Wednesday, June 28, 2017

California Crime Writers Conference - a brief recap

Earlier this month the bi-annual California Crime Writers Conference, co-sponsored by Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was held in Culver City. It's a much smaller, cozier version of bigger conferences like Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, but don't let that fool you - CCWC gets the same exceptional writers for their panels, many of whom I've seen at the bigger conferences. It's a great two days.

Topics included:

  • The differences of writing for print and for television, with a big shout-out to the Hallmark Mysteries & Movie Channel, which has been buying up book series including Charlaine Harris's Aurora Teagarden series (starring Candace Cameron-Bure), Suzi Weinert's Garage Sale Mysteries (starring Lori Loughlin), as well as panelist Phoef Sutton's upcoming Darrow & Darrow, and panelist Kate Carlisle's Fixer Upper Mysteries, which star singer Jewel. Hallmark has very specific content requirements - they changed the name of Carlisle's This Old Homicide to Framed for Murder, because "homicide" isn't a word they'll use in a title.
  • Panelist Hollie Overton: When dealing with Hollywood, expect to be disappointed, then you'll be pleasantly surprised. Panelist Wendall Thomas, a fellow LAst Resort contributor, indicated that her story, "Eggs Over Dead" pretty much sums up her feelings about dealing with Hollywood producers.
  • Guest of Honor William Kent Kruger gave a terrific talk on building suspense. Among his suggestions: Visceral danger to either the protagonist or someone important to the protagonist, a difficult confrontation repeatedly delayed (ex: Silence of the Lambs), isolation (usual support not available), super-protagonist vs. super-antagonist (Holmes vs. Moriarty, two great minds pitted against each other), and of course the good old ticking time bomb. Kruger also gave a terrific speech during the Sunday luncheon.
  • Marketing: Panelist Nancy Cole Silverman: When you finish the book you think most of the work is done. No one tells you it's just beginning. Panelist Elaine Ash recommended revealing personal issues related to your writing because people will relate and connect with them (which she did with us). 
  • Other marketing recommendations included speaking engagements, podcasts, multiple online platforms (Silverman has three Facebook accounts: personal, writer, and one for her book series, and also does a quarterly newsletter that always includes a contest), GoodReads and BookBub. Moderator Carlene O'Neil writes a winery series and has reached out to wineries and wine magazines. They also seemed high on leave behinds/giveaways including magnets and bookmarks - the more imaginative the better. You want something people will keep.
  • Matt Coyle, my editor on LAst Resort, moderated a panel on overplotting, which was described as "too many plates spinning". Panelist Craig Faustus Buck opined that you know you're doing it when you start to fall asleep while reading your material - everything in the book should be tied to the narrative and keep it moving. Panelist Terri Nolan uses a blank calendar to plot her stories.
  • During a panel on short stories and novellas, panelist Kate Thornton stressed the importance of reading the contract if you make a sale, sharing a contract horror story. She had sold a story to an online publication for $100. A few years later she was approached by a film company for the rights, only to find that she had completely signed them over to the website. The panel recommended going with well-known markets like Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. 
  • Thornton said she likes to take frustrating experiences and turn them into short stories to exact revenge, or as she phrased it, "Setting things right."
  • I also won a gift basket from author Catherine Pelonero that includes a signed copy of her upcoming book Absolute Madness. I saw her at the last CCWC and got a signed copy of her previous book on the Kitty Genovese murder and its aftermath.

Like I said, CCWC is a terrific conference and I highly recommend it. Next CCWC will take place in June 2019.

No comments: