Catriona writes: you have to try quite hard to find a mystery writer who's dull, selfish or nasty. They are a pretty stand-up bunch overall. But even among such rich pickings a few shine extra bright. And two of the shiniest buttons in the American crimewriting box are my guests here at Casa Criminal today. Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker are stopping off on their mammoth blog tour to chew the fat and offer competition prizes and giveaways.
And now: Jessie and Shannon.
Hey, thanks for reading. There’s a lot of other things you could be doing right now, and Shannon Baker and I appreciate that you’re hanging out with us today on Criminal Minds, a squatter’s home for some of our favorite writers!
Shannon and I are 11 stops into a 25-stop blog tour, an idea that seemed genius when we realized our next books both release on September 6. Shannon’s is Stripped Bare. It’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife and is about a woman sheriff in the Nebraska Sandhills. Shannon’s writing is wry, darkly funny, with setting as beautiful and immersive as an O’Keefe painting. She can drop you into a story like no one I’ve ever read. My book is Salem’s Cipher, a breakneck thriller about a race to save the first viable U.S. female presidential candidate from assassination. Both books are available for preorder, but that’s not what we want to talk about today.
[But I want to a little bit. I’ve read the first three chapters of both books in manuscript form and am panting for the rest – CMcP]
We want to swap conference stories. What you’re about to read is a copy of what your ears would stumble on if you were seated next to Shannon and me at a bar, her drinking microbrew and me whiskey, as we share the good, the bad, and the funny of our combined 20 years in the writing business. With Bouchercon just around the corner, it seems like a good time to air this dirty laundry.
Shannon, what’s the worst panel you’ve ever been on?
Shannon: The very first panel I’d ever been on at a big conference. The moderator asked one question and went down the line to create the world’s most boring panel. But that’s not the bad part. At the last minute a self-pubbed first-timer was added to the line-up. She had some sad personal story, which I don’t remember, but what I do remember is her bursting into tears and sobbing up there on the podium. You can ask my kids about my compassion quotient and they’ll verify it is in the negative numbers. While I struggled with whether to pat her on the back or tell her to get over it, the rest of the room sat in uncomfortable silence. It wasn’t all bad, though. It was the panel where I met Terry Shames, whose first book hadn’t yet been released. You can ask her about the panel experience. It wasn’t pretty. Top that, Lourey…
Don’t throw down that gauntlet, Baker. My worst panel is hands down the Malice Domestic where the author next to me slipped into a diabetic coma. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the precursor to a diabetic coma looks very much like the person is drunk. When this writer started slurring her words and repeating how much she loved animals, we all assumed she had knocked back a few before the panel. Oy. The ambulance was there within 5 minutes of us realizing what was going on, and I shared a signing table with her the next day (she looked great!), but that was the most uncomfortable Writing Funny panel I’ve ever participated in.
Shannon here: Near death vs. emotional breakdown. You win.
Jess: YES. I like to win. Shannon, for you, what are some conference no-nos? For me, it’s writers who hog the panel time, or who try to sell books like a Shaklee salesman with a habit. Other than that, I don’t think there’s much you can do wrong at a conference. We’re all there to have a good time, a whole bunch of goofy shut-ins who get to hang out with their tribe a couple weekends a year if we’re lucky.
Shannon here. Damn it, Jess. This addresses my most embarrassing moment(s). I like to drink. I am not an amateur. But for some reason, I had not one, but two back-to-back disasters at conferences. I don’t know if it was the excitement, that I’d forgotten to eat, or a bad combination. Sure, too much to drink, but not way more than what I’ve handled previously. Anyway, horrendous hangovers are not a way to get the most from a conference or to impress people. This leads to my steadfast Two-Drink rule. Listen to my words, children.
Jess: This is good advice. Shannon, do you bring any swag to give away? My first conference, Madison Bouchercon in 2006, I hauled along a gross of bookmarks splashed with the cover for May Day, my first mystery, as well as mood pens (they changed color when you touched them). My favorite swag was a flashlight with a B & E kit hidden inside of it. I handed that out with June Bug.
Here’s the thing, though. I have never picked up a piece of someone else’s swag and thought to myself, “I must buy any book associated with this.” Do you swag?
Shannon here. I have business cards to hand out and, because I feel like I should, I have bookmarks. But I’m with you. I’ve never bought a book based on swag, even though my favorite signing pen is another writer’s swag. I bought her book, not because of the pen, but because it’s good. I’ve enjoyed good swag, though. Hank Phillippi Ryan gave away lip balm and I scored a really cool pen light from Gin Malliet.
Jess: I have some of that Ryan chapstick! It’s the best. I always hope that when I use it, I’ll turn elegant and gorgeous, like her. Still trying…All right, let’s close with our best conference tip. Shannon?
Shannon: If you can, take a power nap in the afternoon so you can stay up late with the cool kids.
Jess here. Mine is to stay hydrated. I recommend red wine.
Join us tomorrow as we slide on over to Stuff and Nonsense and talk about our protagonists’ sidekicks. In the meanwhile, post your favorite conference story or advice or leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Salem’s Cipher or a copy of Stripped Bare.
To add more fun to the mix:
If you order Salem's Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a Salem short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner's home!
If you order Stripped Bare before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to email@example.com to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home.
You’re welcome to preorder both to enter both contests.
Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft's 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and leads interactive writing workshops all over the world. Salem’s Cipher, the first in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com, or find Jess on Facebook or Twitter.Shannon Baker is the author of the Nora Abbott mystery series from Midnight Ink, a fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder set in western landscapes of Flagstaff, AZ, Boulder, CO, and Moab, UT. Seconds before quitting writing forever and taking up competitive drinking, Shannon was nominated for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Buoyed with that confidence, she acquired an agent who secured a multi-book contract with Tor/Forge. The first in the Kate Fox Mystery Series, Stripped Bare will release in hardcover September 2016. Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, it’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com