Posts Tagged With: writing seminars

Have Pen, Will Travel or Get The Heck OUT THERE, Writer!!!

Image

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re a writer. Congrats. I can tell by your moleskine notebook and brace of pens, the book crammed under your arm, your messenger bag, your laptop. That’s nice. Oh look, you’ve made your way to the coffee shop. That’s great. Whatcha working on? Huh? Huh? Not going to tell me are you? That’s alright. I get it.

But here’s the thing, writer. There’s a little more to writing than… well… writing. So put that pen away for a second. No, i’m not going to stop bothering you. Put it away and listen for a second. This is important. No really. You’ve got to hear this. Are you listening?

Good.

Get out there.

Look. We’re all better off, as writers, sequestered in our respective monastic cells tapping away our stories and such. It’s one of the reasons we do what we do and love it. But there’s really more out there that you need to experience. You need to travel. You need a vacation.

Well. Duh. Is what you probably just said. But, seriously. There is a huge pile of experiences and stuff that you need to be having to restock the warehouse of ideas. There’s things you need to see, people you need to meet and experiences you must have that will just make those pages sing a little louder, a little more confidently.

But it’s not enough to just pack your bags and sallie forth. You’ve got to be open to the whole thing too. In the next few blogs i intend to post a few little whys and wherefores on the whole travel thing. Again, they aren’t meant for everyone. They won’t be a ‘do this or else’ list. In fact they’re just going to be a few things here and there that helped me on my most recent travels and stuff i’ve been reflecting on since. Things like what bars you should frequent while out on your travels, What sort of tourist traps should you hit – if any – and which one’s you shouldn’t. Then i’ll key you in to my own little travel log. Or whatever.

But let’s just start here for now. You’ve got to get out there. Find a retreat. Find a conference. Go. Hang out among the locals and get to know people. Be open. Take public transit and most importantly, chat with total strangers. Travel is an opportunity that writers must take. It’s the big golden gate to your brain that doesn’t open nearly enough. When it does amazing stuff pours in. Stuff that can and will color your words and creations more vividly than anything else.

So think of this lame post as an exhortation and an introduction. If you’re interested, just stay tuned for more. I’m hoping – of course – to tell you all about my most recent travel. I’ll be getting into specifics, so it may end up sounding a bit like a travel review type thing but i promise there will be plenty of writery stuff to it as well. And yes, in case you’re wondering, that big ship at the top has something to do with it.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick post about something potentially awesome

So, in lieu of my regular thursday post, I played a lot of Civilization V. This is what writers do when the great idea they had for a blog post two days ago wasn’t written down properly and the brain went on its merry way. I’m sure you’ll all be very pleased to note that I managed to get the Empire of Boudicca into the industrial age and she’s currently wiping the floor (culturally and economically) of all the other poser empires.

But I started to feel guilty. It happens. AND I managed to recover a few of the thoughts I had for the actual subject of this blog. No… I’m not going to write about them now but I think the upcoming REAL mystery blog will deal with the subject of Plot (namely my specific thoughts on plot or why I don’t much like it.) But for the moment – and I hope it’s not too late – I have some news.

I received in my email this morning an invitation to a webinar held by Derek Pacifico, who gives the terrific and oft mentioned Mystery Writers Workshops all over the country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you haven’t taken one of these weekend classes, do. They’re fantastic and I owe much of my writing to his insights and knowledge.

This particular webinar is being held by the International Screenwriters Association and it’s entitled Signs of Death, Wounds and Autopsies for Crime Writers. The registration fee is 55 and I’m guessing it’s worth every penny. You’d better believe I’d be taking the webinar if I wasn’t already obligated to attend my cousin’s 40th Birthday Party. Obligation sounds little harsh. I’m honored to go. It’ll be fun. What’s not to like? The Great Lake Michigan, boats, birthdays. I’d say Beer and Brats but both are pretty much off-limits for me these days.

Anyway. If this section of the seminar is anything like what I took in the workshop it’s definitely worth it and will help you hammer out or at least think about those autopsy scenes you know you’re going to have to write at some point. So check it out and stop back here and tell me all about it because I’d love to know.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Mystery Writers Conference Hunt 2013

So, if you’re a writer and you’ve been at it a while – floundering about like a wounded fish in the desert – you’ve probably heard the bit about writers conferences. I know i have. It usually goes something like this: ‘oh yeah. Query letters by the dozens. Hundreds. But really what broke it for me was the (insert writers conference here) conference in (random city name). That’s where i met my agent and best friend and editor par excellence.’

Yep. I’ve heard that one a few times now and believe me, I’ve listened. It’s hard not to when all the writers you talk to are talking about how terrific Pitchfest was. I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t know. But it does sound like a blast doesn’t it? Like speed dating for desperate screenwriters. I’m really hoping to go some day. Naturally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for my friends to get great six figure deals and lift their hinterland dwelling comrade out of the muck and mire of southeastern Wisconsin. Don’t tell me to stop holding my breath. I will hold it until I pass out. Watch me.

So… what’s a writers conference?

I bet you were expecting me to tell you weren’t you?

Nope. I was actually asking. I’m curious. I have no idea. But I will, dagnabbit, because I’m going. It’s just a matter of where and when.

You see I want to take that next step. Self publishing is grand and all. It’s better, in my opinion, than not publishing at all. (That said I’ve met some very nice people who have opted not to publish and I give them all the props I can, whenever I can. It’s just that, for me, the opportunity to have more people enjoy the fruits of your labors is worth it.) The point is that it really is only going to carry you so far unless you are as fantastic at marketing as you are at writing. I don’t often find that’s the case though. There are some monster marketers out there. People I would hire in a second to write and promote my stuff. But just being honest here, I wouldn’t read their books. It’s nothing personal. There’s some things I’m into and some I’m not. But I appreciate what they do, the work that goes into it and I can certainly appreciate the mad skills they have at promo-ing their own work. (A skill that I seem to lack)

Everything I read and almost everyone I have met have all said the same thing: get thee to a writers conference. Query letters are great, but there is nothing better for your chances than meeting, greeting, being sociable. If you’ve ever had the miserable experience of sending out resume’s into the void you probably know what I mean. Don’t you just feel like if someone gave you that sit down chance you could knock them off their feet? I always do. And that’s what we want, isn’t it? The foot in the door. Give me one foot and I’ll take the lobby and once I take the lobby it’ll be like The Matrix (the original – not those godawful sequels that I try to pretend don’t exist)

Okay. I might be exaggerating. But basically that’s the idea. But really it’s more than that. I don’t think it’s really going to do you any good to be a perfect mercenary about the experience. Learn. That’s the big thing. It’s served me well in almost every situation and as writers it’s got to be tattooed on the inside of your eyelids. If you’re not learning you’re probably soaking in the steam bath of your own ego and that ain’t good.

So if you’re going to go to a writers conference, do me a favor and don’t go thinking your brilliance will radiate from you, blinding agents, fellow writers, publishers. Go thinking you’re going to learn something and see what you learn. Be a spy in the house of words. That’s what I’m going to do. When I go. I’m excited.

So then there’s still the issue of what is a writers conference. Well… when I find out you’ll know. Personally I sort of like to think of it like GenCon which i went to a lot as a young lad. I like to think it’s chock full of weirdos dressed – poorly – as their favorite authors and editors. I like to think of hallways crammed with bespectacled guys, maybe a little older than the old GenCon days, but still decked out in Metallica tee shirts, rolling saving throws vs Contract Negotiation Overload, plotting tactics on graph paper towards the treasure of a best seller list. No, you say? Wouldn’t it be fun though? Maybe GWAR would show up.

Hey. A guy can dream…

Tomorrow i’ll upload a bunch of links to potential conferences for all of you. It’s going to take a little while to research them which is why I’m not doing it now.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crime Writers Weekend – Santa Monica April 13 – 14

IMG_1534

 

 

Well I have returned from fabulous California. And it was fabulous. Let’s see… where do I start? With the Crime Writers Weekend, of course! I could tell you and bore you with every last deliciously wonderful (and warm) morsel of what I did and where I went on the trip but it wouldn’t mean a heckuva lot to any random reader. I will say, though, if you ever get a chance (and find a chance even if it means you have to steal it) get over to Big Dean’s Oceanfront Cafe. Best. Damned. Burger. EVER. And probably no better place to have a beer and enjoy the pier.

