By Janice Hamrick
Before I finished my first novel, I thought that publication was the golden end of a very long and sometimes meandering journey. Just over a year ago, when I received that magic call telling me that my novel would be published, I thought I’d reached the far country. I rejoiced, I celebrated, I did the happy dance (and, trust me, you don’t want to see the happy dance). However, eventually euphoria wore off and it slowly dawned on me - I had no idea what to do next.
The post-contract process kept me occupied for a bit. I had edits and then copy edits. I started working on the second novel. But months began to pass, and I started to feel that I should be doing more.
I made a website and a Facebook page. I found and joined Sisters in Crime and started attending the monthly meetings. But I just had the nagging feeling that I should be doing more. I knew how to write. Now I needed to learn how to be a writer … and quickly. But how? I started asking around, and finally the only published author I knew answered with three simple words: “Go to Malice.”
So I went. I arrived at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda fairly late and the Malice registration desk had closed for the evening. On a whim, I decided to go to the hotel bar and have a glass of wine. And that’s when the magic of Malice began for me. Within five minutes of climbing onto that bar stool, two Malice attendees approached and asked me to join them.
The next person to walk up was a member of my own Sisters in Crime chapter in Austin – someone I knew only through email and couldn’t have found by myself if I’d searched all evening. Malice is full of such moments of serendipity.
The next days were even better. From Malice Go Round (speed dating for authors and fans) to fascinating panels where authors described their experiences, I started to learn what I needed to know. In the halls and in conference rooms, I met authors who offered tips and encouragement and who answered my questions about things from social media to signing autographs.
They gave me a solid glimpse of what waits for me, and I now have at least an inkling of ways to avoid the pitfalls and seize the opportunities. I also was privileged to meet the most wonderful fans – people who love to read mysteries and who work tirelessly to support the genre and reading in general. I’d arrived at the conference alone and wound up as part of an amazing community.
I came away from Malice with all my questions answered and with connections and friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I could hardly lift my suitcase because it was so full of the books written by the fascinating people I’d met. New authors, experienced authors, friends, and fans. And I’m already looking forward to my second Malice.
Janice Hamrick is the winner of the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition for Death on Tour, the first novel in a series starring Texas high school history teacher Jocelyn Shore. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Kansas, Janice now lives in Austin, Texas, with her two daughters. When she is not writing, she spends her time traveling, planning to travel, or plotting murders (usually fictional).