After a very busy month out and about at the end of January and through a good part of February, I’ve rarely ventured outside my immediate neighborhood this month. This was not unexpected. Not only did I have writing to catch up on, I found myself watching a great deal of the Winter Olympics coverage.
I tend to watch the not-so-popular sports in the Olympics. Yes, I enjoy the figure skating, but not as much as I used to. I think there’s too much emphasis on who’s going to hit how many quads, and who will do a clean triple jump combination. There’s not enough focus on artistry, and they totally eliminated the school figures that made up a huge portion of a skater’s score in the past.
No, I’m more likely to be following ski jumping or the biathlon or this year’s new favorite sport, curling. I was actually looking forward to watching the curling matches and hoped there’d be more of them televised than there were during the last Olympics. Little did I know that Team Shuster would become a phenomenon.
My main focus this month, though, was the Tucson Festival of Books. This is a major event in Tucson, along with the gem show. It’s been running for ten years and I’ve attended all but one of those years.
Saturday morning, I went to two different presentations. The first was by Scott Turow, author of “Presumed Innocent” and Greg Iles, who’s written a slew of thrillers, including ten that became bestsellers. His latest is “Mississippi Blood.” These talks are a good opportunity to get to know authors better, find out what they’re like, and hear stories about their careers. What I most enjoyed about this one was the contrasting writing styles of the two of them. Turow is a write-every-day kind of author. His advice is to write something every day, whether it’s one sentence or 2,000 words. He outlines and plans his books in advance.
In contrast, Greg Iles says he’s working on his books every day, but he only writes for a brief time each year. Most of the time, “the boys in the basement,” as Stephen King calls them, are unconsciously putting together a story. When deadline time gets close, Iles becomes a whirlwind, typing the whole book furiously in a burst of output.
The second presentation I went to was Douglas Preston on “The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story.” Preston is also a thriller writer, but definitely different from most fiction authors in that he’s also an adventurer. This book recounts his experiences with a group of scientists searching for and finding a rumored ancient city buried in the Honduran jungle. His narration was spellbinding, and I’m definitely planning on reading this book in the future.
I found out this is not his first non-fiction book based on a personal adventure. He’s also written “Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest in Pursuit of Coronado.” This was a months-long trip on horseback. Since a large part of it was through Arizona, I’ve also put this book on my to-read list.
Fascinating as these presentations were, my favorite part of the festival was the time I spent in the Tucson Sisters in Crime booth. I loved talking to festival attendees about our chapter and my books. It’s taken me several years to get over my shyness to be able to do this, but for the first couple of years, I studied the authors who were good at it and emulated them. As a result, I’ve sold more books each year than I did the prior year.
My favorite experience this year was with one particular woman. She walked up to my display of books and looked at each cover in turn. I started my sales pitch. “Do you like cozy mysteries?” She answered, “I love them. In fact, I bought your first three books last year. I came back looking for you, hoping there would be a new book.” And she promptly bought “Double Pink Murder.”
She then proceeded to tell me how she’d passed on the books she bought last year to her friends, and they were all looking forward to reading another of my books.
When you spend most of your time in a room by yourself wondering if what you’re writing is any good at all, this kind of experience can keep you going for weeks. Thank you so much to all my readers for their encouragement!