Sisters in Crime/LA, for the first time ever, offers “write-ins” throughout November to help support other authors who want to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or work on their own projects in a group setting. Here’s a list of all the “write-ins” offered for November 2019.
If you attend a “write-in,” we’d love to hear your feedback in the Community.
Please note these events are in no way directly affiliated with National Novel Writing Month, but happen to occur in this time frame as a source of potential support.
National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge to write the first draft (50K words) of a book in one month. In November every year, writers get together to support each other on this tremendous quest.
This year, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles is getting into the act. And you don’t even have to be participating in NaNoWriMo to join in the fun.
Different members will be hosting “write-ins,” where fellow SinC members and other writers can get together and write together for an hour or two. Diners, wine bars, coffee shops — all are the perfect venue for sustenance, fellowship, and Words, Words, Words!
Here’s what it will look like:
* At the time and place of the write-in, people will show up. No RSVP needed.
* Everyone introduces themselves with their name and what genre they write in.
* Start writing!
One great way to keep focus is to set a phone timer for 20 minutes. Turns out that 20 minutes is a good chunk of time for the human brain to focus intently, and then you get a little break to stretch, chat, and maybe refill your coffee (or wine). Rinse, repeat.
Bring pens, paper, laptops, whatever you need to get your muse on. Invite friends and fellow writers. When we all write together, we all make it to The End!
We’ll keep an updated list of dates and venues here on the website and also on our Facebook Page. If you want to host a write in, it could not be easier: just pick a public location near you that has snacks and a bathroom, pick a date and time that works for you, and e-mail Laura at [email protected] to get out the word.
So join your fellow writers! Invite your friends! There is no wrong way to write!
LIST OF WRITE-INS (AS OF OCTOBER 31ST, 2019)
Where: Copper Still Grill (SinC-LA has the restaurant’s loft space reserved)
610 S. Myrtle Avenue
Monrovia, CA 91016
Free public parking is available on Myrtle Avenue and on the side streets and its adjoining lots.
When: Saturday, November 2 (DAY 2 of NaNoWriMo), 11am to 2pm
Authors Julia Bricklin and Jennifer Younger read from their short stories from the Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles chapter anthology, FATALLY HAUNTED.
Mike Befeler: Becoming An Author Has No Expiration Date
by Laura Brennan
At the age of 57, Mike Befeler, author of Paradise Court, Unstuff Your Stuff, and more than a dozen other novels, decided he would “retire into writing.” He began by taking fiction writing courses at the University of Colorado while he was still working, and he started writing. Persistence paid off: he made 112 submissions before his first fiction sale.
“If I’d stopped after 111 rejections,” Mike said, “I wouldn’t be here today.” He believes in the Stockdale Paradox, which can be distilled to having complete faith in a positive outcome while also being brutally realistic about how difficult your situation is. He focused on doing everything he could, from getting better as a writer to getting out and meeting people at conferences, and at the same time, he never expected the road to be easy.
His plan was to focus first on craft. He did this by taking university courses which not only helped him become a better writer, but forced him into a critique group experience, giving him a chance to learn from others. He also started going to conferences, and once again, decided which conferences to attend based on where he was in the process. First, he went to conferences focusing on craft. After his writing improved, he started going to conferences which taught how to sell your novel. Finally, he goes to conferences with tracks on PR and marketing, as he works to build his audience.
It worked! Mike sold his first book to Five Star at a pitch session at one of the writers conferences. He met another publisher through LinkedIn. His current publisher, Encircle Publications, was started by someone he’d met at Five Star, who branched out into publishing when Five Star cut back on its mystery imprints (it now focuses primarily on Westerns, with some historical mysteries). Encircle is now publishing all of Mike’s backlist in Trade Paperback.
Finally, Mike talked about marketing. He promotes his books by giving talks, meeting people, having an author website, building an e-mail list, and sending postcards to his snail mail list of friends and fans.
Mike demystified the process and proved his point: you can start writing at any age and become a published author. Keep the right attitude, expect obstacles, but plan for success.
On Saturday, October 26th members of Mystery Writers of America SoCal and Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles were treated to a master class in interrogation techniques.
Ninette Toosbuy, formerly of LAPD detective in Sex Crimes and now an investigator for USC, spoke about the best ways to get to the truth, what happens on television rarely if every happens in real life and how connecting with the suspect one on one is the best way to get to a confession.
Ninette spoke about the fact that anybody can admit to anything but getting a confession is about encouraging the suspect/interviewee to give specific details. To get as close to the truth as they will allow.
One of the most eye-opening parts of the seminar, were the videos Ninette showed of her interrogations with some of the worst in society. And while as she noted you may want to “take a shower” after speaking with them, there is a psychology to getting a suspect to believe you understand them.
Listening and acknowledging their point of view is key. Resist the urge to cut off the suspect and constantly check your watch as if you had somewhere else to be or bully them into getting to the point. You want the confession, right? Well it turns out the best way to do that is to listen and be patient. Allow the suspect to talk and talk and talk and sometimes talk some more.
While slamming your hands on a table and getting in a suspect’s face may be sexy on television, in real life it is all about the psychology of the dance. Successful interrogations are about getting close to the truth.
