Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cheryl Hollon Interview by E. B. Davis

“Who drinks Bud Light in a British pub? Liars, cheaters, and killers. Oh my.”
Cheryl Hollon, Pane and Suffering (Loc. 1592)

Cheryl Hollon’s debut novel, Pane and Suffering, was released by Kensington Books yesterday. Readers sympathize with talented glass artist and main character Savannah Webb. With her own life on hold, Savannah soon realizes she has trouble on all fronts—a murder investigation to cope with, the fate of the glass store in limbo, contracts to fulfill, an assistant with Asperger’s, his service dog, and her father’s puppy to foster. Coming off a breakup with her boyfriend, she’s wary, strong, and capable—but her severe fear of heights inhibits her investigation and jeopardizes her life.

Kensington signed Cheryl to a three-book deal. I can’t wait to see how Cheryl develops Savannah Webb and where it will take her.  

Please welcome Cheryl Hollon to WWK.          E. B. Davis

Would you give our readers a synopsis of Pane and Suffering?

After Savannah's father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs—including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father's trusted assistant and master craftsman, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers him dead also of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn't suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it's up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father's apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture.

After her father’s funeral, Savannah’s first hurtle is teaching glass-working classes to novices, a commitment her father made. Why is she unprepared?

The death of her father affected Savannah deeply. She knew him to be a man of commitment, therefore, the continuation of classes at Webb’s Glass Shop became a way to honor her father’s memory. She felt unprepared because her current glass expertise focused on glass blowing, which demands a completely different set of skills and techniques. She was out of practice, that’s all.

Although Savannah feels guilty because she relocated to Seattle and hasn’t been home for a while, she and her father were close. Close enough, that when he leaves her a set of clues to his murder, she understands his logic and specific language to break codes. Why does her father use code?

John Webb was paranoid and knew that about himself. But, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that you might not be in danger. He knew he could be very, very wrong, but just in case. . .

How old is Savannah?

As I am fond of saying: a woman who will tell you her age will lie about anything.

Her father also has contracts to re-create stain-glass panels for a church at twenty-thousand dollars a piece (and there are twenty panels). Earlier in her life, Savannah won a single scholarship beating thousands of applicants to attend the prestigious Pilchuck Glass School. She’s now an artist. Why does she have self-doubt about her abilities to fulfill her father’s contract?

The church panels are stunning and intricate. A little self-doubt is good for an artist especially when contemplating the central panel of The Last Supper. Who wouldn’t be a little hesitant?

Is the Pilchuck Glass School real? Is the Payne Glassworks of Paterson, NJ (in the story, the original creators of the church’s stain glass windows) real?

Yes and yes. The Pilchuck Glass is real, founded in 1971 by Dale Chihuly, Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg. Visiting both the studio on a former tree farm in Stanwood, Washington and the administrative offices in Seattle is high on my list of research locations to visit.

After George L. Payne passed away in 1981, the Payne Studio lives on in the form of a merger with its main competitor and collaborator, Rohlf’s Stained and Leaded Glass. Both were family-led forces in the early stained glass industry. The church in St. Petersburg, FL is one of the finest representations of their early work. There is a sign outside the church that announces a tour of the panels every Wednesday.

Is glasswork your hobby?

My husband and I have a small glass studio in a separate building behind the house. In Florida, this is known as a mother-in-law cottage. We are advanced amateurs and have sold pieces through Grand Central Glass Shop in the past. We now happily spend our studio time making gifts for friends and family. I also make promotional swag for conferences and book signings.

You live in St. Petersburg, FL, where your book is set. Webb’s Glass Shop, the family business, is located in the Grand Central District in St. Pete. Is Grand Central a historic commercial area? Why did you set your story there?

