#OWFI14 (Part 1)

Too busy tweeting and Facebooking this past weekend to post on the blog. Was at the OWFI Conference for the third year in a row. It’s not an overly large affair but it draws a variety of writers from the region who are adept at various genres. It is really nice to attend a well-organized conference put together by a caring and supportive writer’s group.

For me, it was an opportunity to get together with old Kansas friends and new Oklahoma friends and, of course, make new friends. It really makes no difference what your age is or how many books you have published. When writers get together, they are all friends.

This year’s conference was especially rewarding as well as particularly challenging. My mother passed away the day before. Several people were surprised I was in attendance. But since my parents had always supported my writing endeavors, my presence was as much to honor them as it was to further my prospects.

It is always fun to be around my publisher, Dan Case of AWOC.com. He’s fun and funny and, more important, perceptive. I trust his instincts. That is important for a writer to have that kind of relationship with his publisher.

Now, before we get to the nuts and bolts of the conference itself and the great faculty they had, we’ll start out with a story that, fortunately, did NOT set the tone for the weekend. I got up at 5:40 am on Friday morning with the intention of working out at the hotel’s facilities. By 5:50 I was in the elevator which came to a bit of a thud on the first floor. I recognized that it was an unusual sound, so much so that it didn’t surprise me when the door didn’t open. I just pushed the call button.

The glass wall of the elevator was in sight of the front desk. I saw the security guard come over to the landscaped area on the first floor. I had to mime my cell phone number because I couldn’t hear him through the glass. Using the kind of logic that is employed by overseas tech support call centers, he instructed me to push a series of buttons. Like, all of them. This brilliant move did not work. I was advised that it would be about fifteen minutes before the maintenance man came.

Well, it was nearly three times that long. Forty minutes later, 6:30 am, the maintenance man extricated me from this tomb and apologized. The security guard apologized. The front desk staff apologized. I indicated that I expected more than just an apology. They comped my room for one night and three in a goody basket of munchies and snacks.

By the time I got to the gym, the ellipticals and treadmills were already in use. Fortunately the conference was much better than its dubious beginnings.

It doesn’t have to be controversial. Or does it?

I am thrilled to announce the publication of my second book, The 9 mm Solution, now available on Amazon Kindle. It’s been another fascinating association with Dan Case, the publisher of Deadly Niche Press, an imprint of AWOC.COM.

This procedural finds a team of FBI profilers trying to determine the identity of an unknown subject who is doling out a special brand of justice to various perpetrators who have escaped justice by means of a single 9 mm bullet. The three main characters are: Harrison Bradley, the up-and-comer who is fascinated by solving the intellectual puzzle; Gordon Figueroa, the veteran who watched his uncle burn out doing the same job; and the unknown subject who seems to be very logical with regard to his methods.

This story came from years of discussion with my brother-in-law regarding the judicial and penal system in this country. It is not unlike the original Dirty Harry, or the more recent films, The Boondock Saints and Harry Brown. This was meant to be an entertainment, nothing particularly controversial. But perhaps it is.

The news today is filled with stories of a country divided by ideals regarding religion, economics, and basic freedoms. I didn’t intend to stir the pot any more than your highly paid, good-looking, intellectually deficient news personality. Perhaps my approach is more thought-provoking.

It would be truly interesting to provide a copy of the book to a member of the NRA and anti-gun advocate, let them read it from cover to cover, and then sit back and discuss the moral merits (or lack thereof) in the book. As moderator, you will never find me expressing my opinions; it’s a book and I’m the writer and not running for public office.

Several books in history have stirred up controversy and altered the course of a social agenda. Consider Silent Spring by Rachel Carson or The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I certainly do not mean to place my work in that lofty environment. However, precedents have been set. Certainly, there is already a discussion regarding gun rights and new conversations open up every time there is some stark tragedy.

Ok, so this book was written as an entertainment. Hopefully those who buy it will think of it in that fashion. And, no, it doesn’t need to be controversial. But I hope to heck it is.

The 2013 OWFI Conference – Part 1

You go to a writer’s conference for three primary reasons: to learn, to network, or to socialize. If you are fortunate, all three things will happen.

This year’s OWFI Conference provided me with a new approach to possibly getting additional bylines by writing magazine articles; an opportunity to meet Chuck Sasser and Bob Avey, two experienced and successful writers who have Dan Case of AWOC.com as their publisher, just like me; and to hang around with dear friends from KWA and get to know them better as people as well as writers.

You can not help but come away with a rejuvenated feeling after such an event. As writers, we primarily work alone, sometimes in the dark with simply the glow of a computer screen to enlighten us. At some point, the work has to be presented to someone or several someones. Until that time, it is not real except on your hard drive and in your mind. Whereas it may not be “ready”, it needs to see the light of day in someone else’s eyes.

Writers together have an understanding and a bond. They also have a propensity for acting strange and getting into trouble. (Or that may just be me!) You make a comment about how some piece of dialogue didn’t sound real or how one scene is slowing you down but is nevertheless necessary. And the other writer knows what you’re talking about.