Anyway. The Crime Writers Weekend was hosted by The Writers Store in wonderful Santa Monica, not far from the border of Venice at The Satellite. I gotta say, I like the Satellite but mainly because it was in easy walking distance from where I was staying so I could roll out, all gross and smelly, crawl down to the Starbucks around the corner and have a cup before cramming my head with all sort of cop stuff. Aside from that… ahem… this was the second time in six months that the venue didn’t let me in when it was supposed to. I was stuck waiting for the doors to open on time. Again. That and the fact that they crunched Forensics in at the very end so that it ran up against the time crunch didn’t seem all that great. Otherwise it was pretty good.

Unlike the Homicide School for Writers this one wasn’t nearly as focused, rather it was a nice shotgun approach to law enforcement covering Gangs, Patrol, Narcotics, Undercover, Murder for Hire, SWAT, Victim Services, Forensics and Search and Rescue. Honestly, it was a lot to take in but I managed to take excellent notes if I do say so myself. Some of the speakers were recently retired and showed (sometimes in spite of themselves) both the tenor and tone of their professions as well as some eye-popping frustrations. One of them, Patrol Officer Harry Penny had a truly unique viewpoint covering the mid 60s and early 70s. If you ever get the chance to let the man speak you will not fail to be entertained and informed and if you’re interested he has a book out: Behind The Badge: The Funny Side of the “Thin Blue Line”. I bought a copy while I was there but there’s nothing quite like seeing the man in person.

So what got me about the weekend? hmm… Well… I had no idea how much of Gang Life is actually run from inside prison. In fact I had no idea how that was even possible. But it is and the weekend made that clear. The presentation on Narcotics was very engaging and shockingly thorough even though it didn’t get in detail about the procedure of a Narcotics case. I’m going to have to research that a bit. The bit on Undercover operations and SWAT was fascinating, particularly when you take into account that the presenter now works with CIA, FBI, Interpol and others in a private capacity. He is – apparently – what you would call a ‘bad ass’. I’ll probably post more details as I work through editing and rereading my notes.

I guess what got me the most about it was that it gave lie to the thing you see too much of on TV, where the units all seem to operate as solitary squads in their own little fiefdom. You get the impression that if it wasn’t for the CSI’s no crimes in Las Vegas would ever be solved (another impression you get from CSI is that if you happen to be wearing a patrol officers uniform you might as well have beamed down with Captain Kirk wearing a red shirt as your life expectancy is nil.) The Crime Writers Weekend shows that none of this is the case. In fact, as with the Homicide School for Writers there were some rather choice words spent at the expense of CSI (no big shocker there) but from people who were acquainted with the shows original creators.

Law Enforcement is not a solitary act operating in the vacuum of their own squads or units. In fact, as the weekend showed, it’s an interwoven latticework of departments providing intelligence and communicating. We’re all used to the homicide guys standing around the body, but who got there first? Generally a patrol officer (much to homicide detectives chagrin sometimes). We’re used to gang violence and such in our television (which is oddly NOT spoken about a lot in favor of the pretty 18-25 year old girl or 30 – 50 year old man victims as mentioned earlier) but we don’t generally see Gang Unit guys consulting in a homicide investigation even though they’re the one’s who would know the players. Tips and clues can come from anywhere. The business of Gangs is Narcotics. Fugitive Apprehension Squads and Swat may (and often do) work together etc. It’s not something you get a very accurate impression of in your regular prime time cop drama. But it should be.

I suppose that’s a little difficult to swing dramatically. It becomes an ensemble piece. I ought to know. The next Meg story has an awful lot of that and sometimes I feel like I’m biting off more than I can chew with it. But why not? What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail at writing it. Worse things have happened and frankly I’m enjoying tossing officers from different endeavors into the story. It gives me a chance to expand the setting and environment of Meg and Friends and voila! all of a sudden you have a bunch more possible conflicts, plot points, minor characters to work with. It doesn’t ALL have to be about your intrepid investigator and their brilliant deductions and the life and operations of a patrol sergeant can be every bit as interesting and intriguing as that of a homicide investigator.

Well in any case. I’m back in Milwaukee now…

IMG_1535

 

And I’m about to embark on a few new things. For starters I’m going to launch a few little promo pieces for something I’ve been working on for a few years now. It’s a little different. Actually it’s a lot different. But it’s an honest attempt to flex the muscle of the genre and see how far I can stretch it. Just to let you know it’s a bit far so be prepared. If you’re a classic mystery fan it might strain your patience but I think it’s worth it – a determination I’ve made based on the criteria that I’ve enjoyed writing it.