The Grand Central District was formed in 2001 and received the designation as a Main Street community by both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Florida Main Street program. More than 1,500 communities across the country have adopted the Main Street Approach, which is one of the most powerful economic development tools in the nation, combining historic preservation and economic development in local revitalization initiatives. The stained glass shop that inspired Webb’s is one of the many eclectic businesses that have taken advantage of the preservation-based revitalization initiatives and as a result of the owner’s hard work, they have created a thriving business district. It’s the perfect environment for a sole proprietor business

Jacob Underwood, an apprentice of Savannah’s father, has Asperger’s. He’s an interesting character because of his character and his talent. Have you known those who have Asperger’s? Tell our readers about Jacob, his mother, and Suzie, please.

Jacob first came onto the page as a 14-year-old struggling to connect with the social pressures of everyday life. However, in order to be more fully engaged with Savannah, Amanda and Edward, he needed to be nearer their age. So one of my massive rewrites of Pane and Suffering was to age Jacob—I like him better as an awkward near adult. I know a few people who are ‘on the spectrum’ just like everyone else nowadays. I appreciate Jacob’s unique perspective and adore his service dog, Suzy, modeled after one of my childhood pets. I wanted his parents to be devoted, supportive, pragmatic, and sensible—a successful recipe for raising Jacob.

After Hugh Trevor, her father’s close associate and assistant dies, two men make Savannah offers on the shop. Why does she dislike them and put them on her suspect list?

Many of us are plagued with people in our lives that irritate, exasperate, frustrate and generally annoy us beyond our patience. Just like real life, we still have to deal with them. As I’ve seen on t-shirts: Careful, or You’ll End Up in My Novel.

Savannah inherits her father’s house, an original Craftsman bungalow and a puppy. Why were kit houses built at the beach?

The neighborhood where the family Craftsman house is built is located near the Historic Kenwood District. The Kenwood neighborhood was initially developed by Charles R. Hall, who in 1913 built 10 houses on Central Avenue for a combined cost of $30,000. At that time, the nearby area was an avocado grove. The area has one of the highest concentrations of 1920s Craftsman style bungalows in Florida. Most Kenwood homes were built on site during the early 1920s. But during the mid-1930s, approximately 170 were moved to the area having been displaced from downtown. True to the age of the area, Historic Kenwood features brick streets, large trees, and garages facing alleys.

Edward Morris, owner of the English pub located next door to Webb’s, befriends Savannah with tea and scones each morning. She’s attracted to him. Why can’t she trust him?

After the ugly breakup with her Seattle boyfriend, Savannah is naturally reluctant to trust anyone who is making overtures even when he seemed to have been a trusted friend to her father. The cranberry scones, however, are weakening her resolve.

You do a great job of keeping readers guessing whodunit. Did you know the killer’s identity when you started writing?

It’s funny that you mention that—I usually change the killer after the first rough draft. This is the first time my original villain remained the same.

How does Savannah react when police order her father’s body to be exhumed?

Savannah struggles with conflicting feelings. How maddening to finally get the investigation attention that you want and then endure a sickening punch to your emotions.

Are you a fan of tea and craft beer?

I have enjoyed small batch and locally brewed beer since I lived in England in the late 90s. When I moved back to Florida, I was delighted with the quickly growing list of microbreweries that make St. Petersburg a beer destination. There are at least fourteen in the Tampa Bay area and the growth is still on the climb. All the breweries and pubs in the book are real places with a thriving and lively patronage.

You go very light on Nancy, a student in Savannah’s class and a husband-nagger. I wanted this bothersome glass student to get a good comeuppance. Why didn’t you slam her?

Well, what can I say? In the end, I didn’t want to add to her husband’s already heavy burden. I haven’t forgotten her—she’ll be back.

There’s only one aspect of your book that doesn’t ring true to me, Cheryl. Coming from rainy Seattle to sunny St. Petersburg, where she grew up, why doesn’t Savannah go to the beach to contemplate murder?

One of the odd aspects of being a long-time resident of Florida is that you don’t go to the beach very often. I know – I know, that’s why we moved here in the first place so many years ago. We used to go to Treasure Island beach at least once a week if not more. Now, we may go for a long weekend at a beach resort perhaps once a year. Yep, it makes no sense, but that’s how it is with locals.

Have you plotted the next book in the series? What’s next for Savannah?

