Friday, January 23, 2009


Blogging about SleuthFest

My local crit group encouraged me to go to a writing conference when I was just getting my feet wet in the writing business. When I saw that Robert B. Parker was going to be the keynote speaker at a mystery conference, I decided to bite the bullet and attend. Left hubby at home, drove the 4 hours to Fort Lauderdale (which was a major trip to do solo back then), and was immersed in the world of writers. At the time, I thought I was writing a mystery. Turns out, it was more of a "romantic suspense" according to industry labels, but what did I know? I had a detective, a crime and a victim. So what if they fell in love along the way, right?

I remember applying for a slot in Barbara Parker's workshop for a critique session. I think I got the best of both worlds on that one when she didn't accept my pages among those she would critique, because she certainly pulls no punches when she discusses the writing. "Nothing wrong with this that a pair of scissors wouldn't cure," sticks with me all these years later. But she'd jotted a note on my returned pages and said she'd like to discuss the chapter with me. Over lunch (I paid, of course), she pointed out strengths and weaknesses – 'You've got the writing down, now learn about structure."

I also remember having an agent appointment with Dominic Abel. I was clueless. Totally. I knew he represented some big name favorites of mine, and had no delusions he'd be the least bit interested in my humble attempts at a story, which wasn't even a mystery. He said that didn't matter; if I could get readers to love Sarah, my heroine, that was the important thing. And he asked for a partial, which I thought was a given at a conference, but others said he only requested a few submissions. He wrote a very nice and personal rejection letter, too!

It took 3 tries before I managed to snag a spot in the "hot seat," and I hit the jackpot big time with feedback both from Barbara Parker's and PJ Parrish's workshops on Third Degree Thursdays. And by now, I also felt I had something to contribute during the discussions.

I've met Christopher Whitcomb who gave me an ARC of his book, with an inscription I can't share. And Robert Crais and Michael Connelly showed much patience with my blathering about having grown up in Los Angeles while they signed books for me.

One year, hubby came along. He's a biologist, specializing in marine mammals. Usually dead ones. So he had an absolute blast in the forensics tracks, and has been coming along ever since. I had to nudge him (ok, stronger than a nudge) to get the books he bought autographed. He "didn't want to bother the authors." Duh! He's learning.

And last year, I was on the other side of the table for the first time. I moderated a panel, and participated in another. I signed my books. I met great people. This is one conference that stays on my list. I can't wait to get back.

Terry Odell is a Los Angeles native who now makes her home in Florida. Her latest release, When Danger Calls, was released in December, 2008, by Five Star Expressions. You can find her website at, and her blog, "Terry's Place," at

Monday, January 19, 2009


The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) is pleased to announce this year’s nominees for the Dilys Winn award, given annually to the mystery titles of the year which the member booksellers most enjoyed selling. The Dilys Award is named in honor of Dilys Winn, the founder of the first specialty bookstore of mystery books in the United States. The award will be presented at Left Coast Crime in March.

The IMBA is comprised of a network of individually owned retail bookstores across North America and the United Kingdom, devoted to the sale of mystery books. The IMBA has won several awards for THE 100 FAVORITE MYSTERIES OF THE CENTURY and THEY DIED IN VAIN, published by Crum Creek Press/Drood Review Books. For more information on the IMBA and the Dilys awards, including past nominees and winners, visit

2008 Nominees

TRIGGER CITY, Sean Chercover, William Morrow
THE VICTORIA VANISHES, Christopher Fowler, Bantam
SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY, Deanna Raybourn, Mira
CHILD 44, Tom Rob Smith, Grand Central
DAWN PATROL, Don Winslow, Alfred A. Knopf


Sleuthfest: what’s not to like? For a girl from Michigan, just the possibility of warmth and sunshine is enticement enough. By the time February arrives, I wouldn’t care if attending Sleuthfest meant eating corn dogs, making conversation with Butthead, and listening to non-stop accordion music. That’s not the case, however. The con is a well-run, friendly get-together where an author like me can recharge, improve, network, and promote, so it’s well worth the (very long) trip.

Last year I was a first-timer, but I found the company friendly and the program worthwhile. Although the hotel is a great venue with excellent meals, I rented a condo on the beach and enjoyed a full week on the ocean. Even without being at the con 24/7, I met lots of people: authors, fans, even an agent and an editor. The sessions I attended were of interest, and everyone on the panels seemed willing to share the spotlight. Pitch sessions moved along efficiently, yet I felt I got a fair hearing. The contact I made is still good a year later. The cocktail party was lovely, drinks by the pool on a perfect evening. I was thrilled to get a few words with Lee Child, one of my favorites, and to win some Linda Fairstein books as well.

This year I’ll know my way around. I made some contacts last year at libraries in the area, so I’ll be speaking several times during the week at nearby towns. I’m also on a Sleuthfest panel, “Historical Mysteries” on Friday afternoon. That’s what I’m most looking forward to, even though my historical mystery, HER HIGHNESS’ FIRST MURDER, won’t be out until 2010. I’m also looking forward to meeting some of the authors involved in an anthology I contributed to for Wolfmont Press. DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND is a Toys for Tots™ fundraiser, and I’m hoping some of the other authors will attend so we can meet in person.

So I’m counting the days. There are lots of good conferences around, and I usually have fun whenever I get to hang with others in the book business. Sleuthfest has the added appeal of beautiful weather, palm trees, and the mighty Atlantic, so I hope if you see me there with my Michigan winter-white skin, you’ll step up and say hello.

Peg Herring is a former educator whose first book, MACBETH’S NIECE, was released by Five Star in January of 2008. Her website is, and she regularly blogs on

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