In the meantime the work continues at pace on Meg Brown 6. Shhhh… the actual title’s a mystery. I think you’ll like it. If you haven’t read any of the other Meg stories… well what are you waiting for? All the stuff I write on this blog (aside from the reviews of course) get acted out in real-time over there. You can think of it as the practice field for the sort of thoughts that eventually end up on this blog.

 

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Umm… A Few More Things? – A Review, A Seminar, and the end of the draft is in sight…

Alright. No laborious preamble tonight. Let’s get straight to it.

First – Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn. If you’ve been following this blog (and why aren’t you if you aren’t?) then you should know by now that my tastes in mystery and crime can be a little… random. Much like my taste in music, really. Anyway. Blessed are the Dead is a pretty good one I feel comfortable recommending. Nunn doesn’t go in for flashy sentences or sparkling paragraphs. She just weaves a fascinating little tale about a former WWII Veteran turned detective in South Africa circa 1952. The victim is a beautiful Zulu girl found on a hillside with no apparent injuries, which is really too bad because the Colonel in charge of the homicide was – of course – hoping for a flashy white victim to elevate his status before his big wedding day.

Politics and race play a huge part of this tight little thriller. And when I say politics I mean tribal politics. The way Nunn weaves together Zulu, Africaan and English prejudices is fascinating and vivid. Add to that mixture the desire for status and how to achieve it in various different and competing cultures and you have a fine stew of exotic interests meeting in homicide and intrigue throughout.

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is perfectly serviceable as a lead detective – driven by inner demons – that sort of thing. It’s a pretty standard back story for him really BUT in Nunn’s hands it’s a got a bit more zip than it has most other places mainly due to his mixed background, the accusation of being half black that nearly derailed his career, and the haunting Scottish sergeant who occasionally makes his spectral presence known. The real kick comes from Cooper’s partner, Native Constable Shabalala. Nunn wisely keeps her narrative closely focused on Cooper and his investigation but the presence of Shabalala is enigmatic, flitting here and there, toeing the line of apartheid rules, silently – and distantly – interviewing witnesses we readers will never be privy to except in his wonderful bits of exposition. We never really get to know Shabalala throughout the story but man did I find myself wanting to.

Anyway. If you’re looking for something a bit different with maybe just a tiny hint of fantasy to it I’d recommend Nunn’s work. Not that there really is any fantasy to it but with her sparse yet gorgeous descriptive flair it can feel somewhat fantastical at times and thrown in a ghostly Scottish soldier popping in now and then and… well…

Second order of business and this one is really exciting. I know I’ve gone on about the Writers Homicide School a few times already but that’s just giving credit where credit is due. I tend to do that when something has filled my head with more material than I really know what to do with. Well I got a bit of great news today that I can’t do anything with so I’m hoping one of you readers will be able to do something about it. April 27th and 28th the Writers Homicide School is coming to Knoxville, Tennessee! If you’re anywhere near the area, fancy yourself a mystery writer, or just have a hankering to get the real inside scoop on how it is from a real former homicide detective you can’t miss it. Oh and did I mention it’s discounted? Yep. If you reserve before April 11th it’s only $199. If that sounds like a lot to you… well… cough it up. It was worth it at the ridiculous price I paid – but then I did get a trip to LA out of the deal. And this one appears to come with EVEN MORE audience participation! Sigh. And I’m damned well going to miss it. Why? Because I’m heading back to LA at the beginning of April for another conference involving LAPD. Ah well…

But before I lament my pitiful state any further lemme just give you a little taste of what you’re going to get:

NEW FOR 2013! – By popular request and demand (threats by some even) I am now including practical exercises to the Writers Homicide School. We will be seeing blood fly in motion, doing some basic experiments and for those who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty, we will be doing some latent lifts with black powder too!

I mean seriously. How can you resist? I can only resist due to some fairly poor decision-making and a woefully empty pocketbook.

Anyway – head on over to the Writers Homicide School blog right now and find out more.

And finally, to toot my own little horn just a tad: Meg Brown Mystery #6 is almost finished in its draft form. It has a long way to go to be edited and ready for publication and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it when that happens (do I self publish again? Do I begin the long, arduous and aggravating hunt for representation?) If anyone has any suggestions I will happily take them. The big thing with this one is that I would like to donate the proceeds (whatever they end up being) to charity. I know. You just heard me say I’m not rich but I want to donate the book to charity. Well… there’s a good reason for it. First, I didn’t really write the thing for me to begin with. And second, I’d do the writing anyway. ‘Cuz that’s what I do. Full stop. It’s not like I’ve been paid riches before and work is work. You know you really mean it when you give it away.