The next book is Shards of Murder (Webb’s Glass Shop #2) due for release on February 23, 2016. Here’s a synopsis:

As the new proprietor of Webb's Glass Shop, Savannah has been appointed to fill her late father's shoes as a judge for the Spinnaker Arts Festival, held in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. With her innovative glass works, the clear winner is Megan Loyola, a student of Savannah's former mentor.

But when Megan doesn't show up to accept her $50,000 award, rumors start flying. And when Savannah discovers the woman's dead body on festival grounds, the police immediately suspect her of murder. To keep from appearing before a judge herself, Savannah sorts through the broken pieces of glass scattered around the victim for clues as to who took this killer competition too far.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Freke Dorothy Fluck Lane

by Kara Cerise

If you're like me you look at some of today's baby names in amazement. For instance: Pilot Inspektor, Audio Science, Moxie Crimefighter, Blue Angel, Sage Moonblood, and Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa.

Singer Frank Zappa and his wife gave three of their children creative names: Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife bestowed sweet names upon their children: Buddy Bear, Poppy Honey, Daisy Bunny, and Blossom Rainbow. (Do you think the Olivers watch Sesame Street?)

Unusual baby names are a contemporary trend, right? Wrong! Apparently people in past centuries liked unique names too. Researchers in Britain have compiled more than 1,000 unusual names from birth, death, marriage and census records going back to the 16th century.  

I’m guessing that these kids born before the 20th century were teased because of their names:
  • Boadicea Basher
  • Philadelphia Bunnyface
  • Leicester Railway Cope (He was born in a train carriage at Leicester Railway Station)
  • Freke Dorothy Fluck Lane (I picture her as the historical counterpart to the little girl in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who sits by herself on the school bus holding melted gummy bears.)

These children in the 1800s may have had inferiority complexes due to their first names:
  • Friendless Baxter
  • One Too Many Gouldstone
  • That's It Who'd Have Thought It Restell
  • Offspring Gurney

Arthur and Sarah Pepper had a baby girl in 1882 and gave her a name for every letter in the alphabet:

Ann Bertha Cecilia Diana Emily Fanny Gertrude Hypatia Iug Jane Kate Louisa Maude Nora Ophelia Quince Rebecca Starkey Teresa Ulysis Venus Winifred Xenophen Yetty Zeus. Her last name, Pepper, accounted for the 26th letter of the alphabet.

Can you imagine a teacher taking attendance using the girl’s full name?

Today, some parents try to be clever with their kids’ names. My friend’s niece has the last name of Kane. Her parents named her Candace. Yep, Candy Kane. Actor Rob Morrow and his wife named their daughter Tu—Tu Morrow. Then there's Filet Minyon, Dyl Pickle, and Ben Dover.

However, parents in earlier centuries had a sense of humor joining first and last names:
  • Mineral Waters
  • Zebra Lynes
  • Thomas and Alice Day named their son Time Of—Time Of Day.
  • Windsor Castle (Her mother’s maiden name was King.)

We've all snickered over marriage announcements where contemporary couples have interesting last name combinations:
  • Partee-Moore
  • McDonald-Berger
  • Looney-Ward
  • Hardy-Harr
  • Jaeger-Meister

Do you think people chuckled when these duos married?
  • Nicholas Bone and Priscilla Skin in 1636
  • Charles Swine joined Jane Ham in 1711
  • John Mutton and Ann Veale in 1791
  • Richard Dinner with Mary Cook in 1802

We may be separated by centuries, but we're not that different after all.

Have you heard any unusual names?
Do you give your characters creative names?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Notes to Self: My First Author Panel

Last week I had my first author panel.

I survived!

A group of Sisters in Crime authors with stories in the multi-award nominated (I love typing that, even though my story was not a nominee) anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays did a panel at my library. Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, Clyde Linsley, Cathy Wiley, and I met on September 19, AKA Talk Like a Pirate Day, to chat about the anthology, writing short stories, and how we use the holidays in our work.

The other authors, panel veterans all, spoke knowledgeably about their writing processes, shared amusing stories about their research, spoke gracefully about their books without a hard sell, and in Cathy’s case, grabbed the audience by dressing up as one of their characters (in her case, a pirate). Was the audience engaged? The panel went for two hours and several attendees asked for another Sisters in Crime visit, so I would say so.

