Category Archives: Writer’s Conferences

Writing, Reading, and Work

writer writing

Post Killer Nashville Conference: I left the conference bursting with writing motivation. Couldn’t wait to get started with my new project and then life slams a pie in my face. We had 5 hours of overtime last week. We have 10 hours of overtime this week. I work four ten hour days to have a three day weekend every week. I do this to allow me time to write. Today it didn’t happen.

Since I can work from home sometimes, I decided it was bad enough I had to work on my day off and there was no way I was going into the office to do it, so I got up at 5:30 and was sitting in front of the computer at 6:15 in my pajamas. I thought I would work until 12:15 and then only have to work one extra hour a day to finish my overtime before the weekend. Then I got to thinking that next weekend is a holiday weekend and I really didn’t want to work late on Friday, so I decided to work an extra hour. Well per company guidelines, if you work longer than 6 hours, you have to take a lunch. I ran down to the kitchen to see what I could fix fast. Looked like I was down to peanut butter and jelly but the bread was a little iffy, even if I toasted it. So I ran back upstairs, pulled off my pajama bottoms, put on the shorts I’d worn the day before, a bra, and my pajama top – no need to put on clean clothes to run to the fast food drive through and besides I couldn’t fit in a shower and lunch too. Ran a brush through my hair and took off for the drive thru. Hurried home, ate my lunch at my desk while I continued working.

But then, I got stuck on a piece of work that took me 15 minutes into the next hour. I figured I might as well work another hour and then only have 2 hours left to finish before Friday. So my plan to be done by 12:15 PM stretched out to 2:45 PM. When I was done working for the day I hurried up and showered and dressed. This is why I could not work from home every day. I felt like a sloth.

I really wanted to start either working on my new project or edit a little of my manuscript I finished before my trip to Nashville but I couldn’t with a good conscience sit down to write until I made a trip to the grocery store. I then remembered that I would be working late a couple nights this week and for my husband’s sake decided to make him a nice dinner tonight because who knew what the rest of the week would hold. 11 hour days do sometimes wear me out.  I hurried to the store, came home, stuck a ham in the oven, and then turned on Netflix. I know, I could have sat down and started working on my book but I really needed a little break.

By the time I finished watching my show, it was time to finish fixing dinner. We ate and then I did the dishes and then I remembered I wanted to get my weekly blog post out so here I am. It is now going on 9:00 PM and I have no energy left to write. But I will. Since I only have two eleven hour days and two ten hour days this week, I am sure I will get something done. If not, I have saved my weekend. Since it is a holiday weekend, I am fairly sure I will have all three days free, rarely does the company allow us to work overtime on a holiday because it is time and a half. My only fear is that we will have ten hours of overtime again next week and I will then lose one of the following weekend days to overtime but I won’t know until Thursday. I will think positive thoughts that somehow the overtime will vanish and I can reclaim my days off.

In the meantime, I have been developing my new project a little. Writing notes down about the characters and plot ideas. Here are the things I know. I want to develop a mystery series. I want my protagonist to be a female private eye. I haven’t decided on her name yet but here is the background so far. Her mother died when she was a child. Her father raised her alone. He was a cop, so she followed in his footsteps. He died while on duty and she questions his death. She questioned the wrong person and lost her job so now she is a private investigator. This idea didn’t come from a headline in the paper or a television story, it was just an idea that I’ve been mulling around for a while.

My first story will be about a missing teenage girl. There will be a continuing thread about her investigating her father’s death. I plan to use the title – Finding Faith. The missing teen is named Faith and I hope to use it for both her name and my protagonist finding faith in herself, somehow. It is a working title. Publishers don’t often use the working title but for now, I like it.

Here is one of my research books I will be using, one of many. Robert Randisi edited this book and I think he also founded The Private Eye Writers of America. I sat with him and his wife at the Saturday night awards dinner at Killer Nashville. He is a very prolific writer. He has written a book a month since the 1980’s. To be honest, he looked really tired that night. Even if I could, I don’t think I would want to push myself that hard but if it’s working for him, I can’t knock it.

Private eye3

And here is what I am currently reading. Some how I do find time to read. I think it’s essential to any writer to read. While work and everyday life seem to suck the energy from me, reading helps motivate me and Julia Keller is one of my favorites. I think this is her fourth. It is set in West Virginia, her protagonist is a prosecutor who isn’t trying to convict someone, she’s trying to convict the right someone so she conducts her own investigations while going to trial. I don’t know that much about the law and whether every thing is correct but I do know her books are a pleasure to read.

