On Thursday, May 31st, my mother and I hopped in the car, and we headed to points west. While she was here at my apartment on a rather busy vacation, she had been reading one of the countless, uncategorized books strewn on my hall floor. Later, while I drove, she read, and while she drove, I read the same book. The best part of it was, it was a historical mystery set in medieval England: Satan in St. Mary's, by P.C. Doherty, a British author.
Historical mysteries are pretty much the only things my mother and I agree on (that, and certain songs by the Beatles). It's what I write. It's what we both love to read. After that, though, our differences split. I prefer the thrillers and shoot 'em ups, and she prefers cozies that don't have a lot of swearing. So we swap notes - she tells me about the books she's picked up and read, and I tell her about the authors I've met and/or interviewed; between the two of us, we get a great insight into the Canadian (and British, and American) crime fiction scene. I also learned this weekend that she's been picking up books from the library based on whether or not they're in my friends list on Facebook.
But the fact that we had both been reading the same book, that it was by an author I had never read before, and that it was a historical crime fiction - it all seemed very appropriate, because we were headed to Toronto for the twelfth Bloody Words convention.
Members of the Crime Writers of Canada frequent this mass get-together, though we're not the only participants. This year, we had published authors who were or were not members, we had members of Sisters in Crime present, we had unpublished authors, we had publishers, agents, librarians, readers - you name it, we had attendees from all over the map attending, literally and figuratively speaking. And if I were to write the names of everyone I met for the first time - or for the many-eth time - I would more or less be writing out the attendee list, which is already posted on the Bloody Words website.
But among the narrow highlights, I met up with folks like Jill Edmondson, who autographed a copy of her latest, The Lies Have It, by spelling out my name with at least four 'w's, and who insisted on introducing me to a legion of attendees as "Patricia Flewwuh-blubble-blah" or some such. Even under the weather, Jill could pull together a gang of complete strangers and make an incredible social event out of lunch.
Howard Shrier, at least, could remember me and pronounce my name and come up to me after one of the panels to tell me that my mother didn't like his work. It's okay, Howard - I love your work, and I'm usually the one who buys all the books in the family.
My mother did, however, really enjoy seeing Mary Jane Maffini again, and she could be seen sitting up very tall in her seat at last night's gala event when MJ was shortlisted for the first ever "Bony Blithe" award, which is an award specific to Bloody Words (and not CWC), to be awarded to the best humourous mystery novel. She cold also be seen slumping in her chair and snapping her fingers in a most "Drat it all!" fashion when MJ didn't win. Regardless, congratulations to Gloria Ferris for taking the award, for her story Cheat the Hangman!
And I made a lot of new contacts - some of whom I'm still trying to find on Twitter and Facebook, only because I haven't had the good sense to dig up the stack of business cards from my purse yet. But, I met up with folks like Robin Spano (whose husband looks like Alec Baldwin, when his glasses slip down his nose), and Sean Chercover, who has an incredible resume (including a 4+ year stint as a private investigator in Chicago and New Orleans), and is a writer on top of all that. Jacqui Morrison and I also hung out together a few times (she'd asked me to heckle her on one of the panels she was on). And I drove Nancy Kilpatrick home. Nancy and I had a wonderful six hour conversation about politics, writing, editing, and more politics. Nancy, thanks again for breakfast, the chat, and those wondeful Timbits!
I was finally able to meet all the members of the CWC exec council, including Vicki Delany, Kevin Thornton, Jake Doherty, Lou Allin, past president Garry Ryan, and current CWC president, Robin Harlick. And what fun to walk into Second Cup on the very first morning and eavesdrop on a conversation, then to introduce myself to two women whose voices I knew so well by Skype, and yet had never met before: Melodie Campbell and Alison Bruce, both absolutely integral members of the CWC staff. It was a real treat to horn in on their conversation and introduce myself. There were squees and hugs all around.
I also met folks like Rob Brunet, Shane Sawyer, Cheryl Freedman, Rick Blechta (our fearless MC this year), Michael Blair, John Moss, Donna Carrick - and my GOSH, one metric gazillion people whose names I haven't found or remembered yet.
And apparently my fame preceded me. Or rather, my fame preceded my mother: she told me after an "author speed dating" panel, where readers went from table to table listening to "why you should buy my book" pitches by the authors themselves, my mother received frequent comments like "Oh - you're Pat's mom!" So even though I'm not published yet, others at CWC already know who I am.
So, if you wonder if it's a good thing to join an organization and/or attend events like Bloody Words - take a look at the list of links on my blog along and consider that if you network at an event like this, you've reached out to a reader, a blogger and a social networker, who in turn can talk about your writing, and help you sell another book.
And, it's educational. We sat in on panels about the future of publishing, how to make the best of an eBook publication, which companies are best at epublishing, how to improve the quality of your research, how to find the right contacts, where to draw the line between too much accurate historical detail and not enough...I was telling a few people this weekend (it really was a merry-go-round of conversations - I don't know what I said to whom or how often): yes, I'm not published. But wow, when I get to that point, I'm going to be the most disillusioned and best prepared rookie in the game.
And on top of all that, what fun. Sure, I only got a grand total of 12 hours sleep spread out over four days and nights, yes there was some cost and travel involved, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Now, remember again that my mother and I started out on our trip to Bloody Words sharing a historical mystery. I write about a private detective in 1944, about a butcher in 1538, and I'm currently working on a major project that spans from 1978 to present day.
Bloody Words XIII, which will be in Toronto in 2014, has an overarching theme: Danse Macabre - and it's all about historical crime.
Can you guess how enthused I am about the next Bloody Words?
Can you guess how enthused I would be to go to Bouchercon, in 2013? P.C. Doherty, author of Satan in St. Mary's (and almost 100 other titles), is going to be the International Guest of Honour.
A very special thank-you goes out to Caro Soles and the rest of the Bloody Gang for a fantastic weekend. There is an extraordinary amount of work that goes into the planning of any convention, and they pulled it off beautifully.