I actually felt a lot more comfortable on the panel than I had expected. Talking with strangers all day at work, and doing story times and school visits paid off. It was great to be on a panel with such collegial folks who definitely had panelist skills and a great comfort level talking about themselves and their work.

I learned so much that day and had a wonderful time, but I also discovered areas for improvement. Just as a director gives a theater cast notes on what they can do to improve their performance, I have Notes to Self to improve my panel performance.

Panel Notes to Self

1.     Do not forget that you are on a panel. I adore going to author panels to get the inside scoop on the writing process and to spend time listening to my favorite authors. I am embarrassed to admit that I was having such a good time listening to the other panelists that at times I FORGOT that I was on the panel. I blanked out when a lady in the audience asked me the softest of softball questions. Note to self: No matter how much fun you are having listening to the other panelists, remember where you are!
2.     Some people are talkers and some are listeners. I am a listener. You have to talk on a panel. Note to self: Talk.
3.     Not only do you have to talk, you have to talk about yourself. Horrors! To a native New Englander like me, this is like saying you have to chew with your mouth open. Note to self: Get over it.
4.     Not only do you have to talk, you have to talk with other writers. Let’s face it. Writers are verbal people. If you have mastered the verbal judo that lets you slip gracefully into a conversation, please share. Donna Andrews’ right ear was treated to me saying a variety of word bits like “Th-“ and “Ye-“ as I tried to jump in but never quite finished a sentence. Note to self: Observe how other authors find their way into the conversation.
5.     Show people your books. OK, this was a big time fail. I had brought a copy of the book under discussion, but I forgot the anthology with my other story, “Keep It Simple” in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder. (See how I did that?) Folks asked about This Job Is Murder and I didn’t have a copy of that anthology to show them. Yikes! Panel 101, right? Visual aids. Note to self: Make sure you have a copy of all books that are pertinent to the panel’s topic.

Any further notes for newbie panelists? Please share in the comments.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Whither Subscription eBook Services?

Jim Jackson’s thoughts presented below do not represent any official WWK position. This week marked the announcement that the eBook subscription service Oyster will be shutting down in early 2016. This summer, Entitle—one of the original three eBook subscription services—quietly closed its doors. Scribd, the third of the group, had to backpedal from its promise of “unlimited” books per month to throttle the usage of its romance readers. Since the original three commenced operations, Amazon entered the market with its Kindle Unlimited. Google has hired the folks from Oyster and so is presumably considering a subscription service as part of its Google Play.

So the field is changing and Amazon plays a big role. But, are subscription eBook services sustainable?

The Economics of a Subscription service

The basic business equation still holds: Revenues – Expenses = Profit


In a standalone subscription service, revenue comes primarily from the monthly fees users pay to enjoy the service. Kindle Unlimited charges $9.99 a month. Oyster charges $9.95 and Scribd charges $8.99. Multiply the monthly fee by the number of subscribers and you have revenue. Unless you can sell ads along the way, or sell your subscription list, or monetize something else, that’s your revenue. To keep things simple, we’ll assume revenues consist solely of subscriber fees.


To operate, the business has to have a website designed to collect memberships, present a searchable catalog, record and deliver selections. While there are some variable costs involved in a subscription service, most of these operating expenses are fixed costs. One subscriber or a million they will occur, so it is important to grow your subscriber base quickly so the expenses decline as a percentage of revenue.

The second major expense are the acquisition costs. Publishers (and authors) want to be paid if someone reads their book.

Subscription services must negotiate with publishers, distributors and, in Amazon’s case, indie authors, concerning their compensation. Oyster and Scribd generally paid publishers something very close to what the publisher would earn by selling the book through an online retailer.

Under the Oyster/Scribd model these are variable costs. The more books lent out, the larger the expense. The more expensive book lent out, the larger the expense. We’ll discuss Amazon’s model in a bit.

Who would buy an eBook subscription?

