Bloody Words – Crime Writers of Canada Conference


I learned so much I had to leave a day early!!!  Seriously!

Friday, started with a fact explosion when Robert Landori’s gave us detailed information about Terrorism and Money Laundering, so we’d get it straight when writing about them. I knew there was going to be a feast of information to digest.  Then we spent an hour with William Deverell, introduced by Adrian Chamberlain.  Mr. Deverell, famous author and winner of many prestigious awards including the prestigious Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing, described his writing day.  I think a lot of us lesser writers could relate to the way he eases into it, from puttering around (not his words; mine) to editing earlier work, to writing “in a white heat” (his words) till past dinner time.  His talk filled me with a new determination to work harder at my craft.

Always proud of being from Mayne island, I usually let new acquaintances know it right away.  I was surprised when a fellow writer told me her great-great grandfather once owned Mayne Island.  Captain George Richards of the Royal Navy was surveying that area and generously named the island after his lieutenant, Richard Charles Mayne, her ancestor.

After registration, I was asked if  I wanted to join the Crime Writers of Canada.  When I learned that there would be competitions and prizes, I decided that I would.  Perhaps the added incentive of a prize would spur me on to greater writing.

Our reception was just delightful.  The writers I met were all friendly and very interested in what I wrote, just as I was very interested in their work. They felt like colleagues.  Some were much farther along in their careers, with many books safely completed, while others were there to see if they might be able to turn a synopsis into a book.

As a Volunteer, I sat in the room with the two agents, and made sure that each writer who had signed up for an interview had their fifteen minutes with an agent.  There were some who came well-prepared with writing samples, reports on blogs and web pages, and reviews.  Others were just exploring the idea of writing a book.

That evening, we stayed for a radio play from the 1940′s, read by mystery writers and directed by Michael Slade.  The name, “Shock Theatre” was very appropriate, since I found myself nervous about stepping on rats in my friend’s pristine basement guest room when going to be there, as a result of listening to the shocking play, complete with sound effects.  I could almost hear the “squeak, squeak” of the rats, produced by the sound effects man squeezing a plastic frog, as I was falling asleep!

The next morning we experienced “Read Dating.”  Instead of meeting a potential date pitching himself, we met authors pitching their book or books for three minutes.  I learned that in three minutes you can describe the setting, the lead character, the conflict, and some of the interesting details, with enough time left for a question or two.  And there are several new books on my “must read” list now.

On workshop was a panel discussion with two publishers, a published author and a self-published author.  They discussed the touchy subjects of electronic books, self-publishing, traditional publishing, and combinations of all three.  I believe that, although different viewpoints were expressed, that all agreed that good-quality books in whatever format, at a reasonable cost to the buyer and a reasonable payment to the authors was the goal they all wanted to meet.  They also dealt with the subject of  promotion and all agreed that publishers can not do as much as formerly.  Social media play a large and important role in marketing books regardless of the medium.   All possibilities are under consideration by Canadian publishers and authors.  Publishing in Canada is alive and well.

Another panel discussed the trends in crime writing.  The message I took away from that session was that by the time a trend is noted, it’s already too late to jump in and write a book about it.  Perhaps we’ll write the book that sets a new trend, one of the panelists suggested.

Side-kicks, villains, or other minor characters, can sometimes steal the show, in life and in novels.  Some authors write back stories about all their characters, so that if they  decide to make them a lead character in another or just have them appear in it, they will know them.  Some authors kill off their over-written characters or put them in a coma.  At times it’s necessary to edit your book and have fewer or smaller scenes for these characters.  If someone is writing a series, not a stand-alone book, it”s important to remember that your readers may not have read earlier books.  Introduce  your minor characters so that the new reader will get a clear picture of who they are and be able to remember them later on.

Another panel was especially good for those of us writing series.  It addressed keeping the long arc fresh, book after book.  This can be accomplished by placing your character in new, interesting settings and by introducing new challenges.  Some authors write two series, and alternate between the two.
some leave several years between each book in the series.  Some series cover a brief period, with the main character remaining the same age.  Others have the main character age.

Around lunch time of our second day, I began to realize that if I was going to process all I had learned, and put it to use in my writing, I would have to stop.  I had reached my limit.  Fortunately, my traveling companion and I both agreed to leave early.

Beautiful Mayne Island, so green, so clean, enveloped us in her arms as we drove off the Queen of Cumberland Ferry.  We were glad to be home again.


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