C3: An Intimate Conference
One of my favorite reasons to travel to the D.C. area is the Creatures, Crime, & Creativity (C3) Conference. Organized by Intrigue Publishing, the conference welcomes writers and readers of horror, mystery, suspense, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and—recently added—romance. C3 was held September 30–October 2, 2016 at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center in Columbia, Maryland.
What I looked forward to the most were the master classes taught by the conference keynote authors: Reed Farrel Coleman, "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing," and Alexandra Sokoloff, "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors."
Coleman (pictured, lower right) discussed why talent is not enough and summed up it up with this advice. "There is only one way to know if you've got the requisite talent, and that's to keep trying, keep writing. There is no such thing as wasted writing.”
Sokoloff (pictured, upper left) presented the Three-Act, Eight Sequence Structure, a technique most screenwriters use and showed how it can be applied to novel writing. "There is a rhythm to dramatic storytelling, and your reader knows this rhythm and unconsciously expects it."
Since I'm currently working on a mystery novel, the panel discussion that caught my attention was "Villains: Circumstances or Born That Way?" with Sokoloff, Kathryn O'Sullivan, and Glenn Parris. The idea of my villain came to me before I even thought about my protagonist, and I've always been interested in what motivates people to do criminal activity. It's not surprising that the three authors on the panel had three different ideas of what a villain might be: 1) everyday people who are in bad situations or who will do anything to keep a secret; 2) villain as a metaphor—the protagonist and antagonist are the same but at different ends of the spectrum; and 3) the villain doesn't have to be a person (e.g., greed and ambition).
For me, after the master classes, the speeches, and the panels, the best part of a small and intimate conference is eating our meals together and meeting up at the bar for a glass of wine, listening to each other’s problems with plot, voice, or the next big idea.
I always leave a conference like this and realize I've found my tribe, people that understand my struggles as a writer. For me, this is where I find a network of writer-friends, and the true meaning of “rising tides lift all boats.”
Paula Lanier is currently working on a mystery novel and resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.
EXPLORE THE CRIMINAL MIND IN CONNECTICUT WITH CRIMECONN
Known for its top-tier expert panels, CrimeCONN 2016 is a true writers’ conference. This year’s conference takes place on October 15 at the Westport Library in Connecticut, and its theme will be “The Criminal Mind.” The event is co-sponsored by our chapter.
The conference's guest of honor will be Andrew Gross, best-selling author of nine thrillers (One Mile Under, Everything to Lose, and 15 Seconds). He is also the co-author of five #1 bestsellers with James Patterson, including Judge and Jury and The Jester. His latest book, The One Man, is a tale of gripping suspense, set in WWII and based on the exploits of his family, was released in August. In the keynote interview, Gross will discuss how he delves into the psychology of some of the best and worst people in history.
Author guests scheduled to appear include Rosemary Harris, Michael Ledwidge, Liz Mugavero, Tom Straw, David Rich, Karen Olson, David Handler, A.J. Pompano, and Jan Yager. Crime-fighting panelists scheduled to appear include: Michelle Clark, death investigator; Mark Braunsdorf, police psychologist; Lt. Ray Hassett, hostage negotiator; Sergeant. Mike Cummiskey, who investigates crimes against children; and Captain Chris Chute, a polygraph, interview and interrogation expert.
CrimeCONN will address current issues through the eyes and experience of crime-fighting experts, and how that is translated through works of art. What pathologies, traumas, and emotional compulsions drive criminal behavior? What about heat-of-the-moment encounters? Polygraph as evidence? Interrogation tactics? The psychology and dynamics of both first responders and deep undercover investigators as well as cops struggling with the pressures of the job. All fodder for powerful crime writing.
Seating is limited, and the conversation evolves throughout the day, so arrive early and expect to be richly involved in the minds of cops, criminals, heroes and villains.
Chris Knopf is the author of Dead Anyway (winner of the 2013 Nero Award), Cries of the Lost, and the Sam Acquillo mystery series, including The Last Refuge, Two Time, Head Wounds (which won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery), Hard Stop, and Black Swan.
Conference Tiffs and the Value of the Little White Lie
I love conferences. Love them. But every year, I hear about someone who is no longer speaking to someone else because person 2 insulted person 1 — or possibly insulted person 3 who is a friend of person 1 — or because person 2 felt as if person 1 ignored them in favor of a more “important” author or editor.
