feeling conference housed in the Columbia Club on the circle in Indianapolis.  The building’s old with that faded glamour of yesteryears that I love.  I didn’t learn any of the things I went for.  The panels were designed mostly for readers, so no panels on publicity or marketing.  I was hoping to hear how other writers and their publishers handled those challenges.  BUT, the conference was small enough to make it easy to meet fellow conference goers.  And the readers who attended read a LOT.

Some of them had attended the conference every year for 17 years.  They’d heard the majority of the international guests of honor and domestic guests of honor.  And the lists were impressive.  This year, they were Reavis Z. Wortham and Peter Lovesey, who sat at our table for the final lunch.  Previous guests were M.C. Beaton, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, and Mary Higgins Clark, among many others.  Most attendees could claim 10 years or more.  Only a handful of us were new.

One of the women I met there had recently retired and joined SIX mystery book clubs, 1 nonfiction book club, and 1 fiction club.  I asked how she kept track of everything she was supposed to read, and she said she stacked her books in the order of her meetings.  I was so impressed!  This year, I’ve been making a real effort to read one book a week, if I possibly can.  One lady I talked to zipped through one book A DAY.  And these people were well read.  They didn’t just read one sub-genre, though they had favorites.  They read thrillers, suspense, cozies, and PIs.  And they read outside of the mystery genre.

By the second day, I was beginning to feel borderline illiterate.  But then one of the attendees generously told me, “You’re spending your time writing instead of reading.”  What a kind woman!  Many people I met encouraged me to come back next year.  I sure enjoyed myself, but things have been so busy in my life for the last two years, I don’t feel confident making plans that far ahead.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed, though.  I wouldn’t mind spending another October at Magna cum Murder.


I miss book signings

Last Sunday, my husband and I took off for a long, lazy Sunday drive.  We decided to go to Grand Lake in Ohio–a large, manmade, shallow lake that was dug as a reservoir for the Miami and Eerie Canals.  To get there, we took a route that I realized, after we drove through several small towns I recognized, was one I drove many times years ago.  My writer friends–Carl Grody and Dawn Dunn–and I drove from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Dayton, Ohio to Books & Company whenever the bookstore invited a favorite author to give a short presentation and sign books.   We’d stop for supper at the Spaghetti Warehouse, which I haven’t been to since Carl moved away and Dawn became a nurse practitioner.  We listened to many good authors talk about what drove them to write the particular book they were promoting and often added something about the craft of writing.  Each time we went was a wonderful experience.  We each always bought one of the author’s books as a thank you for him/her sharing her time and experience with us.

The time came, though, when we didn’t have to leave Fort Wayne to find authors.  A new bookstore–Little Professor–went up on the southwest side of the city.  The three of us went to see the owner and told him about the wonderful experiences we had in Ohio.  He wasn’t quite ready to jump into book signings, but he asked if we’d give panels at his store once a month so that he could see what the turnout would be.  So many people came, month after month, he decided to go for it.  Little Professor became a good stopping place for Chicago authors to promote new books.  We went to every signing and bought a book at each.

Now I’m not an especially sentimental person.  I often gave my books to the library or friends after I read them.  I went to hear and meet the authors.  The presentations meant more to me than anyone’s signature.  I did get Ann Rice to sign SERVANT OF THE BONES, though.  Carl, Dawn, and I still did panels when the weather was bad and the store needed a program in a hurry.  And our city felt like a little hub of literary activity until Barnes & Noble came to town and Little Professor closed its doors.   To this day, I miss that store.

But book signings, in general, have become a thing of the past.  I can’t blame authors.  Too few people buy books at the end of the presentations.  On the first beautiful days of spring, nobody shows up.  Weather can turn nasty.  Signing books in a store is a hit and miss proposition, and everyone’s busy these days.  There’s never enough time to get everything done.  I’d never go to a store just to buy a book and get it signed.  If there’s no presentation, I’m not there.  Publishers don’t pay most authors to travel and promote their books these days either.  If you’re not a big name who’ll attract a big crowd, forget about it.

I know everything changes.  Readers can tweet with authors now, read their blogs, and visit their webpages.  It’s not the same.  I still miss Little Professor and I still miss authors sharing writing and experiences for half an hour here and there.  Hope something inspires you to hit those keys this week.  Happy writing!


P.S.  Thought I’d add the authors coming to Books & Co. for July and August, just so you can check Books & Company out.



I went to hear Alice Hoffman speak last Monday night.  The Jewish synagogue near Old Mill Road invites a prominent author to Fort Wayne once a year and the public is welcome.  I fell in love with Alice Hoffman’s writing years ago when I read TURTLE MOON and PRACTICAL MAGIC—before the movie came out with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman—before I knew what the term magical realism even meant.

