Saturday, September 17, 2005


I'm still on a high from my second reading-- the big one, followed by a party. It was tonight, and seemed to be a big success.

I think readings are an important way of connecting with your audience. I love to go to readings myself, because I want to hear the author's voice, which then stays in my head as I read the book. I've gone to great readings, and I've gone to terrible ones, and I've tried to put everything I've learned together to create my own.

The first thing to do is to start scheduling your readings. You need to do that at least two months in advance, to ensure that the store has enough time to publicize the event. Many stores publish printed calendars, and now many send emails out as well. Since other authors are scheduling in advance, you need to do so as well.

My first call was to our local independent store, Books & Books, which has four branches. The main store is in Coral Gables, an elegant suburb on the south side of Miami. That store has the largest space for readings. But I'd already been invited to participate in a joint reading of alumni of Florida International University's MFA program in creative writing at that store, which will take place on Sunday, September 25.

So I asked to give a reading at the branch on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road. That's a big gay neighborhood, and I didn't want to go to the same branch twice.

I invited my friend Hannah Lasky, who is a talented painter and poet, to bring some of her art work to serve as a backdrop for me. I brought a CD of Hawaiian music for the store to play as we were setting up, a fake grass-skirt banner that reads "ALOHA," and some other small props to set the scene.

The readings I've enjoyed the most have given a sense of the author and the process of writing-- so I tried to do that. I began with about ten minutes on the Hawaiian language and culture, and how I came to write the book and get it published.

Then I read the first page of the book-- to establish the voice-- and jumped to about halfway through the first chapter, which I then read through to conclusion. After I finished, I asked for questions.

The whole process took about forty-five minutes, and I enjoyed riffing off the questions I was asked. There were about twenty people in the audience, and after the reading I signed about ten books-- one couple, my friends Eliot and Lois, had flown in from New York and bought four copies. (They are now officially my VERY best friends.)

I duplicated the process tonight, at a big Borders store in a gay neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. The store had printed up posters for the reading, including one on the front door, and I got some great press-- nice announcements in the alternative weekly, the New Times, and in a couple of local gay papers; one, the Express Gay News, did a huge feature on me, with a teaser on the front cover and a big photo inside.

We had a capacity crowd-- thirty people sitting, and probably another dozen standing or hovering around in the background. And there were many men I didn't even know! Lots of them even bought books! I was more than thrilled.

It's wonderful to sign books for friends, colleagues, and neighbors-- but it was really terrific to feel that people I didn't know were touched and motivated to dish out $19.95 (plus tax.)

I was also helped in promotion by networking with local groups; Karen Dale Wolman, who organizes gay and lesbian writers' workshops, sent out a press release for me, and I think her credibility helped me get noticed.

In the end, both readings were great events, and I think at least part of that comes from doing my homework-- going to lots of readings myself and listening to what I liked and what I didn't, and doing as much groundwork as I could to let people-- both friends and strangers-- know about the book and the reading.

Monday, September 05, 2005

More Bouchercon

Overall, I had a great time at Bouchercon. In the mornings, I walked around Chicago, and during the day I sat in on panel discussions that were interesting and fun.

My own panel was less than successful. A very bossy panel moderator refused to let us do any publicity for our books, and kept a very tight rein on what we said. The star of our panel was Lee Child, who has written nine books in the Reacher series, and it was clear that most of the audience was there to see him, so though I was annoyed at the moderator's bossiness, it isn't like I lost a major opportunity to publicize Mahu.

I sold one book through a great bookseller, Rue Morgue (where I bought all my books) and autographed one program. But I met lots of great people and had fun. On the last day, I attended a program on short stories, with the editors of both Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I made sure to go up and say hello at the end, and hand out my post-it note pads. I have stories out to both magazines; I'm hoping that the name recognition will help when those stories get read.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bouchercon - Day 1

On Wednesday, August 31, I left South Florida for Bouchercon, the worldwide conference of mystery writers and readers. There are over a thousand people here, including a bunch from Florida, so I’m much more comfortable here than I was at Saints & Sinners. And frankly, the people here are so much nicer than the people at Saints & Sinners were. There, I thought everyone was very clique-y, yet here, everyone is much more approachable and friendly.

After I got in, I went shopping on North Michigan Avenue—hitting every chocolate shop in town, I think. Then on Wednesday night, my friend Eileen drove in from the suburbs and we went to dinner at a great – though very rich and fattening – French restaurant. Then she drove me around Chicago for a while, proving a great tour guide.

Thursday began the first day of the conference. I sat in on a panel on sex, which was actually pretty dry, then a demonstration of K-9 dogs. In Chicago, they use Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds and Dutch shepherds. The dogs are actually trained in Europe, and then purchased by the city when they are about a year and a half old. Seeing them made me want to incorporate a K-9 dog somewhere in a book or story.

I had lunch with Christine Kling and Fred Rea at a little cafĂ© near the hotel, and made it back for a panel on anthologies, where I actually picked up some tips for the anthology I will be editing with Sharon Sakson. Though we haven’t gotten the official word yet, Alyson Press will be publishing a collection of true stories about gay men and the bonds they have with their dogs. It was very interesting to hear the experiences of the anthology editors.

The last panel of the day was on series characters and whether they age or not. Some characters, like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, age only a few months at a time, while others, like Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter, age in real time. It was very interesting to hear the panel talk about these issues.

After some email and relaxation, I went to the Hammett Awards and welcome reception, then hung out with Chris for a while before going to the Akashic books party. Again, everyone I’ve met so far has been very nice and friendly. I think it helps that I have that little red dot on my badge that identifies me as an author—though only a little.