On Thursday, I take off for the Malice Domestic mystery convention. Four years ago, I didn’t know what the h-e-double hockey sticks Malice was. This year, I’m a nominee and a mentor – along with author Susan Van Kirk – to some poor, unsuspecting author. (Hi, Mary Feliz!) As my mother would say, “Go figure.”
Now that I’ve discovered mystery conventions, I’ve been traveling so much over the last couple of years that my husband calls me Willa Loman, after the doomed protagonist of the classic drama, Death of a Salesman. (Sidebar: I think if Willy’s destination had been Malice, he would have met a much happier fate.)
But when you have a full-time job, a kid, two dogs, and said husband, actually getting out the door and hitting the road can be complicated. I start my convention preparation weeks, even months before departure. The suitcase that came home from Left Coast Crime in March has been parked in the guest room awaiting my Malice departure in April. My husband now calls that room “The Promotions Department.” It’s packed with everything I feel I need to support my series. My author spirit animal, Diane Vallere, posts pictures of the immaculately organized outfits she curates for a convention or conference. Exhibit A, Diane’s outfits for the recent Left Coast Crime meetup in Hawaii:
Now strap on a neck brace, because you’re about to do a 180. Here’s a picture of my packing prep:
Notice the purple and green theme. I now have not one, but two closets packed with clothes in the signature Mardi Gras colors I use to promote my Cajun Country Mystery series. That’s what they call “branding.” I swear, I’ll be writing mysteries set in Louisiana for the rest of my life because I basically own nothing that’s not purple, green or some shade of gold. I’m already trying to think of new ideas for books set in New Orleans, ifGodforbid my current series should end.
Prepping for a mystery convention also means purchasing promo products that either entice potential readers or reward fans. (Fans! I love how I get to write that!) Events like Malice offer a great opportunity to distribute this “swag,” which stands for “stuff we all get.” I LOVE swag. Seriously. Love it. If my husband knew how much I spend on it, he’d divorce me. Luckily, I pay the bills… so he can’t see them. I’ve got so much swag for Malice that I have to send it in the big box below. Note that what you’re seeing is only the top layer. Swag is stacked a foot and a half below that.
Another aspect of prepping for a convention is creating a basket to donate to the event’s silent auction. Again, I go a little nutso putting together Cajun Country-themed baskets. I fill them with my books, Cajun foodstuffs and souvenirs, and of course, loads of the aforementioned swag.
But really, the most important part of my convention prep is making a run to the bank and withdrawing a thick wad of cash. Because once I finally pack and ship and travel, all I want to do when I arrive at my convention destination is belly up to the first bar I see.
So if you’re going to Malice, you know where to find me – either at the swag table or knocking back a Chardonnay at whatever bar is handy. Wherever I am, I’ll be the gal in purple. Or green. Or gold.
Readers, do you go to conventions? How do you prepare for them?