By Barb Goffman, guest blogger
Hi. My name is Barb, and I have control issues.
This might be a problem for some people, but I’ve found ways to turn it to my advantage. For instance, I’m now in my second year as program chair of Malice Domestic, one of the biggest annual conventions for fans of the traditional mystery. My job involves promoting the conference, enticing authors to attend, coming up with panel ideas, and doing all the scheduling.
Most people would run away screaming at the very proposition. I embraced it.
About a year ago, I was chatting on the phone about Malice Domestic with author Pari Noskin Taichert. The conference was four months away, and I think I heard her jaw actually drop onto the floor (bam!) when I told her that I was nearly done with the programming. When Pari finally wrapped her mind around my statement and reattached her jaw, she said something profound along the lines of, “Huh?”
I smiled and shared my secret. I’m a control freak. I love coming up with panel ideas and figuring which authors will sit on which ones. “Donna Andrews, not only will you talk about how being pregnant affects a character’s ability to sleuth, but you’ll do it on a panel on Saturday at 2 p.m.” I have spoken!
This upcoming year at Malice Domestic will be even better. I’ll get to order around folks like our guest of honor, Parnell Hall, our toastmaster, Rhys Bowen, and our lifetime achievement award winner, Mary Higgins Clark. (Okay, fine, nobody orders Mary Higgins Clark around. Give me my little fantasy, will ya?) And we have a lot of other biggies in the traditional mystery community coming, too, including Margaret Maron, Dorothy Cannell, Charles Todd, Nancy Pickard, and Katherine Hall Page. And I have power over them all. Bwah hah hah!!!
Since becoming Malice program chair, I’ve learned that conferences sometimes have a hard time getting people to agree to do the programming, much less get it done early. (Or in my case, extra early.) I find this bizarre. All you conference organizers out there, you’re definitely not looking in the right place for your program chairs. Find your local meeting of Control Freaks Anonymous and go to town. (If you’re not sure if you’re in the right place, look for me. Believe me, I’ll be there. Taking attendance.)
Can’t find a meeting? Here’s another way to look for control freaks. In books. Sometimes they’re hiding in plain sight.
My most recent short story, “The Worst Noel,” provides a perfect example. In it a woman with an overbearing mother finally breaks and decides to get her revenge against her mom and her sister during Christmas Eve dinner. (Ah, yes, crime at the holidays. So festive!) Does the mother deserve it? Well, she does have massive control issues. Did I get those details right by accident? Nope. I wrote what I knew. (Some people wonder if the mother in the story is based on my mom; unfortunately, I think she’s in part based on me!) So if you read a spot-on story or novel involving a control freak, you might have to go no farther than the author’s page to find your next conference program chair.
Even as I type these words, I find it difficult to know that I have no control over you, dear reader. I can’t force you to attend Malice Domestic, even though I know you’d love it. (C’mon, you know it, too.) And I can’t force you to buy The Gift of Murder either—that’s the anthology in which my Christmas Eve-dinner story appears. (Go to The Gift of Murder to learn more.)
But, thankfully, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.
If you register for Malice at www.malicedomestic.org before January 1st, you’ll be eligible to nominate books and stories published in 2009 for the prestigious Agatha Award. (Everybody’s nominations are tallied by the Agatha Committee, and the top vote-getters become the official nominees, which are announced in February.) By registering early, you’ll also get a discount. And if you’re an author I know—or want to know— by registering early, you’ll save yourself from being hounded by me. Good, I see you registering right now.
And you, reluctant readers. You’re curious about my Christmas Eve story. I can feel it. But your pile of unread books is already teetering precariously, and you fear you can’t add one more book to the pile.
Especially with me telling you that all 19 short stories in The Gift of Murder are set at the holiday season, that all 19 authors donated their stories, and that the publisher, Tony Burton of Wolfmont Press, is donating all the profits to Toys for Tots. Crime stories that benefit needy children! Have I tugged enough at your heart yet? Excellent, excellent. I see you dialing up your favorite indie bookstore at this very moment. Some of you are downloading it onto your Kindle, too.
And if none of that has worked, here’s my secret weapon: You’re all invited to comment below, sharing either your favorite memory of attending Malice Domestic or your funniest holiday memory. Everyone who shares one or the other before midnight tonight will have their names thrown in a hat, and I’ll send a signed copy of The Gift of Murder to the person whose name I pull out. Who could resist that? No one, surely. So now I know you’ll do as I say. Ahh, the joy of control.
Barb Goffman is an Agatha Award-nominated author who toils as a lawyer by day to pay the vet bills at night for her miracle dog, Scout. (He had cancer three times, but now he’s cured!) She grew up on Long Island but figures she must have been Southern in another life because half the voices she hears in her head—oops, sorry, half the characters she creates—are Southern. In addition to the short story mentioned above, Barb has had stories published in the second and third volumes of the Chesapeake Crimes anthology series, and she will have a new story coming out this spring in the fourth: Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin’, a wonderful book with twenty tales of murder and revenge. Barb’s website is www.barbgoffman.com.