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Monday, November 16, 2009

Crimebake 2009: Awesome Again!

Just returned from Crimebake, the New England mystery conference for writers and readers. Wow! What fun.

It's hard to pass on a chance to brag, so here it is. I submitted a Flash Fiction piece to the conference contest and was one of three winners! You can read my winning entry and more about the contest here.

Too many thoughts to give a coherent "report" but here are random experiences mixed with a few of the many factoids I picked up:
  • An authors' panel called "T is for Traditional" was asked to share the name of the author that they most admired. Interestingly, two authors (Mark Arsenault and Cynthia Riggs) named Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) - the author that our Book Club is currently reading. See a subsequent comment to me from Cynthia Riggs.
  • Criminalists (in the past) did not have the ability to make absolute ID's from hair analysis. All they could do was narrow it down. Now, DNA analysis from a hair root can be, potentially, absolute. And also - DNA from fingerprints can sometimes be more significant than the fingerprint left behind! Great presentation from Mary Kate McGilvray, former acting director of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab.
  • Speaking of stuff related to CSI - in real life, what is portrayed by a single crime scene technician is frequently the work of many, many specialists.
  • Want to be a writer? Can you put up with 50 "rejections" before getting an acceptance - or maybe never getting an acceptance for a book. Chocolate brownies was mentioned a few times! (I can relate!) Several panels addressed this but none more bluntly than "P is for Persistance." Several spoke of turning to different projects: short stories, other novels, true crime, or just personal activities as distractions. Keeping stories in "inventory" was mentioned; often, a request for a particular type of book/story could come up several years later.
  • What creates tension or fear in a book? One panel of authors totally agrees that it is not violence or blood. Among other things it is pacing. One insight - humor accentuates tension; tension accentuates humor. I have to agree with comments of one of my favorite authors (and favorite persons), Michael Palmer - it is understanding the emotion of fear, in other words, successfully conveying the experience of the character, from being in the character's shoes. A helpless character contributes to that, and no one is more helpless than a hospital patient. Dr. Palmer has a lot of insight into that and brings it out well in his medical thrillers. That's Michael Palmer on the right (with me) - below.


  • Sue Grafton gives credit to her attendance at a Jack Canfield workshop for helping her to get onto the Best Seller list. (Just a tiny nugget from an extensive list of tidbits from her interesting luncheon speech.)
  • Highly published short story author Stephen Rogers has managed to get 13 stories published by Women's Day. That magazine pays well at about $500 per story. On the other hand, he has had some 200 other stories published many of which pay poorly. It's too bad - short stories is a great art form in itself. I had a very enjoyable time chatting with Stephen on Friday evening as well as receiving some helpful tips on a short story manuscript.
  • The best way to remove the serial number from a handgun is to use a power drill and take out the metallic ridges. Of course that wouldn't work if the imprint is inside the gun barrel. That from a ballistics expert.
  • Solving a mystery-game-crime with clues scattered on 30 tables and 250+ participants must be "impossible" given that none of us solved the crime exactly! LOL - maybe it was the script?

3 comments:

Geoff said...

Hi Richard,

should have let you write the Erle Stanley Gardner song too. Congrats on your flash fiction win.
Regards Geoff aka The Head Boy

Frank Hardy said...

Thanks Geoff. Sorry we didn't get a chance to really meet a little bit more. From your links, though, I have learned a smidgeon of your background. What genre of mystery are you hoping too work on ... or actually working on ? You must be connected with some of the women I met at the breakfast on Sunday that sat at Mark Arsenault's table with me - we had a fun time learning from him!

Nancy Naigle said...

Thanks for the fabulous update. CrimeBake really was a great conference :)
Nancy

2009 POLL #2--Do Mystery Stories and Political Bias Mix? What is closest to your view?