The massive mix of mystery writers and readers known as Bouchercon wrapped up in Dallas, Texas a few weekends ago. The conference brings in 1,700-2,000 participants, and is held in a different city each year. I stayed busy at the 50th anniversary of Bouchercon.
On Friday, I participated in the Sisters in Crime breakfast. The SinC group is marvelous, and the breakfast event was upbeat. There was a change in leadership. One amazing leader (Sherry Harris) handing off to another amazing leader (Lori Rader-Day). I was asked to read the thank you remarks of the winner of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color award. A hearty congratulations to Jessica Martinez in being this year’s recipient. She’s an emerging crime writer to watch out for.
Later on Friday, I participated in the This is Not a Diversity Panel with four, amazing writers: Step Cha, S. A. Cosby, Michael Nava, and Carsen Taite. I was honored to riff with them about writing and inclusion in the crime writing community.
On Saturday, another breakfast where author Heather Graham and I did a speed dating exercise with the readers attending the conference. That was fun, and tiring, and exhilarating. My afternoon panel called : A Cold and Lonely Place, looked at the issue of setting in the crime fiction. Of course, I write about Detroit in the mid-2000s and I was happy to talk about the Motor City.
Next year’s Bouchercon will be in Sacramento, California and I’ll be there. Because, one more thing happened at B’con. I was voted onto the national board. I’m happy to serve and amazing community of lovers of the crime/mystery genre.
For me a really good day is if I can slam out a couple of thousand words of crime fiction; do a bit of outdoors sweating; and cook something yummy.
My mother taught me how to cook. Over the years I’ve picked up a few recipes here and there to supplement the soul-food meals I learned at the proverbial mother’s knee. I don’t eat those childhood meals very much anymore. To much: fat, salt, calories, cholesterol. Although I do still make a mean mac n’ cheese.
Now, love preparing colorful vegetables. I stick pretty close to chicken, fish, shrimp. Occasional red meat (although less and less each month). It’s difficult for me to resist starches (especially rice) and I’m a sucker for a chocolate cake.
I sometimes use the promise of dessert to keep my butt in the chair writing. The results-reward strategy works well for me. Plus, I find cooking just as creative as writing. When I’m fluidly moving around a kitchen pinching, shaking, cutting, pouring, stirring; it is the same power as when I let go of the act of writing and allow the characters to speak through me.
Here are a few things I’ve cooked up of late (photos below): herb-breaded chicken breasts; tuna salad on spinach; beef tacos w/ beans & rice; sauteed shrimp (to accompany grits); red cabbage & green squash (I call this smurf & turf); six-veggie saute; and my latest book.
Drunken! Careening! Writers Series
Tonight at the KGB Bar (For a mystery/thriller/crime writer, I love the name of this bar)
7 p.m. Reading from Long Way Home: A World War II Novel
Wow. March. Loved you, but you wore me out.
I started out the month doing final edits to my fourth book in the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series. That book: Judge Me When I’m Wrong will be published in October 2019. It’s the first time I’ve had two books published in one calendar year. Excited!
I did a sensitivity/beta read for an author friend. It was a romance novel. I don’t read a lot of romance, but this book’s story was quite charming, and dare I say it. I enjoyed racing through to the ‘happy ending’. Then it was off to Pittsburgh to work with the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Board to check out our host hotel for July’s GCLS Con. The beautiful Wyndham Grand in Downtown Pittsburgh, sits at the convergence of the city’s three rivers and will be an excellent site for the gathering of our 300 GCLS members this summer.
A week later it was off to Chicago for the Murder and Mayhem conference. I sat on a fun panel of cozy mystery writers (I’m not cozy) and they made me feel very comfortable. The day after the conference, I taught a class (with Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter board member, Mia Manansala) called: Character, not Caricatures: Writing People Who Aren’t Like You. Mia and I swirled through a PowerPoint presentation and engaged the paying audience in a series of writing exercises.
The following week it was on to New Orleans for the Saints and Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival where I ate gumbo, moderated a panel of radical, lesbian, feminist writing luminaries (Judy Grahn, Blanche McCrary Boyd, and Dorothy Allison), participated in an interview with New Orleans mystery writer, Jean Redmann, did a reading of my new book, Catch Me When I’m Falling, read the poetry of Assotto Saint in a author’s remembrance (including Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Cunningham) of writers who had passed away of HIV/AIDS, and, wait for it- was inducted into the SAS Fest Hall of Fame.
Oh, and did I mention I met Grammy-winning, extraordinary musician, Ani DiFranco?
I worked with Mystery Writers of America Midwest’s Secretary, Mia Manansala (photo below), in Chicago to present a workshop/ practicum on how writers can develop characters in their books that are different from them. We shared information about avoiding stereotypes (pause to be aware of implicit biases or filters); cultivating inclusion (read #ownvoices); building cultural competence (it’s a course of action not a course of study); avoiding default characters (not everyone is white, middle-class, and straight) and bringing humility to the writing process. The attendees participated in a few exercises, and attendees walked away with the beginnings of a character profile for their next (or first) diverse character, and a packet of further reading.
This guy is my “default” airline pilot. Default characters are a no-no
The Unicorn graph can help us understand the LGBTQ gender/identity/expression spectrum.
Thank you! to the MWAMidwest Board for the opportunity.
Mystery Writers: Brenda Buchanan, John Copenhaver and Sherry Harris @ East City Books in Washington, DC. We write crime, but we can laugh about it.
I love the writing in this series. It’s pithy, wise-cracking, noir talk crackling with wit, intelligence and magnificent metaphors. I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba, especially the sparkling, exotic, forbidden Cuba of the 50’s and Flesh and Gold gave me more than I could have imagined. It’s all there: the pastel buildings, the formidable sun, the white-walled tires, the architecture, and the rum. And now I know about Cuba’s darkest side: sinister, sinful, and dangerous. I’ll still go to Cuba. But now I’ll avoid some of the backstreets. Great storytelling.