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I have completed my first day at the Love Is Murder conference, a mystery writers’ conference I’ve been looking forward to attending for months. As I said in my previous post, I’m a conference virgin – never been to one, and I had no idea what to expect. For those of you in the same boat, imma tell you about my first day.

(no sacrificial kittens to be seen, by the way)

Registration was ridiculously simple. Pick up your name tag at the table, and receive a complimentary gift with a schedule of events and a free book (that was cool. Each bag had a different mystery book. I scored A Single Shot, by Matthew F. Jones). We ate a stupidly overpriced breakfast, since we arrived early and the conference wasn’t covering meals until dinner, and met up with two WDP authors attending: Lydia Ponczak, who has a mystery novel coming out in May, and Helen Osterman, author of Notes In a Mirror, Song of The Rails, and the Emma Winberry Mystery series. I adore these women: they arrived like the Wonder Twins in matching purple. Lydia might as well be a character straight from a novel. She’s the quirky next door neighbor who lets herself in your house whenever and you don’t even care (Constance. Oh my God, y’all, she is Constance from American Horror Story, just less murdery), or the grandma who wears feathery pink vests and gaudy earrings and tries to get you drunk, in public, so she has a drinking buddy because by God she’s never too old to party it up. Like right now, I’m in my pajamas chilling in the room, and those ladies are probably down at the bar.

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Lydia is on the left with the crazy earrings, and Helen is on the right.

Ok, back on track, Mel. The first workshop I went to was called ‘Anatomy of a Drug Investigation.’ Lee Williams, a self-published author and former special agent with the IRS criminal investigation unit, was speaking. He took us through a huge drug ring bust from his career and broke down how a drug operation operates.

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This ring involved janitors, dirty cops, high school principles, young kids selling drugs distributed by enforcers – it sounded like a movie plot, right down to arresting one of the key players at a red light in the middle of heavy traffic by hauling him out of the car at gunpoint. I almost fist pumped.

By far my favorite workshop of the day concerned what the heck to do with the middle chunk of your book. Four authors sat at a panel while a fifth presented them, and explained how they approached the middle portions of their books, and offered ways to strengthen it. I scribbled down everything they said like a mad woman, since I’ve run into this problem with the book my coauthor and I are working on. The information was so awesome that this particular workshop deserves a blog post all its own, so I’ll discuss it to death after the weekend’s over.

The last workshop I attended was ‘Reading Signs of Spousal Financial Infidelity.’ Heh. Peggy Tracy, a forensic accountant and certified fraud examiner (which actually sounds way more interesting when she describes it versus on paper) I just got a kick out of the stories of people leading double lives, like when a woman found college funds on kids she doesn’t have because her husband had a whole other FAMILY in another city. Note to self: never let a man take care of all the finances if it involves my own damn money, too. Or even if it doesn’t. I do not want to be finding loan payment receipts for a house I don’t live in, and no mistress will be getting better gifts than me, or I will cut a bitch.

The last part of the afternoon was the pitches. THIS, I was way curious about. Sue (WDP publisher) and I headed for a large banquet room, where round and square tables were set up that publishers and agents sat at to hear pitches. Authors are given 5 minutes to sit down and pitch their book (almost like a verbal query), before the lights dim, signifying times up. The first lady did pretty good, I thought – she had a card with her book’s premise on it, a very interesting story line, and didn’t hesitate to answer Sue’s questions about who her target audience was and what gave her the idea for the book. I’m really looking forward to reading her proposal. The third pitch wasn’t really a pitch – the woman sat down and asked our opinion on a potential something she wants to write, involving letters a grandfather wrote to his grandchildren. It sounded so neat, and I’m partial to that kind of thing anyway since my grandmother hand wrote me letters when I was away at college, and I was very close to her and my grandfather. The fourth pitch was…long winded, and I could tell the woman was either nervous or not very prepared. She never gave us the title of her book, or the name of the main protaganist. It was just awkward, the whole thing, and I was cringing for her.

Let’s backtrack to the second pitch…hehe. He really hooked me with the premise. It had to do with museums and anthropology, two things I enjoy, with mystery thrown in, naturally. Sue asked him what made him choose WDP. And he drops this brilliant gem:

“You looked lonely, so I thought I’d come over.”

…lol, wut?

You for real just said that to a publisher? During your pitch? I just…my brain can’t even…okay, we’re not in a bar, dude. You’re not trying to pick up a chick, you’re trying to sell your first book. He made it sound like he felt sorry that no one was at our table at the moment pitching, so he thought he’d throw us a bone and dazzle us with his story. I was interested, and then you killed it dead, sir. Sue gave him a chance to submit a proposal, because maybe the writing is worth a gander, but still…what. I’m going to try to stay unbiased when I eventually read it. Next time, man, remember where you are, and the answer is not at a singles night out.

So the evening drew to a close with a delicious dinner and FANTASTIC cheesecake. I’m not so good at mingling with people I don’t know – I’m naturally a wallflower, so I stayed close to Sue, Helen, and Lydia. I really want to get to know some of these authors and other publishers, this is the right place to do it, but I have to get over this speaking to strangers thing. A part of me still feels like I’m struggling to belong here, since I’m not a published author yet and I’m still so new to the industry, but…this is how you learn. Listening, observing, taking notes, and hoping one day you’ll be a speaker on a panel, too. Day one was a blast. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Until then!

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