For a reader the equation to calculate savings from a subscription service is:

Subscription Fee – [(Number of Books I think I’ll read in a month) X (average cost of book)]

Let’s say the average cost of eBooks purchased without the subscription is $2.99. The reader is a winner at 4 books a month (3 Scribd), loser at three (2 Scribd) or fewer. If the average cost drops to $1.99, then it takes six (five Scribd) eBooks to “win.” At $5.00 it only takes two books to be ahead.

Strategies Suggested by the Profit Equation

(1) Feature less expensive books. Free are best. $0.99 are very good. $1.99 good, $2.99 okay and anything more is pricey.

Look at the subscription catalogues and you’ll find they are crammed with “classics” that happen to be out of copyright (and therefore virtually free to the service)

You will see a very limited number of current, higher-priced books from the Big 5 Publishers. They are simply too expensive. I suspect those that are in their catalog provide the publisher with much lower royalty rates—the eBook equivalent to mass-marketing to Walmart or Costco.

(2) Pray people do not read too much.

Consider the profit formula and how it applies to fitness center memberships. In January in the flush of New Years’ promises, lots of people make the basic calculation that they will win by purchasing a yearly membership. And then by the end of January many stop going. These are gravy memberships. Revenue exists, but no variable expenses. That overestimating consumption phenomena may happen for book readers as well, but unlike the gym membership, they probably will not give up reading books entirely. Even if they have an off month or two, the only bar preventing them from restarting to read a lot again is finding time. For a gym membership there’s a psychological barrier of anticipating the physical pain necessary to get back in shape and the physical barrier once the individual actually restarts.

Subscription services try to limit reading by not providing all the books the subscriber would normally like to read. New best sellers are rarely offered because they will cost the subscription service too much. If people spend time reading those in paper form instead, it saves the service money and cuts down on the total books read on the subscription.

When people read a lot, the subscription service loses money. Scribd found itself in that situation this summer regarding their romance readers. Since they could not limit the number of books selected by romance readers, and they were not willing to increase the subscription price, they cut the number of romance novels available in the service. Drastically cut. They kept the freebies and eliminated the expensive books. Some of those in between remained. Smashwords estimates Scribd cut 80-90% of Smashwords romance titles.

(3) Pay publishers and authors smaller fees. With limited exceptions, Kindle Unlimited (KU) does not offer Big 5 Publisher books. Its offering is largely populated by its own imprints and indie author publications.

For indie authors, Amazon creates a pool of money—it determines the size—and allocates that pool to authors based on the number of pages read. Their previous practice had been to allocate the pool based on number of “downloads.” They found this encouraged gaming of the system whereby authors would split a book into four parts, so a 200-page book becomes four 50-page books, earning four times the income for the author.

Note that Amazon determines the pool size, which from an author’s perspective means Amazon determines the per page revenue. The indie author’s choice is to join the program or not. For the first month of this new payment system’s operation, July 2015, KU paid $0.005779 per page. For a 300-page novel that means $1.73. For August the payment per page dropped 11% to $0.00514, and the same fully read 300-page book would earn the author only $1.54.

Notice that if that 300-page book were priced at the low end of Amazon’s preferred range of $2.99 to $9.99, the royalty for a book purchased would be about $2.09.

Amazon has structured a model where the author subsidizes the subscription service. I’m sure Amazon will argue that the author will make it up in volume, but how can you know, and what is to prevent Amazon from settling on a much lower rate in the future, say $0.001 per page so our 300-page book now earns the author a paltry $0.30?


The Scribd model as currently constructed does not hold economic water. It is too easy for subscribers to determine if they are saving money or not on the service. There will be a small percentage of subscribers who are losing money by participating and are insufficiently motivated to stop their subscription, but they can’t make up for the costs of heavy users.

Amazon can control its costs by defining how much it reimburses indie authors, a large percentage of the KU offerings.

But consider Amazon’s approach to the Audible subscription service. It has a fixed monthly fee, but for that price you get one “free” audio book. The rest of the catalog is discounted. As long as the consumer was going to purchase at least one audio book a month, the customer is “ahead.” Amazon’s costs for additional downloads are offset by additional revenues. Although the audio books are discounted, I’m betting those lowered costs cover the royalty payments plus profit.

