Sunday, November 14, 2010

Murder, Vampires and a Year of Work Ends

I'm delighted and relieved to report that my year of hard work came to successful fruition this past weekend at the New England Crime Bake for Mystery Readers and Writers.

While it has been exciting and stimulating to be co-chair of a conference totally run by mystery-loving volunteers, it also has been challenging and required much effort. It also has eaten up a great deal of writing (and other) time and I will be extremely thankful to get that back.

Crime Bake, now in its ninth year, takes place in "DEAD"ham, Massachusetts, and is co-sponsored by the New England chapters of the international mystery organizations Sisters in Crime (SinC) and Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Traditionally the co-chairs are the presidents of the local organizations, which in my case means not only presiding over an active SinC chapter that spans six New England states, it also required heading a Crime Bake committee of 20 people who hail from three of them -- and with someone I'd met only once before. In addition, this was only my second year on the Crime Bake Committee and it was MWANE President Margaret McLean's first so some of it we made up as we went along. (Here I persuaded Margaret that we should open the conference in vampire capes due to our Guest of Honor -- and sunglasses as daylight is a definite problem for vampires!)

We were aided in our conference planning by a strong cadre of dedicated fellow mystery writers who deeply love Crime Bake, which is known as a writer's conference. Sure, there were issues, false starts and some mistakes, but I was so grateful for the hard work of each of them because it has been vital to this venture and responsible for us selling out at the beginning of August.

Another major factor in our success was our guest of honor -- the incredible Charlaine Harris with four, count 'em four, mystery series, including the Sookie Stackhouse "Southern Vampire" books on which the HBO series True Blood is based. Charlaine was incredibly gracious, extremely generous with her time and writing advice, and one of the funniest women you'd ever meet. I had the privilege, along with my co-chair, of conducting a 45-minute Guest of Honor interview with this smart and engaging woman in front of a luncheon attended by almost 300 conference attendees -- and it was a highlight of my weekend. One of the things she told us is that in writing the Sookie series, she also is writing about discrimination, especially against the gay community.

This Arkansas mother of three has been a published author for 25 years (her second husband gave her what I consider an extremely romantic gift -- a typewriter for her to become a writer -- as a wedding gift so, as she says, she "kept him"). One of her characters has inspired a video game coming out early next year and CBS is developing a series based on her Harper Connolly books. We were very fortunate to have her as our Guest of Honor.

Our weekend lineup also included best-selling New England authors Dennis Lehane (seen here and personally invited by yours truly after stalking him at my local chain bookstore), Julia Spencer-Fleming, Hallie Ephron, Sheila Connolly and so many others, as well as exciting debut authors like Barb Ross. The schedule of fascinating panels also featured fabulous forensics experts, as well as 10 agents and editors from New York and New England. How could we not succeed?

This conference is always stimulating and energizing because the rooms are filled with so many enthusiastic mystery writers dedicated to improving their craft and talking about it. Let's face it: there also aren't many conferences where people can legitimately allow themselves to be excited about discussing murder, ways to dispose of a body or blood spatter patterns.

This year, we added a Vampire Ball to the activities in Charlaine's honor and urged people to dress in costume (the lobster and Vampire bride were among my favorites) or red and black, which are the official Crime Bake colors. Some, like me and "Dirty Business" mystery series author Rosemary Harris (photo at far right) also added the colors to our hair. The photo to the left below shows a bit of my red hair extension and two my fellow Working Stiffs bloggers after we met in person instead of the virtual world. Husband No. 1 (shown trying to keep up with me on the dance floor) opted for a blood red shirt to follow the red and black theme.
This weekend once again reminded me how blessed I am to have found my way to the mystery genre and to now be part of such an amazing community of writers. And I was giving thanks for this experience throughout the entire weekend, both when I was wearing my vampire cape and fangs -- and when I wasn't.


Barb Ross said...

Hi Pat--

Thanks for the shout out. It was the best Crime Bake ever in my opinion--best panels, best banquet, etc. It was also personally so much fun for me, to be on my first Crime Bake panel, to be releasing the new Level Best anthology, Thin Ice and so on.

You and all the committee deserve so much recognition and appreciation. I hope there is a little laurel resting in your futures.

Jungle Red Writers said...

Definitely..a good time was had by all!

Pat Remick said...

I think the glow of the weekend is going to last a very long time! And I suppose the laurel is that we get to do it again next year!

Ramona said...

This was my first Crime Bake. You all did a great job. I'll be back next year--and I'll bring friends.