Monday, September 28, 2015

CrimeCONN 2015 (recap overview)

CrimeCONN happened yesterday at the Westport Public Library in Westport, CT.

This was the second year for CrimeCONN,  an all day mystery conference co-sponsored by The Westport Public Library and the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter. I couldn't make last year's conference and I will certainly do all I can not to miss it next year.

Stacks of books waiting to be raffled off.
What I like about CrimeCONN, beyond the high caliber of talent present, was that there isn't the distraction of simultaneous panels. You don't have the pressure of choosing between two (or more) equally great sounding panels, making a choice, and then wondering what's going on in the next room as you try to focus on the panel that you did choose. It's also an incredibly affordable conference, only $25.

There were six panels, all held in the same room, with breaks in-between to get books autographed or grab a snack. There was also a long lunch break (lunch was provided!), which was nice as I got to sit and chat with some folks I'd never met before--one who came all the way from Georgia!

Here are some pictures from the conference with a list of authors, experts, and moderators. I'm not offering commentary--just want to give you a quick taste of the day.

AUTHOR PANEL: Who loves you, baby? How to make your readers fall in love at first sight. Great openings followed by ways to keep the love alive.
Authors: Roberta Isleib, Tom Straw, Nina Mansfield, and moderator John Valeri (Hartford Books Examiner).

CRIME EXPERT PANEL 1: These are their stories. An insider’s look at working cases from crime scene to courthouse.
Experts: Art Weisgerber (Homicide detective and cold case specialist), John Davenport (District attorney), Michelle Clark (Medicolegal Death Investigator), and moderator Chris Knopf (Mystery/thriller writer).

AUTHOR PANEL: Ripped from the headlines. How do you write compelling fiction when actual events are so crazy? (Or how do turn real events into true crime books that read like novels?)
Authors : David Handler, Parnell Hall, M. William Phelps, and moderator Joe Meyers (CT Post)

Lunch break! It was a gorgeous fall day, so many of us ate outside.

AUTHOR PANEL: Oh, and one more thing… The craft of writing isn’t about one thing, it’s about everything. Why when it comes to polished prose, the devil’s in the details.
Authors: Steve LiskowJessica Speart, Liz Mugavero, E.J. Simon, and moderator Julia Pistell (Mark Twain House/Writers Programs)

CRIME PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATION: ‘Cause dead flies tell no lies.
Peter Valentin: Forensics expert, university professor, and former undercover detective on how to read a crime scene like a novel.

PUBLISHER'S PANEL: Be careful out there. How to avoid the pitfalls, bear traps and assorted slings and arrows on the way to publishing your first book.
Bronwen Hruska (publisher, SOHO Press), Juliet Grames (Associate Publisher and Soho Crime Acquisitions Editor), and moderator Kelle Ruden (Director of Programming at the Westport Library).

All of the authors had books for sale in a common room, which is also where book signings were held. I would have loved to buy a book by each author at CrimeCONN, but budgetary restrictions being what they are, I went home with these three:

  • Restless Waters by Jessica Speart -- the 9th entry in her Rachel Porter series, which I just started reading (I'm on #1, Gator Aide). As a long-time Nevada Barr fan, this series about a U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent is right up my alley.
  • Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler -- also by Jessica Speart. I'm told by good authority that this nonfiction book reads like a thriller. The movie rights have just been optioned.
  • Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy by M. William Phelps. Nathan Hale was from Connecticut and I'm interested in reading about my new state's history. He's the guy who said, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" before his execution by the British during the Revolutionary War.

I got a ton of clues at the Westport Library yesterday! In addition to the helpful writing advice there are now a bunch of new books on my to be read list. Perhaps most important, I met some wonderful people and feel motivated to keep writing.

Thanks to the Westport Library and Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter for the great experience and new friends.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Psychedelic Bookish Owl Tattoo

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. A favorite new thing about fall where I live now is hearing owls at night. I heard the first hoots of the season a few nights ago and the next day my friend Bek, a tattoo artist and book lover, posted this adorableness:

Tattoo by Heathen Ink Corporation
This tattoo makes me so happy! A colorful owl with chunky glasses perched on a book...what's not to love?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Summer Reading Book Bingo Recap

Pirate Hunters on the Outer Banks this summer.

