Monday, June 24, 2013

Writing Conferences

Larry and I spent the weekend at the Southern California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena, California. We're still exhausted after a jam-packed weekend of speakers and panels.

Unlike some of the other conferences we attend, this one is really geared to writers rather than published authors. Oh, don’t' get me wrong. Many of the attendees are, indeed, published authors.

The keynote speaker on Saturday was Sue Grafton, author of the Alphabet (Kinsey Millhone) mysteries. Starting with A is for Alibi, Sue has crafted a protagonist with a spunky personality and personal foibles, who is both believable and likeable.

As she spoke, her voice reflected the personality of her character. She is a master of creating original and creative metaphors. These add depth and color to her manuscripts as well as to her own speech.

After the keynote, she was interviewed with a Q&A session following. She is as funny and approachable as one might expect from reading her books.

The keynote speaker for Sunday was Elizabeth George. I must confess, she was the speaker I most wanted to hear since we had seen and heard her at the Maui Writers Conference in 2005. I still quote some of the wisdom she imparted at that time.

I was sardined into a small meeting room for her workshop, along with far more attendees than the room would hold. In addition, several more were turned away for lack of space. And once again, she inspired and taught while speaking about her own writing process.

Her keynote was self-revelatory and relatable, as I had expected.

Since her book signing went long, so many of those who might have wanted to hear her interview (including Larry) decided to attend other workshops. She was well-worth the wait! She sat around a table with about a dozen of us and was interviewed. The questions were well-thought-out, and her answers were thoughtful. But she also answered our own questions with the same candor. She even revealed a bit of the background for her next book, to be released in October of this year.

And those two great authors were only the icing on the cake. The offerings were rich and varied and provided something for everyone.

Why do we continue to attend conferences? Because we get so much rich material, but also because we get enthused about the writing process again.

Writers who are serious about the craft owe it to themselves to attend conferences where they can be surrounded by the best in the business. Sit at their feet, and learn.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Meet Christy Dyer!

Today on my blog, I welcome the new intern at Oak Tree Press, Christy Dyer.

First, welcome to the family of one of my favorite publishers. You'll like it here!
Thanks! I think I will like it here!

Exactly what will you do as intern? What will be your responsibilities?
I’m working as an acquisitions editor. So I will be looking over people’s queries and manuscripts to decide if they can be published. I am also doing some editing work, but not through OTP. Just something on the side.

What is your background?
I am a recent college graduate from Western Illinois University. So now I am in the “real” world, trying to find a job that fits my major, English.

I can relate. I was also an English major. I'm an editor (independent plus for several publishers) as well as an author. I even have the t-shirt:

You can get one, too, here:

How did you become interested in a career in publishing?
As cliché as it is, I am a huge reader. I will read anything and everything. So I wanted to work in a place with books and authors and help them get their ideas into print. I've also entertained the idea of writing!

How did you find out about Oak Tree Press?
The power of Google search! I was looking for publishing houses in Illinois so I didn’t have to move right away, and OTP came up. So I took a chance, and here I am!

What appealed to you about the intern position?
I was really glad Billie decided to give me a chance. Most places didn’t bother to answer me or told me I didn’t have enough experience. Plus, Billie is really kind and answers all of my billion-questions-a-day emails as they come. So I’m glad for the chance to show what I can do.

What contribution(s) do you hope to make?
Maybe possibly add to the fantasy section of OTP? I am a huge fan of fantasy and it might attract even more authors to OTP since we publish those works. It would also add more readers since it is a popular genre. But for now, I’m happy reading all the queries and helping in any way I can!

[Lorna: My book, Ghost Writer, was the first published by OTP under the new fantasy imprint, Mystic Oaks.]

What do you see as the future of publishing?
With all the ways people can self-publish, it is difficult to predict where it might go. On one hand, it could continue to grow as people get their ideas out to the world in pursuit of the next bestseller. On the other hand, books in print could disappear as the new e-readers continue to become more popular. But I believe books will never die.

Anything else you think my readers would be interested in?
As I mentioned before, I am doing some side editing. Yes I will charge for my services (I am a poor college student after all!), but I’m not doing it through Oak Tree Press. I am willing to edit everything and anything. So if anyone is interested, I’m here!

