Writer's Notes

Fans and Flowers: Mystery Fan Conventions

By Becky Clark

BClark cover Fiction Can Be MurderI launched my newest book, FICTION CAN BE MURDER, the first in a light-hearted mystery series, on April 8th. My publisher made sure copies were available for the Left Coast Crime convention in March, though. As I write this, I’ve just returned from the Malice Domestic convention, and in October 2017, I attended Bouchercon.

If you’ve never been to a mystery fan convention, it’s essentially a long weekend of hobnobbing with authors you love and discovering new authors you’ll soon love. Bouchercon is huge and caters to all genres. Left Coast Crime isn’t quite so big, but also covers the spectrum of crime fiction. And Malice focuses more on traditional mysteries, like Agatha Christie’s.

All these fan conventions have a similar agenda, to connect authors with readers.

There are tons of books given away and sold, and numerous opportunities to get them signed by the author.

There are also panels scheduled all weekend where four or five authors discuss a single topic … for example, small town settings, research in crime fiction, amateur sleuths, gender roles in crime fiction, writing a great villain … and a gazillion more.

There’s a New Authors Breakfast where debut authors have a minute or two to talk about their new book, so you get 30+ titles to add to your TBR pile.

There’s also an Awards Banquet honoring fans’ favorite books.

When I attended my first Bouchercon, I went strictly as a fan, but a fan with a purpose. I wanted to meet certain authors and ask them to read and blurb FICTION CAN BE MURDER before it came out. I culled my list from the Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Humorous Mystery Award nominees over the years (since FICTION CAN BE MURDER is humorous), then cross-referenced them against the authors who’d be attending Bouchercon. I figured it’s harder to say no to me in person.

It’s very stressful to ask famous authors you admire to do you a favor for which they get absolutely nothing in return. But I screwed up my courage and did it anyway. I probably asked a dozen authors, some on the spur of the moment. To a person, they were thrilled to help, most saying something like, “people did this for me when I started out and I’m happy to return the favor.” I was nervous for absolutely no reason. For folks who kill people for a living, mystery writers are a lovely and generous bunch.

At both Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic, I was lucky enough to attend as both a fan and an author. I wrote about splattering fangirl all over the place at the Mysterista’s blog.

It’s still a bit surreal and I can’t help think this is all some weird cosmic prank, but there’s nothing quite like having people line up at my book signing table with a copy of my book, shyly asking if I’d sign my name to it.

They needn’t worry. The day I’m not thrilled by someone asking me to sign a book is the day I’m dead.




Here are the live links to the fan conventions —


Left Coast Crime …


Malice Domestic …


Bouchercon …


And the Mysterista’s blog post I refer to is here ….


BeckyClarkBecky Clark —

Becky Clark is the seventh of eight kids, which explains both her insatiable need for attention and her atrocious table manners. She likes to read funny books so it felt natural to write them too. She surrounds herself with quirky people and pets who end up as characters in her books. Readers say her books are “fast and thoroughly entertaining” with “witty humor and tight writing” and “humor laced with engaging characters” so you should “grab a cocktail and enjoy the ride.”


Becky’s website ….

Follow Becky Clark on Amazon …

on Facebook at Becky Clark Author …

and at Goodreads …



Fiction Can Be Murder Ordering Links







Writer's Notes

Conferences: Choosing A Writers Conference by Nancy J. Cohen

FacialsCanBeFatalFront2.jpgBy Nancy J. Cohen

How do you decide which writers’ conference to attend? It depends upon your purpose. If you intend to schmooze with fellow writers, attend workshops on craft or marketing, and soak up the wisdom of more seasoned authors, a conference geared toward writing is the one for you.

The next question to ask yourself is what genre do you write? Would you prefer genre-specific topics or are you such a beginner that it doesn’t matter at this stage? Or perhaps you wish to broaden your opportunities and meet other writers for cross-promotion purposes.

In Florida, we have the Florida Writers Association annual conference that’s for all genres. Here you’ll have a wide range of topics from craft to marketing to more specifics like staging fight scenes. Or you can attend SleuthFest sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. This three-day event focuses on mystery writing, although craft and marketing topics can apply to any genre. There’s a forensics track where you can increase your knowledge of crime writing details.

Or you can sail away on a biannual Fun-in-the-Sun cruise conference with Florida Romance Writers. Again, workshops appeal to any fiction writer while some may be specific to romance.

At the national level, Romance Writers of America ( holds an annual conference with so many amazing workshops it’ll blow your mind. This one rotates locations every year. Even if you don’t write romance, it’s worth the investment to go. The range of workshop topics and opportunities to meet publishing industry professionals can’t be beat.

Mystery Writers of America holds an annual seminar in New York. If you’re looking for a tax-deductible reason to visit the Big City, try this one or the bigger Thrillerfest. There’s Killer Nashville for mystery writers, as well as Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon.

Are you seeking an editor or agent appointment? For sure you’ll want a writers’ conference that offers this opportunity. Some of them also have paid manuscript critiques or writing contests if you’re looking for feedback on your work.

If you’re a published author with at least two novels under your belt, consider attending the Novelists Inc. annual conference. It’s a fantastic event for published authors focusing solely on the business of writing. Many industry professionals also attend this highly valued conference, but it’s not a place for getting an agent, promoting your book, or meeting fans.

There are many more offerings from other writers groups, so check your libraries and writing organizations for additional events.

On the other hand, perhaps you would rather meet fans and grow your mailing list (which you should be doing at any conference you attend). The RT Book Reviews annual conference offers many fan-oriented opportunities. So does Malice Domestic for cozy mystery writers. Look for conferences or group events that invite readers to participate.

Budget is always a consideration. The more meals offered, the more expensive the conference will be. Some of the registration fees can be pretty steep. Others are more budget-friendly but come with few perks. Choose wisely.

Here’s a summary of what to consider:

  1. Do you prefer a writer’s conference or a fan-oriented event?
  2. Do you want an editor/agent appointment?
  3. Are you a finalist in a contest where winners are announced at the conference?
  4. Do you want genre-specific topics or more broad workshops?
  5. Are you a published author going to learn more about marketing or to meet readers?
  6. What is your goal for attending a conference?
  7. How much money can you spend on conference registration, hotel, transportation, and meals? Don’t forget swag or printed promo materials to bring along.

If you mean to accomplish your objectives, conference prep is just as important as choosing which ones to attend.  Click Here for a checklist on what to bring. Once you’re there, relax and have a good time. Networking and making new friends should be your prime goals.




PubPinkNancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal, and earned third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. Her first book in this genre won the HOLT Medallion Award. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping. Follow her here:








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Writer's Notes

Conferences: An Overview by Michele Drier

By Michele Drier

M Drier ASHES_cover_eBook_final-1I’m not even sure when I first attended a conference. It was probably better than forty years ago. It was a conference on Women’s Rights (I’d been appointed to the Attorney General’s Commission on Women’s Rights by my state senator) and the guest speakers were Delores Huerta and Jane Fonda.

Funnily enough, even with that lineup, it’s an issue that’s still headline-making today.

Since then I’ve attended conferences, been a panel moderator and panelist, convened state-wide panels and put on conferences in the areas of the arts, affordable housing and homelessness, and recognizing and preventing elder abuse.

And in the last six years, since I published my first book, conferences on mystery reading and writing.

Though the underlying topics differ, the basic format stays similar. Headliners speak, or are interviewed, awards are given, experts speak on issues, and most, important, attendees mix, mingle and meet people.

Hands-down, authors are the kindest, most open people I’ve met in years of conference-going. They’ll take the time to talk to a fan, or an aspiring author, in the stairwell, the restrooms, the bar, the elevators.

Beyond the “names,” conferences are a great place to meet people, make friends and that over-used word, “network.” As an attendee you’ll talk to people just like you who are looking for an agent, trying to figure out marketing, discover good software to use for plotting, weigh the pro and cons of traditional vs. indie publishing.  There’s a wealth of information and help available for up to four days in one place, and it’s yours to take advantage of. Read the panel descriptions, look up the panelist’s bios, attend the publisher-sponsored hospitality events.


M Drier toronto panel
Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto-panel


To keep down the cost, consider sharing a room with someone—even someone you don’t know! I shared a room a few years ago at Malice with Polly Iyer, a writer I only knew through the online Sisters in Crime group, the Guppies.  What a delight! Witty, wry, a dynamite writer and now a good friend. The only drawback is that we live about 3,000 miles from one another. And in October, at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto, I shared a room with Mo Walsh, the president of the New England chapter of MWA.


Writer’s conferences range from one-day, small (Capitol Crimes, my local Sisters in Crime chapter does a single-day workshop bi-annually that attracts about 90 writers) to large, four-day affairs (Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans had 2,000 attendees).

Attending conferences for me pays double duty. I was the president of the Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter for two years and “knew” about 650 people scattered across the country (and in Europe). Thanks to some conferences, I’ve met many of them, including Sheila Connolly, whose adventures in owning an Irish cottage I’ve been following.

If you’re overwhelmed by large crowds, pick a small one first. California Crime Writers in L.A., (in Southern California, bi-annual, limit of 200 attendee); Public Safety Writers, annual, Las Vegas; Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD (they’ve been keeping it to about 500); Killer Nashville. On the Right Coast is New England Crimebake, that they keep to 250.

Even Left Coast Crime, at about 800 registrants, is edging up. Then the large ones: Bouchercon at about 1,500 and Thrillerfest…I don’t even know.

But don’t be put off, there’s a lot of information out there and hundreds of compatriots who now look like old hands. But they, too, made that first step and registered for a conference.

There are hundreds of them all across the county, not to mention CrimeFest in Bristol, England and Bloody Scotland. Oh, I’d love to do those!

Full disclosure: I’m the co-chair for Boucheron 2020 in Sacramento, I’ll be at Left Coast Crime in Reno in March, 2018 and, because I also write paranormal romance, at the Romance Writers’ of America conference in May 2018. Whew.


January 2018 will feature four more posts about conferences-large and small. Narrowed your conference $$ down? Leave a comment, let us know!


 Michelle DrierMichele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.

She is the president of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the co-chair of Bouchercon 2020.

Her Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death, and a stand-alone thriller, Ashes of Memories, published in 2017.

Her paranormal romance series, The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, has consistently won awards and was the best paranormal vampire series of 2014 from the Paranormal Romance Guild. The series is SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, Danube: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Nights,  SNAP: All That Jazz, and SNAP: I, Vampire.


Visit her facebook page,, her website or her Amazon author page,



Writer's Notes

Conferences: Where to go? Which to Choose?

SkinofTattoosCoverBy Christina Hoag

For crime fiction authors, the good news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. The bad news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. It can be hard to choose the best investment for your money and time.

I decided not to choose. I just went to a slew of them, although not all by any means. Not only did I have a great time at every one, I found value in all of them. Each offers something different, and from each I took away things I didn’t know before, as well as a host of new friends. Frankly for me, networking is one of the best reasons for attending conferences. I love meeting other writers, discussing, writing, publishing, reading. These are my peeps!

The two biggies are Bouchercon, held in a different city every year, and Thrillerfest, held in New York City. Both get well over 1,000 attendees. I chose to attend Thrillerfest this year, leaving Bouchercon for 2018. Thrillerfest is the most expensive con of the bunch, plus Manhattan is a pricey destination, which is something to keep in mind. But this is the place for networking and there’s plenty of opportunity to mingle and fangirl with the biggest names in the business from Lee Child to Lisa Gardner. Thrillerfest also hosts a separate event, Pitchfest, which attracts a ton of top agents and editors, a key advantage to being in the center publishing industry.

There are also a host of smaller regional conferences, usually sponsored by local chapters of the MWA and/or Sisters in Crime. These typically attract 200-300 attendees, including published and aspiring authors and fans, and cost $200-$350. Most offer authors a chance to participate as panelists and to sell and sign their books in the con bookshop, and make great promotional vehicles if you’ve got a new book out or are simply seeking exposure.

Cons have different requirements for panelists so that may affect where you choose to go if promotion is your goal. Sleuthfest, held around Florida, for example, requires panelists to be published by approved publishers. Killer Nashville is friendly to independent and pre-published writers while New England Crimebake in Boston does not allow authors to request panels and selects its own. Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis, California Crime Writers Conference, held biannually in Los Angeles, and Left Coast Crime, offered in a different western city every year, generally offer authors panel spots.

Another factor to look at is the con’s subgenre emphasis. Malice Domestic, held in Bethesda, Maryland, is geared to cozies and traditional mysteries while Thrillerfest is as its name suggests.

Finally, you may choose a particular conference simply because it’s in a place you want to visit or where you have friends or family. Whichever conference you choose, you can save by planning well in advance and taking advantage of early bird prices, usually starting the year before. Another cost-cutting tip: you can stay in less expensive hotels or with friends and Uber back and forth. I’m already looking forward to my next conference in 2018.


ChristinaHoagAuthorHeadshotChristina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer’s girlfriend, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Her noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016) was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014.

Christina makes her home in Los Angeles and lives on the web at

Her novel Skin of Tattoos is available at


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