Books so good, it’s criminal — the mystery award winners

It’s award season in the mystery and crime fiction world, with the Leftys and Agathas given at the Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic fan conventions earlier this month, and Thursday evening, the Edgars, awarded by the Mystery Writers of America. All events were held in person, for the first time since LCC was shut down in March 2020, just a few hours in. MWA also live-streamed its ceremony, and you can catch it on YouTube.

Copying the lists of nominees and winners would make this post way too long, but I do want to share the links: Lefties, Agathas, and Edgars. The first two are voted on by fans attending the convention; the Edgars are judged by panels of MWA members. Each is a genuine honor. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners — and a huge thanks to the judges.

Check out the lists. I’m sure that, like me, you’ll find books and authors that are new to you, even if you’re an avid reader who tries to stay current. It’s the nature of lists to differ, though some appear on multiple lists, a particularly good sign.

A sign of good reading ahead!

The Saturday Creativity Quote

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing tidbits of wisdom that caught my ears and attention at Left Coast Crime 2022, the mystery and crime fiction convention held this year in early April in Albuquerque.

“A good story isn’t about what happens. It’s about who it happens to.”

— William Kent Krueger, talking specifically about This Tender Land (2019). Kent’s novel, Lightning Strike, won the 2022 Lefty Award for Best Novel.

Pre-order sale at Barnes & Noble

Friends, Barnes & Noble is running a pre-order special — 25% off — Wednesday through Friday, April 20-22. Both Leslie’s PEPPERMINT BARKED (coming July 19) and Alicia’s BLIND FAITH (coming October 11) are eligible. Just click the link on the title to go directly to that book’s page on B&N.com and use the checkout code PREORDER25.

And get ready to give your future self the gift of a good book!

Writing Wednesday – The Power of Community

Leslie’s desk

I’m just back from Albuquerque and Left Coast Crime, one of the three main fan conventions in mystery and crime fiction. And next week, I’m headed to Bethesda, MD, for Malice Domestic. My first conventions in three years! I found myself both unsure and excited. Unsure what to pack. How many bookmarks do I need? How many pairs of shoes? What am I forgetting, besides my mind?

And excited to see my community. Readers, writers, reviewers, booksellers, librarians, people in the publishing business. People who love curling up with a good book—and who love getting together with others to talk about the experience.

One of my writing communities has long been Sisters in Crime and the Guppies chapter, which I helped start. In 2014, SinC published a book called Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, ed. by Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Writes of Passage

My essay is titled “Group Power, For the Writer Alone in Her Room.” I was reminded of it recently when a member of an online writers’ group I’m in said of the cons, “I’m not sure I could do that. I’m an introvert.” Let me share this passage:

“I’ve been reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Books, 2012). Like most writers, I’m an introvert, albeit a noisy one, or maybe an ambivert. Cain contends that most institutions in our culture—schools, corporations, even churches—push extroversion and emphasize group activities and teamwork. That emphasis often results in forming a group to tackle a problem, whether that’s really the best solution or not, and discounts key natural strengths of introverts. But while introverts need quiet time—alone in our rooms, with the voices and stories in our heads—we also like to cooperate. We value each group member’s voice, and we encourage innovation.

“That’s what makes the writers’ group so powerful. A group can help us learn new information or sift through it. SinC’s Guppies chapter thrives on that principle, with subgroups for those seeking an agent, learning Scrivener, and setting goals. A dozen writers in my neck of the woods recently formed a business and marketing group. The writer experienced with Mail Chimp presented a tutorial for would-be newsletter authors terrified by the specter of yet more technology. Those without Facebook or Twitter accounts met at a café with wifi and walked through the setup together. I helped the group learn to use our Word Press blog and conduct a blog tour. We teach, puzzle, brainstorm—and toast sales with champagne.

What groups do best, in my ambiverted opinion, is encourage its members and leverage information. Every opportunity and accomplishment I’ve had as a writer started with something I learned from a group. And with SinC and the Guppies, I didn’t even have to put on shoes.”