You can talk all you want about genre and how the gal that writes the western romance has nothing in common with the guy who deals in historical mystery. That’s not necessarily true. The notion of Craft comes up in the forefront of every conversation just as two chefs understand the same concepts, though one bake pastries and the other roasts meat. This is where the value of conferences is to be found. The slight details, the specialized knowledge, and the pat on the back are all exchanged in hopes of all becoming better writers.

How Pitchapalooza Led to a Book Deal

Pitchapalooza is a strange and unique event. Hosted by The Book Doctors, it offers the participants the opportunity for a one minute pitch. No more, no less, than one minute. After you have made your pitch, you are critiqued on it with the aim to help you make your pitch better. The winner gets a future meeting with an agent or publisher or editor uniquely qualified to assist.

You never know what it will lead to. This is my story.

SPOILER ALERT: I did NOT win.

It was at the KWA Scene Conference in 2012 that I participated. On this blog, I debated which of two pieces to pitch: a traditional neo-noir hardboiled mystery or an experimental piece of Transgressive fiction. I chose the latter. It was unique enough to stand out even though it might not be the most commercial piece to pitch.

I had looked up Pitchapalooza on YouTube and saw several examples. I wrote and re-wrote my pitch. I practiced. At the Friday night session, the twenty entrants were randomly drawn. I was confident going in. But as the participants came and went, I waited. And waited. And waited. Nerves were starting to settle in.

And then I was called. And, to be honest, I nailed it. I hit it out of the park. Pick your own analogy. But I did what I was supposed to do. I was ready for that cash bar.

At the end of the session, the five panelists excused themselves for a review/vote/consultation. They came back a short time later to announce that they had a winner AND an honorable mention. I knew from my research that was unheard of. They did not usually have Honorable Mentions. I was announced as that rare honoree. Initially I was disappointed but having been mentioned at all, to have been considered, WAS a victory.

One of the panelists was Dan Case of AWOC.COM Publishing who was quite taken with my pitch, my story, and me. I had a one-on-one session with him on Saturday as well as one with Arielle Eckstut, one of the Book Doctors.

Flash forward two months to the OWFI Conference. One of the sessions was on the Elevator Pitch. Again, my Transgressive work, having recently been perfected, was blurted out in a one sentence pitch. More applause and appreciation.

I run into Dan Case. He remembers me. He still wants to see what I’ve got up my sleeve. I send him both pieces that I pitched back at the KWA Scene Conference. We can flash forward some more. Because Dan Case decides to publish the neo-noir hardboiled mystery, “Swan Song”, currently available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback, Barnes and Noble Nook and Paperback, and Kobo e-books.

It’s really mind-boggling, amazing, fascinating, and fun, all at the same time. I keep thinking that Raymond Chandler published his first novel, “The Big Sleep”, when he was 51. I beat him by six months.

It’s only a start. I know that. I don’t know where it actually goes from here. But it all really started because of a crazy event called Pitchapalooza.

The Evolution of a Novel – “Swan Song”

Why do writers write? It is the fascination and obsession with the Word. Their connection, their sound, their emotional weight. We are story tellers and we tell our stories with words.

This is the story of “Swan Song”, my debut novel published by Deadly Niche Press. {The Kindle Edition is available at Amazon.com; the print version will be available after the first of the year.}

In 2007, I won a prize in the Adult Poetry Division of the Kansas Writer’s Association’s yearly contest. At the presentation and corresponding reading at Watermark Books in Wichita, KS, I talked with Storme Maynard who told me about a strange thing called NaNoWriMo. All you had to do was write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. No problem, right?

The stress of the thing was palpable. Writing poetry in Boston in the mid 1990’s was a thought-provoking, emotional, and at times intellectual process. But we took our time until we got it right. This thing was literary insanity. But I finished it; I completed a “book”, such as it was. However, looking over my effort in December was out of the question. The holidays were approaching and I didn’t want my sloppy 50,000 words to depress.

I did work on it. Many times through several years. Eventually I came up with a piece of neo-noir hardboiled fiction that still captures my attention and creates striking images in my mind. Keep in mind that it is still nothing more than a manuscript at this time.

That is until I met Dan Case of AWOC.com. He was a speaker at the KWA Scene Conference in 2012 and a panelist for Pitchapalooza, sponsored by The Book Doctors, David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut. In a what-the-heck kind of moment I decided to pitch my Transgressive novel, Weekend Getaways, or Adventures in Contract Killing. I got an honorable mention for my pitch and some additional people looking in my direction, one of whom was Dan Case.

I ran into him at the OWFI Conference in May. We talked; he said he was interested and so was I. I sent him the manuscript for both. Knowing that the Transgressive piece might be a harder sell, he opted to start with “Swan Song” which has just been released as an e-book.

I am thrilled and pleased and know that the work has just begun. But consider the evolution: writing contest to casual conversation to online writing event to writer’s conference to pitch session to another writer’s conference…

There are those who say that NaNoWriMo is silly and it’s not really about the art and craft of writing. There are those who say that writing conferences are a venue for published novelists to garner attention. There are those who think that an e-book is somehow not a “real” book.

Whoever those people are, I do not agree with them.