Wednesday, August 31, 2011


My friend Linda and I are shown in the Killer Nashville bookstore on a Nashville TV station. For those of you who don't know me, I'm the gray-haired woman in the black blouse and I've just met Patricia Winton, a Sisters In Crime Internet friend. We're gabbing away about her short story, Feeding Frenzy, that was published in The Guppy Anthology. The Guppies are a chapter of SinC.

It's weird that you can see me reflected in the mirror, behind the guy talking about his novel.  My hair looks pretty good considering I hate going to the beauty shop and cut it myself.  Of course, some of you may think it looks as though I cut it myself. I take that risk because I really, really HATE going to the beauty shop. Just seems like a waste of time and a waste of money. Besides, I don't have to look at my hair--you do. :-)

After the short advertisement featuring a roller coaster, stay tuned for the Killer Nashville thing. You'll see the crime scene conferees had to solve. The body looks real!

If I'd known there was a news team nearby, you would have seen me drop and roll to avoid them. One of those sneaky freelance guys, I believe.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Home from Killer Nashville

I’m back from Nashville and completely worn out. I might be a little too old and out of shape to drive 11 hours straight—but it was worth it. This is the first conference I’ve attended where I was totally relaxed and not a nervous wreck. Maybe wisdom really does come with age.

By now, you know I did not win the Claymore award. Of course you know. I’m not shouting “I won, I won” from the rooftop.  I have to say though, I was in excellent company as a top 10 finalist.
Judith Dailey won first place with her novel Animal, Vegetable, Murder. Neat title, huh?
The other two in the top three are Joan Lipinsky Cochran who wrote The Yiddish Gangster's Daughter and Craig Faustus Buck who entered his novel, Go Down Hard.

My money was always on Craig. Don't know him and never met him, but reading his bio, I felt certain he would be the overall winner or make the top three. There's something about writing scripts that gives writers an edge. Craig has been a journalist, a NF book author, and written for TV. He's also written movies of the week and mini-series. Remember Simon and Simon and Magnum P.I.? I loved those guys and watched them faithfully! Having a history with those two shows alone, Craig had my vote!

You might have an idea the caliber of writing I was up against. Killer Nashville was a wonderful experience for me. I'll be posting more about it so I hope you'll pop back over for a visit.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Killer Nashville, here I come. My friend Linda and I will be taking off early Thursday morning heading to Nashville where we'll rub shoulders with a lot of people who love murder and mahem.That sounds creepy, doesn't it? Maybe I should clarify--they love writing about it.

The 10+ hour drive is a little daunting; I can honestly say I'm dreading it. Since Linda does all her writing by hand, I've suggested we write a novella all the way there and back. We should be able to whip out 22,000+ words there and back, shouldn't we? I don't know that the idea thrilled Linda; guess I'll find out Thursday morning if she has her pen and yellow pad in her lap by the time we pull out my drive.

Years ago my daughter and I attended a Sisters In Crime conference in Houston. I learned a lot. I haven't attended another conference solely dedicated to suspense, mystery, and crime. I understand Killer Nashville is one of the best. It began in 2006. The conference offers five concurrent tracks: The Writing Track, The Publishing Track, The Career Management & Promotion Track, The Forensic Track and The Fan Track. I'm always totally confused about what to attend when I go to conferences. I wish I could clone myself and attend everything! I want to attend Creating Mood and Atmosphere in Fiction (I'm so totally rotten at that!) but I also want to attend Writing and Selling YA Suspense. Even if I could attend both, I'd be missing Law Enforcement Jurisdiction by a real FBI Special Agent. What's a writer to do in a case like this?

Killer Nashville was founded by writer/filmmaker Clay Stafford of American Blackguard Film and Television. Clay is an international award-winning writer, director, producer, actor and speaker. He's worked for PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Sony Pictures, Republic Pictures, Disney, and Universal Studios. And all I can say is ... WOW! Go check out his CREDITS.

I've wanted to attend Killer Nashville since its inception,  So thank you, dear husband, for making it possible. Expenses paid and new car for travel. I promise, I'll write faster, harder, and strive to sell my book. (Pssst, sometimes he thinks I'm a slacker.)

I read on another contest finalists blog that there were 232 entries in the Claymore contest. If that's true, then I really feel honored to be in the top 10. Several of those finalists have published books under their belts; remember, this is a contest for both published and unpublished writers. Only the manuscript need be unpubbed. And only the first 50 pages are entered.

