When I read Linda’s profile on Twitter last year, I noticed she’d won the contest I’d submitted my debut novel to. Impressive! So I tweeted a congratulatory message and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I’m so pleased to share Linda’s story as she talks about winning, attending the conference, and why entering contests is something we should all do:
When Is Malice Something You Want in Your Life?
In the years leading up to 2010, I wrote, rewrote, and revised a mystery novel with a half-Cherokee protagonist named Skeet Bannion. I learned of a contest for first mystery novels and submitted my novel to this contest, called the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition.
After sending off the manuscript, I turned to other writing projects, as any sensible writer must. We constantly submit manuscripts, knowing the process will take a long time. If we send one thing at a time and sit around waiting to hear its fate, we shoot ourselves in the foot. With our attention on a new project or two, we don’t constantly count days, waylay the letter carrier, and become enraged at overworked and usually well-meaning editors. Many months later, therefore, the contest was completely out of my mind as I worked on several other projects and met some deadlines. In the past, I’d published a Mexican cookbook , still selling years later, and several books of award-winning poetry. I was writing grants for my poetry and pursuing freelance writing projects, as well as planning a new novel.
One day in early 2011, I checked my inbox and found an email from an unknown name with a subject line that read “malice.” I thought how weird spam was getting. My finger hovered over the delete key, but curiosity got the better of me. What kind of spam would have “malice” as its subject line? So, reader, I opened it.
That message was from one of the preliminary judges of the competition, letting me know she’d sent my manuscript on to the editors of St. Martin’s Press as a finalist in the contest—and that just being a finalist would probably be enough to get me an agent and possibly a publisher, even if I didn’t win. I shrieked a little and was terribly glad I’d not deleted that email. I didn’t expect to win, but I did think I might get a good agent out of the deal. That sounded great.
A month later, as I was about to leave town on a grant-funded research trip, I received a call from a St. Martin’s editor to tell me I’d won the competition and she would be my editor. I was dumbstruck at first. Then, I babbled incoherently. Fortunately, she didn’t hold either against me. She also informed me that St. Martin’s would pay for me to attend the national Malice Domestic Conference where the award would be announced. My feet didn’t actually touch the ground for days.
In a little more than another month, I flew to Bethesda to the Malice Domestic Conference, which I found everyone in the mystery field called simply “malice.” Thus was the strange subject line of that email finally explained. I knew no one at the Malice Domestic Conference. Two writers I knew were arriving a day and a half later than me, as was my editor. I was on my own at a conference where everyone knew everyone—but me. And I reverted to my natural shy, introverted state.
Monica Ferris, an established writer whose books I’d often enjoyed, sat beside me and took me under her wing, introducing me to people and showing me the ropes. Soon, other people were offering me the same kindness, and it wasn’t long before I felt at home. I enjoyed that first Malice Domestic tremendously. The panels and presentations were interesting and helpful. The events were fabulous. Most of all, the people of the mystery world were so welcoming and kind that I fell in love with it.
At the end of April 2012, I headed for Malice again. This time, my novel, Every Last Secret, had launched the day before in a wonderful event. It already had a lot of favorable reviews in all kinds of print journals and on book blogs. It was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick for April and had been chosen for discussion by a national book club. And this time I knew a bunch of mystery writers and readers that I’d met in the past year through various social media. I was also a panelist for one session and moderating another panel. Malice is the smallest of the three national conferences—Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, and Malice Domestic. It’s more the size of some of the larger regional events, such as Left Coast Crime. Malice Domestic is also the conference which awards the coveted Agatha Awards.
I think Malice is a great conference for anyone brand-new to the mystery conference scene, because it’s such a friendly, welcoming conference. It celebrates traditional mysteries, play-fair mysteries without excessive violence or explicit sex scenes. Lots of authors of traditional mysteries, cozy mysteries, mysteries with strong thriller or suspense elements, and even some romantic suspense attend, and all are terrifically accessible to fans. Many authors have told me they enjoy attending Malice because of that chance to interact with readers. I know I loved meeting folks who had already read and enjoyed my book.
Now, my second Skeet Bannion novel, Every Broken Trust, is wending its way to publication in April 2013. Once again, I have a gorgeous cover (which I’ll plaster all over the Internet as soon as I have permission), and I’m waiting on copy edits right now. I have had the immense pleasure of in-person conversations, emails, Facebook comments, blog comments, and tweets from people who’ve read Every Last Secret and can’t wait to read the next Skeet book. I’m writing a new mystery novel, and I must say I recommend putting a little Malice in your life.
Linda Rodriguez’s novel, Every Last Secret (Minotaur), won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was selected by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. The second book in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Broken Trust, will be published in Spring 2013. Linda reads and writes everything, even award-winning books of poetry and a cookbook, and she spends too much time on Twitter. She blogs about writers, writing, and the absurdities of everyday life at LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com.
… Molly again: I entered my Novel, Mark of the Loon, in the Malice Domestic contest the year Linda won. I wasn’t among the finalists, but I did receive a nice note saying “You need to contact agents and move this novel forward!” Although I chose not to pursue representation, that message kept me going and I self-published in May of 2012!
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