Five Ways to Kickstart Your Writing Imagination with a Mystery Con: Bloody Words, Part II
1. Dare to Be Stupid
I’ve never looked good in a surgical cap, whether it’s the guy’s kind or the poofy, blue, disposable women’s version. So why am I wearing a surgical cap, plus a giant poster of my book?
Well, at Bloody Words 2014, Canada’s mystery convention, they invited any recently-published author to join in a literary fashion show. They’d make a placard of your book cover. Caro Soles, an experienced fashion commentator, would describe your book in couturier terms while you sashayed down the sidewalk, wearing a hat appropriate to your book.
For the first time in my life, I Googled “how to walk like a model.” My favourite tips came from Chita Johnson: http://www.ehow.com/video_4404657_step-onto-runway-like-model.html: Step on to the ramp with your outside leg up, to block the audience’s view of your crotch. Who knew? I also mastered the half-turn and the fade, and learned the full turn.
I also got to hang out backstage with Cathy Spencer, who won the Bony Blythe award the next day; Edgar award-winning author Wendy Hornsby, the Bony Pete award-winner, RJ Harlick; and the very sweet IPPY award-winner Lisa de Nikolits, who calls everyone “love.” Lisa explained how the cover art for her book, The Witchdoctor’s Bones, was created by a homeless, schizophrenic, now deceased South African man.
Arthur Ellis award-winner Melodie Campbell pulled a toy gun out for her turn on the catwalk, and someone else “shot” her at the end. Cool.
When I poised on the end of the runway, I pulled a syringe out of my top, and pretended to spray it in the air. I wanted to fill it with water, but didn’t have time. If I’d wanted to go all out, I would have used fake blood, but the cleaning staff wouldn’t have thanked me.
Note Michael Jecks, the international guest of honour, wearing his book cover with the green background. He’s now my friend on Twitter, but be warned. Don’t argue with the man about sheep.
So get out of the house and try something different, even if you look silly. That’ll get your writing juices flowing. Even if all you write is, “I hate that doctor-writer who told me it was a good idea to dress up like a parsnip!”
2. Do the Group Thing
I was on a panel on the Sunday called The Science of Murder. The moderator was Alex Brett, author of the Maggie O’Brien mysteries. The two other authors specialized in infectious diseases. Jen J. Danna writes about forensic anthropology with her co-author, Ann Vanderlaan, and was an intelligent, polished speaker. Dr. Ross Pennie, who recently released the latest Dr. Zol Szabo mystery, introduced himself as Canada’s leading expert on flesh-eating disease.
So that left me to joke that I was Canada’s second most knowledgeable doctor on flesh-eating disease. I’m totally not. But hanging around with other articulate people took the pressure off of me, and afterward, one aspiring author told me that it was her favourite panel, and that I had “a lot of moxie.”
Groups can be good. Critique groups get a lot of bad press because they can suppress your writing voice, but it’s a good idea to find some camaraderie. Writing is lonely.
3. Dress Up Like Somebody Else
We were supposed to dress up like our favourite mystery character for the banquet. I’d bought a lovely blue, dropped-waist dress from Melow at the latest Braderie de Mode quebecoise. Actually, my friend Danielle and I bought the same dress, which is quite hilarious because she’s almost six feet tall, and I am…not. At the last second, I found a peacock fascinator that I’d forgotten I’d bought on Etsy. Anyhoo, it looked like a flapper dress to me, so I decided that I would be Harriet Vane.
When Steve Steinbock greeted me, he said, “If I see Lord Peter Wimsey, I will send him my regards.”
Steve also tried on a new outfit. I think he looks very fetching.
4. Give yourself a deadline.
Our panel was scheduled to run at the same time as “Bloody Idol,” the show where anyone could submit 250 words and read them aloud to a panel of editors and agents.
So, 1) I was pretty sure no one would come to our science panel, and 2) I wouldn’t get to check out Bloody Idol. But I wrote 250 words anyway, which forced me to start writing the fourth Hope Sze novel, Stockholm Syndrome.
My roommate, Merrill Young, generously offered to report back on the response. She and writer/editor/mothership Cheryl Freedman told me that all four editors and agents liked it, so eight thumbs up.
I will include that opening in my next newsletter. <incentive to join> <incentive to join> <just go to the bottom of the page> (In addition to SEO optimization, I’ve been reading about getting people to sign up for newsletters. It’s the next big thang.)
Then I was invited to submit to two anthologies. So now my writing cup overfloweth.
5. Get out of the con.
I made time for an hour of hot power yoga at Yoga Tree. I walked the streets of Toronto. S.G. Wong and I headed to “Kill like a Scandinavian” at the Toronto Public Library. Woo hop! Sometimes, you just need to get away. Now go forth and create.
P.S. For anyone who’s wondering, did I sell any books?
Yippers. Not a ton. Eleven paperbacks, to be exact. But that’s more than I would have sold if I hadn’t come at all.
More sales may come later (autocorrect changed that to latex. Yes, I’m pretty sure latex will always outsell my books).
And if I sell to both anthologies that asked me to submit, I’ll make back my money, even without the book sales.
I keep having to fight my own cheapness. I get all bent out of shape over printing up my own postcards.
Meanwhile, one of the other authors, Ryan Aldred, said that he’d like to throw $1000 each at different promotions. Reddit, Google Ad words, Facebook. Just experiment.
My jaw dropped. I’m thinking too small. I don’t take a lot of risk, but I lose the reward, as well. I’ve read that it’s typical of women, to save and hoard expertly, but never take the big leaps that will let them level up.
I’m used to toiling in garrets. That’s how I became a doctor and a writer, after all. But sometimes you’ve got to bust out, get crazy, and make wild new friends. Done, done, and done. Now I just have to write some more.