Last RAgged Breath

If you write, how do you begin a project? Do you start with the plot or the characters? Feel free to share your methods. I am truly interested in the craft of writing. I think it is amazing that someone can come up with a story out of no where and everyone seems to have their own system.  I think it can take a writer a long time to find what works. I also think it changes. Each project is a little different and what worked for one book may not work for the next.

Well it’s bedtime and tomorrow I have to do it all over again.

Until next time, keep writing and reading.


How To Get the Most Out of a Writer’s Conference II

Now that you have set your goals and decided on which conference to attend, You need to get your hands on a brochure. Most conferences will have this information on their website. It will list all of the workshops and programs.

  • Keep your goals in mind and choose workshops that are relevant.
  • Most are Q&A sessions or panels but some conferences will have hourly workshops to help with craft or the business of writing. Should be able to find something for whatever level you are with your work.
  • If you plan to pitch to an agent or editor, try to attend their panels to get to know them better before you meet.
  • At night they sometimes have sessions that are a little more laid back. I attended ‘Love is Murder’ one year and got to listen to true ghost stories from the authors. One of them was Charlaine Harris. Now how awesome is that?
  • If you catch yourself wanting to attend sessions that are scheduled at the same time – pick the one you want to see the most and purchase the recorded sessions, if they are available. Most conferences have started doing this.

Next post we’ll get into what to do before your one-on-one session with an editor or agent.

Hope you are working on something – happy writing.




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Train To Nowhere

I have to admit a lot of what I read could be called fluff. ‘Train To Nowhere – Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation’ is not. I was lucky enough to attend the Montezuma All-Iowa Writer’s conference this weekend and one of the speakers was author Colleen Bradford Krantz. Colleen was a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Des Moines Register. Now she is an independent journalist who not only wrote the book but also co-produced an award-winning documentary based on the events depicted in the book.

Colleen’s talk was for writers and her task was to discuss other ways to publication. Colleen explained that when she heard the news story that is the basis for this book and documentary, it haunted her and she wasn’t able to let it go. She knew she had to write a book about it. While raising small children she pieced together enough time to research and write down what she wanted to say. Because this was a non-fiction project, she wrote a few chapters and a proposal that she sent out to agents and publishers hoping someone would offer to publish. She would then finish writing the book. Many rejections later, she was about to give up when someone thought her story would make a good documentary. She spoke with IPTV (Iowa Public Television) and they were interested but they wanted her to film the project. They said that if she could make the documentary, then they would talk. She found herself a step closer, but no promise. Because she didn’t have a lot of money to work with, she approached film students, thinking they might be willing to work with her for the experience. That didn’t work out so well either. Eventually, after receiving some grant money, she did find someone to help. She was able to travel to Texas for filming but had to pay someone else to go to Guatemala. Ms. Krantz became the co-producer as well as the writer of the documentary. After the project was completed, a publisher offered to publish the story and that was her path to publication.

No matter what your views on undocumented aliens, you will be pulled into this real life drama. It is not just a story about illegals entering the states and whether they should or shouldn’t be here, it is the story of what we will endure to reach our dreams and because of greed what we will do to each other.

It all started back in 2002, in Denison, Iowa, when they discovered a rail road car that contained 11 bodies. They were undocumented aliens who died when the smugglers lost track of them. It imprinted a gruesome picture that bothered me. How could this happen? What kept them from getting out of the railroad car? Were they murdered and left there?

Ms. Krantz succeeds in telling this human interest story through the unbiased lens of a journalist. Through her research she discovered who the victims were and where they came from. She tells about one of the victims, a young man Byron, who was trying to escape his life in Guatemala to be with his brother who lives here legally in New York. It is also about the INS officer assigned to the case. Officer Martinez is a Latino American who often found himself in an uncomfortable position. Some Americans questioned his ability to be impartial while some of the illegals he had to deal with expected him to show them leniency. He explained that he took an oath to work for his country, America, and never questioned what he needed to do. It is also the story of the smugglers and how law enforcement acted to track them down and make them pay for the murders.

Those eleven people suffered a gruesome death and the author describes in detail what really happened. Initially, I thought they must have starved to death or died from lack of water. The truth was even more startling.

If the documentary is half as good as the book, I would not be surprised that it will be the recipient of many more awards. Ms. Krantz, an accomplished journalist, tells the story with the heart of a novelist.

I was so intrigued; I started reading it as soon as I got home. I finished it quickly because it was so hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone. Mark your calendar for September 26th. IPTV will be airing this documentary then. You can find more information at Mon, September 26, 8:59 PM on IPTV. For a trailer about the DVD check out .

I look forward to seeing more from this author.



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