Glad to know of another editor! Writers really need our services, and there are far too few of us to go around. All the best of luck at Oak Tree. Please don't nag me to get going on my next book for Mystic Oaks, to be called Sophia's Garden. Like Ghost Writer, it also has a ghost. I've promised it to Oak Tree when it's finished. Hope you'll enjoy being with us. We have a great group of authors.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Connecting the Dots

For the past couple of weeks I haven't posted a new blog. This is for several reasons, but a major one has occupied most of my time.

I am working on a committee planning my 50th high school reunion, coming up next year. I've made it my personal goal to account for everyone in the class of over 600. (Okay, I know it's never been done, but who's to say it can't be?)

We were at the vanguard of the Baby Boom. We had the largest class to graduate from Alhambra High School in Alhambra, California up to that date. As of last Wednesday, we had verified 248 of the 606 names on the list. In addition, we've identified 72 of our classmates who have died.

We have addresses for all but 17 of the others, and phone numbers for most of those.

I started putting together a spreadsheet to track all the data on April 5. We began with nothing.

The lady at the high school who had kept all the records apparently died a couple of years ago, and no one there knows where the information might be. I had the reunion books from the ten-year (1974) and twenty-year (1984) reunions, which I attended, as well as the thirty-year one (1994) which I did not. In addition, in 1995, the high school put out a master list of all graduates from all classes. (Not everyone was included.) That helped with the last names of some of the women.

So I started with the most recent of these records and worked backwards. Unfortunately, my brother had borrowed all my annuals a few years ago for a project he was working on. Inside my senior one was the graduation program with everyone's full name. About a month after I began the spreadsheet, I visited him and retrieved those. The middle names were a huge help.

Another offer of assistance came from one of our classmates. She'd been part of the committee which had planned a three-class (1963, 1964, 1965) reunion held in 2005. (I also did not attend that one). She'd retained the contact information they used for that event, so about the same time as I recovered my annuals, we received those records in the mail. Unfortunately, quite a large percentage of the information on this list was incorrect.

Larry says I collect people the way others collect stamps. This is true, and I do not let them go easily. I have maintained friendships with many of the 'kids' I grew up with, high school friends, people from every job I've ever held, neighbors from places we've lived, my daughter's friends… You get the picture.

I also have many contacts on Facebook, including quite a few who were in my high school class.

As you may have gathered, I haven't attended many of the reunions of my class, for various reasons. However, a couple of years ago, a high school friend invited me to attend a luncheon at the home of another friend. I went, and had a great time renewing friendships with about eight other gals, several of whom I hadn't seen since graduation.

We had such a good time we decided to hold another mini-reunion last year at our house. This time, several from the first group attended as well as a couple of others. And we all vowed we'd go to the 50th reunion.

Once we started the process, several volunteers came forward to help. A couple of gals have been nothing short of amazing at locating people. They have discovered children, siblings and other relatives who have ultimately led to the person we sought.

Another group has taken the contact information we've recorded and made phone calls personally inviting each class member to attend. They report back what they've learned, and we add that information to the spreadsheet.

Our ace-in-the-hole, however, is a class member who is a private detective. He has found a couple of people who defeated the rest of us. We save our hardest cases for him! And another former Secret Service agent will join us in August to tackle the most difficult cases.

One of the best parts for me personally is getting to know a gal who wasn’t' a friend in school. She was extremely shy and tried to fade into the background. In my case, she succeeded. However when she was contacted, she mentioned she had a lot of database experience. We have shared a major geekathon! She built an Access database from the data on my spreadsheet. She can now run reports so our work is very focused. What a HUGE gift! She will also become our webmaster as soon as we get our website up and operational. But most important to me is the terrific friendship we've formed. I can't wait to see her in person next year!

We also recruited a terrific treasurer and an assistant. They opened an account for the event, and reservations we've received so far have allowed us to secure a wonderful venue at this year's rates! (Since they are currently remodeling, we were informed the prices will be considerably higher next year—but not for us!)

We also have volunteers to make the nametags, prepare the biographical information, and coordinate the memorabilia.

I must admit, I've most enjoyed making phone calls and reconnecting with people I haven't spoken to in years. I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone next year, and the time away from my blog has been more than worth it!