I'm probably showing my ignorance here, but I have no clue where they got the name for the Claymore contest. All I know is that the Claymore was the greatest sword of its period, wielded by only the most powerful knights.

So yeah, I'd love to hold it in my nervous, hot, sweaty little hands!

Needless to say, I'm so excited. But I want to tell you something  ...

If by some weird stretch of the imagination, I win--even if I'm in the top three--I might not survive it. I might pass out cold, or even, God forbid, have a fatal attack because of my adrenalin rush. I just want to tell you now before it's too late . . . I appreciate and love all you readers and followers. You've made blogging fun.

Hopefully, see you when I get back. ~jess

P.S.  Mama always said I was dramatic. :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Long Does Your Passion Hang Around?

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” ~ Orson Scott Card

Novel ideas are everywhere. But I can't grab one and immediately start writing. An idea for a novel has to flop around in my head for awhile until it catches hold and takes root. I think about it constantly, trying names on my characters to see if they fit, getting to know them, and working out scenes and plot points. 

Still, I agree with Orson Scott Card's quote. NF ideas slam into me left and right when I listen to dialogue in a restaurant, or the pastor's sermon, or watch a TV show, but if I don't grab the idea and the passion that goes along with it and do something with it at that moment, then the idea doesn't speak to me the next week, the next day or even the next hour. My passion for it is gone. That's not to say I can't write the story or the article, but I have to drum up a new excitement for it. A lack of original passion makes the writing seem more like work.

 I wonder if this falls under the category of a mood writer or if everyone has this problem.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Mentor is ...

Mentoring is one subject that confuses me. Once I volunteered for a position with a writing group and was turned down because I had no "record" of mentoring other writers. The reason I have no "record" is because I don't advertise that I've mentored anyone. If I do something nice for someone, I'm not going to go around bragging about it. I feel it's up to the individual to say s/he's been mentored, but also, I haven't charged a fee. Almost all the mentoring I do is in my local area--Louisiana and Texas. 

For the past five years or so, I've taught a six week NF writing class. I've always taught the class in the fall and given students the option of staying in touch with me for help through the end of the year. Several stay in touch with me much longer because we become writer friends. I've never called it mentoring, though some of them have.  All of my students have sold their work with the exception of one or two. :/ I continue to send my students and other writers I know specific markets for their works. I continue to encourage them and offer help and critiques when they ask. I've never considered myself a mentor.

I believe mentoring is very misunderstood. An agent I know started a mentoring program by putting writers together in groups of three (a Paul, Timothy and Barnabas group) but we weren't at all compatible or dedicated to helping each other. I think mentoring has to just happen with people who connect with each other. Maybe it can be a business relationship where one is paying for services but I absolutely HATE that thought. The word mentor--the action of a mentor is too beautiful to be charging a fee. Needless to say, I've never had a mentor; but I have (and have had) very dear friends and critique partners who give me wonderful tips, advice and inside publishing information.
So I'll be the first to admit, I come to the word MENTOR a little fuzzy. Straighten me out. What's your definition of a mentor? Is mentor the same as a writing coach? Have you ever had either one? Did you pay? Would you like to have one or the other? Would you pay? What would the "perfect mentor" be like?
Looking forward to your comments.

P.S. FYI--I take after my dad who worked hard and never wanted to charge for anything! :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Helping Hand

Nothing, not love, not greed, not passion or hatred, is stronger than a writer's need to change another writer's copy. - Arthur Evans

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully ... and Having Fun!

Quick post to let you know the new issue of Swamp Lily Review is HERE. We had a lot of submissions for this issue. I have no doubt I'd be totally overwhelmed if we accepted submissions from all over the country. Hope you enjoy the poems, short stories and photography we accepted. I think they're great. My partner Jan who contributes to a new reviews site, tweaked Swamp Lily Review, and it looks beautiful. Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook too so join us there.

I also want to let you know that Southern Writers Magazine (I'm a staff writer!) has started a blog so you can follow it HERE.

On another note, I've registered for the Killer Nashville conference. I'll be sitting in the audience, heart pounding, palms sweating, as they call out the winner of their Claymore contest. I'm thrilled to be a part of this and in the top ten. My hubby gave me the "All Expenses Paid" conference for my birthday so turning "old" hasn't been ALL bad.  Now I need to practice my pitch and start taking some B-O-L-D vitamins. I've attended a lot of conferences in my lifetime, but in spite of my self-pep talks, I always find myself becoming a shrinking violet. I hold up a lot of walls.

So, help me with this. What's your best tip for attending conferences and pitching to editors and agents? Share!