If you haven’t read the other Meg’s please do. I’m pretty proud of them. Even if they didn’t have the benefit of a professional editor and all the good cheese that comes with a major publishing house. Here’s a link to all of them: Here. Don’t let the rather dire cover design fool you. I’m working on that.

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Some New Seminar Updates – Sign Up Immediately!!!

So a while back I wrote about the simply amazing Homicide Writing School that I took in LA last year. If you haven’t read about it go over and take a look here. It’s really the best induction into the world of the homicide detective that you’re likely to get without actually knowing a homicide detective and picking their brain 24/7. Not a day goes by in my little writing world where I don’t put it to use and I’m constantly thinking about it while writing. I’m pretty sure I don’t get everything perfect, not being a detective myself, but it sure does rattle around the old noggin enough.

Well today (way early for a new post on the mystery blog, I know) I have a bit of an update. For starters the Homicide Writers School is coming to Chicago! Right in my own back yard! (sort of) From what I hear of Chicago these days, if Detective Sergeant Pacifico isn’t careful he may find himself drafted. It’s coming to the Windy City March 29th and 30th courtesy of the International Screenwriters Association and the Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. The price is $350.00 or $250.00 with the discount code. BUT – and here’s the exciting thing – if you happen to be nowhere near Chicago on the 29th and 30th you can still attend (sort of). The Homicide Writing School will be broadcast online!

If you’re tapping your chin with your writing pencil right now and thinking ‘gee that’s a bit steep’ well then you’re in the same boat I was in when I went. If you have the available cash and care to get the real dirt on writing homicide from a real homicide detective you must go. Pacifico covers nearly every topic you could hope to learn about – from department organization, to blood spatter and interrogation with enough real life examples to make the whole thing stimulating, fascinating and invaluable. Just as a personal example I’m pretty broke and risked my job to attend the seminar in California. In fact I had to quit my job in order to attend (but managed to save it because they desperately needed the personnel) and it was entirely worth it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement for you scribbling sleuths, slaying screenwriters, etc there’s yet more news! Sgt. Pacifico will also be holding a FREE teleconference on March 9th covering interrogation and interview! If you don’t know that there’s a difference then you’d better sign up before you finish reading this paragraph. How often have you seen the TV cops tear into a possible suspect in an interview room trying to badger them into fessing up? Probably so often that you have this unnatural instinct that that’s exactly how it’s done. I, for one, get a little aggravated at watching interrogation after interrogation like it’s some silly revolving door of verbal abuse. Why not learn how it’s really done? And why not for Free? did I mention it’s free? Did I mention I’m pretty excited?

I’ve said it before in the other blog but I would easily pay another $250.00 for a two-day seminar only about interrogation and interview. The stuff we learned in that segment was absolutely fascinating and leads me to believe I never want to play poker against a homicide detective. At least not a real one. Give me one of the TV one’s any day. With the lessons I learned in that segment I think I could beat David Caruso out of a paycheck.

Registration for the Seminar on the 29-30th can be found here: http://networkisa.org/#/writers-homicide-school-emmy/4574033043

Registration for the free Interview/Interrogation teleconference can be found here: http://networkisa.org/#/police-interview-telecon/4574175369

And Sgt. Pacifico’s website for future conferences and his crime writing consultations can be found here: http://crimewritersconsultations.com/index.php

Get out there and register while spaces last. You won’t regret it.

Addendum: I don’t know why but my comments aren’t showing up under the posts in the manner i’d like so i thought i would add this little bit courtesy of Sgt. Pacifico himself:

What also needs to be mentioned is the price of the online webinar is only $95 if you use the discount code ISACWC when signing up. In house guests get the bonus of personal interaction between breaks and the ability to play with some of the props and/or interact with the exercises, plus they receive a discounted rate after hours one-on-one consultation (first come first serve on these as there are only so many hours in the day.)

I really appreciate your support of my seminar. You can tix for either the Chicago in-studio event or the webinar at networkisa.org.

Thank you sincerely,

Derek Pacifico

Hear that folks? 95 dollars for the webinar but i still highly recommend personal attendance if you can swing it. The interaction is absolutely priceless – not just for the much vaunted networking but the question and answer is excellent and the moments of audience participation really bring it all together in a way nothing else can.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.