Austin Mystery Writers spent Thursday making last-minute preparations for Anatomy of a Mystery, the free workshop it’s sponsoring today from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at BookPeople in Austin. I offer two photographs as proof. Some of the people in them are duplicated. (My assigned task was to cut up paper for the raffle. Mission accomplished.)
This post, which is being typed around a large cream tabby who insists on operating the space bar, is directed to people like me–people who forget to register, to sign up, to RSVP. People who put things off.
The message is this: RSVPs are not required for Anatomy of a Mystery.
If you wake in the morning with an insatiable urge to attend a workshop about how to write the mystery novel, do not despair.
Come on down to BookPeople.
Authors Reavis Wortham, Janice Hamrick, and Karen MacInerney, all of whom have proved they know how to write–and have accepted for publication–multiple mystery novels, will share some of their secrets with other writers, aspiring writers, and readers.
It would be a shame to miss this opportunity just because you forgot to tell us you were planning to come.
It would be more of a shame to miss the great swag we’re handing out. One example is pictured here. There are also some books and who-knows-what-else.
So take the advice of a veteran procrastinator: show up at Anatomy of a Mystery–and if you can’t stay all day, spend the morning or the afternoon with us.
And don’t worry about crowds. If the room is SRO, you can have my chair and I’ll sit on the floor.
Provided, that is, that you promise to help me get back up.
The day Eddy Cranny got himself murdered started bad and went downhill from there . . . especially for Eddy. ~ Janice Hamrick, Death Rides Again
When I reached the second floor of BookPeople for the June 19th launch of Death Rides Again, Janice Hamrick’s latest mystery novel, my day turned around and started uphill at a gallop.
Janice, who lives in Austin, made news in the writing–and reading–communities when the manuscript of her first book, Death on Tour, won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Published in 2011, the novel was nominated for the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award.
In 2012, Janice followed Death on Tour with Death Makes the Cut. Now she presentsthe third in the Jocelyn Shore series, Death Rides Again.
Critics have been complimentary. So have readers. From her tour of Egypt, to the high school where she teaches, to a family reunion at her Uncle Kel’s ranch, main character Jocelyn Shore has a talent for solving murders and gathering fans as she goes.
At the book launch, Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator of MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, interviewed Janice before an audience of mystery lovers. This was the second time I’ve seen the two together: at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, Janice appeared on a panel Scott moderated. The subject was using humor in mysteries, something Janice does well. (See quotation from book, above.)
I took copious notes, as I always do on such occasions. The conversation ranged far and wide, however, and my notes comprise two pages of scrawl, on the diagonal, a series of jottings devoid of connective tissue. Turning them into paragraphs would take several hours and considerable energy (for reason, see “Why I Am Not a Journalist”), so I’ll share a few bullets:
Janice got the idea for Death on Tour from a trip she made to Egypt (during which no one was murdered). The idea for Death Rides Again came from a setting–her family’s ranch near Brady.
Some reviewers class the Jocelyn Shore novels as cozy mysteries; others don’t. Janice is glad the books aren’t easily categorized. She describes them as funny but hopes they have more depth than the typical cozy.
Asked what she learned while writing the series, she said that between Death on Tour and Death Makes the Cut, she learned, “I can do it.”
She’s working on another book–not a Jocelyn Shore–but she doesn’t talk about that one yet.
Janice rises about 5:00 a.m. and writes before going to work. She sets out to write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week. On a bad day, she says, she can produce 300 words and feel okay. On a good day, she can “blast right through” her goal.
Now this is where things get personal. I began this post by saying my day went uphill because I attended the book launch.
Goals have never been my friends. Most people find them energizing. To me, setting goals is stimulus for digging in my heels, heading off at a 45-degree angle from the rest of the group. When my CP, who likes goals and thinks I should like them too, makes me set some for the coming week, I growl, scribble in my notebook–almost, but not quite, singing Nyah nyah nyah to myself–and then ignore them.
But Janice’s description of her 300-word goal–low enough to attain and feel good about, low enough to sometimes blast right through–spoke to me. Her system is so logical, so sensible, so humane. Sitting there in that folding chair, I heard the little light bulb above my head click on, and I said to myself, Well, d’oh.
So, on that basis, I’ve decided to jump into Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, with the following goal:
I will write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week;
and this stipulation:
I will not rise at 5:00 a.m. to get the job done.
Now back to the book launch:
The question on the mind of nearly everyone in the audience was, What happens next?
When you’ve spent quality time with a character like Jocelyn, gotten to know her and her family, watched her fall in–and maybe out–of love, deal with matters of life and death, turn shaky post-divorce self-esteem to strong self-confidence–you don’t want the relationship to end. Three books, the number Janice contracted to write, aren’t enough.
So what might influence Janice’s publisher to ask for a fourth Jocelyn Shore novel?
The Jocelyn Store mysteries are available from booksellers listed on Janice’s website.
On Saturday, July 20, Janice and Hopeton Haye, host of KAZI Book Review, will appear at the Pflugerville Library for an interactive discussion about the Jocelyn Shore series, mysteries, and writing. On Saturday, August 31, she will sign copies of her books at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble.
For more information about A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) click here.
To read what other ROW80 participants are writing, click here.