Colorado Gold Once More–With Deni Dietz

They say trade shows are on the wane.  People don’t want to expend the time and money required to put on the events, companies don’t want to pay the exorbitant prices for sending staff for the “waste of time” these things become.  I don’t think I agree with this thinking.

Colorado Gold is “my” big event of the year, and every time I’ve gone (and I’ve gone to this event since 2003), I learn something, meet someone important, get to know friends in writing on a deeper level, and most of all, I get motivated to write some more.  These things are not measurable in dollars, but in punctuating my life with celebration and skill development they are invaluable.

Take for example:


CO Gold with Deni Dietz and Liesa Malik

Deni Dietz always has time for a smile with friends.

Do you know Deni?  She writes under the pen names “Denise Dietz” and “Mary Ellen Dennis.”  Under the first name, Deni writes mysteries.  Cozy mysteries.  I really enjoyed Throw Darts at a Cheesecake and Footprints in the Butter.  As Mary Ellen Dennis, Deni writes historical and paranormal romance. Yummy!

In 2014 Deni was nominated for an Edgar Award for her short story, “Annie and the Grateful Dead.”

But Deni is also the editor who first acquired Faith on the Rocks and then Sliced Vegetarian. She helped me as she has helped so many others “get a start” in publishing. Luckily, Deni and senior editor, Tiffany Schofield, from Five Star came to CO Gold in search of new talent.  I won’t know if they struck gold at this year’s conference for a while, but Deni’s a very committed editor as well as writer, and I suspect that in the months ahead there will be one or two new authors shouting and celebrating the way I did a couple of years ago.

Thing about Deni is that you may not know her personally, but she has a really big reputation in the industry, and that reputation seems to be all good.  “She works so hard, all of the time,” said one person I talked to.  “Oh, you write for Five Star?  Then you must know Deni,” said another, implying that Deni is the person who enjoys working with new and established authors.

It was amazing to me how approachable Deni was during the weekend.  Yes, she had several pitch sessions and meetings to go to.  She gave a few workshops, and she hung out with some of us who are “her authors.”  But every time I saw her, Deni had a smile and a couple of minutes for me.  She gave me tips for working with Five Star on prepping for Bouchercon (which is coming up in a few weeks in Raleigh, NC), and didn’t bug me about where book three might be in the Daisy Arthur mysteries.  In general, whether you meet Deni for the first time or the fiftieth she comes across, not as a big wig, but as a true friend.

So how do you put a dollar figure on that friendship?  How does this small contact pay off for Deni or me? I can’t speak for my editor, but I know I came away more motivated than ever to get back to the keyboard.  I don’t want to let her down, and I’m so excited to share the next story with her.  For months my work has been dragging, but after talking with Deni and being at CO Gold, I’m excited to jump back into the world of writing and make something good happen.

I’d ask you to wish me luck, but I think the conference has provided just that.

Wishing you a week filled with the motivation to do all that your dreams inspire in you.


Bouchercon and the Big Names

I’ve always been a bit of a star-gazer.  When I was little, I was sure Shirley Temple and I could be best friends (had no concept of what “re-runs” meant).  When I hit my teen years, I knew that Robert Redford and Paul Newman were a year or two “too old” for me, but what the heck, I was dreaming big on my way to the political aspirations I had, right?

And now, my daughter lives and works in Los Angeles.  There are stars on every corner there, to be sure. Well, almost.  I’ve visited several times and never met one yet.

Picture of Bouchercon BooksYou can imagine the feast I had at Bouchercon, then, when I actually had a word with William Kent Krueger, this year’s writer of the year.  Mr. Krueger seems to have won just about every writing award possible with his Ordinary Grace, and there I was, standing behind the registration desk, saying “hello” to the great man. His hallmark grin was pasted firmly in place as he replied to my question about how Doyle never seemed to get his comeuppance, and he said, “not in this book.” Ooh! Mr. Kruger has more up his sleeve?  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Jeffery Deaver, one of the guests of honor, and author of such well-respected mysteries as The Kill Room, XO, and The October List, came up and I was lucky enough to be the volunteer helping to get his friends registered. He was quick-witted, generous, and real. No fancy entourage, no extraordinary looks.  Just a man who happens to be a New York Times best-selling author and one of Bouchercon’s guests of honor.

Silent Auction Quilt from Bouchercon 2014

Silent Auction Quilt – wouldn’t it be lover-ly!

The whole weekend was like this–meeting people, ordinary people, with extraordinary talent, wit, and kindness.  Christine Goff, of the Birdwatcher Mysteries took me in hand and introduced me to more great writers.  Deni Dietz, my editor and Anthony Award nominee, shared lunch and advice at a quaint Irish pub nearby.

In short, if I were an author autograph seeker, this would have been a gold mine place to be.

But I don’t actively seek out autographs. I look for people and their stories.  And here I was richly rewarded as well . . .

Teresa pretty much oversaw all of my work at the registration counter.  She was there through just about every shift, helping drop-ins with last minute registrations, talking up Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh (where she’ll be in charge of registrations), and smiling, smiling, smiling.  I listened to her story of reading so many books my head spins just thinking about it.  On the last day of the conference I offered her a copy of my book in thanks, thinking it was a paltry thing after all of her work and kindness.  She looked at me as if I’d given her the best present ever, and when she asked me to sign it (and I misspelled her name!) she generously said, “I like it that way.”

Picture of author Robert Kresge

Author Robert Kresge – talk about great branding!

Another Theresa (this one with the “TH” clearly pronounced), told me about her life as a paralegal and how she lives for her reading.  She is someone who can read a book a day if the books are there.  How cool that each Bouchercon attendee received a bag full of books, as Theresa is one of several readers at the conference with this voracious appetite for a good tale.

I am in awe of the strength of those who read.  Even though literacy seems in trouble in the US (only 20% of adults read more than one book a year for pleasure), those who do read seem to do so abundantly.  It constantly took me aback when they would say “I’m just a reader,” like guest of honor, Al Abramson, who I bumped into during one of the many days worth of panel discussions.  Mr. Abramson was witty and kind to this newbie of Bouchercon, even though he has been a leader this organization since about 2000.

Book Carnival  with Faith on the Rocks

Carnival Books or Orange, CA, was kind enough to sell copies of Faith on the Rocks for me. Anne Saller (not pictured) is a terrific book store owner!

And then there was Lucinda and Stan. Lucinda was in charge of all of the volunteers and ran from place to place helping people find their way, filling in for missing volunteers, and generally smiling away with her lovely long grey hair flying by, a blue streak letting us know she was the person we sought.  And Stan, the volunteer in charge of balloting for the Anthony Awards, helped anchor the volunteer desk, and helped me find some friends of a woman who’d misplaced them.  He knew everybody by sight.

I have been in several communities in my life, but no where was I more comfortable than in this place where people come to talk, read, and find new mysteries, thrillers, and crime stories. Talk about a great reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season with a cozy little thriller or crime book on top.  Next week I’ll announce my Bouchercon contest.  Hope you win!