Was this the fastest summer on record or what?  I didn't feel like I read all that much between Memorial Day (May 25th) and Labor Day (September 7), but I managed to read twelve books. Not too shabby!

Here's what I read in chronological order and why I chose it:
  1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (subject matter, all the chatter about it)
  2. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (mystery book club selection)
  3. The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall (TLC Book Tour host)
  4. Hiroshima by John Hersey (on my Classics Club list)
  5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (on my Classics Club list)
  6. Ms. Marvel Vol 1 by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (I want to read more graphic novels)
  7. The Diary of Anne Frank (on my Classics Club list)
  8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (on my Classics Club list and also Austen in August)
  9. Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Hagashino (mystery book club selection)
  10. Persuasion by Jane Austen (Austen in August)
  11. The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (I adore Louise Penny)
  12. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (bingo card square)
Revolutionary Road Audio
Revolutionary Road was chosen to fill square one on my bingo card, "Hated by someone you know." I asked my friends to name a book they hated and was expecting a few responses. I ended up with a deluge of replies and put them into a spreadsheet and used to pick which book to read. Revolutionary Road got picked. 

I've been listening to the audiobook and still have a few hours to listen as I write this. It is a stunning story. I think this will be one I re-read because Yates's writing is just breathtaking. I don't listen to many novels as audiobooks (I prefer nonfiction audio) but I like the way Mark Bramhall reads this. I get the feeling that he does the supporting characters's voices the way the main character hears them, if that makes sense. I haven't seen the movie yet, but look forward to seeing how it was adapted.

Jane on the treadmill
I also started but have not finished Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson. I'm also listening to With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge, a book I first read about thirty years ago.

I'm most pleased to have finally fully read two Jane Austen novels, thanks to the motivation provided by Roof Beam Reader's Austen in August. Austen is brilliant and I will definitely read more of her novels. I was pleasantly surprised by all the naval talk in Persuasion.

Of the above, I was least enthusiastic about All the Light We Cannot See. I'm one of those readers who shies away from the mega best-sellers that everyone is talking about, but this one was set in the late WWII France and Germany which made it hard to resist. While I enjoyed it for the most part, it didn't blow my mind. It actually bothered me a bit. Thomas of Hogglestock wrote an excellent summation that resonates with me and I'll quote him here because I couldn't say it better:
At first I was thinking I would like the book as it begins in the coastal town of St. Malo in the final throes of WWII. Then, rather too quickly it all started to feel a little too magical for my taste. Not necessarily in the literal, supernatural, sense, but in the sense that every detail was clearly going to be some illuminating, magical metaphor that would, no doubt, be extremely profound and moving. Magic rocks and special keys and secret compartments and…ugh. And then magic orphans in Germany who would most certainly have some sort of meaningful encounter with the magical blind girl in St. Malo. And it was all going to be deep, very deep. And I was going to learn something about human nature, and loss, and most importantly about myself. I couldn’t wait.
And there you have it. It is a touching story with a few scenes that'll stick with me for some time to come, but...what Thomas said.

Did I manage to score a bingo with these books read? Kinda of. Here's how my card turned out:

My Bingo Card

Without the free space in the middle and a quick & easy re-reading of a childhood favorite (The Story About Ping) I wouldn't have completed a row. I think I initially planned to read in order to fill at least a row, but seeing as how I always rebel against even my own reading agendas it didn't turn out that way. Anyway, having fun was the point and I enjoyed my BOTNS Book Bingo experience and will probably do it again next summer. We adults should have our own summer reading treats.

As much as I end up loathing a reading agenda, I can't help but make them. My first few books this "fall" will be:
Even my dog likes Louise Penny
  • The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams for my mystery book group. With apologies to Wilkie Collins, this is now considered the first mystery novel, published in serial form, 1862-63.
  • Gods & Generals by Jeff Shaara for an upcoming visit to Gettysburg (I read The Killer Angels by Jeff's dad Michael last summer).
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett which is my Classics Club spin book and one I've long wanted to read. Jewett was a mentor to Willa Cather.
How did your summer reading go? Did you have a reading agenda or did you go with the flow? What are you looking forward to reading this fall?
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