I do hope you’ll put on shoes and go find your community—on line or when the time is right for you, in person. And if you’re at Malice, please introduce yourself. Just don’t say anything about my shoes.

The Saturday Writing Quote — Pat Conroy

Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear. If the writing is good, then the result seems effortless and inevitable. But when you want to say something life-changing or ineffable in a single sentence, you face both the limitations of the sentence itself and the extent of your own talent.

“Art is one of the few places where talent and madness can go to squirrel away inside each other.”
– Pat Conroy, The Writer, June 2012, excerpted from My Reading Life (2010)

Painting: The Barn, by Leslie Budewitz (pastel on sandpaper)

Left Coast Crime

Mr. Right to patient: Leslie’s away at a mystery convention.

Patient, looking puzzled: You mean, she doesn’t know what kind of a convention it is?

But you read or write mysteries, maybe both, so you know that a mystery fan convention, or con, is a weekend filled with readers, writers at all stages from just beginning to multi-published, editors, agents, librarians, booksellers — anyone who considers themselves a fan of mystery and crime fiction. There are panel discussions, interviews, movie screenings, games, signings, speed-dating events, book rooms, and so much more.

Left Coast Crime is one of the three major mystery fan cons, along with Bouchercon and Malice Domestic. LCC is held somewhere in the western part of the country in late winter or early spring. This year, it’s in Albuquerque on April 7-10, and I’ll be there, on two panels and hosting a banquet table with my friend Kelly Garrett aka Emmeline Duncan.

My panels:

Small Town Crime love this topic and love that we write in a variety of subgenres (Fri 4:00-4:45)
Pam Clark (M)
Leslie Budewitz/Alicia Beckman
John McMahon
Terry Shames
Heather Young

Legal Themes: Does Fiction Get it Right?another timeless topic! (Sat 4:00-4:45)
L.F. Robertson (M)
Leslie Budewitz/Alicia Beckman
Margaret Callison Morse
Jay Shepherd

Here’s the full panel schedule. If you’re going, let’s connect! (If you’re in the area, note that day passes are available.)

And if not this year, maybe we can catch up at Left Coast Crime in Tucson in 2023!

The Saturday Creativity Quote

“We are naturally creative beings, invested in our existence to live, grow, express, and expand. The challenge is not to be creative—it’s to eliminate the barriers to the natural flow of our creative energies. Practically speaking, it’s about getting your act together, letting spontaneous ideas emerge, capturing them, and utilizing their value.”

– David Allen, Getting Things Done (rev ed 2015)

Writing Wednesday – The Gratitude Email

Leslie’s desk

I’m a big fan of marketing coach and teacher Dan Blank of We Grow Media, who advocates what he calls a human-centered approach to marketing. Yesterday, in a Zoom session, he talked about putting joy in our marketing and promotion, and suggested making a regular practice of sending “gratitude emails,” short thank you notes to someone who has inspired us, encouraged us, or otherwise influenced us, particularly in our creative work.

My first was an actual snail-mail letter, to a 90+ y.o. Jesuit who taught music when I was a college student at Seattle University more than forty years ago. In search of a break from academics, I signed up for classical guitar lessons, even though my guitar playing was limited to folk songs and singing and playing with a group at Mass. My teacher recruited me to join a trio formed by a music major named Karen. I was definitely the weak link. One evening the three of us gathered in my dorm room to practice for Karen’s upcoming senior recital. She had the brilliant idea to ask Father Waters, the dorm rector, to join us. As we played a modern atonal piece that had me stumbling, he stopped us and gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. “They’ll only know you made a mistake,” he said, speaking of the audience, “if you tell them.” Meaning, of course, through my reaction. It’s a lesson that goes far beyond music performance, and one I’ve never forgotten.

I’m not expecting a reply. I simply wanted to say thanks, and I hope, put a smile on an elderly priest’s face, as the memory and writing the letter have put one on mine.

What do you think? Might a week—or more—of gratitude emails help you find more joy in marketing your books? Reconnect with an old friend? Reassure someone who’s struggling? Add a smile where it might be needed?

(And no, this is not an invitation to thank me, though of course, I always like hearing from you!)