“She looked right at me, and pretended she didn’t know me,” said one of my friends of another.
Well, yeah, that’s possible. It’s equally possible my other friend was simply on conference overload with a buzzing head and tired eyes, thinking about how much her feet hurt.
And then there are the roommate dilemmas. “OMG,” one of my friends bemoaned in an instant message, “So-and-so asked me if I have a roommate for RT and I don’t, but I sure as hell don’t want to room with her. What am I supposed to say?”
Well, under normal circumstances, honesty is the best policy. But there are also appropriate times for the polite lie, and this is one of them.
“You tell her you yes, you already have one,” I advised.
“And what if she finds out I don’t?”
Well, if so-and-so finds out at the conference that you don’t have a room-mate and confronts you, you have two choices. First, say your roomie fell through (which happens all the time) or you can tell her the truth. Chances are, however, that even if she does find out, she won’t say anything to you. Most people aren’t that confrontational.
And if you’re on the receiving end of “Sorry, I already have a roommate” and then later finding out that person is alone in her room? My advice is to leave it alone and assume her roomie fell through. And if you think someone’s ignoring you in favor of a more popular author or a better agent or bigger editor or whatever . . . make a decision about how important that is to you. I’ve been ignored numerous times at conferences. I’m a nobody. I basically expect it. I understand that people are there to network and I cannot do anything for them. The ones who want to chat with me because we are actually friends will seek me out. And if my friends are currying favor with someone else for a few minutes, well, they’ll find me later or they won’t.
Let me put this another way: RWA and Sleuthfest and Crimebake (and to a certain extent RT and Bouchercon) are professional conferences. People are there to do business. If you treat it as a business conference, you’re a lot less likely to get hurt than if you treat it as a social gathering. Remember that even while people are drinking and dressing up in costumes, they’re also there trying to get ahead in their careers. You may not approve of the way they do it, and that may mean cutting them out of your life, but don’t assume that just because they look past you in their search for someone at a con that they don’t like you or care about you. They’re simply wearing a business hat and not good at blending the business and social.
My Time at Left Coast Crime
If you’re like me, you have a limited budget for marketing and promotion. Attending a con, especially an out-of-town con, can be a difficult decision. By the time I add up the registration fees, hotel, airfare, meals, books, and incidentals (my bar tab), I can’t afford to make a bad decision. For several years, friends and colleagues have recommended that I go to Left Coast Crime and this year, I finally made the trip. The convention changes location from year-to-year. This year it was held February 25 – 28, in Phoenix (The Great Cactus Caper). You can find closer mystery cons, but I’m not sure you’ll find many that are better.
Left Coast Crime is “an annual mystery convention, sponsored by mystery fans for mystery fans.” There were approximately 600 registered attendees, roughly half were readers. With 80 panels, there was something for everyone, but the focus is primarily on readers.
It is, of course, the focus on readers which makes Left Coast Crime a great destination for authors. The con is organized to promote opportunities for readers to meet their favorite authors and discover new favorites. In addition to the panels and book signings, the schedule included Author/Reader Connections (authors host informal activities for small groups of readers "such as lunch or a walk through town") and Author Speed Dating (authors make their way through tables filled with readers, giving a two-minute book pitch). But, as is often the case, the best opportunities to network happen in the hallways, the lobby, the book room and the bar.
The New York Chapter was well represented. I spotted Triss Stein, Ken Wishnia, Dru Ann Love, Hilary Davidson, Michael Sears, and Annamaria Alfieri. I’m sure there were more chapter members that I missed.
And, in one of the coolest author promotions, felony and mayhem sponsored the official convention cocktail. The drink was good, but the book was better.
Next year, Left Coast Crime moves to Hawaii (Honolulu Havoc, March 16 – 19, 2017).
If you were in Phoenix for Left Coast Crime (and especially if I missed you), please leave a comment and share your thoughts about the convention.
Jeff Markowitz is the author of the Cassie O’Malley Mysteries, an amateur sleuth series set deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Markowitz loves to write early in the morning. “You can usually find me at my computer at 5:30 in the morning,” he says, “plotting someone’s murder.”