I’ve bought many of her books, including the latest, THE RULES OF MAGIC, but you won’t find any of them on my bookshelf because I pass them on to my daughters, who love her writing as much as I do.  So, I didn’t have a book for her to sign, but that’s all right, because I’d rather come away with a feel of the author than an autograph.  And Alice Hoffman was fascinating and charming.  I’m so glad I went to see her.

For a sense of her many interests and wit, she has a beautiful webpage.  It’s stunning, and her blog is as charming as she is.  You can find them here:  Her top blog entry was one of the things she shared with us in her talk.  She grew up with a Russian grandmother who told her fairytales when she was a child to entertain her.  She also told her that life is hard and you can trust potatoes.  Other veggies can be tampered with, but a potato is what it is.

Because of her grandmother, the first books Alice Hoffman cherished and read were collections of fairytales, myths, and folklore.  She said that’s why magic plays a part in so many of her stories.  When asked how she creates her characters, she said that she creates a place, and once she gets that place fully realized, the characters come to populate it.  Sort of like the movie Field of Dreams.  She does all of her own research and that inspires her writing, too.  She usually knows the end of each story she writes, but said that the ending, even though it usually doesn’t change, might not be the way she envisioned it.  Her characters influence the story’s direction, so the same event might happen, but if she envisioned it as happy, it might flip to bittersweet.  Or if she thought it would be sad, it might have hope.

She told us that most people think writers write because they have answers they want to share.  She doesn’t believe that.  She thinks most writers write to find answers to questions they’re asking themselves.  How did this person end up here?  What happened to shape him?  She wrote the novel The Dovekeepers because she visited Masada in Israel and saw a small plaque that said only two women and five children survived the Roman siege there.  She hadn’t known there were survivors, so that made her wonder who survived and how that happened.

I enjoyed hearing the process she uses to write.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to hear other writers.  I’m always interested in how they became writers and how they approach finding ideas and filling blank pages.  Even if his/her process wouldn’t work for me, their passion flames my own.

I hope something inspires you to put fingers to keys, and happy writing!

My webpage:

My Author Facebook page:

Twitter:  @judypost




Connecting With Other Writers

I went to our main library’s Author Fair yesterday.   75 authors attended it, and 10% of any sales went to the library.  The fair had been advertised really well, and a steady flow of people came and went.  I was lucky.  My friend, Mary Lou, and I had asked to share a table, so we got to yak on and off from 1:00 to 4:00, when no one was around.  The good news?  Enough people wandered to our table and asked about our books to keep us entertained.  The bad news?  Not many authors sold more than a few books, but that’s what we expected.  Author Fairs aren’t really about selling books.  They’re about meeting people.  I’ve never been a BIG author with hordes of people lined up to buy my books, and I didn’t expect that to change in one afternoon.  But it sure was fun meeting people and talking about what they liked to read, even if it wasn’t what I write.  I like talking to readers as much as I like talking to writers, so I had a great day.

Mostly, authors stayed behind their tables to interact with people who attended the fair, so I didn’t meet authors who were new to me.  I did get to say hello to some of the authors I already know, though, and I got to catch up with a few of them before the fair started. The fair isn’t about selling books, and it’s not really about connecting with writers, either. It’s about connecting with readers.

My main connection to fellow writers is at my writers’ club twice a month.  That’s the best, and I’m so lucky I have it.  I occasionally attend the writers’ meeting Kyra Jacobs runs at Barnes & Noble, too.  That’s in the evenings, though, and it’s harder for me to juggle time to get there.  I used to attend a writers’ conference once a year to meet authors outside of our area, but I haven’t done that for a while.  It’s a great way to meet writers who have similar interests, though.  Another way to connect with fellow writers is on social media. But I have to be honest, I’m starting to get grumpier about what I spend my time on.  Just like with any friendship or acquaintance, if it’s all one-way, I’m over it.   If I like a writer, I’ll retweet and share for a while, but if the favor’s never or rarely returned, I stop bothering.  I’m not saying I expect tit for tat.  That’s too much work–for me or anyone else. I can’t get to twitter or Facebook every day, so I don’t expect other writers to be able to either.  I’m talking about one-way streets.  And I’m talking about fellow writers.  When I think of myself as a reader, a fan, that’s a whole different story.

Anyway, connecting with readers and fellow writers is fun.  If you get a chance to be in an Author’s Fair, Anya Breton wrote a great post on how to prepare.  She covered it all really well:

In the meantime, Happy Writing!

P.S.  I put up chapter 6 for Babet & Prosper’s River City Rumble on my webpage:  I plan to post a new chapter every Friday.  I love comments!

Author Facebook Page:

On twitter: @judypost