One of the final yet equally important topics of the seminar was about interviewing someone who ultimately is innocent of the crime of which they are being accused. In the last video shown, Ninette interviewed a young man accused of sexual assault who turned out to be innocent. Throughout the early stages, she had convinced herself that he was guilty. Admittedly, she said she made many mistakes on this one. But it was early in her career.
One thing she learned from that interrogation is that part of being a good interviewer is knowing when you may have missed the mark, or something is not right. You leave the room, regroup and return with a fresh perspective. It turned out in the last case, the man was innocent and had proof of the woman’s deception on his phone! (she was cheating on her boyfriend and cried rape when she was caught with the suspect!)
There was so much more to learn and Ninette was gracious with her time, staying and talking with attendees outside for almost a full half hour! Hopefully we can have her back again in 2020!
NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — happens every November. In a flurry of writing, thousands of authors attempt to turn out hundreds of thousands of words to each finish a novel in a month.
How do they do it? One of the ways is through write-ins.
A write-in is simply a group of writers coming together — ideally where there is food and coffee! — to write together for a couple of hours. Sisters in Crime/LA will support our writing community this year with several write-ins across Los Angeles in November. Whether or not you’re officially doing NaNo, you are welcome to join fellow Sisters and Misters for a couple of ours of writing throughout the month. No pressure, just dedicated time to get words on a page.
Want more information? Email Laura Brennan at [email protected], and keep an eye on the website. Dates and places will be posted as we get closer to November 1st.
Featured reader Sehba Sarwar read from her short story, “Railway Track,” featured in the anthology HOUSTON NOIR.
An award-winning writer and artist, Sehba Sarwar creates essays, stories, poems, and art that tackle displacement, migration, and women’s issues. Her poems and essays have appeared in New York Times Sunday Magazine, Asia: Magazine of Asian Literature, Creative Time Reports and elsewhere. Her short stories have been anthologized with Feminist Press Akashic Books, and Harper Collins India, while the second edition of her novel, Black Wings, was released in spring 2019 through Veliz Books.
Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan in a home filled with artists and activists, Sarwar is currently based in Los Angeles where she teaches, writes, and offers talks.
The story of “Clark Rockefeller,” the former San Marino resident who became a person of interest in the disappearance of John and Linda Sohus in the mid-1980s was one of two cases that local forensic handwriting expert Sheila Lowe walked the audience through. In this instance, she talked about the uncertainties regarding the authorship of several documents claimed to have been written by Linda Sohus. Sheila demonstrated patterns of consistency, as well as uniqueness, one would need to see as part of reaching a forensic handwriting conclusion. To have learned those specific secrets, you’d really have needed to been there, as much of this presentation relied on visual illustration!
Sheila also shared insight on another famous case regarding a couple called “The Ken and Barbie Killers,” plus gave the audience a few challenges for identifying the personalities behind handwriting samples. A key takeaway Sheila mentioned at the end of the talk is that patterns in handwriting can at best be predictors of behavior, not a guarantee.
Sheila is the author of nine mystery novels and six nonfiction books on handwriting psychology. Like her fictional character, Claudia Rose, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting examiner. The mother of a tattoo artist and a former rock star, she is a transplanted Brit who lives in Ventura. She’s published five nonfiction books on handwriting psychology, seven in the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, and two in the new Beyond the Veil Mysteries. Sheila is president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, a 50 year-old non-profit educational organization and is on the board of directors of the Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners. She is often seen in the media when there are cases involving high profile handwriting. Her latest novel, Proof of Life, is in her new series, Beyond the Veil Mysteries.
Pamela Samuels Young read from her book ABUSE OF DISCRETION, and specifically talked about how there is a teen version as well as a regular version of the book. This is because although the subject matter is appropriate, some people have not felt comfortable with teenagers having the original book even though the subject matter involves teenagers as characters.
WordPress for Authors
by Shannon Muir Broden
Anne Louise Bannon then did a compare and contrast of the two different versions of WordPress for authors – either getting a free site via WordPress.org, or paying for a site through wordpress.com. She outlined the pros and cons of each for an author in terms of development, maintenance, and public relations image. This was definitely one of those meetings that one could best benefit from by actually attending and seeing the demonstrations.
Rachell Howzell Hall’s topic last month, entitled “Use Your 9 to 5 for the Write Life,” contained some useful tips for those of us who work full time jobs that may not necessarily be 9 to 5 on the dot, or even those of us who work in open office settings versus having the ability to close oneself up in an office as Rachel can in her job.
The most important thing to remember, regardless of your start time or office environment, is to work smarter not harder. Find ways to use your lunch breaks to write, by bringing tools you can use anywhere in the office (pen/pencil, little notepad, and similar) that allow you some privacy and not have the rest of the office looking over your shoulder. Carrying things like this around at all times also works great if you are at other places like appointments where you are waiting and have time. If you have your own office where you can arrive a bit earlier on your commute and take some time before your actual work hours to write, Rachel advocates trying this as well.