Scribd could move to a similar model for books. Say, you get four a month for free. The rest you can have for a discounted fee.

If Google Play (or Apple for that matter) decides to enter the business, they will bring deep pockets. They don’t yet have the indie author network as Amazon does. But what would happen if they offered better royalties than Amazon? It could prove interesting, yes indeed.

~ Jim

Saturday, September 26, 2015


I’m still trying to figure out just how I feel about this particular event in my life. Should I talk about it or not? Hum. Oh, what the heck! It’s funny.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Total Wine. A woman asked me if I worked there (I get that a lot, my first job was in retail. It must have marked me in some way.) and I said, “No.” Now, in the normal world, that would have been the end of it and she would have gone on to find someone who could help her. Instead, she came right around, got in my face and said, “Well, it’s that belt purse you have on. You shouldn’t wear that. It confuses people.” I thought she was finished at that point and started to walk back down the bourbon aisle.

No, she came after me, and jumped in front of me again. This time she said, “I haven’t seen one of those in years, no one wears those anymore. You need to get rid of it.” Then she stalked off, apparently happy that she had educated me. To be honest, I was glad to see her go. Not because I was embarrassed, but because her attitude was a bit concerning. She was within one screech of going postal!

The offending belt purse is in fact a double glasses case that is made to loop on a belt. It’s beat up and well-loved and probably should be replaced. If I could find another. It also prevents me from getting to know the folks at DMV. Before I found these handy dandy little belt purses, I was regularly losing my handbag, and everything in it. This solves the problem nicely. My hands are free, all my essentials, including my cell phone are accounted for. I never thought of my solution as dated. I just thought of it as something that works!

Did I mention that the fashion police person who accosted me (no other word for it) was wearing an off the shoulder t-shirt, tights, and leg warmers? Yes, I not only met the fashion police and was found wanting, but I offended the fashion police from 1983! What a feeling!

How about you, has your style even been found wanting? How did you handle it?

(P.S. and as an aside—never offend a writer, you may end up in her blog!)

Friday, September 25, 2015

No Hope

No Hope
by Warren Bull

There is no hope for the Kansas City Royals.  I wrote about them giving second chances.  I wrote about the John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil memorial seat in the ballpark. It was of no avail.  With slightly more than half the season to play, late last night in the thirteenth inning, they won a game.   Please note the thirteen.  By winning the game they had their 72nd win of the season on August 18th.  Baseball Prospectus using PECOTA, computer based analysis, predicted before the season the Royals would win 72 times in the entire season and lose 90 games. So the team should lose every game from August 18th until the end of the season. Projections are based on the individual players’ numbers for the past season. 

Reportedly Sam Miller, editor-in-chief at Baseball Prospectus sent an email to the Kansas City Star saying in part that the number crunching has a “blind spot” for managers who use their bullpen well.  He added that the system probably does not account for “great defenses, which the Royals have” and “any team that outperforms their raw stats…”

Because of a rain delay the Royals game started late and continued well past my bedtime.  Oh, my.  I see the Royals won their 73rd game last night.

As Roseannadanna on Saturday Night Live used to say never mind.

And to the baseball pundits who described last year’s achievements as a “fluke.”  You got the fluke part right but you missed the rest of the whale.

PS: I did not plan for this blog to come one day after the Royals became Central Division champions, it just worked out that way. Go Royals! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mystery Writers One-Day Getaway by Gloria Alden

Nancy Pickard, Our guest speaker
On Saturday, Sept. 12, our northeast Ohio Sisters in Crime chapter – NEOSinC put on a one day writers event at the Twinsburg Library a little south of Cleveland. At least fifty writers attended coming from other chapters as far away as Pittsburgh, Pa. and Columbus, Ohio which involved driving anywhere from over two hours to as much as three to four hours to attend.

