Monday, May 26, 2014

Counting Bodies

I'm not lying, not even a little bit. This is the conversation with which my husband and I started our day:

ME: That Laura Lippman is something else! She doesn't just count how many women vs. men authors get awards, she counts the gender of the protagonists!
HE: Huh. I wonder what would happen if you counted the victims. I bet the pages are littered with women.
ME: (After a stunned silence)...Um, I think I've only killed men so far...
HE: Of course!

But the thing is--I didn't do it on purpose! And to make it worse, I mostly only killed off nice guys. (I'm sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry!!!!!). So I've managed to commit the same sin, in reverse, of many authors: thoughtlessly killing off the other gender.

Gender and fairness are in the air this month. At my company's offsite of "directors and above," women were clearly only 10%-20% of those attending. And our leaders weren't happy about it, though honestly everyone seems a bit stymied about how to fix it: outreach in the schools to promote STEM (or STEAM--someone said the arts shouldn't be separated from science, technology, and math), work harder to recruit those women who are already in tech, work harder to promote those women in the company who aren't yet acknowledged leaders, or...?

And I have dark and dour days when I feel like women judge women as harshly as men. Remember way back in the early 1980s when everyone thought that women joining the workforce would improve the workplace because we'd bring all our warm, nurturing, consensus-building skills?

Not so much. Women tend to judge the exact same assertive behavior as negative in a woman, positive in a man, just like men. No matter what you think of Lean In, it's got a boatload of painful data about this. We've a long row to hoe, as Dad used to say.

But like our company leader, like Laura Lippman, like the nice guys who don't want to finish last nor turn into a sociopath to succeed, I'm not sure what to do.

I'll try harder not to respond to assertive women as if they're "too bossy." I'll rip the softeners out of my speech, even though it means risking getting labeled "too pushy." I'll support the ambitions of my friends and family, and most importantly, I'll make sure that my fiction doesn't shy away from the hard question of how we make the world a better place for our daughters than it is for us.

I guess it's about time we all go a little Rosie the Riveter.
If you've got any ideas, please send them my way. I've only got another decade or two on this planet. It seems like just being strong and "bossy" isn't enough.
P.S. My husband wasn't being mean or derisive when he said "Of course." He knows I'm writing a noirish story with an homme fatale, and sincerely expected all the tables to be turned in my book. His faith in me is amazing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Bouchercon

by Gigi Pandian

Named for mystery author and editor Anthony Boucher, Bouchercon is the big convention for fans of mystery fiction. It takes place each autumn, and the location bounces around the world. Mystery readers and writers gather to talk mystery, meet their favorite authors, discover new books, and generally have a good time.

Juilet Blackwell, Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield
at Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis.
I attended my first Bouchercon five years ago, in 2009. I was taking my writing more seriously, but I wasn't yet published. Two author pals suggested I attend Bouchercon with them. I admit it sounded a bit daunting, because I knew only a handful people in the mystery community, and there were going to be over 1,000 people attending. But I figured as a huge fan of mysteries, I owed it to myself to check it out. It turned out I had such a great time that I've been back multiple times, and can't wait for this year's convention! Murder at the Beach takes place in Long Beach, CA, from November 13-16, 2014.

For those of you thinking about registering but who haven't yet done so because of reservations such as the ones I initially had, here's what I can tell you to put your mind at ease:

5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Bouchercon

1. Realize that many mystery writers and readers are introverts, so you're not alone! The vast majority of us are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones when we attend big conventions. But everyone I've met over the years has been friendly, so with only a small amount of effort, you'll find yourself with new friends in no time.

In the photo directly below, taken at Boucheron 2012 in Cleveland, I hadn't met half the lovely women in the photograph before that weekend, but by the time I flew home, I thought of them as friends.

Gigi Pandian, Juliet Blackwell, Victoria Laurie,
Chantelle Aimée Osman, Susan Boyer, Lesa Holstine
at Bouchercon in Cleveland..

2. Though the schedule is jam-packed with fabulous programming, you shouldn't feel you have to do everything. Take time for coffee breaks with new friends, as well as solitary breaks back in your hotel room to recharge. Truly. Give your brain at least a little bit of time each day to rest. You might even get out of the hotel and see some of the sights in the city you're visiting. (This year they've got some cool organized tours.)

Bouchercon is a lot bigger than mystery conventions like Malice Domestic (celebrating traditional mysteries) and Left Coast Crime (the West Coast's mystery con), meaning there's so much to see and do -- but also that it's even more important to take a break. 

Mysti Berry, Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield. 

Meeting online friends in person.

3. As soon as you arrive, look through the program book and circle the events you want to be sure to attend. That way you can be sure to get in the good stuff you want to see, such as a panel on a topic that interests you or an interview with one of your favorite authors. Trust me. If you don't write it down on paper or put it in your phone calendar, you'll miss things you meant to see. I've done this multiple times, so I need to follow my own advice!

4. Once you've figured out everything you absolutely must attend, be open to new experiences. One of the reasons I had such a good time at my first Bouchercon was because I had no expectations. I didn't have a book out to promote, so I was attending to see what the convention was all about. I loved picking up bookmarks from new authors, having hallway conversations with people as passionate about mysteries as I was, and meeting interesting people at the bar. None of  those things were formal parts of the program, yet they were core parts of the Bouchercon experience. 

Opening ceremonies of Bouchercon in Cleveland
at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

5. Don't forget to look over the attendee list. The long weekend will be over before you know it, and you want to be sure to connect with people you might not have another opportunity to see. Be it saying hello to a favorite author at their signing, or meeting up with a friend you know through an online mystery discussion group, making a checklist of names in advance is helpful. 

I hope to see you at this year's convention

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Family Stone Box Set, Jar of Hearts, and supporting causes

Hello Pens Pals,

Sorry I've been absent for a few months. I've been writing up a storm and finally have some news to share!!

The box set of the Family Stone novellas is out now!

It's available at Amazon, BN, Kobo, and AllRomance and will soon be on Apple iBooks (pretty darn excited about that!) for $5.99 and includes the first five books in the Family Stone series. Stone Cold Heart, Carved in Stone, Heart of Stone, Still the One, and Jar of Hearts.

Within the box set, the final book is Jar of Hearts. This will also be released in an individual book next week. I am waiting on a cover and then it will be in stores. Jar of Hearts is the story of Shane Washington (the on call pilot you met in Heart of Stone and got to know better in Still the One) and Keisha Johnson (who first appeared in Stone Cold Heart with Jess and Colin and again in Still the One). Their road to romance was a bit rocky but I had a lot of fun exploring their characters. :)

More fun news: All the Family Stone books will soon be available on iBooks!

Blowback is finally available in paperback! Right now it is available at Amazon and soon will be available at other retailers! :)

And finally supporting causes...I have a donation in the Brenda Novak For The Cure auction to raise money for Diabetes research.

I'm donating the Family Stone Box Set and a $25 Amazon gift card. If you've already bought my books, check out the site anyway. There are hundreds of amazing items to bid on and it is for a great cause. :)

Hope you are enjoying Spring...Happy Reading!!