Rachel also reminded us that it is important to identify with yourself the “why” of the importance of this story. That’s not only why it should be told, but why you should be the one to tell it and why you are excited about it. Always remember to leave your writing aside “when it’s easy” to help motivate you when you first come back, instead of always bailing out when you’re stuck and coming back to an area of high frustration.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a circle of people you can trust to give you honest and constructive feedback.. This will help you grow.
Rachel had additional tips, tricks, and questions for people who attended as she helped them with advice specific to their situations. Attending the meetings provided by the chapter that are free and open to the public are a great benefit to access other writers and experts on a monthly basis. Your membership dollars that help support Sisters in Crime/LA to continue to exist as a chapter help provide these local support opportunities that enrich not just our fellow members but the Los Angeles area.
Thriller author Libby Fischer Hellmann gave a terrific presentation on the art of building suspense at the May meeting of Sisters in Crime/LA.
The first step is realizing what suspense is. Libby pointed out that suspense isn’t about what *is* happening, but what *may* happen. It’s about creating an uncertain situation, posing a threat that is not immediately resolved, delaying and stretching out answers.
Techniques include starting in the middle of the action — not only to keep the pace up, but to throw your reader into a situation where they don’t yet have all the information. Make them catch up to you. Avoid the use of prologue; they are best used when there’s a time difference and (ideally) a secret. Be sure to reveal only that there is a secret and withhold what, exactly, that secret may be.
In addition to hooking the reader with your opening, you want to keep them turning the pages at the end of a chapter. Create a cliffhanger that makes it impossible to put the book down. Introduce a new character or reveal a new clue. You don’t want to do this with every chapter — everyone needs at least a little sleep! — but do use this technique to keep readers engaged.
As you develop the plot, raise the stakes. Build the possibility of disaster. Tension and stakes (and the odds against the protagonist) should increase as you go. You can also create dilemmas for your hero, no-win situations. Does your hero get what she wants? The answer is not Yes or No. Instead, it is “Yes, but…” or “No, and furthermore…” There aren’t just obstacles between her and her goals, there are also strings attached to getting what she wants, or even more dire consequences than expected for not reaching her goal.
Isolate them, make your protagonist question everything, even themselves. In suspense, they may face questions of both mortality and morality. Their world is atilt; they are working outside of their comfort zone, both physically and emotionally. And remember that time is never your hero’s friend: in suspense, the protagonist is always working against the clock.
One final nugget of wisdom: remember that your villain is always the hero in their own mind. They are always justified, and part of the hero’s dilemma may be that he sympathizes with the rationale, but not with the actions the villain is taking. Killer pacing, moral quandaries, and shifting sand under both the hero’s and the reader’s feet will keep those suspenseful pages turning.
Paddy Hirsch and Monica Holloway The Mystery of Marketing: Solving the Puzzle of How Best to Promote Your Book
By Laura Brennan
Paddy Hirsch, NPR producer and fiction and non-fiction author, and Monica Holloway, memoirist, report back from the wilds of book marketing. Both are traditionally published, and the sobering news they shared was that, unless you’re already a big name (as an author or as a celebrity), traditional publishers are not going to put a lot of muscle into your marketing. As with indie authors, getting the word out is up to you.
So how do you make your book discoverable?
First of all, understand that marketing is time consuming and can take away from your writing time. If you don’t want to do it, there are publicists (both national and local) you can hire for anywhere from three to six months prior to your book launch to help with the process. They are expensive, and there is no guarantee of success. But sometimes the best marketing you can do is write another book. Unlike writing, outreach can be outsourced.
Start early, as much as a year before your book launches. Paddy and Monica highly recommend reading Jane Friedman’s book, “The Business of Being a Writer.” Build a website, get an author Facebook page, and experiment on other social media such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. What you want is to find out which platforms you enjoy and which you hate. Focus your attention on the ones that you will do regularly and discard the others. The idea is to connect with readers where they hang out online — but you have to be willing to hang out there as well.
Remember that unless you’re gunning for the NYT Bestseller List, you don’t have to pop on the first day. Keep going with your outreach to sell books over the long haul. It used to be that publishers themselves were the tastemakers, but now anyone with followers is an influencer. You can reach them as well, or better, than a publisher’s in-house publicity department. Make a personal connection: why do you think they (and their audience) would want to read your book? Marketing is about finding those people that your book — and your own personal story — will resonate with.
It’s not just about making virtual connections. Get yourself, your story (why you wrote this book at this moment, which is often as compelling as the book itself) into the world. Connect with your community by reaching out to local groups interested in your topic. Offer to give a talk and let it be known on your website that you are available as a keynote speaker. While this may seem obvious for nonfiction books, it can also work for fiction; many mystery novels are about deeper issues than whodunit. Go to book fairs and make yourself available to local book clubs. To reach book clubs around the country, make an offer on your website to send a free copy of your book to the club for them to check out to see if it’s a good fit, and then offer to Skype into the meeting.
In the end, whether you do it yourself, with your in-house publicity department, or with your own hired gun, marketing your book is about connecting with the readers who will resonate with your story. It’s a long process, but it is full of lovely people who will become fans, open unexpected doors for you, and buy your next book, and the next.