SinC recently started a speaker’s bureau of well- known mystery writers, who were SinC members and willing to travel to events. It wasn’t supposed to start for another month or so, but Nancy Pickard was willing to be the first speaker early and came as our National Guest Author, and we were all thrilled to have her there.
Owner of The Learned Owl winner of  a large check from SinC

Our event started at 10:00 with registration and a continental breakfast. We all got our name tags on a “Do not cross – Crime Scene” ribbon to hang around our necks made by our former president and now treasurer Kim Hammond. During brief breaks, there was a raffle with small bags of gift items our members had contributed. I got a cap with Cleveland on the front and FBI on the back donated I’m sure by our FBI member. There was also a break for lunch consisting of a make your own sandwich, various kinds of chips, fruit and some leftover donuts, etc. from breakfast, and in the middle of the afternoon a break for cookies, too, and always plenty of drinks all day – coffee, tea, pop and bottled water. At the breaks we could also purchase books of all the authors in attendance at The Learned Owl, a local independent bookseller who had a table set up there.
Victoria Selvaggio

Our president Irma Baker welcomed us all and then introduced our first speaker, Victoria Selvaggio, a literary agent with the Jennifer De Chiaira Literary Agency. Since I’m not sending query letters anymore, I didn’t take notes, but she was extremely informative for those who still are.

Amanda Flower/Isabella Alan
We also had three sessions called “Ask Me Anything” by three of our authors; Amanda Flower/Isabella Alan, Shelley Costa, and Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan who all answered questions about their publishing experience and with Amanda and Casey how they managed to write so many series and keep everything straight in their minds. They also answered questions as to whether they were plotters or pantsers or a little of both.

Nancy Pickard

Nancy Pickard also spoke in the morning about her background in writing and her road to publication. It was called “A Most Mysterious Occupation.” She also told us how her book The Scent of Rain and Lightning is being made into a movie. She is a very warm and interesting speaker – the kind of person you could invite into your home for a cup of coffee and not worry too much about a shaggy friendly dog or dust.  Later in the afternoon she taught a writing workshop on “First Sentence, First Paragraph, First Page.” I did take notes for that. She is a believer in the use of writers blogging to get over to the other side. She also wrote poetry, and recommended Annie Lamont’s book Bird by Bird for writers. She used the letters C for conflict, A for action, S for surprise, T for turn, and S for senses, all important elements in a good story. If a scene is flat, look for the main character in the scene. The character should show what he/she is feeling. People like surprises – both characters and the reader. She also said a writer should include the five senses and have as many as possible; smell, sight, taste, hearing and feeling or touch.  Pacing is also important – some scenes more relaxing.
Forensic Psychiatrist, Megan Testa

Our final presentation “Crime and the Mind” by Forensic Psychiatrist, Megan Testa was quite interesting. She works with those with mental problems, a lot of whom are women trying to get their children back. She discussed antisocial personality disorder, and I was writing so fast I might have some of the following mixed up. She talked of clusters.

A – Weird, tends to be a loner and maybe has a dog or some kind of pet, sometimes they’re schizophrenics, sometimes delusional.

B – Wild, won’t conform to societal norms, chaos in their life, and they can be highly narcissist with a sense of entitlement. They often have superficial charm, - think Ted Bundy. They lie and try to talk their way out of any problem. They are not faithful to any relationships. They’re impulsive and need lots of stimulation, and sometimes are violent. They are law breakers and don’t feel any remorse, and 80% of them have a mental illness and/or addiction. In brain scans when they’re shown violent pictures, their brain won’t fire up like the brain of normal people.

C – Wimpy, someone who has a dependent personality disorder and relies on others to meet their needs. They have trouble doing anything without having someone tell them what to do, and can’t make decisions on their own even in playing a game of cards.
Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan

We ended with this presentation and cleaned up and packed up. I packed my books that hadn’t sold, and left with Laura, my writer friend, who went with me. We headed for home stopping for supper on the way. It was an interesting and enjoyable day, but exhausting, too, as events like this always are. However, as Amanda Flower said in a recent posting to our list serve, it’s so good to be with fellow writers who understand us.

Shelley Costa
What writing events have you attended that you enjoyed?